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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

Reference code
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 entry, paper
Clayton, Iltyd
Ross, Denison
Hussein, Feisal bin al-

33.5138073, 36.2765279

Friday Oct. 10 [10 October 1919] Muhammad al Ma'rawi came to see
me after breakfast. He was amazed and grieved to hear that we
should not take over here. He talked of the want of amniyah in the
country and did not express much confidence in an Arab Govt. He
said the whole Maidan was for us and against the French but Major
Clayton says it is not true that they are pro-English, while Monseigneur
Qadhi says they are sick of the whole business. Went to Bait Qilani,
'Atta Beg was away but I saw his women folk and an old Turk who
was a relative. Their attitude, very typical I should think of the old
established Damascene, is a general desire for peace and quiet on
any terms. \n\nThen to Major Clayton's office where Yusuf Sa'dun and
'Abdul Razzaq Munir[?] called on me. Yusuf Beg is pretty heavily
indebted. Major Clayton is going to lend him about £150 to enable
him to get away. Next came 'Izz ud Din al Sarujiyah and a brother in
law, Hamdi Beg, who is a qaimmaqam somewhere. We were just
beginning to talk about the events of last Jan. in the 'Iraq when there
came Muhammad Kurd 'Ali and 'Abdul Rahman Pasha Yusuf. The
former served the Turks until the occupation, wrote violent articles in
their papers and gave information against Nationalists. He is
probably, if not certainly playing a double game now. The Pasha
asked me for a letter of introduction to someone in London for his 3
sons who are going to England to be educated. Their cousin Husain
al Ibish is taking them. I am writing to Dennison [i.e. Denison] Ross.
Then Ibrahim Hilmi whose real desire is to get a well paid job with us.
Pere Anastase asked him last year to come over. \n\nLunched with
Lydia Mackinnon whom I found very much dissatisfied with everything.
Her son Jack is living with her. He is medical liasion officer with the
Arab Govt., a thankless task as he can give no advice on any matter
of organization and has to confine himself to checking their demands
on us for medical stores and appliances. The hospitals are much
cleaner than in Turkish days but the extravagance much greater. 15
doctors are employed when there were 3 before. They get £15 a
month. He took me to the Greek Catholic Patriarch, my old friend of
Aleppo [Halab], Dimitri Qadhi. I heard the story of his experiences
under Jamal Pasha. He is pro-French, because his community has
received so many benefits at the hands of the French, but he
recognizes that the French have committed innumerable errors and
he has no opinion of Picot whom he holds to be quite incapable of
filling the role assigned to him. He greatly fears massacre if all troops
are withdrawn and says the fanatical spirit has much increased, as
well as anxiety on the part of the Christians. The presence of our
troops keeps the Christians quiet. Last week (after the publication of
the Paris agreement by the Temps) the Christian quarter was very
nervous, but hearing that a few British soldiers had been sent as
guard to the Victoria Hospital, they were satisfied at once. The chord
of fanaticism is much stronger that that of Nationalism; the greater part
of the people, especially all the tradesmen, do not think anything of
Nationalism as against the harm which continued uncertainty is doing
to their trade. Here Major Clayton quite agrees with him. Clayton
thinks that Nationalism will prove a broken reed and that the extreme
party will have to resort to fanaticism, to maintain themselves. Even
Faisal has said that if Palestine is separated from Syria he will call a
Jihad. \n\nSo to Captain Brunton. He thinks that it is doubtful whether
at the last resort they will come to massacre. One of the 'Ayubis and
another notable, quite independently, told him today that in their view if
our troops left a vacuum, the Beduin and riffraff would come in and
pillage. The Arab army would not be able to hold them and would
probably make no attempt to do so. In the end the people would
welcome any foreign troops who would restore order. He {went on to
Muhammad Bassam} added that some of the big people were
already against the Arab Govt. Abdul Rahman Yusuf complained that
the Beduin on the desert edges pastured their camels on his crops
and that he could get no redress. He is furious and declaims against
the govt. Muhammad Bassam is being mulchted of some £300 which
the Turks had paid him in advance for camels not delivered. NB he
can well afford it as he is now worth about half a million. \n\nI then
called on Muhammad Bassam and saw his new wife from the
Qasim[?] and a small sickly looking son a year old. Muhammad has
brought a good deal of house property in Damascus [Dimashq (Esh
Sham, Damas)] and is contemplating buying land near the Baghdad
station on the right bank. He maintains that the Beduin are
exceptionally well behaved this year, but he would be sure to say that.
\n\nDined with Major Clayton. 'Abdul Rahman Shahbandar was there
when I came. We had a few minutes talk during which he maintained
that the Arab Govt could carry on if it were not {threatened}
undermined by French intrigue. The violent and incapable people
were former Turkish officers trained under the Turkish system, but
men like Yasin were of a different stamp. Clayton pointed out that
Yasin's training was exactly what he had described. \n\nBrigadier
General Smith, O.C. troops here, and another officer (Mills?) came to
dinner. Both General Smith and Major Clayton are convinced that the
only way of avoiding civil war and massacre is for the French to send
in troops and for us to wait till they are in occupation. We discussed
the possibility of Mustafa Kamal's being asked to come down if the
country is left without a European army. They all, including Captain
Brunton, think that this is conceivable and that massacres must
coincide with it.

IIIF Manifest