Ibrahim Pasha

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Ibrahim Pasha (1789November 10 1848), a 19th century general of Egypt. He is better known as the son of Muhammad Ali of Egypt. He is however considered to be adopted. Ibrahim served as Regent for his father from July to November 1848.

Early career

Ibrahim Pasha was born in the town of Kavala, currently located in Macedonia, Greece. This town was also native to his adoptive father.

In 1805 and during his father's struggle to establish himself in Egypt, Ibrahim, an adolescent of sixteen years of age, was sent as a hostage to the Ottoman capitan pasha (admiral). But when Muhammad Ali was recognized as Pasha and had managed to defeat the expedition of Major General Alexander Mackenzie-Fraser of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Ibrahim was allowed to return to Egypt.

When Muhammad Ali went to Arabia to prosecute the war against the Wahhabis in 1813, Ibrahim was left in command of Upper Egypt. He continued the war with the broken power of the Mamelukes, whom he suppressed. In 1816 he succeeded his brother Tusun in command of the Egyptian forces in Arabia.

Campaigns against the Wahhabis

Muhammad Ali had already begun to introduce European discipline into his army, and Ibrahim had probably received some training, but his first campaign was conducted more in the old Asiatic style than his later operations. The campaign lasted two years, and terminated in the destruction of the Wahhabis as a political power. Ibrahim landed at Yanbu, the port of Medina, on September 30 1816. The holy cities had been recovered from the Wahhabis, and Ibrahim's task was to follow them into the desert of Nejd and destroy their fortresses. Such training as the Egyptian troops had received, and their artillery, gave them a marked superiority in the open field. But the difficulty of crossing the desert to the Wahhabi stronghold of Deraiya, some 400 miles east of Medina, and the courage of their opponents, made the conquest a very arduous one. Ibrahim displayed great energy and tenacity, sharing all the hardships of his army, and never allowing himself to be discouraged by failure. By the end of September 1818 he had forced the Wahhabi leader to surrender, and had taken Deraiya, which he ruined.

Operations in the Morea

On December 11 1819 he made a triumphal entry into Cairo. After his return Ibrahim gave effective support to the Frenchman, Colonel Sève (Suleiman Pasha), who was employed to drill the army on the European model. Ibrahim set an example by submitting to be drilled as a recruit. In 1824, Muhammad Ali was appointed governor of the Morea by Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II. Mahmud actually required the assistance of the Egyptian army in the contemporary Greek War of Independence (1821 - 1829).

Ibrahim was sent to Peloponnesus with a squadron and an army of 17,000 men. The expedition sailed on July 4 1824, but was for some months unable to do more than come and go between Rhodes and Crete. The fear of the Greek fire ships stopped his way to the Morea. When the Greek sailors mutinied from want of pay, Ibrahim was able to land at Methoni on February 26 1825. He remained in the Morea until the capitulation of October 1 1828 was forced on him by the intervention of the Western powers.

Ibrahim's operations in the Morea were energetic and ferocious. He easily defeated the Greeks in the open field, and though the siege of Messolonghi proved costly to his own troops and to the Ottoman forces who operated with him, he brought it to a successful termination on April 24, 1826. The Greek guerrilla bands harassed his army, and in revenge he desolated the country and sent thousands of the inhabitants into slavery in Egypt. These measures of repression aroused great indignation in Europe and led to the intervention of the naval squadrons of the United Kingdom, France and Imperial Russia in the Battle of Navarino (October 20 1827). Their victory was followed by the landing of a French expeditionary force. By the terms of the capitulation of October 1 1828, Ibrahim evacuated the country.

Campaigns in Syria

It is fairly certain that the Turkish government, jealous of his power, had laid a plot to prevent him and his troops from returning to Egypt. English officers who saw him at Navarino describe him as short, grossly fat and deeply marked with smallpox. His obesity did not cause any abatement of activity when next he took the field. In 1831, his father's quarrel with the Porte having become flagrant, Ibrahim was sent to conquer Syria. He carried out his task with truly remarkable energy. He took Acre after a severe siege on May 27, 1832, occupied Damascus, defeated an Ottoman army at Homs on July 8 defeated another Ottoman army at Beilan on July 29, invaded Asia Minor, and finally routed the grand vizier at Konya on 21 December.

The convention of Kutahiah on May 6 left Syria for a time in the hands of Muhammad Ali. Ibrahim was undoubtedly helped by Colonel Sève arid the European officers in his army, but his intelligent docility to their advice, as well as his personal hardiness and energy, compare most favourably with the sloth, ignorance and arrogant conceit of the Ottoman generals opposed to him. He is entitled to full credit for the diplomatic judgment and tact he showed in securing the support of the inhabitants, whom he protected and whose rivalries he utilized. After the campaign of 1832 and 1833 Ibrahim remained as governor in Syria. He might perhaps have administered successfully, but the exactions he was compelled to enforce by his father soon caused the popularity of his government to decline and provoked revolts.

In 1838 the Porte felt strong enough to renew the struggle, and war broke out once more. Ibrahim won his last victory for his father at Nezib on June 24 1839. But the United Kingdom and the Austrian Empire intervened to preserve the integrity of the Ottoman Empire. Their squadrons cut his communications by sea with Egypt, a general revolt isolated him in Syria, and he was finally compelled to evacuate the country in February 1841.

Last years

Ibrahim spent the rest of his life in peace, but his health was ruined. In 1846 he paid a visit to Western Europe, where he was received with some respect and a great deal of curiosity. When his father became senile, Ibrahim was appointed Regent in his place. He held his regency from July till the time of his death on November 10 1848.


See Edouard Gouin, L'Egypte au XIX' siècle (Paris, 1847); Aimé Vingtrinier, Soliman-Pasha (Colonel Sève) (Paris, 1886). A great deal of unpublished material of the highest interest with regard to Ibrahim's personality and his system in Syria is preserved in the British Foreign Office archives; for references to these see Cambridge Mod. Hist. x. 852, bibliography to chap. xvii.

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