The 1918 German Spring offensive in France having failed, with great losses in both men and materials, the Anglo-French Army, reinforced by large American contingents, successfully counter attacked and liberated large segments of North Eastern France and part of Belgium.  The Central Alliance, having reached the end of the road, asked for and obtained an Armistice, which was signed on November 11, 1918, thus ending the First World War.  An armistice is neither an admission of defeat nor surrender; it is simply a cessation of hostilities since both sides of the conflict were exhausted by over four years of all out war. Preparations for a Peace Conference to meet at Versailles started in early January 1919 and, it took six months to come up with a Peace Treaty, which was the prelude of many more conflicts, some of them still raging....

"Between January and July 1919, after the war to end all wars, men and women from around the world converged on Paris to shape the peace. Center stage, for the first time in history, was an American President, Woodrow Wilson, who with his fourteen points seemed to promise to so many peoples the fulfillment of their dreams.  Stern, intransigent, impatient when it came to security concern and widely idealistic in his dream of a League of Nations that would resolve peacefully all future conflicts, Wilson was one of a larger than-life characters who participated, directly or indirectly in that Conference. Others were Winston Churchill and John Maynard Keynes who were brought to the Conference by David Lloyd George, the gregarious and wily British Prime Minister, T. E. Lawrence (Of Arabia), who joined the Arab Delegation (led by Prince Faysal, the third son of Cherif Hussein of Mecca).  Ho Chi Minh, then a kitchen assistant at the Paris Ritz Hotel, submitted a petition for an independent Vietnam
For six months Paris was effectively the center of the World as the Peacemakers carved up bankrupt Empires and created new Countries.  They pushed Russia to the sidelines, alienated China, dismissed the Arabs and struggled with the problems of Kosovo, of the Kurds and of a homeland for the Jews".  (Source:  Paris 1919, six months that changed the World, by Dr. Margaret Macmillan). 

All in all, the Treaty of Versailles proved to be a complete failure and a prelude to a bloodier major World conflict and a multitude of smaller ones some of them still plague our planet.
 
 

After the signing of the Armistice ending the First World War and during the preparations for a Peace Conference, a group of Egyptian intellectuals led by Saad Zaghloul Pasha, the then elected Vice-Chairman of the Legislative Assembly, and encouraged by President Wilson's fourteen points and all those talks about the right of people for self-determination, felt that the moment was right for the Egyptians to be represented at the Peace Conference for the purpose of obtaining the end of the British Protectorate over the Country and its complete independence.  With the encouragement of Rushdy Pasha, Zaghloul formed a Committee composed of himself along with Abdel-Aziz Fahmy Bey and Ali Sha'rawi Pasha and asked for a meeting between the Committee and Sir Reginald Wingate, the then British High Commissioner in Egypt. 

The meeting took place before the end of November 1918 and the delegation asked for the authorization to proceed to London to submit Egypt's grievances to the British Government.  Wingate expressed his surprise and refused the Delegation 's request on the basis that it had no mandate to represent the Egyptian People.  As a result of the meeting 's failure, Saad Pasha and his friends formed The Egyptian Delegation (AL WAFD AL MASRY) composed of thirteen founding members. 

The Delegation was to launch a mandate campaign, on the National level, to obtain as many signatures as possible authorizing it to negotiate with the British Government, on behalf of Egypt, an accord ending the Protectorate and recognizing the Country 's independence. 

In spite of the many obstructions carried by the occupying army, a majority of Egyptians of all creeds and social levels signed the mandate.  Armed with that majority support, Saad Pasha renewed his request for the Delegation to proceed to London. 

The same request was sent to President Wilson and to the different Heads of States and their representatives in Egypt without any favorable echo.  By then Egypt was in turmoil and the 1919 Revolution was beginning to shape.  To avoid the worse, Rushdy Pasha asked Sultan Ahmad Fouad to obtain from Sir Reginald the permission to send him (the Prime Minister) and Adly Yakan Pasha, his Minister Of Public Instruction, to London, to negotiate the political future of the Country. 

Sir Reginald supported that move and sent a cable to London urging his Government 's approval.  The answer came back quickly stating that Lord Balfour, the Foreign Office Minister, was busy preparing for the Versailles Conference and had no time to meet with any Egyptian delegation.  Rushdy Pasha considered the British refusal as a slap in the face and submitted, on December 2, 1918, the resignation of his Cabinet to the Sultan who refused to accept it. 

