A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, September 22, 2016

September 22, 1916: The Ta'if Garrison Surrenders to the Arab Revolt

Sharifian Troops in Ta'if after the Surrender
Back in June, in discussing the centenary of the outbreak of the Arab Revolt, I noted that after the Revolt was proclaimed by Sharif Hussein at Mecca, the Sharifian forces soon occupied Mecca and, with British assistance, Jidda was also taken. Hussein's sons ‘Ali and Feisal attacked Medina and ‘Abdullah attacked Ta'if, the mountain resort town near Mecca.

The Sharifians were repulsed from Medina, where the Turks had a garrison of 10,000 and which, as railhead of the Hejaz Railway could easily be resupplied.
Ta'if in 1917 (H. St.John B. Philby)

At Ta'if, ‘Abdullah's troops quickly occupied the outskirts, while the Turkish garrison retreated into its garrison and the town fortifications. Lacking artillery, ‘Abdullah's forces decided on a siege rather than a full attack.

Meanwhile the British began transporting artillery through mountain roads to Ta'if. The artillery would be manned by Egyptian gunners, despite Egypt remaining nominally neutral. Sharifian sympathizers reportedly provided artillery spotters.

Ali Galip Pasinler
The siege eventually dragged on for three months, from June 10 to September 22.The Ottoman garrison was under Gen. Ali Galip Bey (later known as Ali Galip Pasinler). Finally, on September 22, Galip surrendered with his whole garrison. He had moved his headquarters several times after his original bunker was hit by artillery.

‘Abdullah remembered his conversation with Galip thus in his Memoirs:
 I found him in the large hall at Shubra Palace, the only general among seventy-five junior officers.
He seemed pleased to see me, and after several moments he said, “This is a great catastrophe . . . we were brothers and now we are enemies” I felt bolder in his presence now that our positions were reversed, but said as gently as I could, “The master has become the master again and is freed from slavery and the yoke of him whom he enlightened.”
His face became as white as a sheet, but he recovered himself and said, “I know that the Arab nation would separate from us one day, but I never thought that it would happen so quickly.” “You are right, “ I replied, “for speed was in our interest. If you had retained the absolute authority of the Caliphate, we would never have risen against you, but your party became despotic and dictated not only to your people but to the Sultan as well . . . However, recriminations now will do no good. Please come in to dinner. I hope you will enjoy that I have prepared for you after the rigors of the siege”
Ruins of Sharif Hussein's Palace in Ta'if after the siege (Philby)
Below is a postwar Turkish  map showing the siege of Ta'if:

1 comment:

David Mack said...

Abdullah showed gentler manners toward his adversary than has become common in recent conflicts. Note the ends of Saddam and Muammar, to say nothing of the ongoing attacks on civilian populations in both Syria and Yemen.