Akram al-Hawrani

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Akram al-Hawrani
أكرم الحوراني
Akram Hourani.jpg
Speaker of the Parliament of Syria
In office
14 October 1957 – 20 July 1960
Preceded by Nazim al-Kudsi
Succeeded by Anwar Sadat
Member of the People's Council
for Hama
In office
November 1954 – 1963
In office
July 1947 – October 1953
Member of the National Command of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party
In office
1952 – 1 September 1959
Personal details
Born 1912
Hama, Ottoman Syria
Died February 24, 1996 (aged 83-84)
Amman, Jordan
Political party Arab Socialist Party (1936–1952)
Syrian Regional Branch of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party(1952–1962)
Arab Socialist Party (1962–1963)
Religion Sunni Islam

Akram al-Hawrani (Arabic: أكرم الحوراني‎, also transcribed El-Hourani, Howrani or Hurani) (1912 – February 24, 1996), was a Syrian politician who played a prominent role in the formation of a widespread populist, nationalist movement in Syria and in the rise of the Ba'th Party. He was highly influential in Syrian politics from the beginning of the 1940s until his departure into exile in 1963, and held various positions including a government ministry and the joint vice-presidency of the United Arab Republic.

Background[edit]

Al-Hawrani's family had its origins in the Arab al-Halqiyyin tribe and moved to Hama in central Syria from the town of Jasim in the southern Hawran region (hence the surname al-Hawrani.)[1] Akram al-Hawrani himself was born in Hama and grew up in modest circumstances as the family's wealth had dissipated. He was educated in Hama and Damascus before joining the medical faculty at the Jesuit University in 1932. He was forced to leave the institution soon thereafter, having been implicated in the attempted assassination of former Syrian president, Subhi Barakat.

In 1936, he enrolled in the Damascus Law School, and became a member of the Syrian Social National Party. In 1938 he left the party and returned to Hama to practice law. There he took over the Hizb al-Shabab (Youth Party) founded by a cousin.

The province of Hama in the earlier part of the twentieth century was characterised by feudalism, with landlords owning most of the land . The landlords exercised complete control over the peasantry, backed up by what amounted to private armies. al-Hawrani set about attacking this system and called for agrarian reforms, giving him considerable popular support in Hama and its province, and in 1943 he was elected as a deputy to the Syrian Parliament. He retained his seat in the elections of 1947, 1949, 1954, and 1962.

While it was in defence of social justice in his home region that al-Hawrani made his name, he also had a strong Arab nationalist outlook, and headed to Baghdad to support the Rashid Ali movement in Iraq in 1941; in 1948 he commanded armed groups who engaged in attacks against Zionist settlements in Palestine.[2]

Closer to power[edit]

In 1950 al-Hawrani renamed his party the Arab Socialist Party; at that point, Batatu states, "it counted no fewer than 10,000 members and was able to attract as many as 40,000 people from the countryside when in the same year it convoked at Aleppo the first peasant congress in Syrian history."[3]

Between 1949 and 1954 Syrian politics was punctuated by four military coups. Based on his strong influence in the army, al-Hawrani was considered to have played a part in these coups, however there is no concrete evidence to support that. He was initially particularly close to the leader of the third and fourth coups, Adib al-Shishakli, who effectively ruled Syria from 1951 until 1954. Al-Shishakli's decision to sign a decree distributing state lands to the peasantry in January 1952 appears to have been under al-Hawrani's influence.[4] However, as the dictator grew more autocratic his influence waned, and when al-Shishakli decided to ban the Arab Socialist Party in April 1952, he went into exile in Lebanon. There, in November that year, he agreed to merge the Arab Socialist Party with the Arab Ba'th Party led by Michel Aflaq and Salah al-Din al-Bitar. The latter thus gained a substantial base of active supporters for the first time. The unified party adopted the name Arab Ba'th Socialist Party. It was disbanded, along with all Syrian political parties by president Nasser in 1958. The relation between Al-Hawrani and Aflaq ended acrimoniously in 1962.

The Arab Ba'th Socialist Party[edit]

Al-Hawrani was a member of the Baath Party national command, meaning its pan-Arab leadership, from its establishment in 1954 until 1959. Along with the other Ba'thists and members of most of Syria's political forces, he played a prominent role in the agitation and political mobilization that forced al-Shishakli to give up power in early 1954. He was speaker of the Syrian parliament from 1957 to February 1958, and in that position forced the cancellation of the planned November 1957 municipal elections after failing to receive a guarantee that the Ba'th would be awarded 51% of the available seats. This has been described as the point where the Ba'th party "turned their backs... on party politics altogether."[5]

The United Arab Republic[edit]

After the treaty of union between Syria and Egypt in 1958 al-Hawrani became Vice-President of the United Arab Republic (UAR) under Gamal Abdel Nasser, a post he held until 1959. After Nasser launched a bitter verbal attack on the Ba'th in December that year, followed by a campaign of repression against its members, he resigned his position and went into exile in Lebanon. He subsequently differed with Aflaq and al-Bitar over the party's position regarding the UAR, due to his support for secession from the UAR.

When a 1961 military coup in Syria led to the dissolution of the UAR, al-Hawrani publicly supported it and signed a statement in favor of the secession (as did Bitar, but he later withdrew his signature). The Ba`th Party split into several competing factions, but as the national command decided in favour of reunification, al-Hawrani left it. He was officially expelled in June 1962, whereafter he and his loyalists re-established the Arab Socialist Party. However, popular support for unity hampered its growth and it was strong only in his original stronghold of Hama.[citation needed] In September 1962 he joined the "secessionist" (infisali) cabinet formed by Khalid al-Azm, drawing strong criticism from the Ba`th and Nasserist movements.

Exile and death[edit]

After the Ba'thist- and Nasserist-led pro-reunification coup of March 1963, al-Hawrani went into exile in Lebanon. As a radical military-backed Ba`th faction purged other political groups in Syria, he was decided to remain in opposition outside the country, and would never return. The Arab Socialist Party split into competing factions, some of which aligned with the Ba`th, some of which opposed it, but Hawrani's own influence dwindled. He spent the rest of his life between Lebanon, Iraq, France and Jordan, where he died in 1996, an important name in Syrian history but by then with little to no influence over modern politics. His memoirs were published posthumously in Cairo in 2000.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Batatu, 1999, p. 370.
  2. ^ This section is based on the account of Hawrani's origins and early political career given by Batatu, pp. 728-729.
  3. ^ Batatu, p. 729.
  4. ^ Seale, p. 47.
  5. ^ Mufti, p. 89.

Sources[edit]