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THE LONG AND INTRICATE FUNERAL OF YASIN AL-HASHIMI: PAN-ARABISM, CIVIL RELIGION, AND POPULAR NATIONALISM IN DAMASCUS, 1937

  • Peter Wien
Abstract

After his premature death in exile in Beirut in 1937, the body of former Iraqi prime minister Yasin al-Hashimi became a matter of contention between the Syrian and Iraqi governments, as did his legacy as an avid Pan-Arabist. When the coffin with the deceased stopped in Damascus on its promised transfer to Baghdad, the Syrian National Bloc government used the opportunity to stage a solemn republican funeral to bolster its Arab nationalist credentials. Syrian conflicts with the Iraqi government that had removed al-Hashimi in a military coup in the previous year ultimately made Yasin's return impossible, however, and he was buried in Damascus, next to Saladin's mausoleum at the Umayyad Mosque. Unfortunately for the National Bloc, the funeral coincided with the first clashes over the Alexandretta crisis. The resulting street protests destroyed all public confidence that the bloc had gained during the funeral, underlining the volatile nature of nationalist politics at the time.

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Corresponding author
Peter Wien is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the University of Maryland, College Park, Md.; e-mail: pwien@umd.edu
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NOTES

1 “Mata al-Hashimi,” al-Ayyam, 22 January 1937, 1.

2 See Dawisha, A. I., Arab Nationalism in the Twentieth Century: From Triumph to Despair (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2003); and Choueiri, Youssef M., Arab Nationalism—A History: Nation and State in the Arab World (Oxford and Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2000). Dawisha mentions Yasin al-Hashimi in passing and Choueiri not at all.

3 See Stefan Weber, “Zeugnisse kulturellen Wandels: Stadt, Architektur und Gesellschaft im 19. und frühen 20. Jahrhundert” (PhD diss., Freie Universität, 2006), 443.

4 Hanna, ʿAbdallah, ʿAbd al-Rahman al-Shahbandar, 1879–1940: ʿAlam Nahdawi wa-Rajul al-Wataniyya wa-l-Taharrur al-Fikri (Damascus: al-Ahali li-l-Tibaʿa wa-l-Nashr wa-l-Tauziʿ, 1989): 171ff.

5 On French Mandate intelligence and its quality see Thomas, Martin C., “French Intelligence-Gathering in the Syrian Mandate, 1920–40,” Middle Eastern Studies 38 (2002): 132.

6 Taha al-Hashimi, born in 1887, was chief of staff in Iraq for many years in the 1930s and Iraqi prime minister from February to April 1941.

7 “Juthman al-Hashimi Yashuqqu Shawariʿ Dimashq baina Jamahir al-Umma al-Multaʿa,” al-Ayyam, 24 January 1937, 5.

8 al-Hashimi, Taha, Mudhakkirat 1919–1943 (Beirut: Dar al-Taliʿa, 1968), 165ff.

9 “Ila al-Khulud ya Ibn al-Thawra al-ʿArabiyya al-Kubra,” al-Difaʿ, 22 January 1937, 1; “Salat al-Gha'ib fi Masajid Filastin,” Filastin, 22 January 1937, 1.

10 “Mata al-Hashimi,” al-Difaʿ, 22 January 1937, 1.

11 “Rithaʾ al- Hashimi,” al-Difaʿ, 1 February 1937, 6.

12 “Yas Basha al-Hashimi,” al-Ahram, 22 January 1937, 7.

13 “Yasin al-Hashimi,” al-Fath, 15 Dhu al-Qiʿda 1355 AH (28 January 1937), 3–4. Al-Fath was close to the Muslim Brothers. Mitchell, Richard P., The Society of the Muslim Brothers (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 78, 322–23.

14 al-Hasani, ʿAbd al-Razzaq, Taʾrikh al-Wizarat al-ʿIraqiyya, vol. 4 (Baghdad: Dar al-Shuʾun al-Thaqafiyya al-ʿAmma, 1988), 261.

