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April 18, 2023

Tombs of the Middle Kingdom (c. 1980-1920 BC) Tomb of Sirenput I

Tombs of the Middle Kingdom (c. 1980-1920 BC) Tomb of Sirenput I
Sirenput was a prince of Elephantine in the reign of Senusert I, at the beginning of the Middle Kingdom. It was he who was encouraged by his sovereign to erect the sanctuary of Hekaib, and the royal artists he entrusted with the work on the sanctuary also decorated his own tomb.

Tomb of Sirenput I
The fa9ade is carefully and finely sculpted. Sirenput is shown in seated position at the top of the staircase. Behind is a court with six pillars, all bearing representations of him. On the rear wall (left) is a large relief showing him followed by his sandal-bearer and two dogs, and hunting in the marsh (above). Cattle, including some angry bulls, are brought to him. To the right, he is seated in a colonnade with four women: his wife, mother and two daughters who bear him flowers.

Tomb of Sirenput I

Nationalism and Independence Movements in North Africa and the Middle East after World War II

 Nationalism in North Africa and the Middle East

As in Africa below the Sahara, World War II was a turning point for North Africa and the Middle East.

During the war, the British in particular had reestablished their control over strategic countries such as Egypt and Iran. Such control angered many and led to an even more intensive development of nationalism in the region after the war. In addition, the United Nations decision to grant independence to Italy’s former colony of Libya raised expectations and demands among the French North African peoples that they, too, should be free from colonial rule. Not least, the discovery of the extent of the Holocaust, which had almost destroyed the Jewish population of Europe, led to renewed conflict in Palestine and eventually the emergence of the new state of Israaeel.

French North Africa and the Middle East
Like Great Britain, France was exhausted by World War II. Yet also like the British, the French did not immediately expect to have to give up their colonies. The first successful challenge to French colonialism came in the Middle East, in Syria and Lebanon.

Syria and Lebanon. France had first gained control of Syria and Lebanon as a mandate after World War I. In the 1920s, French policy had encouraged the development of a separate state in Lebanon, where there was a slight Christian majority. During World War II, Free French and British troops had taken control of both countries from the Vichy government. After the war, however, despite promises of independence, French troops remained in Syria and Lebanon. Only under British pressure and several brief but bloody battles with Arab nationalists did France finally agree to withdraw. In the mid-1940s both Lebanon and Syria became fully independent republics.

Algeria. The success of Arab nationalism in Syria in particular proved an inspiration to Arab nationalists in French North Africa. The heart of the French colonial empire in North Africa was Algeria. Like South Africa within the British Empire, Algeria had a large European settler community, people known as colons, accounting for about 10 percent of the population. These settlers, many of whose families had lived in Algeria since the 1800s, owned most of the colony’s industry and its best land. Algeria was not just a colony, however, but had been legally absorbed into France. Algerian voters elected representatives to the French National Assembly in Paris, although voting restrictions limited the participation of the large majority of Muslim Arabs.

As nationalism emerged in other parts of the Middle East after World War II, the Algerians also began to demand independence. When both the colons and the French authorities resisted these demands, Algerian nationalists formed an organization in 1954 to fight for independence. The Algerian National Liberation Front, or FLN ( its French initials), launched its revolution on November 1, 1954.

The Algerian war became extremely brutal as both sides committed atrocities to gain their goals. The FLN waged a terror campaign not only against the French but also against less radical Algerian Arabs who opposed independence. Torture was used by both sides in the conflict. So severe was the war that in 1958 an uprising among the colons in Algiers, supported by many army leaders, contributed to the downfall of the French Fourth Republic and the return of General Charles de Gaulle to power in France. The military and the settlers expected de Gaulle to pursue the war against the FLN. Instead, he decided to negotiate a settlement, even if it meant granting Algeria independence. Despite resistance from the army and the settlers, including attempts on his own life, in 1962 de Gaulle did indeed grant Algeria independence.