The resignation of the Cabinet was re-submitted on December 23 but, meanwhile Sir Reginald had departed for London to personally support the Rushdy/Yakan visit, and the Sultan asked his Prime Minister to shelve the resignation until the return of the British High Commissioner. 
 

Meanwhile Sir Reginald, who was accused in London of following a too soft a policy towards Egypt, resigned (in fact he was deposed) and replaced by Field Marshall Lord Edmund Allenby who was instructed to run Egypt with an iron hand.  This being the situation, Rushdy Pasha re-submitted his resignation on February 9, 1919, to the Sultan who accepted it on March 1 with the request of keeping the Cabinet in place until a new Prime Minister could be found in those difficult times.  Thus ended the Fourth and last Cabinet of Hussein Rushdy Pasha. (1)

English Military leader and colonial administrator, he was educated at Haileybury and Sandhurst.  He choused the military career after twice failing to pass the examination for the Indian Civil Service.  Before World War 1, he saw service in South Africa, Ireland and France.   Because of his victories over the Ottoman and German Armies in Palestine and Syria, he was offered a special High Commission with supreme political and military control in Egypt and the Sudan following the outbreak of the 1919 Revolution, becoming High Commissioner when Wingate resigned.


Allenby restored order in Egypt, in part by allowing Saad Zaghloul and his companions who had been interned in Malta, to go to the Peace Conference in April 1919. He later issued a unilateral declaration of Egypt 's independence on 28 February 1922 and encouraged the drafting of the 1923 Constitution, which became the basis of Parliamentary Government though often honored in the breach, until the 1952 Revolution.  He was deeply angered by the assassination of his close friend, Sir Lee Stack, the Commander-in-chief of the Egyptian Army, in 1924. 

Holding Premier Zaghloul and his Cabinet responsible for the murder, he submitted an ultimatum demanding a large indemnity from the Egyptian Government and imposing other penalties on the Country, causing the Premier to resign.  The terms of Allenby 's ultimatum were sterner than his Government has intended.  Estranged from the Foreign Office, he resigned his post in 1925 and retired from Government Service.  A man of great courage and integrity, he could become irate when provoked.  Some of his private papers are now in St Anthony 's College, Oxford (2).

(To be continued) 

Kamal K. Katba





The day after the outbreak of war in Europe, on 5 August 1914, the Egyptian Prime Minister signed a decree empowering the British to exercise the rights of war throughout Egypt. With the entry of Turkey into the war, martial law was declared and preparation made to defend the Suez Canal. There had been a proclamation that Egyptians would not be called on for defense but very soon they were ordered to guard the Suez Canal against their fellow Muslims the Turks whom many preferred to the British. In December, the British government declared a Protectorate over Egypt.
The opening days of the month of March 1919 found Egypt seething with excitement. Sir Milne Cheetham, who was acting as High Commissioner at the time feared that in such a mood the Nationalist leader Sa`d Zaghluwl would further incite his followers and thwart British design on Egypt.
The nationalists hated the war and hoped that Britain would lose it, otherwise there seemed no hope for independence. Throughout the war years the fallahiyn and those Egyptians who were on fixed salaries, such as government employees, suffered from inflation. For the British army; beasts of burden were also commandeered for the army, leaving the fallahiyn with nothing to pull their ploughs or turn their waterwheels The peasants suffered by having their crops taken as well. Worse still, the fallahiyn were forced under corvée-like to go and dig ditches. They were drafted into labor battalions (supposed to be voluntary) for service in France and Palestine.

In 1917 came the Balfour Declaration - a unilateral decision that the Jews could establish a National Home in Palestine, a territory that belonged to the Arabs who were not consulted.

The next year saw the important statement made by the President of the United States, Mr.  Woodrow Wilson, on self determination, included in his fourteen points for a postwar settlement; that raised the hopes of Egyptian nationalists. Self determination became the keyword in everybody's mouth, and a group of Egyptian politicians met to plan the future of Egypt as an imminently independent country, or at least one that would have a modicum of home-rule. That group of men included Sa`d Zaghluwl,`Aliy Sha`rawiy and `Abd al-`Aziyz Fahmiy constituted themselves into a delegation, in Arabic a wafd, and in November 1918 met with Sir Reginald Wingate, the British High commissioner, to request that they be allowed to proceed to the Paris Peace conference and present Egypt's case. 

