1 March 1904|
Dhour El Choueir, Beirut Vilayet, Ottoman Empire
|Died||8 July 1949
Cause of death
|Religion||Agnostic, Orthodox Christian (Birth)|
|Main interests||Political philosophy|
|Notable ideas||Greater Syria|
Saadeh was born in 1904 in Dhour El Choueir, Mount Lebanon Moutasarrifia. He was the son of a Lebanese Christian Orthodox physician, Khalil Saadeh and Naifa Nassir Khneisser. He completed his elementary education in his birth town and continued his studies at the Lycée des Frères in Cairo and at a Broummana (in modern-day Lebanon) School. In the later part of 1919, Saadeh emigrated to the United States, where he resided for approximately one year with his uncle in Springer, New Mexico and worked at a local train station. In February 1921, he moved to Brazil with his father who was a prominent Arabic-language journalist. In 1924, Saadeh founded a secret society whose goal was the unification of Natural Syria. This society was dissolved the following year. Natural Syria, according to Saadeh, included the Levant, Palestine, Transjordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and parts of Southern Turkey. His concept of Syria included all religious, ethnic and linguistic groups living in this region. During his time spent in Brazil, Saadeh learned German and Russian.
Activity in Lebanon
In July 1930, he returned to Lebanon. In 1931, he wrote "A Love Tragedy" which was first published with his "Story of the Holiday of Our Lady of Sidnaya" in Beirut in 1933. Also, in 1931, Saadeh worked at the daily newspaper Al-Ayyam, then in 1932 he taught German at the American University of Beirut. In 1933, he continued to publish pamphlets in the Al-Majalia magazine in Beirut.
On 16 November 1932, Saadeh secretly founded the Syrian Social Nationalist Party. Three years later, on 16 November 1935, the existence of the party was proclaimed, and Saadeh was arrested and sentenced to 6 years imprisonment. During his confinement, he wrote his first book, "The Rise of Nations". He was released from prison early, but was once again detained in June 1936 where he wrote another book, "Principles Explained". In November of the same year, he was released from prison, but in March 1937, he was arrested again. During the time he spent in prison, he wrote his third book, "The Rise of the Syrian Nation", but his manuscript was confiscated and the authorities refused to return it to him.
Activity in emigration
He was released from prison in late May 1937. In November 1937, Saadeh founded Al-Nahdhah newspaper. Saadeh led the party until 1938, then for the second time, he left the country in order to establish party branches in the Lebanese emigration countries. Saadeh went to Brazil and founded the "New Syria" newspaper. Soon after, he was arrested by the French colonial authorities and spent two-month in prison. In 1939, at the outbreak of World War II, Saadeh moved to Argentina where he remained until 1947. In Argentina, Saadeh continued his activities. He founded Al-Zawba'a (The storm) newspaper and wrote "The Struggle of the Intellect in Syrian Literature", which was printed in Buenos Aires. In 1943, Saadeh married Juliette Al-Mir and had three daughters with her. The French colonial court sentenced him in absentia to twenty years of imprisonment.
Return to Lebanon
Saadeh returned to Lebanon on 2 March 1947, following the country's independence from France. After he arrived, he held a revolutionary speech, after which authorities issued an arrest warrant which was in force for seven-month then withdrawn. In Lebanon, Saadeh founded Al-Jil Al-Jadid newspaper. On 4 July 1949, the party declared a revolution in Lebanon in retaliation to a series of violent provocations staged by the government of Lebanon against party members. The revolt was suppressed and he traveled to Damascus to meet with Husni al-Za'im, the President of Syria at the time, who had previously agreed to support him. However, he was handed by el-Zai'm over to the Lebanese authorities. Saadeh and many of his followers were judged by a Lebanese military court, and were executed; Saadeh himself was executed by a firing squad. The capture, trial and execution happened in less than 48 hours. Saadeh's execution took place at dawn of 8 July 1949. According to Adel Beshara, it was and still is the shortest and most secretive trial given to a political offender.
