Lebanon-Syria Relations - Greater Syria Under Ottoman Rule

Greater Syria Under Ottoman Rule

Greater Syria, as termed within the Ottoman Empire, was composed of Syria, Lebanon, Israel, palestine, and Jordan. In the 1830s, Europeans could trade with Greater Syria through the thriving port city of Beirut. Under the Ottoman Empire, Mount Lebanon (the region of the Lebanon mountain range) enjoyed political autonomy from the center because of its geographic isolation. Whereas Mount Lebanon enjoyed this independence from the Ottoman ruling center, Syrian cities maintained a closer political relationship to Istanbul. However, Ottoman officials still had to rely on local elites for policy implementation. Certain religious minorities within the Ottoman Empire, including the Druze and Maronite Christians, moved into Mount Lebanon because of its isolation. These sects shared political power, and Ibrahim Ali pushed for abolishment of special taxes on Jews and Christians. He also aimed to disarm locals but Druze populations refused; Ibrahim armed Christian troops to fight against these groups. When Ibrahim later tried to disarm these Christian groups, they pushed for the evacuation of Egyptian forces from Greater Syria. However, tensions between the two sects remained especially with Ottoman decrees of 1839 and 1856 ensuring equality for all religious groups. Druze and Sunnis saw Maronites and other Christians as “overstepping the bounds of what was permitted to minority subjects in a Muslim State”.

Since the 1840s, violence between Druze and Maronites extended across Lebanese and Syrian regions. In 1860, Druze populations attacked Christian villages and violence escalated into Damascus “where several thousand Christians were massacred and European consulates were burned”. While Ottoman officials sent military to stabilize Damascus, and Fuad Pasha stated that the instigators of the massacres would be punished, European representatives met in 1861 in Damascus to design a government of Mount Lebanon that would protect Christian minority groups. Europeans agreed on a system (“mutasarrifiyyah”) where a Christian Ottoman subject from outside Lebanon would rule over Mount Lebanon. This led to further isolation of the Mount Lebanon region from Greater Syria and wider Ottoman rule. Peace remained until 1914 when the mutasarrifiyyah was disbanded; during that time of peace though, sectarian tensions remained because the mutasarrifiyyah served as a reminder of the religious divisions. These religious tensions served as a precursor to the greater involvement of European powers within Greater Syria politics that would eventually lead to the division of the area into French Mandates of Syria and Lebanon.

Read more about this topic:  Lebanon-Syria Relations

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