Alawite Revolt of 1919
|Part of Franco-Syrian War|
Shaykh Saleh al-Ali, leader of the revolt
|Commanders and leaders|
|Henri Gouraud||Saleh al-Ali|
The Al-Ali Revolt or the Alawite Revolt was an uprising, led by Shaykh Saleh al-Ali against the French authorities of the Occupied Enemy Territory Administration and later as part of the Franco-Syrian War against the newly established French mandate of Syria, primarily in the An-Nusayriyah Mountains on the Syrian coast. The rebellion was one of the first acts of violent resistance against the French forces, and it allied itself with other rebellions in the country, including the rebellion of Ibrahim Hananu in Aleppo and Antioch and the resistance through Franco-Syrian War by Yusuf al-Azmeh.
In 1918 the French occupied the Syrian coast and began to move into the interior. On 15 December 1918, Saleh al-Ali called for a meeting of prominent Alawite notables in the town of al-Shaykh Badr. Al-Ali alerted the attendees that the French had already occupied the Syrian coast with the intention of separating the region from the rest of the country, and urged them to revolt and expel the French from Syria.
When the French authorities heard of the meeting hosted by al-Ali, they sent a force from al-Qadmus to al-Shaykh Badr in order to arrest al-Ali. Al-Ali and his men ambushed the force at the village of Niha, west of Wadi al-Oyoun. The French forces were defeated and suffered more than 35 casualties.
Organizing the rebellion
After the initial victory, al-Ali started to organize his rebels into a disciplined force, with its own general command and military ranks. The rebel army was supported by the local population, and some women supplied water and food and substituted the men as workers in the fields.
Later on, al-Ali turned against the Ismailis, and the French authorities rushed to their aid. French forces attacked al-Ali on 21 February 1919, suffering their second defeat. The result prompted the British general Edmund Allenby to intervene by requesting al-Ali cease hostilities and retreat from al-Shaykh Badr. Al-Ali replied positively, but demanded the French to stay no more than a single hour within al-Shaykh Badr, a demand the French did not follow. Instead, the French took positions, installed cannons and began shelling the villages of al-Shaykh Badr and al-Rastan. The ensuing fighting continued on into the night and resulted in the French army's third defeat to al-Ali. In the aftermath, al-Ali once again led an assault against the Ismailis of al-Qadmus, plundering the town and burning any found Ismaili religious books and manuscripts in the public square.
In July 1919, in retaliation to French attacks against rebel positions, al-Ali attacked and occupied several Ismaili villages that were allied to the French. A truce was subsequently concluded between the two, but the French violated it by occupying and burning the village of Kaf al-Jaz. Al-Ali retaliated by attacking and occupying al-Qadmus from which the French conducted their military operations against him.
During Franco-Syrian War
Al-Ali coordinated his uprising with Ibrahim Hananu's revolt in Aleppo, the uprising in Talkalakh by the Dandashi tribe and the revolt in Antioch by Subhi Barakat. He also received funds and arms from Kemal Atatürk of Turkey which was also at war with France at the time.
On April 3, well into the Franco-Syrian War, the French attacked al-Ali, inflicting heavy casualties and damage against his force, but al-Ali's counterattack drove the French out of the villages they had previously conquered.
In November 1920 General Henri Gouraud mounted a full-fledged campaign against al-Ali's forces in the An-Nusayriyah Mountains. They entered al-Ali's village of al-Shaykh Badr and arrested many Alawite notables. Al-Ali fled to the north, but a large French force overran his positions on 15 June 1921 and al-Ali consequently went into hiding.
A French court-martial convened in Latakia and sentenced al-Ali to death in absentia. After the French gave up the idea of capturing him, a pardoning decree was issued by General Gouraud. Eventually, after roughly one year of hiding, al-Ali surrendered to French general Gaston Billotte. Al-Ali died at his home in 1950.