Morocco and Tunisia. The Algerian war had a devastating impact on French colonialism everywhere. The war was an important factor in influencing de Gaulle to offer his terms for independence to the African territories south of the Sahara. It was also partly responsible for independence in Morocco and Tunisia. Neighbors of Algeria, these two Muslim states were French protectorates. French rule in Morocco, in fact, had only been established relatively recently in the 1920s and Moroccan resistance remained strong. In 1954 both Moroccan and Tunisian nationalists also launched guerrilla campaigns designed to drive the French from their countries. In 1956, as the war raged in Algeria, France finally gave in. Morocco became a constitutional monarchy under the sultan Sidi Muhammad ben Yusuf, who became King Muhammad V. Tunisia became a republic under Tunisian nationalist leader Flabib Bourguiba.

Revolution and Modernization: The Political and Social Changes in the Middle East

 Political and Social Change

As the countries of the Middle East became independent, they also confronted more clearly than ever the challenges of modernization. Unlike Africa, where most states had been led to independence by younger, Western-educated leaders, most of the new Middle Eastern states had been granted independence under an older generation of traditional elites. Iraq and Jordan, for example, had become Arab kingdoms under the sons of Sharif Husayn (Husayn ibn ‘Ali) of Mecca. Saudi Arabia too was a traditional Arab kingdom ruled by the house of Ibn Saud. Syria and Lebanon were both ruled by wealthy landowning and merchant elites who had prospered under French rule. Only in Egypt did revolution precede real independence, when officers of the army deposed King Farouk and then negotiated Britain’s withdrawal.

The Egyptian revolution began as a reaction to the corruption of the monarchy. Under Nasser it also developed a political ideology designed to bind together not only Egypt but all of the Arab world. Although Nasser always made his appeal for support in Islamic terms that would appeal to his listeners, he insisted that modernization along socialist lines was the key to independence:

Revolution is the way in which the Arab nation can free itself of its shackles, and rid itself of the dark heritage which has burdened it. . . .

[It] is the only way to overcome underdevelopment which has been forced on it by suppression and exploitation . . . and to face the challenge awaiting the Arab and other underdeveloped nations: the challenge offered by the astounding scientific discoveries which help to widen the gap between the advanced and backward countries. . . . Freedom today means that of the country and of the citizen. Socialism has become both a means and an end: sufficiency and justice.

Under Nasser the Egyptian government put an end to the practice of absentee landownership, in which wealthy landowners living in the cities made enormous profits from overworked laborers and tenants who actually worked the land. As the government took control of most industry and businesses such as banks and insurance companies, it also proclaimed laws limiting the hours of work, establishing a minimum wage, and creating a whole host of social services. Education was extended even further, and the government tried to improve the status of women.

Similar plans were embraced by members of the Ba’ath Party, which first emerged in Syria. Although at first the Ba’athists had emphasized a kind of Pan- Arab nationalism, by the mid-1950s they had also adopted socialism as a basis for bringing about major reforms in Arab society. The Ba’athists appealed primarily to the new generation of Western-educated intellectuals who had begun to emerge in the Middle East under colonial rule. Ba’athism soon spread to neighboring countries, especially Iraq and Lebanon. In 1958 a Ba’athist-inspired revolution broke out in Iraq, and a Ba’athist government took over in Syria. There also emerged a new generation of leaders who similarly believed in socialism as the best model for further modernization. Socialism, however, whether exercised by the various civilian or military governments that came to power in the 1960s in several Middle Eastern and North African countries, proved to be but the first step toward dictatorship.

Meanwhile, the old ideal of Pan-Arabism also resurfaced to complicate political developments in the Middle East. Nasser in particular began to preach a new brand of Pan-Arabism combined with socialism. In 1958, partly to coordinate efforts against, Nasser convinced Syria to merge with Egypt in what became the United Arab Republic, or UAR. As new Arab leaders began to emerge in Syria and Iraq, however, so too did their own fears of Egyptian domination. In 1961, despite all the talk of Pan-Arabism, Syria broke away from the UAR once again.
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