HL Deb 19 May 1920 vol 40 cc423-4

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord LAMINGTON I desire to ask His Majesty's Government whether they can give any information respecting the disturbances in Syria as reported in The Times of May 17, and, if it is true the disturbances did occur, whether they were not due to national rather than anti-Christian feeling.


My Lords, the information contained in The Times telegram from Cairo of May 15 concerning the deplorable massacre of the Christian inhabitants of certain villages in Southern Syria is more detailed than that which has reached His Majesty's Government in official telegrams. From the latter we learn that the villages of Ain Ibl and Dibl were attached by Metwalli tribesmen, that Ain Ibl was sacked and partly burned, and that upwards of fifty persons were killed. As the noble Lord is aware, these villages are situated in a part of Syria that is in the French zone, and His Majesty's Government neither have any forces in the neighbourhood nor have they any responsibility for the area concerned.

It is difficult, without greater local knowledge than we possess, to say how far these lamentable occurrences may have been provoked by national feeling. It may well be that recent events in Syria, and the proclamation of the Emir Feisal as king of that country, have aroused a strong national sentiment, although it is not clear why even if this be the case it should take the form of an attack upon Christian villages. From the account in The Times it would seem to be more likely that the attack upon these places was the outcome of a long smouldering antagonism between Moslem and Christian kindled to flame by recent events.

My noble Friend the Leader of the House is confined to bed by illness or he would have answered this Question himself. In the meantime he has telegraphed for further information, and if it arrives while the House is not in session he will see that it is communicated to the noble Lord.