The government established in Syria following the entrance of the armies of the 'Arab Revolt' passed through three distinct stages:

First, simple military government, which began on October 1, 1918 with the arrival of the armies of the Revolt and ended on August 4, 1919 with the formation of the Council of Directors. During this period the administrative power was in the hands of the Military Governor General who functioned under the supervision of the Emir and the Commander in Chief. The Directors General were then in charge of the several departments without sharing responsibility for the Governorship General or concern or public policy.

Second, the Council of Directors, which began on August 4, 1919 with its formation nd ended on March 8, 1920 with the proclamation of independence. The Directors eneral during this phase functioned as ministers and shared responsibility for the government as a whole and determined policy. The Military Governor General was also Vice-Chairman of the Council of Directors until January 26, 1920, but thereafter only Director General of War.

Third, official independence and government by the cabinet, which began on March 8, 1920 with the proclamation of independence and ended on July 25, 1920 with the French occupation. Responsibility for government during this period was vested in a "constitutional Syrian Government" by the General Syrian Congress. This government was composed of seven ministers and a prime minister, the latter appointed by the king in accordance with the constitutional practice in the West.

During the first stage the government was called "The Arab Military Government in Syria", and subsequently 'The Syrian Arab Government", 'The Arab Government", and "The Syrian Kingdom". (These names and designations may be noted on the official papers issued by the head of the government, the postage stamps of the various periods, and the Syrian dinars minted at the end of the independent regime.)

Initially, the Arab state in Syria was confined to the two provinces known in Ottoman times as the vilayet of Aleppo and the vilayet of Syria. Later on, following the insurrection led by Ramad al-Shall the borders of the state came to include the district of Dayr al-Zur, which was regarded by the Turks as autonomous but linked directly to the Ministry of the Interior.

Since most departmental heads in these two provinces were not Arabs, they left the country along with the army. The leaders of the Revolt found it necessary to designate Arabs as replacements for these capable men.

During the Ottoman regime the departments received instructions from the appropriate ministries in Constantinople. Hence, it was necessary to create directorates general in lieu of these ministries in order to handle government business. A new court of cassation was set up in Damascus and provision made for various judicial procedures. The Council of State in Constantinople, to which the official departments used to refer many matters, gave way to a council with similar functions in Damascus.

The entire process of reorganization and appointment of personnel was completed in a short time; whereupon Damascus became truly the capital of the new government.

Under the Ottomans the official language in Syria was Turkish. All departments and courts wrote their records, decisions, and correspondence exclusively in Turkish. The Syrian government had to change the situation and replace Turkish with Arabic. This too was done with extraordinary speed. The government provided special instruction in Arabic composition for its employees. Scholars and officials used classical Arabic texts and the publications of the Egyptian government as sources
for the coinage of needed technical terms and the development of an effective style for the new Arab government. Numerous committees worked hard to achieve quick results. The new Syrian state thus became fully entitled to be called "The Arab State".

It is worth noting that in this field the Syrian government accomplished much more during a short period of time than the Egyptian government did in decades because, among other things, it also invented military phraseology when the Egyptians were still using Turkish words even for rank, etc. Arabic was made the language of instruction in higher schools while foreign languages were currently serving this purpose in Egypt. Therefore, it is no exaggeration to say that the Syrian government created after World War I was an Arab government in every sense of the term.

The Military Governor General during the first of the three stages and the early part of the second stage mentioned above was Lt. Gen. Ali Rida al-Rikabi. He was later succeeded by his deputy Col. Mustafa Ni'mah who occupied the post until it was finally abolished.

The Chairmanship of the Council of Directors, instituted after the termination of the Military Governship General, was held by Emir Zaid from January 26th until March 8th.

The officials in charge of the several departments prior to the proclamation of independence were:

Director General of Justice: Iskandar Ammun
Director General of the Interior: Rashid Tali'
Director General of Education: Sati al-Husri
Director General of Finance: first Said Shafir, then Ahmad Hilmi
Director General of War (originally called "Chairman of the Military Council"):
first Yasin al-Hashimi, then Yusuf al-Azmah and finally Rida al-Rikabi
Director General of Public Security: Haddad.

