Adonis Diaries

Archive for October 5th, 2008

The Kurdish “Abbo” or Abdullah Ocalan by Nabil Al Milhem

Note:  If you are following the current military attacks of Turkey on the Kurds then this book might help understand the problems.  The leader of the Kurdish Workers Party has been in prison for over 6 years but the movement is strong.

“Abbo”by Nabil Al Milhem (Written on November 23, 2006)

This is a review of an interview conducted in Arabic by Nabil Al Milhem with Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of Kurdish Workers Party (better known under the acronym of PKK). This interview spanned 7 days in a secret meeting place after many attempts to sidetrack the Turkish intelligence services or MIT.

The Kurdish meaning for Abdullah’s family name Og Alan is “the one seeking revenge“.  In fact, revenge has been a widespread behavior among the Kurds. Abbo’s mother Aicha, from a second marriage, used to harass Abdullah since his early childhood to seek revenge with the kids; she would frequently threaten him that she would disown him if he ever showed leniency to harm done to him. The partisans or kirilla of the PKK affectionately shortened Abdullah to “Abbo”.

The PKK is located mainly in the heartland of Turkey in thesouthern region of Anatolia.  The home town of Abbo is named Amarley five kilometers from the Euphrates River and 80 km from the Syrian border. The town of  Amarley is surrounded by six villages, one Armenian village, two Turkish, and the other three are Kurdish.

A few years ago, Turkey threatened Hafiz Assad of Syria of invasion and the stopping of the Euphrates River flowing through Syria if Assad failed to deliver Abdullah to the Turkish authorities. Currently, Abdullah, or best known by his partisans as Abbo, lingers as prisoner for perpetuity on a Turkish island. The Turkish government was ready to execute him but listened to the European appeals for a stay of execution.

The entire village of Amarley feared Abbo’s mother and she enjoyed the support of her fierce 5 brothers who visited her occasionally.  Abdullah did not believe in the revenge attitude. Instead, he turned his society behavior into seeking close friendship with the kids categorized as belonging to the family enemies.

Abdullah did not fit well and spent most of his days hunting or resting on top of trees because he felt that his vocation is to fly free like birds.

Abdullah’s father, much older than his mother, was practically a non entity in family affairs, in contrast to his grandfather who was a fierce and renowned knight and who made his offspring live in his shadows.

One day, Abdullah got upset with his younger brother who kept ruining the plants instead of working and chased him with stones to his house; his father tried to stop Abdullah and he threw stones at his father too; then he left home for good.

He headed toward the capital Ankara and worked as a daily laborer until he saved enough money to continue his journey.  He was first in his classes and retained the respect of his teachers.

Abdullah graduated as a technical geodesic and worked as a government employee in the Diar Bakr region where he amassed riches from bribery and got acquainted with the Kurdish peasants’ conditions.  The Turkish army would not hire officer Kurds in its ranks and Abdullah had to enroll in political science at the University of Istanbul with a student stipend.

Apo was deeply religious in his early youth, could recite around 30 short invocations to God, fled to the Mosques when in despair or for seeking peace of min. He is very knowledgeable about the personal and historical facts of the Prophet Mohammad and the early Caliphates, and it appears that he leans more heavily toward the Alawi sect, which is a splinter of the Shiaa.

He read the Communist and Socialist literature but never was a Party member to any political organization.  He is a socialist and comprehend that the fight of his Kurdish Workers Party against Turkey is targeting its Fascist and Kamalist (Ataturk) ideology which cannot conceive of any type of Federalist system for the Turkish minorities. 

The PKK is based in Anatolia, the Turkish heartland, where the majority of all the Kurds live.

The Kurds inhabit a land within the frontiers of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran; the Kurds’s homeland was historically the buffer zone for any major expansion toward the Near-East or Levant of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and current Jordan.

For instance, throughout historical subjugation of the Near East region by empires such as the Assyrians, Iranians, Greeks, Romans, Crusaders, Tatars, and lastly the Ottomans, all these expansionist empires did not attempt to invade Syria until they managed to conquer all of Kurdistan.

