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Faisal I
King of Iraq and Syria
Emir faisal.jpg
Reign 11 March 1920 – 25 July 1920 (Syria)
23 August 1921 – 8 September 1933 (Iraq)
Full name Faisal bin Al Hussein Bin Ali El-Hashemi
Born 20 May 1883
Birthplace Ta’if,
Died September 8, 1933 (aged 50)
Place of death Berne, Switzerland
Predecessor Sharif Hussein bin Ali
Successor Ghazi I
Dynasty Hashemite
Father Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca
Mother Abdliya bin Abdullah
Religious beliefs Sunni Islam [1]

Faisal bin al-Hussein bin Ali al-Hashemi , (Arabic: فيصل بن حسينFayṣal ibn Ḥusayn; 20 May 1883 – September 8, 1933) was for a short time King of Greater Syria in 1920 and King of Iraq from 23 August 1921 to 1933. He was a member of the Hashemite dynasty, a descendant of the tribe of Muhammad.

Faisal encouraged overcoming cleavage between Sunni and Shiite to foster common loyalty and promote pan-Arabism in the goal of creating an Arab state that would include Iraq, Syria and the rest of the Fertile Crescent. While in power, Faisal tried to diversify his administration by including different ethnic and religious groups in offices. He faced great challenges in achieving this because the region was under European, specifically French and British, control and other Arab leaders of the time were hostile to his ideas as they pursued their own political aspirations for power. In addition, Faisal’s attempt at pan-Arab nationalism inevitably isolated certain religious groups.

Contents

Early life

Faisal was born in Ta'if (in present-day Saudi Arabia) in 1883, the third son of Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca, the Grand Sharif of Mecca. He grew up in Istanbul and learned about leadership from his father. In 1913, he was elected as representative for the city of Jeddah for the Ottoman parliament.

In 1916, on a mission to Istanbul, he visited Damascus twice. On one of these visits he received the Damascus Protocol, joined with the Al-Fatat group of Arab nationalists, and his father became king of Hejaz.

First World War & The Arab Revolt

Emir Faisal's delegation at Versailles, during the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. Left to right: Rustum Haidar, Nuri as-Said, Prince Faisal, Captain Pisani (behind Faisal), T. E. Lawrence, Faisal's black slave (name unknown), Captain Hassan Khadri.

On 23 October,Faisal Saeed Al-Ismaily, mal Nawras, 1916 at Hamra in the Wadi Safra, the first encounter took place between Feisal and Captain T. E. Lawrence, a relatively junior British intelligence officer from Cairo. Lawrence already had a vision of an independent, post-war Arabian state and knew it was essential to find precisely the right man to lead the Arab forces to achieve this.

With the help of Lawrence, Faisal sided with the British army and organised the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire helping to end the Caliphate. After a long siege he conquered Medina, defeating the defense organized by Fakhri Pasha.

Some of Faisal's critics considered fighting alongside Christians as a betrayal to Islam. This motivated Iqbal to write against him. Though Faisal was a descendant of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, Arab nationalism and independence, not religion, was his main motivation.

Faisal also worked with the Allies during World War I in their conquest of Greater Syria and the capture of Damascus, where he became part of a new Arab government in 1918.

Post World War I

"Kingdom of Syria" in 1918

In 1919 Faisal led the Arab delegation to the Paris Peace Conference and, with the support of the knowledgeable and influential Gertrude Bell, argued for the establishment of independent Arab emirates for the area previously covered by the Ottoman Empire. His role in the Arab Revolt was described by Lawrence in Seven Pillars of Wisdom, although the accuracy of that book has been criticized by historians.

On 3 January 1919, Faisal and Dr. Chaim Weizmann, President of the World Zionist Organization signed the Faisal–Weizmann Agreement for Arab-Jewish cooperation, in which Faisal conditionally accepted the Balfour Declaration based on the fulfillment of British wartime promises of development of a Jewish homeland in Palestine and on which subject he made the following statement:

Emir Feisal I (right) and Chaim Weizmann (also wearing Arab dress as a sign of friendship) in Syria, 1918.