15 “ʿUquq Yastankiruhu al-ʿArab Jamiʿan,” al-Qabas, 27 January 1937, 4.

16 “Renseignements et Presse, Revue de la presse libanaise et syrienne du 23 Janvier au 1er Février 1937,” box 1922, Centre des Archives Diplomatiques de Nantes, Fond Beyrouth (hereafter CADN), 35.

17 Thompson, Elizabeth, Colonial Citizens: Republican Rights, Paternal Privilege, and Gender in French Syria and Lebanon (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000).

18 See Khoury, Philip S., Syria and the French Mandate: The Politics of Arab Nationalism, 1920–1945 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1987); Batatu, Hanna, The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq: A Study of Iraq's Old Landed and Commercial Classes and of Its Communists, Baʿthists, and Free Officers (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1978); and Eppel, Michael, “The Elite, the Effendiyya, and the Growth of Nationalism and Pan-Arabism in Hashemite Iraq, 1921–1958,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 30 (1998): 227–50.

19 Khoury, Syria and the French Mandate, 468ff.

20 A French intelligence report confirms this observation. See Capitaine Grall, French inspector of the “Special Services” of Damascus and Hauran, “Le Délégué du Haut Commissaire auprès de la République Syrienne à Monsieur le Comte D. de Martel, Ambassadeur, Haut Commissaire de la République Française en Syrie et au Liban,” 17 February 1937, box 491, CADN.

21 See Ben-Amos, Avner, Funerals, Politics, and Memory in Modern France, 1789–1996 (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2000).

22 See Gelvin, James L., Divided Loyalties: Nationalism and Mass Politics in Syria at the Close of Empire (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1998), 9; and Wien, Peter, Iraqi Arab Nationalism: Authoritarian, Totalitarian and Pro-Fascist Inclinations, 1932–1941 (London and New York: Routledge, 2006), 14ff.

23 Khoury, Syria and the French Mandate, 400ff., 423.

24 The most extensive source on al-Hashimi's life is Phebe Marr, “Yasin al-Hashimi: The Rise and Fall of a Nationalist (A Study of the Nationalist Leadership in Iraq, 1920–1936)” (PhD diss., Harvard University, 1966).

25 According to the Egyptian journal al-Fath, he was still known as Yasin Hilmi during the war. “Yasin al-Hashimi,” al-Fath, 15 Dhu al-Qiʿda 1355 AH (28 January 1937), 3–4. Al-Hashimi's Ottoman and Syrian careers are covered in the article by Michael Provence in this special issue of IJMES.

26 Batatu, The Old Social Classes, 195ff.

27 Marr, “Yasin al-Hashimi,” 302ff.

28 Eppel, Michael, The Palestine Conflict in the History of Modern Iraq: The Dynamics of Involvement 1928–1948 (London and Portland, Ore.: Frank Cass, 1994), 30ff.

29 Marr, “Yasin al-Hashimi,” 351–52.

30 Tripp, Charles, A History of Iraq, 3rd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 86ff. On al-Ahali see al-Amin, Muzaffar ‘Abdallah, Jamaʿat al-Ahali: Munshiʾuha, ʿAqidatuha, wa-Dauruha fi al-Siyasa al-ʿIraqiyya 1932–1946 (Beirut: al-Muʾassasa al-ʿArabiyya li-l-Dirasat wa-l-Nashr, 2001). Bashkin, Orit, The Other Iraq: Pluralism and Culture in Hashemite Iraq (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2008), 61ff.

31 See Khoury, Syria and the French Mandate, 402.

32 Dupont, Anne-Laure, “Le grand homme, figure de la ‘Renaissance’ arabe,” in Saints et héros du moyen-orient contemporain: Actes du colloque des 11 et 12 Décembre 2000, à l'institut universitaire de France, ed. Mayeur-Jaouen, Catherine (Paris: Maisonneuve et Larose, 2002).

