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Friday, December 2, 2011

Writing my history of the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990)

Chapter two

Names and titles interlude

    "War" wasn't a common word in the early years of Lebanese wars. It was sometimes called "Ahdess" or "events", sometimes, ""Harb El Aswaq" or "war of the markets", referring to Beirut Down Town battles. In fact, many years of bloodshed later, Lebanese war never carried one name, it has location names, or goal titles, such as:

"Maareq Tal El Zaatar" (battles of Tal El Zaatar Palestinian camp),
"Harb El Jabal" (mountain war between Druzes and Christians),
"82" (year 1982 Israeli siege and bombing of Beirut),
"Hisar Zahlé" (Zahlé siege between Christians and Syrians),
"Damour" (Damour massacre),
"Harb El miyyet Yom" (100 days war),
"Sabra w Chatila" (Sabra and Shatila Palestinian camps massacre),
"Harb Al Tahrir" (liberation war, between Lebanese Christian fraction of the army against Syrian troops),
 "Harb Al Ilghaa" (abolition war),
"Harb Tawhid Al Boundouqiyya" (uniting the guns war),
and these last two names are for the same inter-christian war, but named differently by each side.

"Souk El Gharb" (Mount-Lebanon where a battle between Lebanese army and Syrians took place)
"Aamaliyyat Al Mouqawama Al Loubnaniyya" ( Actions of Lebanese resistance),
"Aamaliyyat Al Mouqawama Al Islamiyya" ( Actions of Muslim resistance),
"Aanaqid Al Ghadab" (grapes of wrath, Israeli name given to the war in 1996 against Lebanon),
"Ahdath 7 Ayyar" (May 7th events, mini civil war that lasted few days in 2008)

    Even when we talk today about Lebanese wars, "civil war" is not very accurate to us. Was it all civil? No. Was it all inter-Lebanese? No. Was it all against foreign occupation? No. Is it over? Not so sure.

    A typical Lebanese way of living war memory, is remembering all what happened by some "hot-spot" names, or regions, or shops that gained notoriety due to famous battles or checkpoints or front lines:
Galerie Semaan and Chiyyah (Front line, where Christians and Chiaa Muslims live across the street and fear any tension)
Chevrolet (Front line)
Nahr El Kalb (Crossing)
Mathaf (Crossing and front line where people had to walk to get on both sides of Beirut for many years)
Aanjar ( Syrian dead end prison, where many Lebanese disappeared, "peace" talks region and road to Syria)
Barbara (Famous Christian fraction coastal checkpoint where many Lebanese disappeared)
Barbir (Front line and crossing where many battles across the years took place)
Bawwabet Fatmeh, Maroun El Ras (Southern villages where many wars were fought against Israeli troops)
Khyam (Famous prison held by Israelis and pro-Israeli Lebanese fraction)
Qana (Small historical village where hundreds of civilians were killed inside the UNIFIL campus)
Tariq El Jdideh (Beirut street where Chiaa and Sunni Muslims live daily tensions)
Haret Hreik (Beirut suburb where the Hizbullah presence is prominent)
     These front lines are mostly "clean" today, but they are strongly present in our minds. We still have our crossing lines barriers. We still say: "East Beirut" and "West Beirut" referring to Christian and Muslim sides of our Capital. Even if both religious groups live on both sides...
We still keep an eye on Chiyyah and Ain El Remmenh (Chiaa Muslims and Christians neighborhood).

    We don't have "A" war, we don't have a unified point of view, we don't want to look back, we just grab our story and live with our wounds, our fears, our hatred. We don't want to say we screwed up somewhere maybe, just maybe. No one wants to admit. It's either we all messed up or no one did...and we chose the second option.

    If a "book" does not have a title, how can it be "edited"? Our history does not have a title, we had so many wars...
What would the title be?
If we were all on the "right side", who was on the wrong one?
If there must be a transitional justice to make a new start, who will "pay" for what happened?
How can a war end, how can people learn if we don't have a story? one story?
How can we decide to forgive if no one admits the madness? the losses?
If no one tells the truth about disappeared?
If no answers are given to moms, wives, sisters, still waiting for their kids, brothers, fathers????

We don't have the title, the name, the story... we don't want to give answers, we are still hiding and cherishing and chewing our individual point of how can we have a "history"?


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