Suleiman Assad's 1926 memo denounces Sunni 'hatred, intolerance'

November 28, 2013

The Great Syrian Revolt, from 1925 to 1927, aimed to end the French Mandate in Syria and Lebanon, which had separated Greater Syria into Greater Lebanon, the Alawite State, the State of Damascus, the State of Aleppo and Jabel al-Druze State. As violence spread from epicenters on Jebel al-Druze and intensified in Damascus, not all Syrians rejected the French, who had controlled Syria since the April 1920 San Remo Conference at the end of World War I.

On June 15th, 1926, one month after heavy fighting between French troops and Druze rebels in Damascus’s Meidan and Ghouta, a group of Alawite leaders, among them President Bashar Assad’s grandfather Suleiman Assad, sent a memorandum to French Prime Minister Leon Blum.

Suleiman Assad

Bashar al-Assad and his grandfather Suleiman al-Assad.

The message is unambiguous: Sunnis are a threat to the existence of Alawites, Assad and his colleagues write. “The spirit of hatred and intolerance plants its roots in the heart of Muslim Arabs toward everything that is non-Muslim, and is forever fueled by the spirit of the Islamic religion.”

Alawites, they say, “are people of different religious beliefs, traditions and history than the Sunni Muslim people,” adding that “in the Islamic religion, the Alawite people are considered infidels.”

The Alawites plea with the French to protect minorities in Syria, warning of the dangers of Sunni Muslim rule and stressing that end of the French Mandate would mean the annihilation of the Alawite people. Translation from Arabic by Syria Direct’s Elizabeth Parker-Magyar. 

State of Leon Blum, Prime Minister of France

June 15, 1926

On the occasion of the ongoing negotiations between France and Syria, it is an honor for us, we the Alawites leaders in Syria, to draw your attention and your party’s attention to the following points:

  1. 1.The Alawite people who have kept their independency year after year, with jealousy and large sacrifices from their souls. They are people of different religious beliefs, traditions, and history than the Sunni Muslim people, never subjected to the rule of the interior cities.
  1. 2.The Alawite people refuse to be attached to the Muslim Syria, because Islam is considered the country’s official religion. In the Islamic religion, the Alawite people are considered infidels. So we draw your attention to what awaits the Alawites of a scary and horrible fate, if they are forced to be a part of Syria when the Mandate ends, and when laws derived from religion will be in a position to be applied.
  1. 3.Granting Syria’s independence and abolishing the Mandate would be a strong example of socialist principles in Syria, but that absolute independency means control of some Muslim families over the Alawite people in Cilicia, Iskenderun [in 1939 Iskenderum detached from Syria and became a part of Turkey] and the mountains of Nusayrih.

The presence of a parliament and a constitutional government do not create individual freedom. Parliamentary rule is fake; it has no value. Under its skin, in fact, there hides a system dominated by intolerance of religious minorities. Do the French leaders want to empower Muslims against the Alawite people to throw them [the Alawites] into the arms of misery?

  1. 4.The spirit of hatred and intolerance plants its roots in the heart of Muslim Arabs toward everything that is non-Muslim, and is forever fueled by the spirit of the Islamic religion. There is no hope that the situation will change. If the Mandate is canceled, therefore, the minorities in Syria will become exposed to a risk of death and annihilation, despite the fact that this cancellation eliminates freedom of thought and belief.

Here we see today how the Muslim citizens of Damascus forced the Jews living among them to sign a document pledging not to send food to their fellow, ill-fated Jews in Palestine. The Jewish situation in Palestine is clear, tangible evidence of the importance of the religious issue to Arab Muslims toward all who do not belong to Islam.

Those good Jews who came to Arab Muslims with peace and civilization, and spread on the land of Palestine gold and positive well-being, have [left] no sign of harm on anyone and did not take anything by force. However, Muslims have declared a ‘Holy War’ against them, and did not hesitate to slaughter their children and wives, despite the French and English presence in Palestine and Syria.

Therefore, a black fate awaits Jews and other minorities if the Mandate is cancelled, and the unification of Syrian Muslims with Palestinian ones. This unification is the supreme goal of Arabic Muslims.

  1. 5.We appreciate the noble feeling you carry in your defense of the Syrian people, as well as the desire to achieve independence. But, at this time, Syria is still far from the noble goal for which it aims, as it is still subject to a feudal, religious spirit. We do not think that the French government and the French Socialist Party would accept granting Syrian independence, which in application would mean enslaving the Alawite people and exposing minorities to the risk of death and annihilation.

The Syrian request to include the Alawite people in Syria is impossible for you to accept, or agree upon, because of your noble principles, if they supported freedom of thought. [Your noble principles] would not agree with stifling the freedom of other people in order to force them to join.

  1. 6.You might see that it is possible to secure the rights of the Alawite minority with provisions of a treaty, but we assure you that treaties have no value in the Islamic mentality in Syria. As such, we saw this previously in the treaty between England and Iraq, which prevented Iraqis from massacring the Assyrians and the Yazidi.

So, the Alawite people, whom we represent, are gathered as signatories to this memorandum. They are crying out and asking the French government and the French Socialist Party to ensure their rights and independence within their small sphere, and putting this between the hands of the French and Socialist leaders. [The Alawites] are loyal friends who have given great services to the French, threatened by death and annihilation.

Aziz Agha Alhoash, Mahmoud Agha Jedeed, Mohammad Baek Junaid, Suleiman Assad, Suleiman Murshid, Mohammad Suleiman Al-Ahmad.

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