The two ministries formed during the period of independence were headed by Rida al-Rikabi and Hashim al-Atasi respectively. The former was in office from March 9th until May 3rd, the latter from May 3rd until the Day of Maysalun.

1. Formation of the Council of Directors

To the honorable Director General of...

In the hope of forming a sound administration to facilitate the establishment of a normal, orderly government in the country, His Highness the Emir has commanded the Council of Directors to meet officially under the chairmanship of His Highness, or that of ourselves in his absence, at 9:30 am, every Wednesday morning to discuss the items enclosed in this letter. We should like you to attend regularly at the designated time in our residence.

Respectfully yours,

Ai Rida al-Rikabi

Military Governor General of Syria

August 4, 1919

2. Statute on the Formation of the Council of Directors

Article 1. The country shall be administered by a Governor General and Directors, each one being responsible for a portion of the affairs of the government. They and the Governor General shall constitute a Council called 'The Council of Directors" which, under our chairmanship or that of the Governor General as our deputy, will be responsible for important and public affairs.

Article 2. The directors mentioned in Article 1 above are now the Director of the Interior, Chairman of the War Council until a Minister of War is appointed, Director of Finance, Director of Education, Chairman of the Council of State, and Director of Public Security in case of necessity.

Article 3. Each Director shall in principle conduct such affairs pertaining to his department as come within his purview in accordance with established laws and regulations. Whatever does not come within his purview shall be referred to Governor
General for transmittal to the Council of Directors. After the matter is discussed by the Council, their decision shall be submitted to us for approval.

Article 4. The group of Directors is collectively responsible for domestic governmental policy and each Director is individually responsible for whatever is done in his own sphere of action.

Article 5. The items on the agenda of the Council of Directors are:

(a) Problems connected with domestic policy.
(b) Matters involving the collective responsibility of all the Directors.
(c) Disputes which by law require a decision of the Council of Directors.
(d) Matters submitted by us.
(e) Making loans.
(f) Executing military movements.
(g) Proclaiming martial law.
(h) Making extra-budgetary payments in case of emergency.
(i) Granting concessions and contracts.
(j) Enacting regulations for government departments and decrees that shall have the
force of law until the Legislative Assembly meets.
(k) Important political and administrative affairs.
(1) Matters of sufficient importance to be referred to the group for discussion.

Article 6. All decisions of the Council of Directors shall be submitted to us for approval, which we have the choice of granting or withholding.

Article 7. Directors may write bills on subjects which fall within their competence and which, when concurred in and signed by the Military Governor, re quire our approval, but need not be submitted to the Council of Directors.

Article 8. The Military Governor General and the Directors have the right to choose employees for their departments. The directors shall communicate the names to the Governor General who will forward to us with the necessary documentation such names as require our confirmation as well as the names of those officials whom he has chosen for his own staff. They will start work after being confirmed.

Article 9. The above articles are in effect as of now. Other articles will be added and some may be eliminated as circumstances dictate.


3. Formation of the First Cabinet

My Minister Rida al-Rikabi:

In view of your well-known devotion and ability, we have appointed you Prime Minister in order to form a cabinet that will achieve the sacred objectives of happiness and political and social progress so impatiently awaited by every citizen.
We ask God to grant us success for the people and for the country.

Peace be upon you!


(March 8 9, 1920)

My Minister Rida al-Rikabi

We confirm the Cabinet that you proposed in your memorandum no. 1 dated March 9.
1920 as follows:

Chairman of the Council of State: A1a' al-Din al-Durubi

Minister of the Interior: Rida al-Sulh
Deputy Minister of the Interior: Said al-Husayni (Acting for him pro tem. Maj. Gen. Abd al-Hamid)
Deputy Minister of War: Maj. Gen. Abd al-Hamid (Acting for him pro tem. Chief of Staff Yusuf al-Azmah)
Deputy Minister of Finance: Faris al-Khuri
Deputy Minister of Justice: Jalal al-Din
Minister of Education: Sati' al-Husri
Deputy Minister of Commerce, Agriculture and Public Works: Yusuf al-Hakim

We hope that you will energetically defend the people's rights, maintain law and order in the country, and strengthen the bonds of friendship between our government and friendly governments, especially the Allies, in order to realize the wishes of the Syrians and their hopes for unity. We hope too that you will expend the utmost effort in spreading the spirit of harmony among all classes of the population regardless of religion or creed. We ask God to keep you and pros per your works.



