American journalist and author Gerald W. Johnson once said:
“Nothing changes more constantly than the past; for the past that influences our lives does not consist of what actually happened, but of what men believe happened”.
Nothing could be more accurate than that regarding the history and the history’s perception in and about the Middle East.
Trying not to go too deep in the past and too broad geographically, let’s concentrate in the Al-Sham’s recent history. This area comprehends today the region bordering the eastern Mediterranean Sea, usually known as the Levant or the region of Greater Syria: Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Cyprus and the Turkish Hatay Province.
In this relatively small region, it’s concentrated dozens of different peoples and religions. Many of them with conflicting interests and identities. Their inhabitants have suffered enormous pressure by Turkish Ottoman occupation and later on by imperialist western interests. These imperative tensions allied to constant wars impacted the history and its perception tremendously. A very recent example of this is the anti-Arab sentiment in Lebanon. Many Lebanese people refuse to identify themselves as having neither any genetic nor cultural Arab inheritance. The ironic is that the branches of the very same Lebanese families that live for centuries where now is Jordan, Palestine or Syria are not affected by this sentiment identifying themselves proudly as Arabs. The very same happening with the Lebanese families that migrated to South America before the foundation of the Lebanese Republic (1943).
Still talking about Lebanon, the Ottoman occupation for centuries had no interest in allowing the propagation of the history of any sovereign or noble family with the exception of the ones serving the Ottoman interests. This scenario in the Middle East has no parallel in Europe, for example. The history of the sovereign families is very well documented and was always protected by the Catholic and Protestant Churches.
The El Chemor/Gharios Family
According to never contested Maronite acclaimed historians, the El Chemor/Gharios Princely Family is the direct blood line from the last King of the Ghassanids Chemor (or Shoumar) Jablah VI Ibn Aiham (ruled 632-638 CE).
“It is a reputed deep-rooted allegation that the heads of Al-Chemor tribe are rooted from Bani Chemor, who are the Christian Kings of Ghassan which belong to Al Jafna.” (Father Ignatios Tannos El-Khoury, Historical Scientific Research: “Sheikh El Chemor Rulers of Al-Aqoura (1211-1633) and Rulers of Al-Zawiye (1641-1747)”Beirut, Lebanon, 1948, p.38)
“The refugees of Al Ghassani and bani Chemor who seeked refuge to Al ‘Aqoura turned into Maronites because the town now only has Maronites Christians and because Al Chemor tribe are the princes and children of kings, the Maronites reigned them over the land where the document states that: “… and Al ‘Aqoura is their own village from a long time, they can do as they wish…” and Al Chemori family could have taken over the throne due to their relentless efforts, money or battles, no one knows.” (ibid p.42)
This is the history of the Chemor family Sheikhs who are feudal rulers, a genuine progeny of the sons of Ghassan kings of the Levant… one of the most decent, oldest and noblest families in Lebanon.” (ibid p.125)
The El Chemor Sheikhs from Lebanon come from a sedentary Arab and Christian origin. When they’ve ruled the city of Akoura in 1211 CE they were already using the name Chemor/Shammar.
But the El Chemor/Gharios family is a sovereign Princely family regardless of the Ghassanid claim since it ruled an absolute regime in Al-Aqoura from 1211 CE until 1633 CE only being forced to make treaties with the Ottoman Empire after their arrival in today’s Lebanon in the XVI Century. That makes the rulers absolute sovereigns for almost three centuries! The Sheikhs El Chemor would rule for another two centuries in Al-Aqoura and Zgharta-Zawiye still autonomous but then in treaty with the Ottomans.
Important to clarify that the title “sheikh” has many different levels: In the specific case of the El Chemor family the title “Sheikh” it’s related to a sovereign ruler (as mentioned, Al-Akoura and Zghartha-Zawyie from the 13th until the 18th century) hence, it’s also the equivalent of “Prince”. See the examples of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, etc. where all the princes belonging to the ruling family are “sheikhs”.
“Besides the sovereigns referred to above, there are several oriental potentates who should be mentioned, the rulers of the Sultanates and Sheikdoms of East Africa and the Persian Gulf (…) The style of these sheikhs is His Highness.”
