Taj al-Din al-Hasani

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President Taj al-Din al-Hasani
تاج الدين الحسني
Taj aldin.jpg
Head of State of Syria
In office
February 15, 1928 – November 19, 1931
Preceded by Damad-i Shariyari Ahmad Nami Bay
Succeeded by Muhammad 'Ali Bay al-'Abid
In office
September 16, 1941 – January 17, 1943
Preceded by Khalid al-Azm (acting)
Succeeded by Jamil al-Ulshi (Acting)
Prime Minister of Syria
In office
March 16, 1934 – February 22, 1936
Preceded by Haqqi Bey al-Azm
Succeeded by Ata al-Ayyubi
Personal details
Born 1885
Damascus, Ottoman Syria
Died January 17, 1943 (aged 58)
Damascus, Syria
Spouse(s) Mousirra Midani
Children Dia al-Din · Shams al-Din
Inam (spouse: Munir al-Ajlani)
Isaaf · Saad al-Din · Amira
Religion Sunni Islam

President Taj al-Din al-Hasani (Arabic: تاج الدين الحسني‎ ; 1885 – January 17, 1943) was a French-appointed Syrian leader and politician. He was born and raised into a family of Muslim scholars in Damascus. His father was Bader al-Din al-Hasani, one of the most respected Islamic scholars in the late nineteenth century.

History[edit]

The young Hasani studied Islamic theology with his father, and in 1905 became his personal assistant. He trained young students of his generation in conduct and thought. In 1912, he became a member in the committee for school reform, which was established by the Municipality of Damascus. In 1916, he became editor-in-chief of al-Sharq (The East), a daily newspaper published by Jamal Pasha, the Ottoman Governor of Syria. He held this position throughout the years of World War I. When the war ended in 1918, his father delegated him to meet with King Faisal I, the first post-Ottoman ruler of Syria, and explain the conditions and needs of Muslim establishments in Syria. Faisal was impressed by Hasani’s eloquence, and in March 1920, appointed him Director of the Royal Palace. He retained this post until the French occupied Syria in July 1920 and dethroned Faysal, setting up their mandate in Syria. Hasani went to Paris and established secret channels with the French, promising them absolute support if they agreed to support his political ambitions. The French government accepted, and began grooming him for future leadership in Syria.

Years in office[edit]

In 1925, the French High Commissioner Maurice Sarrail asked Hasani to form a government during the climax of a national uprising in the Arab Mountain. Hasani failed at creating a suitable composition. He was given a second opportunity and succeeded, creating a government of prominent figures on February 15, 1928. With no presidential office in Syria, Hasani was vested with supreme presidential powers, but had to submit all of his actions and decrees to the French High Commissioner in Beirut. His cabinet included the historian and scholar Muhammad Kurd Ali as Minister of Education, the attorney Said Mahasin as Minister of Justice, and Jamil al-Ulshi, an Ottoman-trained officer and ex-prime minister, as Minister of Finance. The opponents to his regime were mainly hard-line nationalists who criticized the French connections of Ulshi, Mahasin, and Hasani, claiming that they had not contributed to the nationalist movement since the French Mandate was imposed in 1920. In April 1928, Hasani held office for three months on the Constituent Assembly that drafted the first republican constitution for Syria. Hasani ruled Syria with three different cabinets from February 1928 until November 1931. The opposition, headed by the National Bloc, accused him of tampering with the ballots to secure his election through Interior Minister Sa’id Mahasin. In 1932, Hasani nominated himself for presidential office. The French, who were under mounting nationalist pressure to reform the political system in Syria, distanced themselves from the elections. With no proper French backing, he was defeated at the polls.

Hasani protested to government authorities in Paris, who compensated him with the post of Prime Minister in the administration of President Mohammad Ali al-Abid. The National Bloc, Hasani’s prime opponent in local politics, staged a countrywide strike that lasted for sixty days, demanding that France address the issue of Syrian independence in a serious manner. During the strike, commercial life was brought to a standstill and hundreds of Syrians were arrested and deported to remote prisons on the Syrian-Turkish border. Hasani arrested many leaders of the National Bloc, including Saadallah al-Jabiri from Aleppo and Fakhri al-Barudi from Damascus. Shukri al-Kuwatli and Nasib al-Bakri, two politicians from Damascus, were placed under house-arrest. The entire ordeal embarrassed the French who in turn, called the Bloc leaders into independence talks in Paris. When a Franco-Syrian treaty was ready, the Bloc leadership assumed power and Hasani moved into the opposition to the new administration of President Hashim al-Atassi, the leader of the National Bloc.

Final years[edit]

Taj al-Din al-Hasani (left) with President Alfred Naqqache of Lebanon in 1941.

The ex-Prime Minister remained on the margins of political life until 1941, when following the Bloc downfall, General Charles de Gaulle appointed him President of Syria on September 12, 1941, after having failed to prevail upon Hashim al-Atassi to return to office. He was required to contain the nationalist movement and provide funds for France's war effort in Europe. To raise money, President Hasani increased his taxes and raised the price of bread, thereby alienating himself throughout the poor districts of Syria. De Gaulle rewarded Hasani’s services by officially recognizing Syria’s independence on September 27, 1941 and promising complete French evacuation once the war in Europe ended. The French General abrogated a law formulated in the 1920s that divided the Alawite Mountain and the Arab Mountain into independent zones, thereby re-incorporating them into the Syrian Republic. France, however, was given the right to retain military bases throughout the country and receive economic, financial, and political privileges in Syria. Hasani then tried to distance himself from French influence and began befriending members of the National Bloc. He also tried to convince the French to re-instate the democratically elected Parliament of 1936–1939, but his efforts proved futile. He died suddenly of a heart attack on January 17, 1943. His son-in-law Munir al-Ajlani claims that in his final years, Taj al-Din al-Hasani wanted to distance himself from the French and project the image of a true nationalist, but died before that was done. He was the first Syrian head of state to die while in office.

References[edit]

  • Sami Moubayed, Steel & Silk: Men and Women Who Shaped Syria 1900-2000 (Cune Press, Seattle, 2005).