The Royal Palace, March 9, 1920

4. The Cabinet's Statement to the Syrian Congress

March 27, 1920

Distinguished gentlemen!

The members of the cabinet are extremely happy to be the first local constitutional ministry in the history of Syria. We have come before the first local constitutional ministry in the history of Syria. We have come before the first representative parliament to read a statement outlining our plans. We are proud to extend our greetings to this glorious national parliament which the people will forever remember generation after generation because it is the faithful advocate of their desires, the resolute defender of their rights, and the founders of their new government in the new era of history.

You know, gentlemen, that after the World War broke out the Arabs rose up under the leadership of their commander, His Majesty King Hussein, and joined the ranks of the Allies. They made enormous sacrifices for The common cause in the expectation of obtaining their independence and freedom after centuries of slavery during which their ancient civilization perished and the deeply rooted pillars of their glory collapsed. Their revolt and association with the Allies when the outcome of the hostilities still hung in the balance was a severe blow to the lavish hopes that Germany and her partners placed on the Ottoman Empire's entrance into the war on their side-this because of the historic and social position of the Arabs. The Allies derived tremendous advantages from Arab support in that they gained strength while their enemies were weakened. The war ended in a defeat for the Germans and their partners and a victory of right over might. The Arabs were liberated by virtue of the glorious deeds of King Hussein and his brave sons, deeds that the people will always remember with gratitude. He is thus the founder of the Arabs' modern history with which the nation started its second golden age.

Chapters of thankfulness and esteem will also be devoted in our history to his talented son. His Majesty Faisal the First, King of Syria, who has taken up the Syrian case and pledged himself to continue to work for the liberation of the entire country and to defend it to the last. He is the creator of the Syrian Kingdom and the one most responsible for its deliverance and establishment on the basis of freedom and regeneration. The hearts and hopes of Syrians were united in him, their king and undisputed master. So let us promise him our obedience and congratulate the throne of Syria on the brave patriot and just ruler who occupies it.

We mustn't forget the debt we owe to our great Allies who proved their valor at a very critical juncture. They supported the principles of right and demolished the edifice of wrong. They called for a new and glorious era in which there would be respect for the rights and freedom of peoples, repudiation of the policy of conquest and imperialism, annulment of secret treaties violating the rights of nations, and self-determination for liberated peoples. Their services to the Arab cause have been memorable.

As a result of these noble enduring principles, the Syrian people chose the members of your worthy assembly to determine their fate in accordance with their desires and to strengthen the rights bestowed upon them by nature and reinforced by the many sacrifices made during the war. The Allies confirmed these rights by pledges and promises and acknowledged the Arabs' share in the glorious victory. They agreed to proclaim the independence of Syria within her well- known borders embracing the three temporary zones of military occupation, to call the man of the people and their liberator Emir Faisal ibn Hussein their king, and to establish a responsible constitutional government. Thereupon, you passed your historic, firmly-worded resolution of March 8th. That day was the beginning of our new free life. Viewing your glorious work with joyous approval, the people organized festivals and celebrations throughout the country and thus indicated once again their unanimous and ardent support for our noble nationalist objectives. We offer our thanks and commendation for your work which shall be recorded in the history of the nation.

Pursuant to this resolution which translated the desires of the Syrians from words into decisive action, His Majesty the King entrusted us with the administration of the kingdom in accordance with the constitutional civil principles chosen by your esteemed assembly. We began our task and laid hold of the reins of government by seeking the aid of God and relying on the support of the nation. We are determined to make every effort to safeguard our total independence within the framework of Syrian unity so that our people can reach the position among advanced nations to which they are entitled by virtue of their splendid record of civilization and culture.