33 Ibid., 62.

34 Durkheim, Emile, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1968), 415ff.

35 Catherine Mayeur-Jaouen, ed., Saints et héros, 14ff., 28ff.

36 On the Panthéon, see Ben-Amos, Funerals, Politics, and Memory, 20ff. On Saladin as a modern hero, see Thompson, Colonial Citizens, 69; Luc-Willy Deheuvels, “Le Saladin de Farah Antun: Du mythe littéraire Arabe au mythe politique,” Revue du Monde Musulman et de la Méditeranée 89–90 (2000): 189–203; and Aubin-Boltanski, Emma, “Salāh al-Dīn, un héros à l'épreuve: Mythe et pèlerinage en Palestine,” Annales 60 (2005): 91107.

37 Compare Ben-Amos, Funerals, Politics, and Memory, 20ff, 136ff.; and Gershoni, I. and Jankowski, James P., Commemorating the Nation: Collective Memory, Public Commemoration, and National Identity in Twentieth-Century Egypt (Chicago: Middle East Documentation Center, 2004), 153ff.

38 Ben-Amos, Funerals, Politics, and Memory, 9.

40 The following is based on al-Hashimi, Mudhakkirat, 178–79; “al-Wizara al-Wataniyya wa-l-Shaʿb al-Suri Yahtafilan bi-Juthman Yasin al-Hashimi,” al-Qabas, 24 January 1937, 4; and “Juthman al-Hashimi Yashuqqu Shawariʿ Dimashq.”

41 “Juthman al-Hashimi Yashuqqu Shawariʿ Dimashq.”

42 “Tilifun Bayrut: Akhir Saʿa: Maʾtam al-Maghfur lahu Yasin Basha al-Hashimi. Ishtirak al-Hukuma wa-l-Shaʿb fi al-Janaza,” Filastin, 23 January 1937, 5. On kūfiyya and ‘iqāl, see Stillman, Yedida Kalfon, Palestinian Costume and Jewelry (Albuquerque, N.M.: University of New Mexico Press, 1979), 1617; and Smith, Charles D., Palestine and the Arab Israeli Conflict: A History with Documents, 7th ed. (Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin's Press, 2010), 140.

43 See Baron, Beth, Egypt as a Woman: Nationalism, Gender, and Politics (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2005), 98. For this study, women's magazines were not available for consultation on the coverage of al-Hashimi's funeral. See Thompson, Colonial Citizens, 293–95, on the difficulties of obtaining such material.

44 Gelvin, Divided Loyalties, 244n45; and Smith, Whitney Jr., “Arab National Flags,” Middle East Forum 36 (1960): 22f.

45 “Tilifun Bayrut.” On scouting in Lebanon, see Dueck, Jennifer M., “A Muslim Jamboree: Scouting and Youth Culture in Lebanon under the French Mandate,” French Historical Studies 30 (2007): 489ff.

46 “Kaifa Istaqbalat Dimashq Juthman al-Hashimi,” al-Nahar, 24–25 January 1937, 3.

47 “Yasin al-Hashimi Yudfan fi Dimashq,” al-Qabas, 22 January 1937, 4; and “al-Wizara al-Wataniyya wa-l-Shaʿb al-Suri.”

48 Gelvin, Divided Loyalties, 1ff., 87ff.

49 Probably the same as the Hadiqat al-Umma, or former Junaynat al-Daftardiyya, opposite the Tekkiye complex. Weber, “Zeugnisse,” 679.

50 Successor of the Ottoman Maktab ʿAnbar and center of Pan-Arab nationalist activities among students in the 1930s. Khoury, Syria and the French Mandate, 410ff.; Weber, “Zeugnisse,” 179–80.

51 “Al-Wizara al-Wataniyya wa-l-Shaʿb al-Suri.”

52 “Wafd Filastin li-l-Ishtirak fi Maʾtam al-Hashimi,” al-Ayyam, 24 January 1937, 4. Zuʿaytar, Akram, Yawmiyyat Akram Zuʿaytar: al-Haraka al-Wataniyya al-Filastiniyya 1935–1939 (Beirut: Muʾassasat al-Dirasat al-Filastiniyya, 1980), 277.

