Arab Dissident Movements 1905–1955

ISBN: 978-1-85207-680-1   First published: 1996
Extent: 4 volumes, 3,000 pages     Editor: A. Burdett   
Paper: Printed on acid free paper  
Binding: Library bindings with gilt finish 
See sample pages: not available


These four volumes of primary source material contain a detailed study of activist movements and personalities, researched from the British Government archives, relating to 20th-century subversive groups and individuals in the Middle East. The coverage includes major categories of Arab nationalists and pan-Arabists with aspirations to Arab unity, as well as activists with specific territorial demands and other anti-régime dissidents.
The many groups referred to include: Society for Arab Revival (1906); Young Turks (1908); Lebanese Revival (1908); Al-Fatah (1909); Reform Society of Basra; Arab Revolutionary Society (1914); Palestine Arab Party; Todamun al-Akhawi; Druse rebels; Shakib Arslan; the Liberation Society; Iraq Independence Party; Arab Ba´ath Movement; Moslem Brotherhood; Omani Revolution Council.


From the Editor’s Introduction
 This work depicts the famous, the infamous and the more shadowy Arab groups and individuals who were active agents against the status quo of their day. It is not a political history of any one region, but instead attempts to supplement and to raise questions about the usual accounts of events. Leading figures as well as unknown or previously unremarked participants, and organisations both large and small, are traced against the unfolding events of the twentieth century.
Material falls into four main chronological sequences: the anti-Ottoman agitation to 1918; the anti-British, French and Italian campaigns from 1919-1939; the period of World War Two with various subversive tendencies; and the post-war agitation for self-determination. The arrangement is therefore broadly chronological with material sub-divided firstly as pan-Arabic and pan-Islamic activities, and secondly by regional considerations. This division reflects the two chief threads of the dissident movements in the Arab Middle East from 1905-1955: Arab unity and the notion of a single Arab confederacy which were pursued at least until the creation of the League of Arab States in 1945. The specific, limited regional goals of independence from a foreign power, whether the Ottoman Turks or the British, French or Italian administrations means that the dissidents cease to be dissenters when this goal has been achieved.
Coverage of some societies and organisations is varied in extent and reflects both the skills and the interests of British Intelligence surveillance, and the level of public attention sought by certain groups as they wax and wane. The most secret anti-regime movements (if successful) will presumably have evaded contact with British officials and may leave little trace in British records. However, by definition political effectiveness suggests a raised profile, and numerous groups appealed directly to British representatives and petitioned officials in London, frequently forwarding leaflets outlining their grievances or aspirations. Some of these organisations flourished for long periods, such as the Moslem Brotherhood, with its numerous branches. Others began openly but were banned or repressed and forced to go underground, for example, the Ottoman Arab Fraternity. The reader is referred to the index of contents for detailed references of the scores of organisations and leaders involved.
Wherever possible, all territories in the Arab Middle East have been represented, but the elusive nature of regional activists, observed often only at crisis points, and receding from view following either state repression or the creation of a new regime, is necessarily reflected by some gaps in the material. Countries represented herein include: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya (Cyrenaica and Tripolitania), Morocco, Oman, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia.
Prior to 1905, although there were sporadic gatherings and events, such as the Islamic Revival Congress which took place in Mecca from 1898-99, there were no sustained, organised dissident groups. The set ends in 1955 since 1956 marked the beginning of the end of the British presence in the Middle East, with the Suez crisis, and the start of an era of either self-government for many states or long direct struggles, as in the case of Algeria.
Finally, it must be stressed that this set is composed of British official records which reflect the continuous monitoring of groups and individuals which were essentially of a clandestine or subversive nature, regardless of their political orientation. It does not, however, address accredited opposition parties or spontaneous public demonstrations.


All material has been selected from files at the National Archives, Kew, Surrey, England, chiefly from the following record classes: FO 141: Egypt: Embassy and Consular Correspondence; FO 195: Turkey: Embassy and Consular Correspondence; FO 371: General Political Correspondence; FO 967: Hijaz: Jeddah: Embassy and Consular; CO 733: Colonial Office: Middle East Correspondence; CAB 27: Cabinet Committee; AIR 23: Overseas Commands: Air Staff Intelligence; HS: Secret Intelligence Service.
Over 400 pieces were examined, about ninety per cent of which were utilised for this set. A small percentage of the documents are in Arabic, these are generally, but not always, translated. Additionally, a small amount is in French, particularly items emanating from or relating to Egyptian groups.    
 Among the items selected for inclusion are several pieces recently released under various government initiatives, such as material from the HS class, opened in 1994, and miscellaneous FO files ( for example in section 4.2.3, material on the dissolution of the Moslem Brotherhood in 1948, previously retained, was opened in 1995). Despite the availability of certain files, other relevant pieces have not been transferred to the PRO at the time of writing, such as notes on "Middle Eastern Renegades", 1945, or apparently not retained at all, as in a piece on "Arab Union Society activities", 1947.

Some of the principal organisations and individuals appearing in these volumes. (Note: these names are only a small part of the hundreds of movements and persons named in over half a century of intelligence documents.)

