HC Deb 09 April 1918 vol 104 cc1306-8

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is in a position to make any statement about the state of affairs in the kingdom of the Hedjaz, the Sultanates of Riad and Hail, and the countries adjoining these?


In reply to the first part of my hon. Friend's question I will, with the permission of the House, describe as briefly as possible the course which the operations of the forces of our Ally, the King of the Hedjaz, have followed since the declaration of Arabian independence was announced at Mecca in July, 1916.

At that time the Turks had in Hedjaz an army of 20,000 picked Regular troops with a proportional complement of artillery and plentiful supplies of transport, food and ammunition, besides having a military railway in direct communication with their northern bases. The Arabs, who rallied to the standard of liberation, were neither organised nor equipped with modern weapons, nevertheless the towns of Mecca, Taif, Jeddah, Yambo, Wedj, Akaba and Teima were seized at the commencement of the national movement. Consequent upon this numerous Arabian tribes and a number of officers and men prisoners of war in our hands joined voluntarily the army of the King of the Hedjaz and were organised by him into a permanent and disciplined force for the purpose of holding what had been won and extending the area of Arab independence. The result of the efforts of this national army under the leadership of the Sherifs Ali, Abdullah, Feisal and Zeid, are that the Red Sea coast of the Hedjaz has been completely cleared of Turks along a distance of 800 miles. The military railway has been continuously interrupted and severe losses inflicted on the material and rolling stock. The city of Medina has been blockaded for the last twelve months. The Sherif Feisal's force has advanced its front from Mecca to North of Tafileh on the shores of the Dead Sea, a distance of some 800 miles, and General Allenby's recent raid at Ammaw had the effect of assisting the Arabs to maintain their position.

The casualties inflicted on the Turks up to date are very considerable, and it may be safely said from the declaration of Arab independence up to the present time the Arab forces have occupied, isolated, or accounted for fully 40,000 Turkish troops and over 100 guns.

Although engrossed in this difficult military struggle for national liberty, the Government of the Hedjaz have been able to inaugurate a new era of civil order and justice unknown in the Hedjaz since its subjection to Turkish rule.

The national Arab Government have moreover succeeded in arranging for two consecutive pilgrimages to the Holy Places. On these occasions the pilgrims were, as never before, accorded comfort and medical care, and both pilgrimages were marked by a complete absence of epidemics or any of the usual concomitants of robbery, extortion, and disorder.

In Eastern Arabia the Emir of Riad Ibn Saud has proved our unswerving ally, and has established the independence of the greater part of Neid.

The Emir of Hail is still personally under Turkish domination, but has not been in residence in his capital for a year.