One hundred years ago this week, in the middle of World War I, an uprising erupted at the axis of the Islamic world, in Mecca. Encouraged by the British, the ruler of the holy city, Sharif Hussein, launched a revolt against the Ottoman Turks.
The British hoped that Hussein’s ancestry and authority – he was a descendant of Muhammad and his phone number was Mecca 1 – made him the ideal man to disrupt the jihad called by the Ottoman Sultan in 1914.
To persuade him to help them, the British promised him and his Arab nationalist supporters independence in the post-war world if they rebelled against the Turks.
The British never really believed that they would have to make good on that offer, and weeks later, to pacify a different ally, they would promise much the same territory to the French, in the infamous Sykes-Picot Agreement.
Oblivious to this double-dealing, Hussein fired the first shot of the rebellion from a window in his palace on June 10, 1916.
When his revolt then quickly fizzled out, the British began arguing among themselves about whether or not to send in troops to support him.
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Image courtesy of Getty
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