The Ottoman Empire, under Sultan Selim Yawouz, had to defeat the Farsi Shiaa with the help of the feudal Kurdish leaders in the battle of Calderon in Anatolia in 1514 before it directed its attention and military force toward Syria and Egypt.

Recently, Kamal Ataturk managed to impress upon the French to turn over the regions of Antioch and Iskandaron, which were part of Syria around 1933, after he managed to occupy the Kurdish region of Dir Sim.

The leader of the PKK affirm that the Kurdish people, and specifically the PKK, is the main obstacle for the success of the US strategy in the Greater Middle East; he understand that the US plan is to divide the region into two antagonistic axes:

1.  The first axe is the Sunny axe composed of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Turkey;

2. The second is the Shiaa axe composed of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

This US strategy is meant to keep the region in constant conflict and totally reliant on its mediation and support.

Abbo is a stoic; he can forfeit modern luxuries and can resist the temptations of sexual intercourse for many years. Actually, he married Kassira, from a bourgeois family that was close to Kamal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey; the girl did not share his passion but she wed him to follow the order of the Turkish intelligence services.

For ten years, Abbo knew that she was a mole inserted in his Party by the Turkish establishment but he managed to confront the contrariety and did not punish her physically or executed her when she was tried for treason; they had no sexual intercourse. And during all that period he never entertained a girlfriend. His wife would never believe that he has been faithful to her physically.

The PKK confronted militarily the regular Turkish armies and the two other main Iraqi Kurdish movements of Barazani and Talbani.

For example, the Barazani Party relied on the tribal and feudal Kurdish warlords and sold his principles to the highest bidder in order to maintain the allegiance of the tribes;  but within 24 hours of a peace treaty between the Shah of Iran and Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Barazani’s army of 100,000 soldiers strong laid down its arms.

Jallal Talbani Party relied on the Kurdish middle class and was constantly seeking political solutions with the Turkish government, even at the price of military confrontations with the PKK.  Lately, the two other Kurdish factions are seeking the mediation of the PKK to resolving their endemic confrontations between themselves.

Turkey sent three times its army to wipe out the PKK with over $100 billion US aids and failed.

Once, Turkey concentrated a force of 300, 000 soldiers in its attack, evacuated over one thousand Kurdish villages and could not dislodge the PKK from the mountains and in its strongholds of partisans.

The PKK had to face the direct cooperation among the governments of Turkey, the US, Israel, and Germany.

During the Ottoman Empire it was Great Britain that sustained this ailing Empire in order to prevent the Russian fleet from reaching the warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea.   It was Great Britain that stopped the advance of the Egyptian army headed by Ibrahim Pasha from entering Istanbul in 1840.

The war of attrition lasted twenty years but the PKK got stronger and more widespread among the Kurdish partisans throughout these upheaval and devastation.  In the early eighties, when the PKK got cornered, Abbo had to split his fighters. One group headed to the Turkish mountains in Anatolia and he led the other group toward the Middle East, I guess mainly to Syria and Lebanon.

The PKK fought against the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 alongside the Palestinian and Lebanese Resistance; his fighters defended the castle of Beaufort (Kalaat Chkeef) in South Lebanon and 300 of his fighters managed to evacuate Beirut when Israel encircled the City.

Around 1990, Abbo directed his fighters to return to the Turkish mountains and had to confront many obstacles to that return home.

The PKK believes in friendship based on values and had strong connections with Hafiz Assad of Syrian, Greece, the Balkans, Russia, and the Armenians, though the Armenians still call Kurdistan “Arministan” because it was their kingdom in ancient history.

Abbo refused to appoint a second in command or instituting a central political committee for fear that the Turkish intelligence services would attract the prominent figures in the movement to split the revolution, and also to avoid the bureaucratic tendencies among the members of the Party, a tendency that he abhorred in the Communist Parties.

In fact, when his younger brother was made prisoner by the Kurdish leader Talbany, the latter tried to woo the Turkish government into offering a political solution in exchange of his prized prisoner.

Abbo never tried to remarry or associate himself with a girlfriend because he figured that any women would accept him solely because he is a famous figure and not for his personal characteristics.  He believes that love is the foundation for any marriage, and when love is over then the relationship between a husband and a wife is not distinguishable from a whoring business.

