This Day in International Law: February 28th

By Dru Spiller

On this day in 1922 Great Britain declared limited independence for Egypt following the conclusion of a campaign for independence that began in 1919. The UK government issued a declaration called the Unilateral Declaration of Egyptian Independence that unilaterally ended its protectorate over Egypt (in place since 1914) and granted independence save for four  reserved areas: foreign relations, communications, military, and Anglo-Egyptian Sudan.

The Egyptian revolution started in 1919 and was fought against the British occupation of Egypt and Sudan. Nationalist agitation had been mostly concentrated on the population of the elite but became more widespread as Britain continued to drag Egypt further into their fight in World War I. The British conscripted over 1.5 million Egyptians into the Labour Corps and requisitioned large swaths of property and animals for the use of the army. After the War armistice in November a delegation of Egyptian nationalist activists led by Saad Zaghloul initiated a meeting with the British to ask for the end of the British protectorate. Fearing the massive popular support for both Saad Zaghlul and the Wafd Party, the British government ordered the exile of revolutionary Egyptian Nationalist leader Saad Zaghlul and other members of the Wafd Party (Egyptian Delegation Party). Throughout the end of March 1919 grassroots disobedience went on in protest of the exiles and ended with at least 800 Egyptians dead and numerous villages burned down. In December of 1919 the British government sent the “Milner Mission” (named after Alfred Milner) to conduct an inquiry about the causes of the revolt and make a recommendation about the political future of the country. In February of 1921 the commission report recommended that the protectorate status be abandoned leading to the eventual unilateral declaration on February 28 1922.