His party continued to be active after his death. President of Lebanon, Camille Chamoun was supported by Saadeh's party during the 1958 Lebanon crisis. In 1961, SSNP attempted a coup d'état against president Fuad Shihab ending in failure. During the 1960s, party's leaders were arrested and eventually, party splintered into separate factions.
Syrian Social Nationalist Party
The SSNP "Zawbaa" (Vortex) is a glyph combining the muslim crescent and the Greek Orthodox cross, and it symbolizes the blood shed by the martyrs which makes the wheel of history whirl forward, dissipating the surrounding darkness (representing sectarianism and Ottoman occupation and the colonial oppression which followed). Within the party, Saadeh gained a cult of personality and advocated a totalitarian system of government, at the same time glorifying the pre-Christian past of the Syrian people. Saadeh was named the party leader for life. However, according to Haytham, Saadeh states that European fascism didn't influence him. He claims that Saadeh's Syrian Social Nationalist ideology aimed at opposite ends; in contrast to National Socialism, Social Nationalism bases itself on a dynamic social entity (which is composed of many elements from religion, to language, to culture, to history, to need, and mainly human interaction) defining its national identity and not the imposition of one ideal identity (e.g. blond blue eyes) on the many factions.
Saadeh emphasized the role of philosophy and social science in the development of his social ideology. He viewed social nationalism, his version of nationalism, as a tool to transform traditional society into a dynamic and progressive one. He also opposed colonization that broke up Greater Syria into sub-states. Secularization played an important role in his ideology. Secularization is taken by him beyond the socio-political aspects of the question into its philosophical dimensions.
Saadeh rejected Arab Nationalism (the idea that the speakers of the Arabic language form a single, unified nation), and argued instead for the creation of the state of United Syrian Nation or Natural Syria encompassing the Fertile Crescent, making up a Syrian homeland that "extends from the Taurus range in the northwest and the Zagros mountains in the northeast to the Suez Canal and the Red Sea in the south and includes the Sinai peninsula and the Gulf of Aqaba, and from the Syrian Sea in the west, including the island of Cyprus, to the arch of the Arabian Desert and the Persian Gulf in the east." (Kader, H. A.).
Saadeh rejected both language and religion as defining characteristics of a nation, and instead argued that nations develop through the common development of a people inhabiting a specific geographical region. He was thus a strong opponent of both Arab nationalism and Pan-Islamism. He argued that Syria was historically, culturally, and geographically distinct from the rest of the Arab world, which he divided into four parts. He traced Syrian history as a distinct entity back to the Phoenicians, Canaanites, Assyrians, Babylonians etc. and argued that Syrianism transcended religious distinctions.
These claims of alleged Nazi and Fascist ideology of his party were refused by Saadeh himself. During a 1935 speech, Saadeh himself said: "I want to use this opportunity to say that the system of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party is neither a Hitlerite nor a Fascist one, but a pure social nationalist one. It is not based on useless imitation, but is instead the result of an authentic invention – which is a virtue of our people".
- Antun Saadeh, "The Genesis of Nations". Dar Al Fikr, Beirut
- Peretz 1994, p. 384.
- "Antun Saadeh". Syrian Social Nationalist Party. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
- Johnson 2001, p. 150.
- Armanazi, Ghayth (October–November 2011). "The Arab Poet Laureate: An Appreciation of Adonis". The London Magazine. Retrieved 24 October 2012.
- "Antun Saadeh, the man,his thought, an anthology"
- Kader, Dr. Haytham A. "Syrian Social Nationalist Party – Ideology". Retrieved 4 May 2012.
- Götz Nordbruch (4 February 2009). Nazism in Syria and Lebanon: The Ambivalence of the German Option, 1933–1945. Taylor & Francis. pp. 45–. ISBN 978-0-415-45714-9. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
- Johnson, Michael (2001). All Honourable Men: The Social Origins of War in Lebanon. I.B.Tauris. ISBN 9781860647154.
- Peretz, Don (1994). The Middle East Today. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9780275945756.
- school of Antoun Saadah
- "What Motivated me to Establish the Syrian Social Nationalist Party", by Antoun Saadeh