Famine was the most painful ordeal faced by the people of Syria in World War I. Hundreds of thousands of lives were lost either as a direct result of the famine or from other social disasters tied to it, such as epidemics, inflation, and the devaluation of paper money. Neither Cemal Pasha’s rule of terror nor the battles that took place on the Sinai front were as influential in changing the attitude of the Syrians against the Ottoman Empire as famine and its consequences. Nor was any factor more decisive in the ultimate failure of Cemal’s plans to increase Ottoman authority in Syria and conduct the behavior of the Syrians in accordance with the ideal of Ottoman unity in the Unionist sense. The impact of the starvation was so devastating in the region that, by the end of the war, total mortality from both starvation and epidemics reached 500,000.1 The famine is also important for understanding the inefficacy of the modern tools used to create state control over the Syrian realm and the Syrian people. As will be detailed below, this incident shows us the aspect of Ottoman Syria that could not be “conducted” by modern state mechanisms or by Cemal’s endeavors, along with his bureaucrats, to abolish these weaknesses to make the state stronger in the eyes of the Ottomans in Syria. Like many Arab nationalists, George Antonius, in his acclaimed study on

the development of Arab nationalism, accused the Ottomans of trading grains at high prices on the black market. In his viewpoint, the Lebanese were deliberately starved due to their sympathies with France.2 Linda Schatkowski Schilcher, however, has demonstrated the Entente’s responsibility in the miseries of the Syrians. She rightfully examined the role of the Entente’s blockade in the deaths caused by starvation in Syria, in addition to the ineptitude of the Ottoman officials, who could not prevent abuse of the circumstances of war and who sometimes profited from these circumstances. The present study aims at widening Schilcher’s analysis, relying primarily on Ottoman, Austrian, and German documents, and to examine the transformation of the Ottoman government in Syria under Cemal Pasha, taking famine as a case study. This chapter will try to demonstrate how the struggle against the famine and its consequences influenced the process of turning the Syrians into ideal Ottomans. Similarly, the process of struggling against the destructive impact of the

famine and its results, such as epidemics, also paved the way for the consolidation of the government’s control over the bodies of the Syrian people. All in all, apart from its destructive impact on the different peoples of Syria, the famine is an ideal case study for observing the nature of the new rule established in Syria with the beginning of the war and the inability of this regime to determine the order of things in the region.