“Titles: How the king became His Majesty”, L.G. Pine, New York, 1992 (Barnes & Noble) p. 137-138
There are other kind of lesser “sheikhs” even in Lebanon. Those were either elevated by ruling princes (as a noble, not a royal title) or were mere tax collectors of the Ottoman empire. The aforementioned doesn’t apply to the El Chemor princes since it’s documented that they were ruling independently since 1211 CE, when no Caliphate was occupying or dominating Mount Lebanon, almost 80 years before the Ottoman empire was even founded and over 300 years before the first emirate was created with prince Fakhr al-Din I (1516–1544), a puppet of the Ottoman Empire.
And this is also very important to be clarified. If you ask any Lebanese, even historians, who’s “royal” for them, they’ll immediately think of the princely families that ruled the whole Mount Lebanon under the Ottoman empire (i.e.Shuf Emirate, Emirate of Jabal Druze, Emirate of Mount Lebanon, as well as Ma’an Emirate)
The Thesaurus’ definition of the word “Royal” is “of or relating to a king, queen, or other sovereign”. What does “sovereign” means? “1. a monarch; a king, queen, or other supreme ruler. 2. a person who has supreme power or authority.” In this technical sense, the El Chemor family was actually sovereign since their power didn’t emanate from a higher authority. The family had to make deals with the Ottomans only in the last years of rule, culminating with the deposition. The respect to the Maronite Patriarch was similar to the devotion that European Kings had to the Pope.
According to accepted international law and its principle of ‘sovereign equivalency”, the Pope or the prince of Monaco is “as royal” as the Queen of England regardless of the size of their actual territories.
The titles of the El Chemor family were again recognized by the Ottoman empire until its demise (1924 CE) and also by the Lebanese republic until the present date being officially printed on the documents of some family members for generations. The family’s history was kept and validated for centuries by the Maronite Church under the Holy See (Vatican) and the authority of the Pope.
Photo: The grave of His Highness Sheikh Selim El Chemor (passed away 1909 CE, the great grandfather of HRH Prince Sheikh Selim El Chemor, honorary head of the Royal House of Ghassan), note that the royal title of Sheikh (in Arabic, upper right side) is on his tombstone, a capital proof that the family has been publicly using the ‘sui iuris’ titles for centuries until the present date. (Grave at the cemetery at the Mar Mama Ancient Church in Kferhata, Lebanon) Understand the legality of the titles here: sheikhs-el-chemor-a-legal-study-of-titles/
In international law, sovereignty means that a government possesses full control over affairs within a territorial or geographical area or limit. That’s regardless of its size or the time that the aforementioned “full control” was exercised.
Again, the El Chemor/Gharios family is a legitimate princely sovereign family. That’s beyond any single solitary doubt. As mentioned, both the Ottoman Empire and the Lebanese Republic never ceased to recognize the family’s titles until the present day. Although, according to accepted jurisprudence, the so-called “recognition” is not a ‘sine qua non’ condition to the legitimacy of a Royal House.
“It is worth mentioning also that the princely families, with the sovereign attributes, requires no recognition by the government of their country of origin, or submit any record in countries where its members settle in residence. The dynastic and political independence is based on the Sovereignty itself, which guides their social existence and regardless of any legal recognition, with respect to dynastic and private affairs. ” “Studies on Nobility Law” (Estudos sobre Direito Nobiliário), by Dr. Mario Silvestre de Meroe, pg. 65
Professor Emilio Furno, an Italian advocate in the Supreme Court of Appeal, writes as follows “The Legitimacy of Non-National Orders”, Rivista Penale, No.1, January 1961, pp. 46-70:
“The qualities which render a deposed sovereign a subject of international law are undeniable and in fact constitute an absolute personal right of which the subject may never divest himself and which needs no ratification or recognition on the part of any other authority whatsoever. A reigning sovereign or head of state may use the term recognition in order to demonstrate the existence of such a right, but the term would be a mere declaration and not a constitutive act.” (Furno, op.cit.)
“A notable example of this principle is that of the People’s Republic of China which for a considerable time was not recognised and therefore not admitted to the united nations, but which nonetheless continued to exercise its functions as a sovereign state through both its internal and external organs…” (Furno, op.cit.)
It’s accepted by International law that the sovereign attributes are indelibly connected to a family that once ruled being passed to the descendants according to that family specific laws of succession.