He thinks that the main struggle within a society is to spread the awareness of freedom and independence among the women in the families in order for society to enjoy freedom and liberty.  He looks favorably to the Prophet Mohammed marrying thirteen times because these wedding were not done under duress but consensual and he was soft and equitable and loving for his wives.

He believes that any marriage should not rest on religious dogma because the structure of families has changed through evolution and are different among societies.

Abbo claimed that the Kurdish people did not go through a slavery period, though it did not succeed in its evolution to experience any bourgeois period throughout history.

The Kurdish people is fundamentally a peasant and working class governed by a feudal and tribal system.  For this fact, Abbo believes that it is a much easier task to establish socialism in Kurdistan and be a role model for a happy and democratic society worldwide.  Actually, Abbo contends that the Kurdistan is the original bed of civilization that started 5 thousand years ago, and that the original Kurds fled Mesopotamia (current lower part of Iraq) to the northern mountainous region through successive waves of repressions and calamities.

The leader of the PKK affirms that he never carried a gun, shot a bullet, ordered an execution, or even ordered the start of the military alternative to the Kurdish struggle.

Note:  Abbo is still in Turkey’s prison but his confinement has been relaxed lately.  Abbo is ready to negotiate with Erdogan.

Currently, there are a few radical Kurdish factions, supervised by Israeli agents, trying to raise hell with Turkey because the current Turkish government has opened up with its Arabic neighboring States.

Vertical Streets (Written in 2001)

In my dream,

I was turning a corner,

And I entered a neighborhood with vertical streets.

Obviously, the houses were in horizontal positions.

I was going downhill,

And looking where the neighborhood ends.

Sure enough, at the end of Main Street,

A flat community went about its normal life.

I did not enter any of these horizontal houses:

The secret is always in the inside.

The outside surrounding was too different,

For me to investigate any further.

My Neighbors (1999)

1.   I believe there are other human intelligences, thousands of them,

Millions of light years away.

I believe there are other forms of intelligence;

Very close, when I hear my heart beat at night.

In the clear wide sky,

I can see their bright stars.

In the quietude of the night,

I can feel them fly.

In the early dawn,

I can hear them chirp, bark or cry.

2.   There are others, near human intelligence, too.

They have not two eyes, blue, black, nor brown.

They have not two ears, nor feet nor hands.

Some of them seem to be a million light years far.

3.   We search.  We still cannot see those varieties.

We need high tech search machines.

We keep searching, waiting for them to make us see.

Very few are searching, now and then searching.

They are telling me they have found some intelligence,

And they might have compassion.

Today, I discovered

My next door neighbors.

A dozen Lebanese confessional rodents in dialogue around a conference table (March 2nd, 2006)

The President of the Lebanese Chamber of Deputies, Mr. Nabih Berri, has purchased in Italy an expensive round table designed to gather twelve confessional leaders so that they feel comfortable to dialogue for a whole week on important matters that are splitting the political leaders after the withdrawal of the Syrian forces.  In January 9, 2006 I wrote an article entitled “The process of a written confessional Constitution in progress and Live” which expressed my strong apprehension that all this political entanglements and hysteric pronouncements were meant as a positioning strategy for agreeing on appropriate shares among the protagonists in the public pie.

This famous table was installed in the House of Representative in Downtown Beirut so that the whole Downtown has been closed off to traffic and commerce for the duration of this extraordinary event.  More than 3,000 security forces were tied down to protect these all famous heads meant to brainstorm and pick each other minds for the benefit of a stable, secure, independent, self-determined, and free Lebanon from any foreign interventions or meddling in its internal affairs.