But Sa`d Zaghluwl and the other leading Egyptians were at first refused permission to go to the Peace Conference in Paris to plead the cause of Egyptian independence; the British government had many problems to deal with and thought that Egypt could wait. It did not see why there should be any cause for complaint for, it was argued, Egypt had been saved by the British Army from invasion by their Turkish brethren! 

Egypt had also accumulated a balance of over one hundred and fifty million pounds in five years of war. To the Egyptians it was galling to see representatives of Syria, Arabia, and of Cyprus being allowed to send representatives to the Peace Conference without question, and to see Syria granted what amounted to independence in November 1918.

In Egypt the British Army continued to maintain martial law; they had to deal with the withdrawal of thousands of troops stretching from Cairo into Asia Minor and supplies from Egypt continued to be needed. There were logical arguments from the British point of view but Egyptians had their own logic; they were not prepared to be patient. Sa`d Zaghluwl and his Wafd Party had a widespread organization throughout the country and refused the British military order to stop insisting on the independence of Egypt


 
The British High Commissioner issued a stern warning that he would burn the villages of those who participated in the rebellion, which he eventually did. He therefore lost no time in commending that the Egyptian Leader and his colleagues should be deported to Malta, and to this the British Secretary of State agreed. Before the step was taken, a warning was issued to the Egyptian leader Sa`d Zaghluwl in person and nine other leading members of the Party of Independence by General Watson, then commanding the forces in Egypt.

On the 8th, therefore, Sa`d Pasha Zaghluwl, and with him Hamd Pasha al-Basil, Isma`iyl Pasha Sidqiy, and Muhammad Pasha Mahmuwd, were arrested. The following morning they were taken to Port Sa`iyd and placed on board a British destroyer Caledonia, to be deported to Malta. 


The arrest of these four men set the conflagration alight and the Revolution began.
Below is a chronology of the events, which started on the 8th of March, 1919

The students were the first to stir. When the news spread on the morning of the 9th, they deserted their studies and dispersed through the streets, carrying the torch of revolution everywhere with them. That very evening, acts of sabotage were occurring, and the following morning angry crowds were destroying property and buildings, and the military had to be called upon to help the police. 

On the 11th, the situation was changing for the worse.  A strike of the lawyers was concerted, and some officials deserted their posts in sympathy, while clashes between angry crowds and the troops and police were frequent.  Stern warnings were issued by the British authorities that cutting off communications and sabotaging railways would be dealt severely and perpetuators would be executed on the spot and their villages burned. 

By March the 12th the provinces were alight: there were outbreaks at Tantah, where the military had to open fire in order to repel an attack upon the railway station, at Zagaziyg, Damanhuwr, and Mansuwrah. The trouble then spread with rapidity all over the Delta and into Upper Egypt. 

On March 15th the Egyptian railroad workers, numbering 4,000 went on strike.  They also destroyed the railway switches, cutting off completely the railway service to Upper Egypt. 

By the 17th, Cairo was completely cut off from the rest of Egypt: the railway lines had been destroyed, telegraph and telephone wires cut. In Alexandria, continuous riots were taking place; in almost every other important centre the military were in conflict with the people and could do little more than hold precariously some point of vantage, while elsewhere over the Delta anarchy reigned. In Upper Egypt the position was equally serious, where the British detachments of troops, mainly Punjabis, were beleaguered and cut off from their headquarters. 

On the morning of the 18th, just after General Bulfin's arrival at Cairo, there occurred the Dayruwt incident, in which eight Englishmen were killed. These men, three officers and five non-commissioned officers, were traveling by train from Luxor. At Miniyah  their bodies were taken off the train and buried. 

At Miniyah, the British residents were surrounded; at Asiyuwt all foreign subjects sought refuge in one building, which was with difficulty defended by a small detachment of Punjabis.

On May 15, 1919, Mr. Harmsworth, the deputy secretary of the British Foreign Office issued the following tabulation regarding the casualties: 1,000 Egyptians killed, 1,600 wounded; 27 British soldiers killed, 70 wounded; 9 Punjabis killed, 40 wounded; and four British civilians killed. (TEC)


 



 
 

© Kamal Katba 2006


 

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