Bashir Shihab II

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Prince Bashir Shihab II "the Great", the Emir of Mt. Lebanon from 1788 till 1840.

Bashir Shihab II (also spelt "Bachir Chehab II"; January 2, 1767[1] – 1850) was a Lebanese emir who ruled Lebanon[clarification needed] in the first half of the 19th century. Having converted from Sunni Islam, the religion of previous Chehabi Emirs, he was the first and last Maronite ruler of the Emirate of Mount Lebanon.[2]

Life[edit]

Bashir was born in Gazir, son of Emir Qasim ibn Umar Chehab[3] of the noble Chehab family which had came to power in 1697. Despite his noble roots he was born into poverty but married a rich cousin.

Career[edit]

In 1788, after abdication of his predecessor, Emir Yussef Chehab, he was elected emir and ruled under Ottoman suzerainty, being appointed wali or governor of Mount Lebanon, the Beqaa Valley and Jabal Amel, which together form about two thirds of modern day Lebanon. He reformed taxes and attempted to break the feudal system, in order to undercut rivals, the most important of whom was also named Bashir: Bashir Jumblatt and had increasing support in the Druze community.

In 1799 Bashir refused to assist either Napoleon or al-Jazzar during Napoleon's -siege on Acre. This was one of the factors causing Napoleon's failure and eventual return to Egypt.

War[edit]

In 1822 the Ottoman wali of Damascus went to war with Acre, which was allied with Muhammad Ali, the pasha of Egypt. As part of this conflict one of the most remembered massacres of Maronite Christians by Druze forces occurred, forces that were aligned with the wali of Damascus. Jumblatt represented the increasingly disaffected Druze, who were both shut out from official power and angered at the growing ties with the Maronites by Bashir II, who was himself a Maronite Christian (initially the Chehab family was Sunni Muslim and some of which converted to Christianity at the end of the 18th century, under Bashir)

Rebellion[edit]

Bashir II was overthrown as Emir when he backed Acre, and fled to Egypt, later to return and organize an army. Jumblatt gathered the Druze factions, and the war became sectarian in character: the Maronites backing Bashir II, the Druze backing Bashir Jumblatt.

Jumblatt declared a rebellion, and between 1821 and 1825 there were massacres and battles with the Maronites, attempting to gain control of Mount Lebanon, and the Druze trying to gain control over the Beqaa Valley.

In 1825 Bashir II, helped by the Ottomans and the Jezzar, defeated his rival in the Battle of Simqanieh. Bashir Jumblatt died in Acre at the order of the Jezzar. Bashir II was not a forgiving man and repressed the Druze rebellion, particularly in and around Beirut. This made Bashir Chehab the only leader of Mount-Lebanon. However, Bashir Chehab was depicted as a nasty leader because Bashir Jumblatt was his all-time friend and has saved his life when the Keserwan peasants tried to kill the prince, by sending 1000 of his men to save him. Also, days before the Battle of Simqania, Bashir Jumblatt had the chance to kill Bashir II when he was returning from Acre when he reportedly kissed the Jezzar's feet in order to help him against Jumblatt, but Bashir II reminded him of their friendship and told Jumblatt to "pardon when you can". The high morals of Jumblatt led him to pardon Bashir II, a decision he should have regretted.

Later Years[edit]

Bashir II, who had come to power through local politics and nearly fallen from power because of his increasing detachment from them, reached out for allies, allies who looked on the entire area as “the Orient” and who could provide trade, weapons and money, without requiring fealty and without, it seemed, being drawn into endless internal squabbles.

Trying to obtain greater degree of autonomy he supported Muhammad Ali's rise against the Ottoman Empire and allied with Ali's son Ibrahim Pasha who occupied Syria on his father's behalf.

This way United Kingdom's and Austrian interests were threatened, so in 1840 they both helped the Ottomans to drive Ibrahim Pasha from Syria. Bashir was captured and sent into exile to Malta then to Istanbul, where he would later die. Bashir played a very important role in the modernization and emergence of Modern Lebanon and the Arabic Renaissance movement.

For a short time the direct Ottoman rule over Lebanon was imposed until Bashir Chehab III, another member of the Chehab family, was appointed an emir.

Legacy[edit]

Today, the Chehabs are still one of the most prominent families in Lebanon, and the third president of Lebanon after independence, Fuad Chehab, was a member of this family, as was former Prime Minister Khaled Chehab. The Chehabs bear the title of Amirs (or Princes). Today, a group of them are Sunni Muslims, and others are Maronite Catholics, though they have common family roots. The 11th century citadel in Hasbaya, South Lebanon, is still a private property of the Chehabs, many of them still living in it. A branch of the family, directly descended from Bashir II, resides in Turkey, known as the Paksoy family, due to Turkish restrictions on non-Turkish surnames.

Monuments[edit]

One of the most remarkable Bashir's monuments is a magnificent palace in Beit ed-Dine which he started building immediately after taking power in 1788. Bashir rewarded the architect by cutting his hands off in order to keep his palace a one-of-a-kind. He moved his government from Deir el Qamar to Beit ed-Dine when he had executed (as a part of his many Intrigues) a popular prince and caused riots in Dar el Qamar.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.khazen.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=620&Itemid=185
  2. ^ The Maronites in history, Matti Moosa, p283
  3. ^ http://www.uq.net.au/~zzhsoszy/states/islamic/lebanon.html

External links[edit]