This dialogue is so secretive and dubiously undemocratic for those non sectarian sections of our society that the historically secular political parties and civic associations were not invited to participate in the discussion for the framework and foundation of a future Lebanon. The government, formed a year ago, as a national unity from the majority of the Parliament based on a flawed electoral system and headed by Fouad Sanyoura, a Hariri employee, has proven to be a total failure and acting as if the insecurity, instability and economic deterioration are not its responsibilities; the Minister of the Interior, Mr. Lion and another Hariri employee, told live all the Lebanese citizens that he is impotent in locating and prosecuting the “ghost” who have been blowing up a dozen leading men and commercial centers.  The Minister of the Treasury, Mr. Azhour and an extra Hariri employee, has been postponing temporarily and probably indefinitely the meeting of Beirut One of the parties supposed to infuse our economy with financial liquidity: we are learning that the well meaning money providers are not satisfied with the promised reforms and have strong apprehension that the money will not be going into the proper channels or distributed for any kind of economic or social reforms.  Worst, the only financial news that the impoverished Lebanese hate the most and might be applied are the additional taxes to keeping the inflated, bloated, and badly run government administrations floating.

So far, the only decrees extracted from the so-called legitimate political Constitution were directed at strengthening the grasp of Solidere on its holding in Downtown Beirut; everyone knows that Solidere is a Real Estate holding company and basically a private company owned by the Hariri family, its Saudi Royalty Princes and its acolytes in the “Future Movement” who plundered Lebanon during the Syrian hegemony.

The Syrian forces, army, security and intelligence services, have already vacated Lebanon 10 months ago, the former four Lebanese Generals in charge of security and intelligence are detained pending further conviction materials on their cover ups or participation in the assassination of Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, the government has replaced these security people with their own and yet Syria is directly blamed for any insecurity in the land and the politicians in power are still shouting: “Syria go home.  No Syrian interventions in Lebanon”.  The government and its allies in the majority are explicitly and vociferously accusing the President of the Republic as the remaining Syrian stooge and are demanding his resignation as illegitimate; they even went as far as stooping very low and dishonoring the Nation by gathering signed affidavits from current and former deputies claiming they voted under duress for the extension of the President’s tenure for another three years.  

Now, why these infamous leaders have to meet in the Parliament instead of a remote mountainous resort and spare the people all these expenses, security mobilization, economic disruption, and disturbing the peace in Downtown Beirut?  I think most Lebanese citizens would have appreciated the Berri’s “Table” to be transferred to a secure prison and sleeping quarters fitted out in solitary cells for the leading rodents.

Why this extraordinary dialogue is not acknowledged to be the responsibility of the representative elected members of the Parliament? Is not the Parliament the normal and legitimate body to set the political guidelines and enact the body of laws? For a whole year we heard live on cables, television, and radio the explicit political and ideological positions of these leaders and their allies and we have been vomiting every one of their hysteric and unfounded pronouncements, except for the well balanced speeches, rational attitudes, and clean hands of Michel Aoun and Hassan Nasr Allah.

A committee was formed to study and recommend a fair electoral system to replace the badly flawed previous system, supposedly designed and engineered by the Syrian regime, and it just announced that it finished its job after analyzing 200 proposals from political parties, civil associations and individuals.  Guess what?  The committee finished on time before the meeting of the famous twelve brave knights. Do you like to guess what the proposed and unpublished electoral system is? Well, it is temporary to suit the current political climate! Not many are fooled in Lebanon and not only we suspect but we are completely certain that this dialogue is meant to split the pie among the confessional parties.  The twelve gurus will agree on their shares in the important key political positions and how to tailor make the electoral system to fit their needs and as you guessed they will again claim that the political solution arrived at is necessarily temporary as has always been the case since the Independence of Lebanon more than 57 years ago.  Around an expensive table are gathered a bunch of rotten apples that, within a week, will ultimately affect the few healthy ones unless the good apples turn the table over the opportunist and highway robbers of the rotten political heads and lead the Nation toward definitive self determination, reforms and drastic political changes.

“Let me try an alternative taxonomy of methods.” (April 10, 2005)

Article #14

Here is this famous list of a few methods that you may encounter to quantifying human potentials:  verbal protocol, neural network, fuzzy logic, utility theory, preference judgments, psychophysical methods, operational analysis, operational research, activity analysis, critical incident study, functional flow, decision action analysis, task analysis, fault tree diagrams, failure mode and effects analysis, time line analysis, link analysis, simulation, prototyping, controlled experimentation, workload analysis, information theory, cost/benefit methods and expert systems.

