Aziz Ali al-Misri
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|'Aziz 'Ali al-Misri|
|Known for||co-founder of Al-Qahtaniyya and Covenant Society; Arab Revolt|
Early life and background
Al-Misri was born of both Egyptian and Circassian ancestry. His father, Zakariya, and previous relatives on his father’s side of the family were Circassian, with the original family name before having moved to Egypt - Chahlpe. Al-Misri was not an Arab by origin. He was very conscious of this fact throughout his lifetime, and it affected his political affiliations.
Al-Misri trained at the Ottoman Military Academy, where he graduated in 1901, and moved onto the Staff College of the Ottoman Army. Shortly after, he become an officer in the Ottoman army. His first assignment as a member of the military was in Ottoman Vardar Macedonia. During his stay in the Balkans, al-Misri joined the ranks of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), at first a secret organization, more commonly known as the Young Turks. It later became a political group that would eventually take control of the country in 1908.
In the formative constitutional years of the Ottoman Empire, al-Misri remained an advocate for Ottoman unity. He was a political moderate who wanted the three main political groups, Ottomanist, pan-Islamic, and Egyptian and Arab nationalist, to exist in cooperation. "He had come to the conclusion that in so composite a society as the Ottoman Empire the best way to maintain its integrity was not by attempting to suppress nationalities but by recognizing them, each as an autonomous unit within the Ottoman superstructure."
Fallout with the Committee of Union and Progress
Al-Misri's mixed ethnic background, combined with his sense of political moderation made him an easy target for the CUP. It also made him a popular hero among the Arab political groups, although he did not choose to ally himself with them. Al-Misri was labeled as sympathetic to the cause of Arab revolutionaries. Probably the greatest reason for his falling out with the CUP was a clash with Enver Pasha. The roots of this quarrel seem to be a mutual dislike for one another – for personal reasons. Arab revolutionaries appear to have joined in on al-Misri's admonition of Enver Pasha, although still not connected with him politically. Al-Misri was stuck in the middle of a complicated political situation in the years prior to World War I (WWI). His personality was abrasive and unyielding, and both the CUP and Arab political groups played on this to their advantage.
In April 1914, al-Misri was arrested and removed from Istanbul by the CUP. Although this was not the direct doing of Enver Pasha, it gave him the impetus to "denounce al-Misri as an Arab revolutionary leader who sough an Arab rebellion, and much to al-Misri’s dismay, it put him in a somewhat different light in the eyes of those working for Turko-Arab collaboration." Through the efforts of Jamal Pasha, al-Misri was pardoned. As a result of this falling out, he was forced to leave the Ottoman political scene, and the country entirely.
Role in the Arab Revolt
Al-Misri left the Ottoman Empire in 1914 and begun working under Sharif Husayn, the Sharif of Mecca. He played a prominent role in the early stages of Arab Revolt between 1916 and 1918. This was an attempt by Sharif Husayn to create an independent Arab state, free from Ottoman control. Al-Misri encouraged the Sharif to ally with Germany for multiple reasons. First, he was enamored with the German military ethic. He also believed the prospect of an Arab state would be much closer to reality in the case of German victory.
Al-Misri quickly fell out of touch with Sharif Husayn as well. He served as the Chief of Staff for the military, but only briefly. His career after World War I was in much more obscurity.
Later military career in Egypt
He was deported to Spain after having returned to Egypt unwelcomed. He directed the Cairo Police Academy from 1927 to 1936 and was inspector general of the Egyptian army in 1938. In 1939, Premier Ali Mahir named him chief of staff, but he was dismissed from that post in 1940 at Britain's insistence. He deserted the Egyptian army and tried to reach the Axis forces in the Libyan desert but was caught and court-martialed in 1941.
Post-1952 Revolution and death
After al-Misri had helped the Free Officers prepare for the revolution of 1952, they named him ambassador to Moscow in 1953 and considered making him president in place of Muhammad Naguib, but he retired in 1954.
He died in 1965 in Cairo.
One of the longest streets in Greater Cairo was named after him.
- Khadduri, Majid (1973). Arab Contemporaries: The Role of Personalities in Politics. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 10.
- Khadduri (1973), p. 11.