The Syrian Central Society
In late 1908 the two founded the "Comite Central Syrien"2 with Rashid the self-appointed president. On 25 December 1908 the society published a manifesto which declared that all Syrians within and outside the Empire stood behind it and that it expressed their aspirations. It negated the possibility of a constitution in the Western sense on the grounds that because the Empire was made up of many different nationalities with diverse aspirations, it would inevitably be split and fall apart. If indeed a liberal regime came into existence, it could only be a hybrid regime vulnerable to the same arbitrariness as in the past. Since the purpose of the society was to protect Syria against such an eventuality, it accepted the constitution promulgated by the Sultan with the reservation that Syria should have the right of selfgovernment, strong enough to protect itself from possible intervention by the central government. The manifesto continued by claiming that although all the European powers supported a liberal regime in the Empire, it would be reduced to naught by the Turks, who would never cease striving to rule the other races of the Empire and would not display the tolerance necessary to grant to others their legitimate aspirations. Since
Syria was the most important part of the Empire, due to its strategic and geographic position, and since none of the European powers could allow another power to rule it, the society suggested that they support the demand that Syria be granted selfgovernment within the framework of the Empire. In a proclamation that was attached to this manifesto the society called upon the Ottoman parliament to grant Syria selfgovernment.