We’ve all seen those pictures of the Syrian war: devastation in Homs, irreparable damage to the souks of Aleppo, blood-soaked streets in Douma…. And even though Syria is a stone’s throw away, those pictures always remained an element with which we interacted with shock, grief and sadness, but they were still pictures of a distant country, as if Lebanon hadn’t produced similar footage for years and years.
It’s been 40 years since the Lebanese civil war started and those who were part of it are beginning to forget how it was.
It’s been 40 years and the same politicians who fought the war are still around, still unable to govern, still contributing to instability and still fighting among each other without weapons, but with weapons sometimes.
It’s also been 20 years since the war ended, and the newer generations that haven’t lived any phase of the war “remember” how it was. How old were you when that battle happened, you’d ask in clear sarcasm at their staunch bravado. They reply: it doesn’t matter, I was told of how things were.
Because we don’t have a history book, because footage of the Lebanese civil war is yet another taboo in the country, and because our only path to information is through stories that are more often than not subjective, devoid of facts and relying entirely on the perspective of the person telling them.
I have colleagues in medical school who have told me how much they’re “itching” to fight, to hold weapons and go to war. I have acquaintances who have expressed desire to hold arms again. I have people in my hometown who, at one point last year, actually held up arms to defend the town against the non-existent dangers of those veiled strangers.
20 years later, the country is without stability, without a president, without any form of democracy. And what’s more dangerous than all of that is that the collective memory of the nation towards that dark, dark phase of our history is weakening by the day.
You don’t need April 13th to remember “to remember and not repeat.”
I stumbled on a gorgeous gallery of pictures uploaded to Reddit by user u/dob3rman. At almost 100 upvotes on Lebanon’s subreddit (link), it’s one of the most popular threads there. That user is now yet another expat whose father left the country way back when to seek a better life. Lately, he stumbled upon the pictures that his father took in 1976 and decided to share them with all of us to see.
Because these pictures are important, and because they should be engrained in our memory as a country I have decided that spreading them is vital, that being aware of of the devastation of 1975-1990 is crucial.
In the years since, Lebanon has been greatly rebuilt. We now have Solidere, Zaitunay Bays and endless projects taking place mostly in Beirut (link). Let these pictures serve as a reminder of how easy it is to destroy, and how difficult it is to rebuild and regain normality after war, a normality we haven’t seen yet 20 years later.
Thank you for your post – insightful and as always – and for posting the photographs as well. Heartbreaking to see the destruction in Beirut from the 1970s, and heartbreaking that there are those who appear to wish to see it happen again.
Thank you for reading!
Incredible pictures indeed. Thank you to the reddit user for sharing them with us
Thanks to him indeed. The photographs are taken by Robert C.
Look how far your Country has built up since the 70s. These pictures should be shown in all your schools so that the young people get to see the devastation your people endured….they wouldn’t be so eager to wage war….
I wouldn’t be so sure. Those who have lived more recent wars are also egging for a new round. Perhaps we’re a war-loving people?
Hi, I’m a french student currently writing my master’s thesis on the different uses of photographies of the Lebanese Civil War, and the importance that this uses have on the collective memory of the war. Your article is exactly in my topic, and a very interesting one! Thank you for it. Contact me by email if you want to talk about it.
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There’s a pretty big typo here: “It’s been 40 years since the Lebanese civil war ended and those who were part of it are beginning to forget how it was.”
Where ended should be began. Thanks for the photos, tough.
Thank you for catching that. Yeah, it’s a typo given that a paragraph later I say the war ended 20 years ago.
Thank you for the post Elie. I do have a vague memory of pre-war Lebanon. It is true that It has been rebuilt but it lost its soul and humanity. I remember that people were different, less tense and much happier. I did have a video of Beirut’s downtown in 1988 with all the destruction. I can’t find it anymore. It would be nice to start a project on the Internet to write the history of that bloody civil war based only on facts (maybe Utopic). The first step towards healing is admitting the mistakes of the past.
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Reblogged this on Terre Libanaise.