"We Arabs... look with the deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement. Our deputation here in Paris is fully acquainted with the proposals submitted yesterday by the Zionist Organisation to the Peace Conference, and we regard them as moderate and proper. We will do our best, in so far as we are concerned, to help them through; we will wish the Jews a most hearty welcome home... I look forward, and my people with me look forward, to a future in which we will help you and you will help us, so that the countries in which we are mutually interested may once again take their places in the community of the civilised peoples of the world."

These promises were not immediately fulfilled, in some cases not until after the de-facto establishment of the Jewish state[2][3] but once Arab states were granted autonomy from the European powers years after the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement,[4] and these new Arab nations were recognized by the Europeans and the U.N., Weizmann argued that since the fulfillment was kept eventually, the agreement of development of a Jewish homeland in Palestine still held.[3] In the end this hoped-for partnership was not carried out by either side.

King of Syria and Iraq

Coronation of Prince Faisal as King of Iraq

Faisal encouraged overcoming cleavage between Sunni and Shiite to foster common loyalty and promote pan-Arabism in the goal of creating an Arab state that would include Iraq, Syria, and parts of the Fertile Crescent. While in power, Faisal tried to diversify his administration by including different ethnic and religious groups in offices. He faced great challenges in achieving this because the region was under European, specifically French and British, control and other Arab leaders of the time were hostile to his ideas as they pursued their own political aspirations for power. In addition, Faisal’s attempt at pan-Arab nationalism inevitably isolated certain religious groups.

On 7 March 1920, Faisal was proclaimed King of Greater Syria by the Syrian National Congress government of Hashim al-Atassi. In April 1920, the San Remo conference gave France the mandate for Syria, which led to the Franco-Syrian War. In the Battle of Maysalun on 24 July 1920, the French were victorious and Faisal was expelled from Syria. He went to live in the United Kingdom in August of that year.

In March 1921, at the Cairo Conference, the British decided that Faisal was a good candidate for ruling the British Mandate of Iraq. But, in 1921, few people living in Iraq even knew who Faisal was or had ever heard his name. Though he was not popular there was a lack of organized opposition so he could remain ruler and establish power.

The British government, mandate holders in Iraq, were concerned at the unrest in the colony. They decided to step back from direct administration and create a monarchy to head Iraq while they maintained the mandate. Following a plebiscite showing 96% in favor, which was not really accurate, but created by a British council of ministers who wanted to put Faisal in power, Faisal agreed to become king. In August 1921 he was made king of Iraq.

King Faisal's statue at a square named after him at the end of Haifa Street in Baghdad.

He encouraged influx of Syrian exiles and office-seekers to cultivate better Iraqi-Syrian relations. In order to improve education in the country Faisal employed doctors and teachers and in the civil service and appointed Sati’al-Husri, the ex-Minister of Education in Damascus, as his director of the Ministry of Education. This influx resulted in much native resentment towards Syrians and Lebanese in Iraq.

Faisal also developed desert motor routes from Baghdad to Damascus, and Baghdad to Amman. This led to a great interest in the Mosul oilfield and eventually to his plan to build an oil pipeline to a Mediterranean port, which would help Iraq economically. This also led to an increase in Iraq’s desire for more influence in the Arab East. During his reign, Faisal made great effort to build Iraq’s army into a powerful force. He attempted to impose universal military service in order to achieve this, but this failed. Some see this as part of his plan to advance his pan-Arab agenda.

In 1925, after the Syrian Druze uprising, the French government began consulting Faisal on Syrian matters. He advised the French to restore Hashemite power in Damascus. The French consulted Faisal because they were inspired by his success as an imposed leader in Iraq.

