The Young Arab Society
al-Jam'iya al-Arabiya al-Fatat
From The Arab Awakening, George Antonius, G P Putnam's Sons, 1946.
A secret Arab nationalist society, al-Fatat was founded in Paris in 1911. No other society played as determining a part in the history of the Arab national movement. Its founders were seven young Arabs, all of them Muslims, who were pursuing their higher education in Paris, and who, by reason of their youth, their keenness and the unanimity of their views, gave it vigour and unity. They were: Auni Abdel -Hadi (Jenin), Jamil Mardam (Damascus), Rustum Haidar (Baalbeck), Rafiq Tamimi (Nablus), Muhammad al-Mihmasani (Beirut), Taufiq al-Natur (Beirut), Abdul Ghani al-Uraisi (Beirut). The last three were hanged by the Turks during World War I on a charge of treasonable nationalistic activities.
The objectives of the society were to work for the independence of the Arab countries and their liberation from Turkish or any other alien domination – a significant advance on those programs which aimed at autonomy within the Ottoman empire.
The development of al-Fatat was cautious yet rapid, and it became the most effective of the Arab societies of the time, remarkable for its objectives and methods and for the admirable discipline of its members. Membership was made subject to a long period of probation. Each recruit was introduced by one of the sworn members but was kept in ignorance of the identity of all the other members until he was tried and proved, when he would be invited to take an oath to serve the ends of the society, to the point of death if need be. For the first two years, its center was Paris and its membership remained small. Then, as its founders graduated and returned to their homes, the center moved to Beirut in 1913, and then to Damascus in 1914. Its membership rose to over 200, most of whom were Muslim but with a few Christians. The secret of its existence was guarded to the end, and the Arab countries had gained their liberation from Turkish rule before it was disclosed.
During World War I when the Turks were prosecuting Arab nationalists for treason, one member of al-Fatat was driven by physical torture to attempt suicide, and another went to the gallows rather than betray the society's secret.