"Society is knowledge and knowledge is power."
STATEMENT OF MISSION
In the Company of Saadeh
Antun Sa'adeh: The Man His Thought, Vol. II.
Words of Wisdom
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The Syria-wide Research Center (SRC) is an invaluable source of accurate, objective and relevant information and analysis designed to enlighten public opinion about Natural Syria through innovative programs designed to advance progressive ideas in the interest of the country and its people. The Center is guided by Antun Saadeh's world-view. [Read on]
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“There's a Palestine that dwells inside all of us, a Palestine that needs to be rescued: a free Palestine where all people regardless of color, religion, or race coexist; a Palestine where the meaning of the word "occupation" is only restricted to what the dictionary says rather than those plenty of meanings and connotations of death, destruction, pain, suffering, deprivation, isolation and restrictions that Israel has injected the word with.” ? Refaat Alareer
Any pundit worth his salt is familiar with the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement, a secret treaty signed between the British and French governments in the aftermath of World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, in an effort to demarcate their respective spheres of neo-colonial influence in the Middle East.[i] It was this agreement that led to the establishment of the British Mandate in Palestine, and in the views of many, a critical component of Israel’s ultimate declaration of state in 1948.[ii] Historians, politicians, and laymen alike all invoke the language of Sykes-Picot to either voice their support or opposition to the legality of Britain’s decision to allow for a Jewish homeland in historical Palestine. Yet few consider the implications of this agreement for the rest of the region. Indeed, Sykes-Picot remains relevant today and, in light of the ongoing Syrian Civil War, can provide a historical context for understanding how broader political and economic trends in the post-War period have shaped current social realities.
At the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, Britain and France rejected Arab leaders’ bid for Syrian independence.[iii] Not soon after, the Sykes-Picot Agreement officially partitioned the Middle East into roughly what we know it as today. Territories ceded to French control included Syria, which would remain under European mandate until 1944.
Though the vestiges of colonialism are by no means the only forces at play in the Syrian Civil War, the legacy of meddlesome European-and later, American-intervention and political power plays cannot be ignored. Sectarian violence is a feature of the conflict often talked about, but rarely with acknowledgement of the ways in which Syria’s colonial past influences this dynamic.
Part of the reason the Middle East seems so endlessly mired in conflict is because its history is likewise enmeshed in it. The geographical boundaries of the region are almost entirely arbitrary; the interested parties of the Sykes-Picot agreement carved up the Middle East with little to no regard for indigenous social structures like ethnic and tribal affiliations. How can a country and its people-much less an entire region-be expected to identify with and adhere to boundaries that they themselves did not determine? Perhaps if the Arab world had been given even minimal say in what their newly-formed, independent republics and states would look like, we would see far less sectarian division today.
The rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has once again pushed Syria’s colonial past to the fore. More than ever, sectarian violence is increasingly coming to characterize a country with one of the Middle East region’s richest and most extensive histories of religious and cultural diversity. Islamic State’s Sunni fighters, in capturing cities, occupying territories, and cleansing these areas of “unorthodox” (read: non-Islamic State sanctioned) elements, seem to be attempting to rewrite the history (and map) of the modern Arab world. Their defiant and brutal acts of violence are undertaken with complete disregard for the arbitrary boundaries first established in the 20th century.
Yet Islamic State is equally colonialist in its division of and dominion over the Middle East. It too is an imported government structure and is just as unsustainable as the French and British mandates were in the post-war years of the 20th century. It too displays blatant disregard for historically and culturally significant social constructs.
Colonial Legacies Past and Present:
Syria and Sykes-Picot Today
America and Political Islam
(Trans. Clive Bream)