International Journal of Middle East Studies

Research Article

The Syrian Revolt of 1925

Joyce Laverty Millera1

a1 Harvard University

In the summer of 1925, a revolt erupted in the French mandated territories of Syria and Lebanon and rapidly spread throughout the area. The French army of the Levant seemed powerless to halt it. By autumn, no part of Syria or Lebanon was secure against sudden disruption of life and property. Stories of French incompetence, impotence, and arrogance were widely circulated in the Syrian and European press. The Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations, in a rare exercise of its limited powers, refused to accept the French report for 1925, which covered only the comparatively calm period preceding the revolt, and demanded instead a full account of the disturbances, as well as the restoration of peace in the mandate. In October, when rebels infiltrated Damascus, the French military administration took a drastic step to end the revolt. Without warning, General Sarrail, the high commissioner, ordered the ancient city bombarded continuously for nearly twenty-four hours. When the smoke lifted, much of Damascus was in ruins; the reported loss of life and property appalled world opinion and galvanized Arab dissidents. A torrent of violent and emotional criticism was unleashed. In some quarters it was even hinted that the League of Nations would remove the mandate from French control. Yet less than a year later, the revolt had been quashed and France's hold on the mandate was so secured internationally that it survived into World War II.