53 Probably former Saʿd-Allah-Jabi street, leading to the Hijaz Railway station. Weber, “Zeugnisse,” 689.

54 “Madinat al-Adahi Tabki Yasin al-Hashimi,” al-Ayyam, 24 January 1937, 3.

55 “Al-Akalil allati Sarat amama Naʿsh al-Hashimi,” al-Ayyam, 24 January 1937, 3; “Juthman al-Hashimi Yashuqqu Shawariʿ Dimashq,” 5; and “al-Wizara al-Wataniyya wa-l-Shaʿb al-Suri.”

56 The shrine was a reinvention of the 19th century, when the collapse of a wall in the eastern part of the courtyard of the Umayyad Mosque laid it open. Weber, “Zeugnisse,” 667; and Janine Sourdel-Thomine, “Les anciens lieux de pèlerinage damascains d'après les sources arabes,” Bulletin d'études orientales 14 (1952–54): 80.

57 “Yawman li-l-Hashimi fi al-Sham,” al-Qabas, 24 January 1937, 1.

58 “Juthman al-Hashimi: Taghmuruhu Wufud al-Umma bi-l-Akalil wa-l-Zuhur,” al-Ayyam, 25 January 1937, 4.

59 “Wafd Filastin li-l-Ishtirak”; “Juthman al-Hashimi: Taghmuruhu Wufud”; “Dafn Juthman al-Faqid al-Hashimi fi Dimashq,” al-Ayyam, 28 January 1937, 3; “Min Mashhad al-Husayn ila Baghdad,” al-Qabas, 26 January 1937, 5; and “Juthman al-Hashimi Yudfan fi Dimashq,” al-Qabas, 28 January 1937, 5.

60 Al-Hashimi, Mudhakkirat, 179.

61 “Aina Huquq Tarabulus,” al-Ayyam, 26 January 1937, 3; and “Hamah Tumid li-Naʿi Faqid al-ʿArab al-Akbar,” al-Qabas, 25 January 1937, 6.

62 “Kaifa Istaqbalat Dimashq Juthman al-Hashimi.”

63 “Akhbar wa-Hawadith,” al-Ayyam, 26 January 1937, 4.

64 “Dafn Juthman al-Faqid.”

65 “Sûreté Damas, 13.1, obsèques de Yassine Pacha Hachimi,” 25 January 1937, box 1918, CADN.

66 “Dafn Juthman al-Faqid”; “Juthman al-Hashimi Yudfanu fi Dimashq”; and “Dafn al-Hashimi fi Dimashq baʿda an Manaʿat Hukumat al-ʿIraq Wafd al-Kutla min Murafiqat Juthman al-Rahil al-ʿArabi al-Kabir,” al-Nahar, 28 January 1937, 5.

67 “Nahnu wa-l-ʿIraq Akhawan Shaqiqan,” al-Ayyam, 3 February 1937, 5.

68 Khoury, Syria and the French Mandate, 503ff; and Khadduri, Majid, “The Alexandretta Dispute,” American Journal of International Law 39 (1945): 415–18.

69 See: “Sûreté Damas, 31.12.36, Agitation Sociale,” Beyrouth, 4 January 1937, box 1918, CADN; “Sûreté Damas, 29.12.36, Agitation sociale,” Beyrouth, 4 January 1936 [should be: 1937], box 1918, CADN; and “Sûreté Damas, 4.1.36 [should be 37], Grève des chauffeurs,” Beyrouth, 4 January 1936 [should be 1937], box 1918, CADN. (Also see similar reports for 8, 9, 12, etc. January and for other towns.)

70 “Sûreté Damas, 13.1, Agitation sociale,” 15 January 1937, box 1918, CADN; and “Sûreté Damas, 18.1, le mécontentement general et l'opposition,” 19 January 1937, box 1918, CADN.

