Egypt turned to become British protectorate on the 14th of December 1914. During World War I,agitation towards the British had begun to increase as all sects of the population united in their discontent. British rule made Egypt’s involvement in the war to increase, with about 1.5 million Egyptians forced in the Labour Corps. Also, many of the country’s infrastructures were seized for the army, all of which contributed to the dissatisfaction.

Saad Zaghlul, who was a former education minister, founded the Wafd (literally meaning delegation)Party, or the Egyptian Delegation Party, during World War I. The party soon became prominent after the war. Their immediate goal was to end Egypt’s status as a protectorate of Britain. President Woodrow Wilson of the United States’ 14 Points in which he stressed that all the country people had the right to self-determination was a catalyst and inspiration for the citizen of egypt. They also conducted another grass roots campaign, collecting signatures to allow Zaghlul and other leaders of the Wafdist party to petition for Egypt’s independence. On March 8, 1919, the British authorities got Zaghlul and two other leaders of the movement arrested and expelled them to Malta, fearing the movement was gaining too much power. Protests and strikes swept across the country,especially Cairo and Alexandria, and continued until April. The protests involved Egyptians of all backgrounds: men, women, Muslims, and Christians(Copts), intellectuals, shop owners, and tradesmen. On March 9, 1919, students at the Egyptian University and students at Al-Azhar staged a demonstration.More than 10,000 students, workers, and professionals marched on Cairo’s Abdin Palace on March 15, where they were met by thousands more protesters all clamoring for peace. The next day, the wives of the exiled leaders, Safia Zaghlul, Huda Sharawi, and Mana Fahmi Wissa, also organized a march of thousands of women in traditional garb. They carried flags of the crescent and cross, representing Muslim and Christian unification for Egypt’s liberation. These women of the upper class were major influences in the boycott of British goods. They also directed other protests throughout the campaign for independence. Transport workers,judges, and lawyers joined in massive strikes as well.By the third week of sustained protests, Britain came to the realization that the political climate was getting out of control and so began a series of changes in the country. They replaced High Commissioner Wingate, who was considered too sympathetic to the Egyptian cause, with an Acting High Commissioner. Later in March 24, General Edmund Allenby was appointed Special High Commissioner. Allenby met with a representative group of the nationalists and they came to a compromise in which the campaigners promised to end the protests in exchange for the allowance of the exiled leaders to go to Paris for talks. They were set free on April 7 and traveled to Paris four days later on.Back in early April,Egyptians had begun a strike which was meant to last for just three days but was extended indefinitely.

Their demands included there cognition of the Wafd party as the official representative party of Egypt,the end of the protectorate and the stopping of martial law. A general assembly was held some days later on April 16 at al-Azhar which is a historical and symbolic location for Egyptians. The participants had drafted a letter of the campaign’s demands.

One day later, the strike which began in early April grew into a general strike. Egyptians responsible for watering and sweeping the streets refused carrying out their jobs, leading to insufferable street conditions. The British had to resort to using groups of prisoners for the task. Faced with the difficulties and the growing state of civil disobedience, Britain sent Lord Alfred Milner, a statesman and colonial administrator to Egypt in December, to assess the possibilities of maintaining British control in Egypt and stop the demand for independence.  In a swift response, Wafdists and supporters boycotted his meetings, closed shops, struck, and announced against cooperation with the ‘Milner Mission’. More civil disobedience broke out during the Milner Mission: ministers quit and lawyers went on strike. Tradeguilds, provincial councils, religious communities, and students all strategized against the British rule. Milner left Egypt in March 1920 and submitted a report advising that Britain abolish the protectorate and grant Egypt independence. He saw the hostile nature of the Egyptian people as beyond control and believed Britain would not be able to continue to pursue its interests. Private talks were held during the summer of 1920.

The meetings were a major milestone accomplishment for the Wafdists and resulted in one change: they agreed to to hold a negotiation over independence.On the 4th of April 1921, Zaghlul returned to Egypt. Allenby was convinced Zaghlul was only a British puppet in their plans to create a new independent Egypt representing British interests. So he had Zaghul exiled in December – this time to the Seychelles.

Again, Egyptians responded with strikes and protests across the country.Finally, on the 28th of February, 1922 Britain declared independence for Egypt. A new Egyptian constitution was created a year later, and in the 1924 election the Wafdists won the majority of seats in parliament and Zaghlul emerged as the head. Overall, the Egyptian struggle for independence from 1919-1922 is praised as the first nonviolent mass protest in the modern Middle East.



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