The Franco-Syrian Treaty and the Definition Of ‘Minorities’

Benjamin Thomas White

in The Emergence of Minorities in the Middle East

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780748641871
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748653287 | DOI:
The Franco-Syrian Treaty and the Definition Of ‘Minorities’

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The question of who was a minority was subject to disputes. However, the more important but lesser obvious question is: why, around the 1930s, did all of the people start calling themselves or others ‘minorities’? At the outset of the mandate, few people thought Syria had ‘minorities’; however, by the 1930s, as French observers entertained the possibility of Syrian independence, they were commonly using the term as well as the Syrians. This chapter places the emergence of the language of minorities in Syria in the context of developments in international law between the wars, as the nation-state became the standard state form. The change was not just terminological: the existence of a body of international law relating to ‘minorities’ meant that the term had a specific legal content and political implications. But as has been noted here, it was not until the treaty negotiations of the 1930s that the term became widely used in Syria. The chapter also elucidates why and how different group individuals and groups within the different communities stood to gain, and lose, by adopting this language.

Keywords: minority; Syria; international law; treaty negotiations; nation-state

Chapter.  14548 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture

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