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Updated June 2012

T. E. Lawrence, report, 13 May, 1917

NOTES ON HEJAZ AFFAIRS

[Arab Bulletin, 13 May 1917]

 


Under date April 26, Captain Lawrence sends the following notes on miscellaneous topics. They were collected by him during his sojourn with Abdullah in Wadi Ais.

Antecedents of the Hejaz Revolt

Talaat, in 1913, showed great anxiety about the situation in the Hejaz. Its subjugation and the imposition of military service there had been a favourite project. Mahmud Shevket and the Turkish Ministry generally looked upon the situation as disquieting, on account of the great hold Husein Pasha was getting on the people. This was the real reason of Wahib's appointment, and his withdrawal was a personal triumph for Feisal, who secured from Talaat a promise that Wahib would be tried by court-martial for infringing the privileges of the Hejaz.

Sherif Abdullah was regarded as the probable cause of trouble in the Hejaz, and to keep him out of it he was offered first the Wakf Ministry and then the Vilayet of Yemen. He saw the idea, and refused the appointments. Abdullah has a low opinion of Talaat's judgment, and regards him as brutal and ignorant.

The previous plan of Sherif Abdullah to secure the independence of Hejaz (as a preliminary to the formation of an Arab State) was to lay sudden hands on the pilgrims at Mecca during the great feast. He calculated that the foreign governments concerned (England, France, Italy, and Holland) would bring pressure on the Porte to secure their release. When the Porte's efforts had failed, these Governments would have had to approach the Sherif direct, and would have found him anxious to do all in his power to meet their wishes, in exchange for a promise of immunity from Turkey in the future. This action had been fixed (provisionally) for 1915, but was quashed by the war.

Hejaz Tribes

Abdullah gave the eastern Ateibah (he has little control over them, and they would probably not have come to Hejaz to fight for him, had he asked them) orders to help Ibn Saud against Ibn Rashid. It was partly on account of this that Ibn Rashid declared war on the Sherif. Abdullah doesn't really care at all if they help Ibn Saud or not; but the order was an assumption of control over all the Ateibah (which Abdullah pretends to) in a form to which Ibn Saud could hardly object with grace.

The Turks gave decorations to Aida, Towala, and Fagir (Fuqara) Sheikhs. The recipients decided to show their new orders to Sidi Abdullah, but, as they were crossing the line near Toweira, they ran into a Turkish patrol, and the camel carrying their personal baggage was killed and had to be abandoned. The Turks have thus received back their insignia.

The Ateibah believe that Christians wear hats so that the projecting brims may intervene between their eyes and the uncongenial sight of God.

Dakhilallah el-Gadhi, who has had good means of judging, regards the Billi as less than half the strength of the Juheinah, and a little less than the tribes under Ferhan el-Aida. Ferhan (who is with Abdullah) is the son of Motlog Allayda, Doughty's old host. Dakhilallah says that Billi and Huweitat are much fiercer fighters than Wuld Ali or Ateibah. Indeed, I notice a contempt for the Ateibah among the Juheinah, and think that there is a good deal of justification for the feeling.

Source: SD 96-97
Checked: mv/
Last revised: 26 June, 2006


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