The DENSHAWAI INCIDENT is the name given to a dispute which occurred
in 1906 between
* 1 Causes * 2 Incident * 3 British response * 4 Consequences * 5 Legacy * 6 See also * 7 References * 8 Bibliography
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There were many tensions that led up to the
Denshawai incident. The
Egyptian people had a growing sense of nationalism long before the
British occupation of
Since the khedival regime, the upper classes benefited from the British occupation and its abundant success. The middle class was left to resist the British occupation. They attacked the British for not dealing with the khedival governmental corruption. Positions in the Egyptian government were filled by the British officers. Newspaper writers claimed that, if not for British racism, those positions could have been easily filled by capable, educated Egyptians.
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Egyptian Pashas and Beys appeal for forgiveness of Denshway
incident prisoners to
On 13 June 1906, a group of British officers upset the residents of Dinshaway by hunting pigeons for sport. Since the pigeons that the officers were shooting were raised by the villagers and served as a local source of livelihood, the villagers sought to protect their property and attacked the soldiers. A scuffle broke out, and an officer’s gun was fired, he claimed unintentionally, wounding a female villager who was the wife of a Muslim prayer leader. This provoked further outrage from the villagers, who attacked the British officers. One of the officers managed to escape from the scene and fled back on foot towards the British camp in the intense noontime heat. He later collapsed outside the camp and died, probably of heatstroke. A villager who came upon him there tried to assist him but, when other soldiers from the camp discovered the villager alongside the body of the dead officer, they assumed or claimed that he had killed the soldier, and so they killed the villager.
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Concerned about growing nationalism, Egyptian officials decided to respond to the Denshawai Incident. The next day, the British army arrived, arresting fifty-two men in the village identified as members of the mob, including Abd-el-Nebi, Hassan Mahfouz, a man called Darweesh, and Zahran. At a summary trial, with both Egyptian and British judges, responsibility for the incident was determined. Hassan, Darweesh, Zahran, and one other man, were convicted of murdering the officer who had died of sunstroke, since their actions had put him in that deadly position. They were sentenced to death. One of the judges was Boutros Ghali . Abd-el-Nebi and another villager were given life sentences of penal servitude; twenty-six villagers were given various terms of hard labour and ordered to be flogged. The officers stated that they had been "guests" of the villagers and had done nothing deliberately wrong.
Hassan was hanged in front of his own house, which was uncharacteristic of the usual protocol in capital punishment. This action by the Egyptian and British officials was portrayed by the nationalist press as especially cruel and an outright symbol of dominance over the Egyptians.
Darweesh said from the gallows: “May God compensate us well for this world of meanness, for this world of injustice, for this world of cruelty.”
The Egyptian police official who had accompanied the soldiers to the village did not confirm their story. He testified in court that after Abd-el-Nebi’s wife had been shot, the alarmed officers had fired twice more on the surging mob. For his testimony, he was dismissed, and a court of discipline sentenced him to two years imprisonment and fifty lashes.
George Bernard Shaw
"Instead of showing understanding for the peasants' self-defense against the officer's tactless blundering, the colonial administrators viewed the natives' actions as a dangerous popular insurgency that had to be dealt with harshly."
Concerned with growing Egyptian nationalism , British officials thought it best to show their strength and make an example of the mob leaders involved. Many were arrested, and four charged with murder. This decision inflamed Egyptian nationalist sentiment. Some Egyptian leaders later affirmed that the incident, and the British response to it, led them to suppose that co-operation with the British empire was "totally unacceptable" and impossible. The belief that co-operation was impossible increased leaders' concerns about British pressure to widen the franchise in Egypt, and caused them to push harder for the removal of British forces from Egypt.
In the long run, this incident, and the resulting rise in
nationalism, led to an anti-colonial struggle in
This decision was used by national and anti-foreign elements to inflame public opinion in Egypt. Those few in Britain who called the tribunal and its legality into question, were accused of being unpatriotic and supporting the “venal agitators” in Egypt.
Guy Aldred , who in 1907 compared the execution of Madan Lal Dhingra with the immunity given to the British officers in this incident, was sentenced to twelve months hard labour for publishing The Indian Sociologist .
George Bernard Shaw, in the preface to his play John Bull\'s Other Island , gave the public more of his view of the incident. In a passage more noted for its picturesque description, than its literal accuracy, he stated:
hey had room for only one man on the gallows, and had to leave him hanging half an hour to make sure and give his family plenty of time to watch him swinging, thus having two hours to kill as well as four men, they kept the entertainment going by flogging eight men with fifty lashes each.
He then went on in the same vein:
If her empire means ruling the world as Denshawai has been ruled in 1906 – and that, I am afraid, is what the Empire does mean to the main body of our aristocratic-military caste and to our Jingo plutocrats – then there can be no more sacred and urgent political duty on earth than the disruption, defeat, and suppression of the Empire, and, incidentally, the humanization of its supporters…
Fifty years later, the Egyptian journalist Mohamed Hassanein Heikal
said "the pigeons of
Denshawai have come home to roost", to describe
the eventual defeat of the Anglo-French strikes in
"The Hanging of Zahran" is a poem by Salah Abdel Sabour about the incident. Nagui Riad made the film Friend of Life, based on the poem.
"27 June 1906, 2:00 pm" is a related poem by Constantine P. Cavafy , that starts: "When the Christians took and hanged/ the innocent boy of seventeen/ his mother who there beside the scaffold/ had dragged herself..."
The incident is mentioned in
* ^ Abdalla, Ahmed. "The Armed Forces and the Democratic Process in
Egypt". Third World Quarterly. 10.
* ^ Dinshaway Incident
* ^ Islam in History, by Bernard Lewis, Open Court Publishing,
* ^ see Salama, Mohammad R. (2011). Islam, orientalism, and
intellectual history: Modernity and the politics of exclusion since
Ibn Khaldūn. London: I. B. Tauris. ISBN 9781848850057 . pages
* ^ Ziad Fahmy, Ordinary Egyptians: Creating the Modern Nation
through Popular Culture (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press,
2011), p. 92.
* ^ "Saint Joan before the Cannibals":
George Bernard Shaw
* "Why Haditha Reminds This Historian of an Awful Chapter in British History". History News Network. Retrieved 6 S