Our great Allies view our new life with much satisfaction and will help us surmount all the obstacles impeding our path to progress and success. We rely especially on the good faith of Great Britain and France, who have been known for their love of the Arabs and whose assistance in our war of liberation proved invaluable. They were the first to agree with the sound principles and noble objectives on the basis of which the honorable American people came to their aid from across the Atlantic. We have their promise of continued friendship and appreciation in the days of peace just as we had it in the days of war. They give every indication of abiding by their exalted principles.

England and France, moreover, know very well that we desire nothing but a quiet, orderly life in a world at peace. This cannot be achieved in a Syria that is partitioned and deprived of self-government. They are sure we will protect the interests of all nations in our country both for our own sake and for theirs.

Our foreign policy is a policy of peace and friendship with all nations, especially with the Allies who helped us in war and will help us in peace as well, protection of the rights of their nationals, and utilization of the vital elements in their civilization that can contribute to our progress and yet leave our independence unimpaired.

Our internal affairs will continue to be administered as they are now until we have our constitution, which will guarantee every segment of the population equality of opportunity to build the country, increase their wealth, and improve their condition. We shall n every effort to maintain order, promote justice among the people as quickly as possible, and strengthen the army so that it can protect our full independence. We are delighted to see that this plan evidently accords with the desires of the people, for they are enthusiastically answering the call of the armed forces to perform their holy duty for the fatherland.

We shall concern ourselves above all with spreading education and building schools that will graduate men imbued with love for their country, sound in their thinking, healthy, and of good moral character. We shall enrich our storehouses of information by translating and composing books on the modern sciences and arts and by making use of western knowledge.

We shall endeavor to improve the country's agriculture, trade, and industry and exploit its mineral resources in order to increase production and add to the national wealth. Moreover, through the institution of economy measures we shall lighten the burden of the high cost of living that now also affects the rest of world and is engrossing the attention of statesmen everywhere. The government cannot perform these tasks unless is possesses a sufficient amount of money. Present income does not match the fixed expenses we have to meet in this new era of our development. In order to execute our plan, we must balance the bud get and spend our funds as efficiently as possible. The people should discharge their obligations zealously, swiftly, and, above all, generously.

We shall continue to be governed by the civil laws and statutes of the Ottoman regime plus the subsequent modifications and additions until we gradually change or replace them with other laws which are more in tune with the physical and moral condition of the country at its present stage of civilization and which will contribute to our genuine progress by protecting the rights of individuals and groups.

The government requests that this esteemed body hasten to draft the constitution and electoral laws. Deputies should be elected and the legislature convened at the earliest possible moment.

In conclusion, we express the hope that the people and their representatives will help us in our patriotic task. We extend to you our respectful greetings.

5. Formation of the Second Cabinet

The Royal Letter to the New Prime Minister

My dear friend Hashim al-Atasi:

In view of the governmental crisis caused by the telegram of the French government which arrived the day before yesterday, we have decided to entrust you, a man of proved sincerity and ability, with the formation of a new cabinet. Its first assignment shall be the maintenance of internal order and security and the defense of the country's rights against all those who wish it ill or who are trying fromabroad to impair its sacred independence.

Choose those men who, to the best of your knowledge, possess the requisite qualifications and can help us reach this noble goal. Then submit their names to me for confirmation. May God grant us success and guidance in behalf of this people and
country! Peace be upon you!


May 3, 1920

6. Answer of the Prime Minister

The Honorable Chamberlain of His Majesty:

Pursuant to the noble commands sent today to this humble person regarding the formation of a cabinet whose first task shall be the maintenance of internal security and the realization of the people's wishes for defense against those who wish them ill or who are trying to impair their sacred independence, I propose the following Cabinet, which possesses the requisite qualifications:

Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior: Hashim al-Atasi
Chairman of the Council of State: Rida al-Sulh
Minister of Foreign Affairs: Abd al-Rahman al-Shahbandar
Minister of War: Yusuf al-Azma
Minister of Finance (holdover): Faris al-Khuri
Minister of Justice (holdover): Jalal al-Din
Minister of Education (holdover): Sati al-Husri
Minister of Public Works: George Rizq Allah

Please transmit this list to His Majesty so that if he so pleases he will issue his order of confirmation. May God grant that his opinion be favorable!

