April 22, 2010


April 13 has come (and gone); it marks the official beginning of the Lebanese civil war. Here’s how it officially started, but the drums of war had been beating for quite some time before that.
MISSING & IN A SEA OFOBLIVION; Exhibition in Beirut City Center - Martyrs Square

It was a regular working day. It’s not that I am advocating for yet another public holiday. We’ve got lots of public holidays in this place. And we just got another one  added to this plethora of celebrations & commemoration. We celebrate(d) the Liberation of the South (for a while). We even celebrated/ commemorated (depending on what side you’re on) the Hariri assassination of February 14, 2005 (for a while).

But if there’s one day that should be remembered, then this is April the 13th. I asked my son if he knew what was special about that day. He didn’t know. “An unlucky day or so, because it’s the 13th?” Well, unlucky it was.
My son can tell you when the WWI was, and  WWI. He may give you some estimate on the Vietnam war. But he cannot tell you about the Lebanese Civil War. And it is not like we do not discuss the matter ever in our household. But does anyone really ever talk about it?
It’s a day when we should commemorate all the victims/vanished of the (civil) war. Yet we don’t.

MISSING & IN A SEA OF OBLIVION; Exhibition in Beirut City Center - Martyrs Square
In Holland we remember the victims of WWII on May 4 (dodenherdenking); that’s some 65 years ago! In France and England they still remember the casualties of the First World War on November 11 (Armistice Day ); almost 100 years ago!
I went to an exposition, MISSING & IN A SEA OF OBLIVION, which commemorates the 35th anniversary of the beginning of the civil war in Lebanon with the pictures of people that went missing during the civil war.

I was surprised though that there were not more than that. And you know the funny part? Even at the exhibition, they do not tell you how many are hanging there. ‘Many hundreds of individuals,’ the brochure reads. Well, how many is ‘many hundreds’? Two hundred? Nine hundred. And from stories I’ve done in the past, I know there’s some 2,000 that disappeared in 1982 on empty arrest warrants signed by certain judges. And does that include Palestinians, like the ones in Karanthina? We have a friend who lost his brother there; and he was Lebanese. I don’t think he was hanging there.
So how many exactly are missing. Can’t the population register answer that?

Quite a few disappeared while in Syrian hands, but a huge numbers just ‘disappeared’. They fell into the hands of the wrong militia at the wrong time. Some were taken for ransom, others for revenge, a number was ‘arrested’ by those that were in power at that time, and some just happened to get caught in the crossfire, and were never claimed, because nobody could keep track anymore.

MISSING & IN A SEA OF OBLIVION; Exhibition in Beirut City Center - Martyrs Square

An acquaintance of mine is involved in an organization  that seeks to ‘to preserve and revive fading memories of civil violence and war, as well as to provide a platform for public access to, and exchange of, such memories. UMAM D&R believes that they are essential for building the future - as a key to historical and political self-analysis, to understanding national and individual identity formation, to acknowledgment and recognition of responsibility and blame, and potentially to reconciliation’. The exposition was a project of them.

I hope they are going to work on this April 13 issue day. We can cancel this annunciation day.


Marillionlb said...

Let them first agree on a unified history book. As for the 13th I am for some sort of remembrance day but I would stress more on a unified history books that will state only facts. What also bothers me is that unlike you stated(and many believe) that the war was triggered by the Ain El Roummaneh bus incident but rarely does anyone mention the shooting at a church ceremony in Ain El Roumaneh by armed Palestinians in an attempt to kill Pierre Gemayel (a day before the bus incident). The civil war was a result of many clashes that took place from as far back as the 1950's.

Francine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Francine said...

The same day, M, the same day.
Whilst the adagio 'an eye for an eye' was forgotten though:
"On the morning of 13 April, 1975, unidentified gunmen in a speeding car fired on a church in the Christian East Beirut suburb of Ain El Rummaneh, killing 4 people, including two Maronite Phalangists. Later that day Phalangists led by the Gemayels, killed 27 Palestinians traveling on a bus in Ain El-Rummaneh going to Tal el Zaatar Palestinian Camp."

I agree with you re the history books and that the civil war (15 years of 'incidents') began much ealier. In the 30s even. Since then 'incidents' have occurred, especially between the 'clans'. The problems that arose in 1973 from the palestinians who formed a state within a state only exacerbated a situation already tense.

I am not surprised though that there is no commemoration day as there is mainly only reason to be ashamed. As many aren't there will never be a consensus on the wrongs of this civil war even if they all did the same thing. Casualty: the missing, who not only where killed but ever since also betrayed. Which you might say is similar to the spirit of the civil war itself.
Things they are changing, but some things not...

Anonymous said...

Talking of remembrance perhaps we could remember the name of the original cinema now a burnt out shell that houses the two exhibitions. I searched for under an hour for the Dome city center which no one in downtown Beirut had heard of. An act of amnesia?