Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire began 105 years ago today

Thursday, June 10 marks the 105th anniversary of the official declaration of the Arab Revolt, which saw Sharif of Mecca Hussein bin Ali begin a widespread revolt against the Ottoman Empire to create an independent and unified Arab nation.

The revolt was steeped in the background of rising Arab nationalism in the lands ruled by the Ottoman Turks, and it coincided with the ongoing World War I that was raging throughout Europe.

As the Ottoman Empire was fighting on the side of the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary), the Arabs saw considerable help from the Entente nations France and the United Kingdom, who helped finance and arm the Arabs.

The Arab forces were mostly led by Hussein’s family, the House of Hashemi, also known as the Hashemites, who at the time ruled the Hejaz. However, it also included several prominent Western commanders, such as the UK’s Edmund Allenby and T. E. Lawrence, the latter of whom heavily popularized the Arab Revolt in his book, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which later formed the basis of the widely successful and critically acclaimed film, Lawrence of Arabia.

Though the revolt was a success, the Hashemites were ultimately unable to achieve a single, unified independent Arab nation, with the UK and France instead utilizing the Sykes-Picot agreement, which carved up the remnants of the Ottoman Empire between the two colonial powers. The Hashemites retained their possessions in Iraq and Transjordan, and briefly held onto Damascus before losing it to France.

After the war, disaster would befall the Hashemites, with the territory in the Hejaz being seized by their rivals, the House of Saud, which also cost them their prestigious custodianship of the Islamic holy sites in Mecca and Medina. A coup in 1958 later saw the family lose control of Iraq. To this day, the Hashemites solely retain their power in the Kingdom of Jordan, and continue to hold custodianship of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
The impact of the revolt extended beyond the end of the Ottoman Empire. The Sykes-Picot agreement and the Balfour Declaration both helped contribute to the later establishment of the State of Israel in the Levant.

A hundred and five years after its inception, the Arab Revolt and the agreements surrounding it continue to impact Middle Eastern geopolitics to this day.






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