“. . . the king does not forfeit the character of royalty merely by the loss of his kingdom. If he is unjustly despoiled of it by an usurper, or by rebels, he still preserves his rights. . . .” (Emerich de Vattel, The Law of Nations, Book II, chapter XII, no. 196)
Professor Dr. W. Baroni Santos in his book Treaty of Heraldry declared:
“The doctrine and jurisprudence have confirmed that the territorial power is not necessary for the exercise of the dynasty, for they are inserted in the person of the sovereign, which keeps the same after the loss of the throne, passing them regularly to their heirs and successors.”
“The loss of its territory in no way diminishes its sovereign powers, because these are inherent in the person of the sovereign, transmitting it, perpetually to their descendants.” (Vol. I, 5th ed., 1978, p. 197-198)
The El Chemor/Gharios Princely Family has the legitimate sovereign attributes by all the known principles of international law:
Declarative sovereignty (declarative theory of statehood)
Codified during the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States in Montevideo, Uruguay, on December 26, 1933, during the Seventh International Conference of American States. The declarative theory of statehood defends the aforementioned by Dr. Meroe and Prof. Furno meaning: “The political existence of the state [sovereignty] is independent of recognition by the other states.”
Recent jurisprudence corroborates:
“(…) it’s irrelevant if that Imperial family is no longer ruling for centuries, because the deposition doesn’t harm the sovereign prerogatives even if the sovereign renounces, spontaneously, to the throne. In substance, in this case, the Sovereign does not cease to be King, even living in exile or in private life (without claiming his sovereignty), because his prerogatives are, itself, by birth and cannot be extinguished, but remains and may be transmitted in time, from generation to generation.”
Court sentence of the Republican Italy (Pretoria de Vico Del Gargano, Italian Republic, sentence number 217/1949)
Still according to Prof. Furno:
“The prerogatives which we are examining may be denied and a sovereign state within the limits of its own sphere of influence may prevent the exercise by a deposed Sovereign of his rights in the same way as it may paralyze the use of any right not provided in its own legislation. However such negating action does not go to the existence of such a right and bears only on its exercise.”(Furno, op.cit.)
The eminent author concludes:
“To sum up, therefore, the Italian judiciary, in those cases submitted to its jurisdiction, has confirmed the prerogatives jure sanguinis of a dethroned Sovereign without any vitiation of its effects, whereby in consequence it has explicitly recognized the right to confer titles of nobility and other honorifics relative to his dynastic heraldic patrimony.” (Furno, op.cit.)
Constitutive sovereignty (constitutive theory of statehood)
Defines a sovereign as a person of international law if, and only if, it is recognized by other states. This theory of recognition was developed in the 14th century and exercised by the Congress of Vienna in 1815. One of the major criticisms of this principle is the fact that a state may use any criteria when judging if they should give recognition and they have absolutely no obligation of recognizing any person nor state. Usually, states only recognize another state if it is to their own political or economic advantage, rarely based on legitimacy.
In 1912, the great German jurist L. F. L. Oppenheim stated about the constitutive theory:
“International Law does not say that a State is not in existence as long as it isn’t recognised, but it takes no notice of it before its recognition. Through recognition only and exclusively a State becomes an International Person and a subject of International Law.”
As previously mentioned, the El Chemor/Gharios family was recognized by the Ottoman Empire since its arrival in today’s Lebanon. The titles of the family members were part of their legal documents even after the deposition in Zgharta in 1747 CE until the empire’s demise in 1924. The Lebanese Republic followed this legal recognition. In 2017, the President of the Lebanese Republic General Michel Aoun has officially received the family members in a private audience reinforcing this recognition. Also in 2017, the family was officially recognized by the Republic of Albania through the head of State, President Bujar Nishani.
Back in 2015, the Vatican Secretariat of State recognized the Princely Royal titles through the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. The Order’s sovereign is the Pope.
The above are only the official recognitions from heads of State. The family has numerous recognitions from Princes, Religious leaders, ministries, parliaments, local governments, eminent institutions, etc.
It’s easy to conclude that the El Chemor/Gharios family satisfies the constitutive theory of sovereignty.
