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Faisal I of Iraq

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Faisal I
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Faisal I

Faisal ibn Husayn (May 20, 1883September 8, 1933) was for a short while king of Greater Syria in 1920 and king of Iraq from 1921 to 1933. He was a member of the Hashemite dynasty.

He was born in Taif (in present-day Saudi Arabia) in 1883, the third son of Hussein ibn Ali, the Grand Sharif of Mecca. In 1913 he was elected as representative for the city of Jeddah for the Ottoman parliament. In 1916, whilst on a visit to Damascus, he joined with the Al-Fatat group of Arab nationalists, and his father became king of Hijaz. Faisal also worked with the Allies during World War I in their conquest of Transjordan and the capture of Damascus, where he became part of a new Arab government in 1918.

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Weizmann_and_feisal_1918.jpg
1918. Emir Feisal I and Chaim Weizmann (left, also wearing Arab outfit as a sign of friendship)

He led the Arab delegation to the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and, with the support of the knowledgeable and influential Gertrude Bell, argued for the establishment of independent Arab emirates for the area previously covered by the Ottoman Empire.

On January 3, 1919, Faisal and Dr. Chaim Weizmann, President of the World Zionist Organization signed the Faisal Weizmann Agreement which established Arab acceptance of the Balfour Declaration.

On March 7, 1920, he was made king of Greater Syria by the Syrian National Congress. But in April 1920, the San Remo conference gave France the mandate for Syria, which led to the battle of Maysalun on July 24, 1920; Faisal was expelled from Syria by the French and went to live in the United Kingdom in August that year.

The British government, mandate holders in Iraq, were concerned at the unrest in the new country. They decided to step back from direct administration and create a monarchy to head Iraq while they maintained the mandate. Following a plebiscite showing 96% in favor, Faisal agreed to become king; so, in August 1921 he was made king of Iraq.

He died on September 8, 1933, when he had a heart attack whilst he was staying in Bern. He was succeeded on the throne by his son Ghazi.

He was portrayed by Alec Guinness in the 1961 movie Lawrence of Arabia.

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