Franco-Syrian Treaty of Independence
The Franco-Syrian Treaty of Independence was a treaty negotiated between France and Syria to provide for Syrian independence from French authority, which had been imposed under a League of Nations Mandate.
The agreement was negotiated over a six-month period from March to September 1936. The Syrian government ratified the treaty before the end of the year. France signed but never ratified the document. The treaty was the first formal compact between France and a recognized nationalist movement in Syria, comprising several elected officials of the parliament in Damascus.
In 1934, France attempted to impose a treaty of independence heavily prejudiced in favor of France. It promised gradual independence but kept the Syrian Mountains under French control. The Syrian head of state at the time was a French puppet, Muhammad 'Ali Bay al-'Abid. Fierce opposition to this treaty was spearheaded by senior nationalist and parliamentarian Hashim al-Atassi, who called for a sixty-day strike in protest. Atassi's political coalition, the National Bloc, mobilized massive popular support for his call. Riots and demonstrations raged, and the economy came to a standstill.
The new Popular Front-led French government then agreed to recognize the National Bloc as the sole legitimate representatives of the Syrian people and invited Hashim al-Atassi to independence negotiations in Paris. He traveled there on March 22, 1936, heading a senior Bloc delegation. The resulting treaty called for immediate recognition of Syrian independence as a sovereign republic, with full emancipation granted gradually over a 25 year period.
The treaty guaranteed incorporation of previously autonomous Druze and Alawite regions into Greater Syria, but not Lebanon, with which France signed a similar treaty in November. The treaty also promised curtailment of French intervention in Syrian domestic affairs as well as a reduction of French troops, personnel and military bases in Syria. In return, Syria pledged to support France in times of war, including the use of its air space, and to allow France to maintain two military bases on Syrian territory. Other political, economic and cultural provisions were included.
Atassi returned to Syria in triumph on September 27, 1936 and was elected President of the Republic in November.
The emerging threat of Adolf Hitler induced a fear of being outflanked by Nazi Germany if France relinquished its colonies in the Middle East. That, coupled with lingering imperialist inclinations in some levels of the French government, led France to reconsider its promises and refuse to ratify the treaty. Also, France ceded the province of Alexandretta, whose territory was guaranteed as part of Syria in the treaty, to Turkey. Riots again broke out, Atassi resigned, and Syrian independence was deferred until after World War II.
- History of Syria
- League of Nations Mandate
- Hashim al-Atassi
- French colonial flags
- French Colonial Empire
- List of French possessions and colonies
- Sami Moubayed "Steel & Silk: Men and Women Who Shaped Syria 1900-2000" (Cune Press, Seattle, 2005).
- Encyclopædia Britannica