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Ibrahim Hananu or Ibrahim Hanano (1869–1935) (Arabic: إبراهيم هنانو), one of the more charismatic and intriguing figures to emerge from the morass of war in post-1918 Aleppo, was an Constantinople-educated member of a notable landholding family of Kurdish origin in northern Syria.
Early life and education
Hananu was born in Kafr Takharim, a fertile olive-growing area west of Aleppo and raised in Aleppo. He studied at the Imperial High School in Aleppo and continued his studies at the Ottoman Law Academy of the prestigious Mülkiye school in Constantinople. As a student he joined the Committee of Union and Progress, the political organ that later took the stage following the Young Turk Revolution of 1908.
Career and views
Upon graduation, Hananu briefly taught at the military academy. Later he joined the bureaucracy of the Ottoman Empire, only to retire and manage his estates. One Syrian source from the United Arab Republic era indicates that having embraced nationalism when the Arab Revolt broke out in 1916, Hananu joined the Arab army of Faysal I and entered Aleppo with the Allies in 1918. He is also supposed to have joined the secret nationalist society al-Fatat, though there is no corroborating evidence for this. Along with many of the prominent merchants in Aleppo, Hananu became associated with the League of National Defense and the Arab Club of Aleppo.
Particularly following his French mandate authority trial in March 1922, the Muslim elite of Aleppo coalesced around Hananu as a patriotic leader of the Muslim resistance to the French that had occurred with Turkish aid prior to the Franco-Turkish negotiations of 1921. Breaking out in the autumn of 1919 in the countryside surrounding Aleppo, when the French army had landed on the Syrian coast and was preparing to occupy all of Syria, Hanano launched his revolt, bringing Aleppo, Idlib and Antioch into a coordinated campaign against French forces. Hananu was responsible for the disarmament of many French troops, the destruction of railroads and telegraph lines, the sabotage of tanks, and the foiling of French attacks on Aleppo. He received aid from the Turkish nationalist movement of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, which was battling the French army of the Levant for control of Cilicia and southern Anatolia. With the withdrawal of Turkish military assistance following the signing of the Franklin-Bouillon Agreement in October 1921, Hananu and his men could no longer sustain a revolt, and their struggle collapsed. Despite the failure of the revolt, the organization of the northern areas of Syria with Turkish help has been interpreted as a prototype for self-government that Hananu and other Syrians built upon in later years. Much recent Syrian historiography considers Hananu's rebellion as but the first of a broader series of coordinated revolts, including the Great Revolt of 1925, against the French occupation of the emerging nation state of Syria.
For Hananu, the Ottoman State, Islam and modernity were not mutually exclusive; like others of his class and educational background, as a "New Man," his habitus revolved around the successful unification and continued harmonization of these key concepts in his public and personal life. Hananu's efforts confirm what was at issue for him and others like him in the fight against the French: it was about political control and a profound sense of attachment to place, but also his professional dignity, personal ambition, and a sense of modern self.
Hananu continued to play an active role in the Syrian national movement. He was one of the founding fathers of the National Bloc, which emerged from the Beirut conference of October 1927, and which steered the course of the independence struggle in Syria until its completion nineteen years later. He was a member of the National Bloc's permanent council and chief of its political bureau. In 1928, Hananu held office on the Constitutional Assembly that drafted the first republican constitution for Syria. In the 1930s, he affirmed his reputation as a hard-liner, refusing to negotiate with the French until they pledged complete unconditional independence for Syria.
Death and legacy
He died in 1935 in Aleppo. Ibrahim Hanano is considered one of the most celebrated warriors and heroes of the resistance against the French Mandate. After his death, Hanano's house in Aleppo was used by Syrian nationalists as a "house of the nation." His nephew, Omar Al Sibai, was one of the communist leaders in Syria.
- Keith David Watenpaugh, Being Modern in the Middle East, Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford, 2006, pp. 174-184.
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- Keith Watenpaugh, Being Modern, pp. 180-181
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- Keith David Watenpaugh, Being Modern, p. 179.
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