Faisal saw the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1930 as an obstacle to his pan-Arab agenda, although it provided Iraq with a degree of political independence. He wanted to make sure that the treaty had a built-in end date because the treaty further divided Syria and Iraq, the former which was under French control, and the latter under British rule. This prevented unity between two major Arab regions, which were important in Faisal’s pan-Arab agenda. Ironically, Arab nationalists in Iraq had a positive reception to the treaty because they saw this as progress, which seemed better than the Arab situation in Syria and Palestine.

Visit to Turkey, Mustafa Kemal

In 1932, the British mandate ended and Faisal was instrumental in making his country nominally independent. On 3 October, the Kingdom of Iraq joined the League of Nations.

In August 1933, incidents like the Simele massacre caused tension between the United Kingdom and Iraq. Prime Minister Ramsay McDonald ordered High Commissioner Francis Humphrys to Iraq immediately upon hearing of the killing of Assyrian Christians. The British government demanded that Faisal stay in Bagdad to punish the guilty — whether Christian or Mohammedan. In response, Faisal cabled to the Iraqi Legation in London: "Although everything is normal now in Iraq, and in spite of my broken health, I shall await the arrival of Sir Francis Humphrys in Bagdad, but there is no reason for further anxiety. Inform the British Government of the contents of my telegram."[5]

In July 1933, right before his death, Faisal went to London where he expressed his alarm at the current situation of Arabs that resulted from the Arab-Jewish conflict and the increased Jewish immigration to Palestine, as the Arab political, social, and economic situation was declining. He asked the British to limit Jewish migration and land sales, for fear that “otherwise in the near future the Arabs would either be squeezed out of Palestine or reduced to economic and social servitude.”

He died on September 8, 1933, when he had a heart attack whilst he was staying in Berne, Switzerland. He was succeeded on the throne by his oldest son Ghazi.

A square is named in his honour at the end of Haifa Street, Baghdad, where an equestrian statue of him stands. The statue was knocked down following the overthrow of the monarchy in 1958, but later restored.

Marriage and children

Faisal was married to Huzaima bint Nasser and had one son and three daughters:[6]

  • Princess Azza bint Faisal
  • Princess Rajiha bint Faisal
  • Princess Raifia bint Faisal
  • Ghazi, King of Iraq born 1912 died 4 April 1939, married Princess Aliya bint Ali daughter of HM King Ali of Hejaz.

Film

He has been portrayed on film three times: in the 1951 film Sirocco (dealing with the Syrian insurrection against France), by Jeff Corey; David Lean's epic Lawrence of Arabia (1962), played by Sir Alec Guinness, and in the unofficial sequel to Lawrence, A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia (1990) by Alexander Siddig. On video, he was portrayed in The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Chapter 19 The Winds of Change (1995) by Anthony Zaki.

See also

References

External references

Faisal I of Iraq
Born: May 20 1883 Died: September 8 1933
Regnal titles
New creation
King of Syria
11 March 1920 – 25 July 1920
Kingdom abolished
French mandate established
New creation
King of Iraq
23 August 1921 – September 8, 1933
Succeeded by
Ġāzī I

Masalha, N. "Faisal's Pan-Arabism, 1921-33." Middle Eastern Studies 27 (1991): 679-93. JSTOR. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. 1 Mar. 2009 <http://www.jstor.org/stable/4283470>. Simon, Reeva S. "The Hashemite 'Conspiracy': Hashemite Unity Attempts, 1921-1958." International Journal of Middle East Studies 5 (1974): 314-27. JSTOR. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. 1 Mar. 2009 <http://www.jstor.org/stable/162381>. Tripp, Charles. A History of Iraq. New York: Cambridge UP, 2007.

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Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

King Faisal I of Iraq (May 20, 1883 – September 8, 1933), also known as Faisal bin Hussein, was the King of Iraq from 1921-1933 and the son of Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca.

Sourced

  • We Arabs, especially the educated among us, look with the deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement.... We will wish the Jews a most hearty welcome home.
    • From correspondence with American Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter.
    • Tessler, Mark. A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Indiana UP, Bloomington and Indianapolis. P. 152.

External links

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