Faisal ibn Husseini was born in Mecca on May 20, 1885. His father, Husseini ibn Ali was Sharif of Mecca under the Ottoman Empire. They were part of the Hashemite Dynasty, a distinguished faction in the Arab world.
When Faisal was a young child, his father was moved by the Ottomans to Constantinople. Faisal was educated here.
In 1908, Faisal returned to Mecca with his father and began to gain power in the Arab world. First he worked under his father when his father was governor of Mecca. He then served in the Turkish army in Syria from 1915 to 1916. While he was there he made contracts with Arab nationalists to start a revolt.
In 1916, Faisal led an Arab revolt against the Ottomon Empire in order to gain independence. He was assisted by the British and was able to conquer Syria and Transjordan. Faisal became king of Syria and and his brother was able to take the throne in Jordan in 1920. A few months later, however, the French expelled him. A year later, the British arranged for Faisal to rule Iraq provided that he carried out the British Mandate over the country.
In 1919, Emir Faisal and Dr. Chaim Weizmann signed the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement in which Faisal accepted Zionism. However Faisal had hoped that Zionism would serve to limit French colonialism - which it did not - and Faisal failed to convince other Arab rulers to accept the idea of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
He kept good relations with Britian and France through the mandate period of the region and when British officials were concerned about unrest in their colony, Britain crowned Faisal king of Iraq with the understanding that Iraq would be made an independent state. Faisal signed an agreement with Britain that led to Iraq’s independence. In 1932, Iraq became an independent nation and was granted membership into the League of Nations.
Although Emir Faisal modernized Iraq, his push for Pan-Arabism led many minority groups within Iraq to be marginalized. Massacres occured against Assyrians, Jews, and Kurds in Iraq after the Ottoman period with Iraq - once a major center of Jewish learning - being reduced to a Jewish population of nine from over 140,000 before 1949.
On September 8, 1933, Faisal died in Bern, Switzerland. His son Ghazi succeded him as king.
Faisal I of Iraq, Wikipedia.
Bernard Lewis with Buntzie Ellis Churchill, Notes on a Century: Reflections of a Middle East Historian, (NY: Penguin Books, 2012).
Daniel Pipes, “The Year the Arabs Discovered Palestine,” Middle East Review, (Summer 1989).
Daniel Pipes, “The Year the Arabs Discovered Palestine,” Jerusalem Post (September 13, 2000).
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