Establishment of the Emirate of Transjordan

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Abdullah's entry into Transjordan on 21 November 1920 marked the beginning of the second period of Hashemite rule in the Transjordan region following a brief interregnum period. Abdullah, the second son of Sharif Hussein, arrived from Hejaz by train in Ma'an in southern Transjordan on 21 November 1920 to redeem the Kingdom his brother had lost.[1] Transjordan then was in disarray and widely considered to be ungovernable with its dysfunctional local governments.[2]

Abdullah spent almost four months with his base in Ma'an, which he left in late February arriving in Amman on 2 March 1921.[3] Abdullah's forces had effectively occupied all of Transjordan by the end of March 1921, without opposition.[4] Following agreement with Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill at the Cairo Conference, the Emirate of Transjordan was established on 11 April 1921.[5]

Salt conference[edit]

Al-Salt residents gather on 20 August 1920 during the British High Commissioner's visit to Transjordan.

The British High Commissioners for Palestine and Transjordan, Herbert Samuel, travelled to Transjordan on 21 August 1920 to meet with Al-Salt city's residents. He there declared that the British government would aid the establishment of local governments in Transjordan, which is to be kept separate from that of Palestine.[6]

Umm Qais conference[edit]

The second meeting between British officials and the notables of Transjordan occurred in Umm Qais a month later on 2 September. Major Fitzroy Somerset received a petition from the local residents who demanded an independent Arab government in Transjordan to be led by an Arab prince (emir) in addition to a legislative body representing them. They also demanded that:[6]

1-land sale in Transjordan to Jews be stopped as well as preventing Jewish immigration there
2-that Britiain fund and establish a national army
3-that free trade be maintained between Transjordan and the rest of the region.

Local governments[edit]

Following the outcomes of the two conferences, the British dispatched six officers to aid the establishment of local governments in Transjordan which existed between August 1920 and March 1921. They included:

1- the "Government of Dayr Yousef" in Ajloun's Kura dsitrict under Najib Abd Al-Qader Al-Shuraydah
2- the "Government of Jabal Ajloun" in Jabal Ajloun under Rashed Al-Khuzai bin Durgham of the Freihat
3- the "Government of Moab" in Karak under Rufayfan Majali
4- a government in Tafila under Salih Umran.
5- a government in Al-Salt under Mazhar Raslan
6- a semi-official government in Ajloun's Al-Wustiyya district under Naji Mazid Al-Azzam
7- an administration in Irbid under Ali Khulqi Al-Sharayri
8- an administration in Jerash under the Kayid branch of the Utum family
9- an administration in Ramtha under Nasir Al-Fawwaz Al-Barakat of the Zu'bi family

Abdullah's entry into Transjordan[edit]

Abdullah's ambitions were affected when the Iraqi revolt against the British began in May 1920 and Faisal's Arab Kingdom of Syria fell to the French in July 1920. Abdullah left Medina in mid-October; the 800-kilometre (500 mi) journey took 27 days due to the poor state of the Hejaz railway which had been heavily damaged during World War I.[5]

The stated reason for his travel was to redeem the Kingdom his brother Faisal had lost.[1]

Abdullah arrived in Ma'an in southern Transjordan on 21 November 1920. Sources differ as to the number of men he had with him,[7] from 300,[8] to 1,200,[9] to 2,000.[5][10]

On his arrival in Ma'an Abdullah arranged for letters to dispatched to invite the leaders of the Syrian National Congress and notable Transjordanians, to meet him Ma'an and discuss the "firm intentions of the people".[11] Two weeks later, on 5 December, he issued a proclamation which stated that his sole intention was to "expel the invaders".[12] The British had discouraged some of the prominent Transjordanians from allying with Abdullah, including Mazhar Raslan, the mutasarrif of Salt. Rufayfan Pasha, the mutasarrif of Karak, did not go to Ma'an at all, and other officials demanded a guarantee for their army pensions or tried to extract other forms of payment before they would join Abdullah.[11]

In January 1921, Abdullah's forces moved into Kerak without opposition from the British.[13] Abdullah spent almost four months with his base in Ma'an, which he left on 29 February 1921 and arrived in Amman on 2 March 1921.[3]

By early February 1921 the British had concluded that "the Sherif's influence has now completely replaced that of the local governments and of the British advisers in Trans-Jordania, and [that] it must be realised that if and when Abdullah does advance northwards in the spring, he will be considered by the majority of the population to be the ruler of that country."[14] Abdullah's forces had effectively occupied all of Transjordan by the end of March 1921, without opposition.[4]

Cairo Conference[edit]

Abdullah posing with British officials and his entourage on 28 March 1921 in front of the British Government House in Jerusalem.

The Cairo Conference was convened on 12 March 1921 by Winston Churchill, then Britain's Colonial Secretary, and lasted until 30 March; the conference was to endorse an arrangement whereby Transjordan would be added to the Palestine mandate, with Abdullah as the emir under the authority of the High Commissioner, and with the condition that the Jewish National Home provisions of the Palestine mandate would not apply there.[15]

Proclamation of the Emirate of Transjordan[edit]

Proclamation of Abdullah as leader of Transjordan, April 1921

Following agreement with Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill, the Emirate of Transjordan was established on 11 April 1921.[5]


  1. ^ a b Salibi 1998, p. 82.
  2. ^ Salibi 1998, p. 91.
  3. ^ a b Vatikiotis 2017, p. 52.
  4. ^ a b Sicker 1999, pp. 159–161.
  5. ^ a b c d Salibi 1998, p. 93.
  6. ^ a b Betty S. Anderson (15 September 2009). Nationalist Voices in Jordan: The Street and the State. University of Texas Press. p. 35.
  7. ^ Bradshaw 2012, p. 31: "variously described as numbering a few hundred to several thousand men"
  8. ^ Wilson 1990, p. 48: "300 men and six machine guns"
  9. ^ Patai 2015, p. 35.
  10. ^ Kirkbride 1956, p. 25.
  11. ^ a b Paris 2003, p. 153.
  12. ^ Paris 2003, p. 153; Paris refers to FO 371/6371 p.76.
  13. ^ Sicker 1999, pp. 159–161: "In January 1921, it was reported in Kerak that Abdullah was advancing toward the town at the head of his army. Kirkbride appealed to Samuel for instructions. The political officer had a total force of only fifty Arab policemen at his disposal and quite simply did not know what to do. Several weeks later he received the following reply from Jerusalem: "It is considered most unlikely that the Emir Abdullah would advance into territory which is under British control"... Two days later Abdullah's troops marched into British-controlled Moab. Unable to stop him, Kirkbride decided to welcome him instead. With Abdullah's arrival the National Government of Moab went out of existence."
  14. ^ Rudd 1993, p. 309.
  15. ^ Wasserstein 2008, pp. 105–106: "Wasserstein writes: "Palestine, therefore, was not partitioned in 1921–1922. Transjordan was not excised but, on the contrary, added to the mandatory area. Zionism was barred from seeking to expand there – but the Balfour Declaration had never previously applied to the area east of the Jordan. Why is this important? Because the myth of Palestine's 'first partition' has become part of the concept of 'Greater Israel' and of the ideology of Jabotinsky's Revisionist movement."