71 Khoury, Syria and the French Mandate, 457ff.

72 “Dimashq al-Jabbara Tastankar Ittifaq Jinif,” al-Qabas, 26 January 1937, 4.

73 Weber, “Zeugnisse,” 519ff., mentions a number of Orthodox schools. The foundation of the Lazarist school (al-ʿAzariyya) dates back to 1775. Ibid., 526–27. The Ghassaniyya school could not be identified.

74 Salihie College (Maktab Salihiyyat al-Sham) was founded in ca. 1879 as a primary school for boys by a Charity for the Foundation of Schools. Ibid., 509.

75 “Sûreté Damas,” 26 January 1937, box 1918, CADN.

76 “Sûreté Damas, 27-1-37, l'attitude du gouvernement,” 28 January 1937, box 1918, CADN; and “Sûreté Damas 29-1-37, organisation d'une police auxiliaire par le Bloc,” 30 January 1937, box 1918, CADN.

77 Thompson, Colonial Citizens, 78ff, 83–84.

78 For those bonds see Gelvin, Divided Loyalties, 87ff.

79 “Sûreté Damas 29.1, agitation dans les milieux scolaires,” 30 January 1937, box 1918, CADN. Only a few days before Yasin's funeral, the league had opposed street protests against the government's failure to counter the economic crisis. “Sûreté Damas, 29.12.36, l'opposition,” 4 January 1937, box 1916, CADN; and “Sûreté Damas, 15-1-37, l'opposition,” 16 January 1937, box 1918, CADN.

80 See “Extraits de la presse libanaise de langue arabe, journaux du 26 janvier: Les manifestations à Damas,” 26 January 1937, box 1928, CADN, p. 2: “La ville est fermée . . . ”

81 “Sûreté Damas 26.1, la question du Sandjak,” 28 January 1937, box 1918, CADN; “al-Idrab wa-l-Muzaharat fi al-Mudun al-Suriyya,” al-Ayyam, 28 January 1937, 4; and “Ijtimaʿ al-Tullab fi al-Takiyya,” al-Qabas, 27 January 1937, 4.

82 “Sûreté Damas 28.1, une délégation chez le Ministre de l'Intérieur,” 28 January 1937, box 1918, CADN. See also a concurring student declaration in “Sûreté Damas 28.1, la question du Sandjak d'Alexandrette,” 29 January 1937, box 1918, CADN.

83 See “Sûreté Damas, 27-1-37, A/S du journal ‘Al Ayam,’ 28 January 1937, box 1918, CADN.

84 “Akhbar wa-Hawadith,” al-Ayyam, 28 January 1937, 3.

85 “Sûreté Damas 28.1, la question du Sandjak,” 29 January 1937, box 1918, CADN.

86 “Sûreté Damas 28.1, le Gouvernement,” 28 January 1937, box 1918, CADN.

87 The call was published in “al-Idrab wa-l-Muzaharat.”

88 A French report says that it did not attract more than 2,000 persons. “Sûreté Damas 29-1-37, manifestation contre les accords concernant Alexandrette,” 30 January 1937, box 1918, CADN. Most of the details of the following account are taken from this report. “Al-Muzahara al-Shaʿbiyya al-Kubra amama Dar al-Hukuma,” al-Qabas, 29 January 1937, 4, noted, faithful to the National Bloc, that the students gathered in the Tekkiye again with a “great part” deciding to join the government demonstration.

89 According to the French report, ca. 1,000 people joined the crowd there. Al-Qabas counted 15,000 to 20,000 people total.

90 Khoury, Syria and the French Mandate, 436.

91 The term used was “Sihruhu”; the normal meaning of brother- or son-in-law would not make sense here.

92 “Dafn al-Hashimi fi Marqad Salah al-Din,” al-Ayyam, 29 January 1937, 5; “Min Mashhad al-Husayn ila Janib Salah al-Din,” al-Qabas, 29 January 1937, 5; “Dufina al-Faqid al-Hashimi fi Dimashq bi-Jiwar al-Batal al-ʿArabi Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi,” Filastin, 28 January 1937, 5.

