Syria celebrates independence from France, days after Western military strikes

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By Alice Tidey
Syria celebrates independence from France, days after Western military strikes
Copyright  Reuters/Omar Sanadiki (File)

Syria celebrates its 72nd year of independence from France on Tuesday, four days after France, the US and UK hit Syrian military targets in retaliation over a suspected chemical attack in Douma in which 40 people were killed.

Thousands of people carrying Syrian flags gathered in Umayyad Square in Damascus to celebrate independence from France, according to the Syrian state agency SANA. Social media users marked the occasion online.

Syria-Lebanon was put under a French mandate in 1920 at the San Remo Conference — a post-WWI conference that allocated the administration of former Ottoman territories — while Palestine was put under British mandate.

French authorities then split the territory into several autonomous regions, accounting for tribal loyalties. Lebanon became a separate country.

In the years that followed, Syrians organised several uprisings against French rule — the most violent in 1925 led to French forces bombarding Damascus — but it wasn’t until 1936 that France agreed to work towards independence.

It took another seven years during which Free French and British troops occupied Syria briefly before the first Syrian president, Shukrhi al-Kuwatli, was elected. Three years later, on April 17 1946, the last French troops were evacuated.

Last Saturday, France joined the US and the UK in joint military strikes targeting the Syrian government’s suspected chemical weapons capabilities. It came a week after a reported chemical weapons attack in Douma, a then rebel-held enclave east of Damascus, in which 40 people were killed. Western countries have blamed the Bashar al_Assad’s government for the attack.

Syria and its allies, Russia and Iran, deny the attack even took place.

Syria entered its eighth year of civil war in March this year. According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Right, at least 350,000 civilians have been killed in the conflict. More than 5.5 million have fled the country, while another 6 million are internally displaced.