Principle of Prescription
Some scholars apply the controversial principle of prescription to sovereign titles alleging that the lack of use of the family’s titles for over one century would forfeit the claim for those titles. In other words, it would establish the presumption of abandonment of ownership of those titles. Many eminent scholars disagree:
“Neither the elapsed time, even for centuries, or non-use of the acts of sovereignty exercised by the Prince Pretender, Head of Name and Arms of his house, may be derogated, prescribed or canceled. He/She Retains these rights until the end of times ‘ ad perpetuam rei tenendam ‘ which are inserted in the person of Prince Pretender. ” Professor Dr W. Baroni Santos, Doctor D’etat (post-doctorate/ habilitation) from the University of Reims in France in his book “Treaty of Heraldry and Nobility Law” Volume II page 52
That goes in harmony with one of the forefathers of International law, Hugo Grotius who wrote:
“. . . in order that silence may establish the presumption of abandonment of ownership, two conditions are requisite, that the silence be that of one who acts with knowledge and of his own free will. For the failure to act on the part of one who does not know is without legal effect.” (On the Law of War and Peace, Book I, chapter IV, number 5).
According to another forefather of international law, Emmerich Vattel in the book “The law of Nations”:
“CHAP. XI. OF USUCAPTION AND PRESCRIPTION AMONG NATIONS”
§ 144. Claimant alleging reasons for his silence.
In cases of ordinary prescription, the same argument cannot be used against a claimant who alleges just reasons for his silence, as, the impossibility of speaking, or a well-founded fear, &c., because there is no longer any room for a presumption that he has abandoned his right. It is not his fault if people have thought themselves authorized to form such a presumption; nor ought he to suffer in consequence: he cannot therefore be debarred the liberty of clearly proving his property. This method of defense in bar of prescription has been often employed against princes whose formidable power had long silenced the feeble victims of their usurpations.” http://www.constitution.org/vattel/vattel_02.htm
In other words:
“Presumption of neglect cannot justly exist, where the original owner has, by ignorance of his rights, or by deception, or personal fear, been prevented from claiming what he is entitled to. If he knew not that he had a right, he could not be supposed to relinquish it. And if fear or fraud induced his neglect, his mind could not have voluntarily consented.” (John Penford Thomas, A Treatise of Universal Jurisprudence, chapter II, no. 13, 1829, p. 34)
According to Professor Noel Cox, a world acclaimed Expert in Royalty and Nobility (letter 1/11/11):
“The broader question of usucapio, or prescription, is an interesting one. in principle international law recognises extinctive prescription, where one sovereign state loses pre-existing rights to another, through failure to assert them. However, the actual application of the principle is extremely uncertain. More importantly, while it may affect such matters as international boundaries, it would have no application over the internal state of affairs. Thus, whether an exiled ruler is still the head of State of a country is not clearly a question of prescription at all. Dynastic right may expire according to domestic law, but international law is a vague and uncertain basis for a ruling. Such examples as the recognition of the Communist Government in Peking, over the Taiwan-based Nationalists, show how difficult this can be. But these questions have little to do with the creation of nobility, or those sorts of matters…”
Even though some family members had to escape to South America due to the Ottoman persecution, the principle of prescription cannot be applied to the El Chemor/Gharios princes since many family members that stayed in Lebanon never stopped using their titles officially until the present date keeping the sovereign claim legally “alive”.
ROYAL CLAIM’S SUMMARY:
– Royal claim based on titles previously recognized by the Ottoman Empire since its incursion in the Levant until its demise in 1924,
– Royal claim based on titles recognized by the Lebanese Republic since its foundation until the present date,
– Royal claim recognized by “jus sanguinis” (law of blood) on an International Arbitration award issued in 2011 and valid in 148 nations of the world by the 1958 NY Convention,
– Vouched by 3 Brazilian Judges (sworn affidavits 2013),
– Recognized and executed by 2 American Judges (2012 and 2016),
– Based upon 150 years of European Jurisprudence of over 20 similar Royal claims,
– Royal claim based on over 50 bona fide scholars (jurists and historians) from East and West,
– Over 100 corroborating scholarly references,
– Formally recognized by 3 ruling heads-of-state (2015 and 2017),
– Informally recognized by governments and reputed institutions of United States (including the U.S. Congress), Brazil, Germany, Spain, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, UAE, Italy, Israel, Palestine and Ukraine,
– Formally recognized by the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem one of the original orders of chivalry in the world having the Pope as Sovereign,
– Recognized by the majority of religious leaders in the Middle East, both Christian and Muslim.
The philosopher Maimonides wisely said:
“Truth does not become more true by virtue of the fact that the entire world agrees with it, nor less so even if the whole world disagrees with it.”
The only flaw of the El Chemor/Gharios princely family is not being notorious like their peers in Europe or even in the Middle East. That have been creating some room for surprise from some uninformed people raising questions about our history. I hope this article could shine some light over the subject from the legal and historical perspective.