Hashim al-Atasi

Prime Minister

May 3, 1920

7. The Royal Decree

My Minister Hashim al-Atasi:

We confirm the list of Cabinet members mentioned in your memorandum dated Sha'ban 15, 1338 as follows:

Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior: Hashim al-Atasi
Chairman of the Council of State: Rida al-Sulh
Minister of Foreign Affairs: Abd al-Rahman al-Shahbandar
Minister of War: Yusuf al-Azma
Minister of Finance (holdover): Faris al-Khuri
Minister of Justice (holdover): Jalal al-Din
Minister of Education (holdover): Sati al-Husri
Minister of Public Works: George Rizq Allah

We trust that you will labor to realize the desires of the people by taking the most vigorous measures to defend their sacred independence; to maintain security; to work for the development of mutual cooperation among all classes of the Syrian population regardless of religion or creed so that they may be like some compact structure of which each part strengthens the other; to tighten the bonds of amity between our government and the governments of the great friendly powers, especially the two that helped us reach our desired objective. May God grant you success and guidance!

Peace be upon you!


May 3, 1920

(Some changes took place in the cabinet on the following day. The Prime Minister relinquished the Ministry of the Interior and appointed Al al-Din al Durubi to the post; he replaced George Rizq Allah as Minister of Public Works with Yusuf al-Hakim.)

8. Statement of the Second Cabinet to the Syrian Congress, May 3, 1920


The resignation of Ali Rida al-Rikabi led to the formation of the present Cabinet which has now come before this esteemed body to explain the plan that it intends to follow. In agreeing to assume the grave responsibility of government during these critical days as a service to the holy fatherland, we rely first upon God and then upon your help and that of the noble people who have chosen you as their representatives.

The basic elements in our plan are:

(1) Full support of our absolute independence, including the right of foreign representation.

(2) Insistence upon the unity of Syria within her natural borders and rejection of the Zionist desire to make a portion of her southern territory - Palestine - a national home for the Jews.

(3) Rejection of all foreign interference with our sovereignty.

These are the objectives of our ministry and, in essence, an implementation of the decisions taken by your Congress at its historic session. In order to attain them, we must retain the friendship of our noble Allies who are helping us to fulfill our national aspirations. We must also mobilize all our material and moral resources, i.e. our collective power, to secure the life and orderly functioning of the country. You are aware, of course, that to do so requires men and money. We shall endeavor to obtain the latter in a way that will not injure the economic structure of the country. The people who have been generous with their spirit to achieve independence will not be stingy with their money for the same purpose. The cabinet, insofar as its domestic plans go, will be chiefly concerned with strengthening law and order so as to calm the people, assure them security in their work, and increase their wealth. Since public disorders hinder our sacred patriotic efforts at home and
damage our reputation abroad, we are resolved to employ drastic measures against all those who may be guilty of dangerous behavior.

You learned, gentlemen, that the San Remo Conference came to certain preliminary decisions concerning Syria. These included the recognition in principle of our country as independent. We greet this recognition with joy in anticipation of its
serving as a basis for other rights that we shall claim.

We note the declaration of our ally Great Britain that she is prepared to recognize His Majesty our King as head of an independent Syrian government.

These decisions contemplate a mandate. We shall do our utmost to remove this imitation.

The conference that will meet in Paris at the end of this month will undoubtedly review the previous decisions. We trust that our Allies will deal fairly with us and keep their promises. If they don't, the strength and unshakable determination of our people are the greatest guarantee that we shall ultimately be accorded our right.

In conclusion, we take this opportunity to assert that we are a people who demand nothing but our right and who do not wish to infringe the right of any other people. On the contrary, we want to live as free men in our homes, at peace with those who are at peace with us and respectful of the interests of those who respect our interests. Success is with God.

The First Syrian Government 1920 
Ahmad al-Hage