  • La Ligue de la Patrie Arabe, 1905
  • Comité Supérieur National Arabe, 1905
  • The Young Turks, 1908
  • Emir Chekib Arslan, Beirut and elsewhere, 1908, 1913, 1922, 1931, 1937
  • Emir Mustapha Arslan, Beirut, 1908
  • Nessib Bey Djumblatt, Beirut, 1908
  • Mahmoud Bey Djumblatt, Beirut, 1908
  • Union Libanaise, 1908
  • Hurriyet (Freedom) Club, Damascus, 1908
  • Syrian Central Committee, Paris, 1908
  • Egyptian Reform Party, 1908
  • Egyptian Nationalist Party, 1908
  • Islamic Propaganda and Instruction, Cairo, 1911
  • Committee of Union and Progress, Constantinople, 1913
  • Reform Club, Beirut, 1913
  • Djemil Mardam Bey, Beirut, 1913, 1922; Palestine, 1934
  • Basra Arab Reform Committee, 1913
  • Mesopotamia Arab Movement, Baghdad, 1914
  • Al Ahd Group, Cairo, 1914
  • Aziz Ali Bey El-Masri, Cairo, Baghdad, 1914
  • Revolutionary Arab Committee, Damascus, 1914
  • Kahtan Party, Berne, 1915
  • Habib Loftfallah, Cairo, 1915, 1939
  • Khalil Pacha Khayat, president of Cercle Syrien, Alexandria, 1916
  • Iskander Bey Amoun, former president of Alliance Libanaise, 1916
  • Rafik Al Azm, president, Decentralisation Society, Cairo, 1918
  • Saad Zagloul, Cairo, 1919-1922
  • Senussi Brotherhood, Tripoli, 1918
  • Al Ahd al Arabi, Damascus, 1920
  • Nadi al Arabi, Damascus, 1920
  • Mouvahiddin Islamic Society, 1920
  • Talib Bey, Baghdad, 1920
  • Akhwan movement, Najd, 1920
  • Emir Amin Arslan, Beirut, 1920
  • Emir Adel Arslan, Beirut, 1920; Amman, 1921
  • Moslem Unification Committee, Berlin, 1922
  • Mustafa el Nahas, Cairo, 1921
  • Abbas Hilmi, Cairo, 1921
  • Adel Arslan, 1921, in Druse Rebellion, 1925


  • Istiqlal (Kemalist Secret Society), Damascus, 1921
  • Emir Chekib Arslan: secretary, Congress of Opressed Peoples of the Orient, 1922; president, Oriental Club, Berlin, 1922
  • Shaikh Rashid Rida, Cairo, Damascus, 1922, 1926
  • Jaffar Pasha, Baghdad, 1923
  • Iron Hand Society, Damascus, 1922
  • Shaikh Ahmed Daud Salah, Damascus, 1922
  • Habib Loftfallah, Damascus, 1922
  • Esther Fahmy Wissa, Women´s Central Committee, Cairo, 1922
  • Hizb al Watani, Cairo, 1923; Baghdad, 1933
  • Oriental Revolutionary Society, Cairo, 1923
  • White Flag Society, Khartoum, 1924; revived Cairo, 1955
  • El Ittihad el Sudan, 1924
  • Black Hand Society, Cairo, 1925
  • Palestine and Syrian Communist Parties, 1925
  • Rabta ash-Sharq (Bond of the East), Alexandria, 1923, 1929
  • Pan-Islamic Arab Revolutionary Movement (led by Chekib Arslan), Jerusalem, Damascus, 1931
  • Hussein ad-Dabbagh´s conspiracy against King Abdul-Aziz, Aden, Assir, 1932
  • Ibn Rifada´s Hijaz Revolt, 1932
  • Ihsan Bey el Jabiri, Palestine, 1934
  • Moslem Brotherhood (Ikwan el Muslimeen), Cairo, 1936, Palestine, 1938; Cairo, 1942, 1944, 1945; Amman, 1947
  • Committee for the Defence of Palestine, 1938
  • Societé des Oulémas (Society of Sages) d´Algérie, 1937, 1947
  • Habib Bourguiba, leader of Neo-Destour (New Constitution) Party, Tunis, 1945, 1947
  • Reda el-Mahdi el-Senoussi, president of Cyrenaican National Front, Benghazi, 1947
  • Ikhwan el Hurriyet (Brothers of Freedom), Cairo, 1947
  • Hassan el Ouezzani, leader of Democratic Party of Independence, Fez, 1947
  • Arab Ba´ath (Revival) Socialist Party, Jerusalem, Damascus, 1949; Amman 1954
  • Suppression of Moslem Brotherhood, Cairo, 1948; further activities, Cairo, 1949; Damascus 1950
  • Comité de Libération du Maghreb Arabe, Tangiers, 1948
  • Revolutionary Command Council, Oman, 1949
  • Popular Socialist Party, Baghdad, 1951
  • Mouvement Triomphe des Libertés Démocratiques, Algiers, 1952
  • Suppression of Moslem Brotherhood, Damascus, 1952; its continuance, Cairo, 1953,1954; Damascus, 1954
  • Yemeni Unity Society, Aden, 1952
  • Kuwait Democratic League; National Cultural Club, etc., Kuwait, 1954
  • Istiqlal Party, Rabat, 1955