93 “Sûreté Damas 28.1, funerailles de Yassine Pacha el Hachemi,” 29 January 1937, box 1918, CADN. See also “Dafn al-Hashimi fi Dimashq.”

94 Marcus, Abraham, “Funerary and Burial Practices in Syria, 1700–1920,” in Cimetières et traditions funéraires dans le monde islamique, vol. 2, ed. Bacqué-Grammont, Jean-Louis and Tibet, Aksel (Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu Basimevi, 1996), 98ff. Compare Granqvist, Hilma Natalia, Muslim Death and Burial: Arab Customs and Traditions Studied in a Village in Jordan (Helsinki: Societas Scientiarum Fennica, 1965), 55ff. Even among Lebanese Shiʿa, customary corpse traffic (naql al-janāʾiz) seems to have been quite rare. The overwhelming majority of foreign corpses buried in the Iraqi shrine cities Najaf, Karbala, Samarra, and Kazimayn were from Iran, and the practice receded after World War I. See Nakash, Yitzhak, The Shi'is of Iraq, 2nd ed. (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2003), 184ff. In contrast, Max Weiss points to the importance of cemeteries for the local identity of Shiʿa, Lebanese in “Practicing Sectarianism in Mandate Lebanon: Shiʿi Cemeteries, Religious Patrimony, and the Everyday Politics of Difference,” Journal of Social History 43 (2010): 721ff.

95 Eldem, Edhem, Death in Istanbul: Death and Its Rituals in Ottoman-Islamic Culture (Istanbul: Ottoman Bank Archives and Research Centre, 2005), 9ff., 262. Compare Vatin, Nicolas and Veinstein, Gilles, “Les obsèques des sultans ottomans de Mehmed II à Ahmed 1er (1481–1616),” in Les Ottomans et la mort: Permanences et mutations, ed. Veinstein (Leiden and New York: E. J. Brill, 1996), 219ff.

96 Gershoni and Jankowski, Commemorating the Nation, 141ff.; Coury, Ralph M., “The Politics of the Funereal: The Tomb of Saad Zaghlul,” Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 29 (1992): 191200; Baron, Egypt as a Woman, 97–98; Gershoni, Israel and Jankowski, James P., Egypt, Islam, and the Arabs: The Search for Egyptian Nationhood, 1900–1930 (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 188ff.; and Hourani, Albert Habib, Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, 1798–1939 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 202. Compare the participation of scouts and students in Farid's cortege in Gershoni and Jankowski, Commemorating the Nation, 167.

97 Khoury, Syria and the French Mandate, 454, n. 100. On Hananu, see Watenpaugh, Keith David, Being Modern in the Middle East: Revolution, Nationalism, Colonialism, and the Arab Middle Class (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2006), 174ff.

98 Ben-Amos, Funerals, Politics, and Memory, 9.

99 Thompson, Colonial Citizens, 175ff; and Gelvin, Divided Loyalties, 18–19, 44–45, 225ff, 260ff., 283–84. “Repertoire of contention” is adopted from Tilly, Charles, The Contentious French (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1986), 4.

100 See Wien, Iraqi Arab Nationalism, 88ff.

101 “Dhikra al-Hashimi wa-Dumuʿ al-Ikhlas,” al-Istiqlal, 21 January 1938, 1.

102 “ʿAdad al-Istiqlal al-Khass bi-Dhikra al-Faqid Yas al-Hashimi, Zaʿim al-ʿArab al-Aʿzam wa-Takhlid Dhikrahi al-Ula,” al-Istiqlal, 21 January 1938, 1.

103 “Tafat Zahar ʿala Qabar Yasin al-Hashimi,” al-Istiqlal, 21 January 1938, 3.

104 See “Akhbar wa-Hawadith.”

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