Just wait, let me resume. How about methods like artificial intelligence, robotics, discrimination nets, pattern matching, knowledge representation, frames, schemata, semantic network, relational databases, searching methods, zero-sum games theory, logical reasoning methods, probabilistic reasoning, learning methods, natural language understanding, image formation and acquisition, connectedness, cellular logic, problem solving techniques, means-end analysis, geometric reasoning system, algebraic reasoning system. 

If your education is multidisciplinary you may catalogue the above methods according to specialty disciplines such as: artificial intelligence, robotics, econometrics, marketing, human factors, industrial engineering, other engineering majors, psychology or mathematics.

You may also group these methods according to their mathematical branches of reasoning or logics or probability. You may collect them as to their statistical sampling methods or probabilistic characters.

You may bundle these methods on qualitative or quantitative values. You may as well separate them on their primitive values or modern techniques or technologies.

You may select them as to state of the art methods or ancient methods that new information and new paradigms have refuted their validity.

You may define the methods as those digitally or analytically amenable to solving problems.

You may choose to draw several lists of those methods that are economically sounds, esoteric, or just plainly fuzzy sounding.

You may opt to differentiate these methods on requiring high level of mathematical reasoning that are out of your capability and those that can be comprehended through persistent efforts.

You could as well sort them according to which ones fit nicely into the courses that you have already taken but failed to recollect that they were indeed methods worth acquiring for your career.

You may use any of these taxonomies to answer an optional exam question with no guarantees that you might get a substantial grade.

It would be interesting to collect statistics on how often these methods are being used, by whom, for what rational and by which line of business and by which universities.

It would be interesting to translate these methods into Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Hindu, Spanish, Russian and Dutch but never in French.

 “What other taxonomies are necessary in HF and what methods are used?”

Article #13; (April 10, 2005) 

The follow up question is: how can we conceive practical human error taxonomy before working taxonomies for the tasks required in a system?  If the types and skills required by an operators to perform a set of tasks are not well defined and studied then, it is not that useful to apply a complex and general error taxonomy that does not delineate the applicable domain. 

How can we allocate functions to either operators or machines, which means how can we decided who is better at performing a set of tasks an automated machine or a trained operator, if we cannot classify the human capabilities and limitations versus the potential capabilities and limitations of the machine we intend to design?

The current technology can automate the travel of airplanes from take off, to cruising and to landing without the need of a pilot. The obvious problem is who in his right mind would board an airplane without a certified pilot and a co-pilot?

It seems that in Japan, fast trains have no train pilot aboard but are controlled before reaching destinations.  In this case, passengers are taking these trains but would rather be doubly secured by having trained pilots on board no matter the extremely high safety records of these automated trains.

Nowadays, most of these functions and task allocations are done by computer programs with the hope that an expert professional is going to take serious time to analyze the printouts and provide a judicious human feedback. These computer programs have, crossing our fingers, the necessary constraints on safety standards, health standards, serious errors restrictions and labor requirements for the least.

This is not a futile reasoning on who comes first, the error taxonomy or task taxonomy because the consequences are not that futile on operators, end users and the whole performance of systems.  

When it comes to designing complex systems practical task and error taxonomies that delineate the domain of the operation and execution of a system is evident and time is of the essence.

In the next article I am going to let you have a hand at classifying methods by providing you with a list of various Human Factors methods.  This list of methods is not necessarily randomized but thrown in without much order; otherwise it will not be an excellent exercise. 

First, let us agree that a method is a procedure or a set of step by step process that our for runners of genius and scholars have tested, found it good, agreed on it on a consensus basis and offered it for you to use for the benefit of progress and science. 

Many of you will still try hard to find short cuts to anything, including methods, for the petty argument that the best criterion to discriminating among clever people is who waste time on methods and whom are nerds.

Actually, the main reason I don’t try to teach new methods in this course is that students might smack run into a real occupational stress which they are not immune of.

Learning information in a thousand page course materials is one thing but having to use completely new methods as how to design, conduct and run experiments and statistically analyze data for a system behavior would be too much of a stress and diligent students might go overboard and straight to a mental rehabilitation institution.

Chapter 5: The new regime (1375-1381)

A week after the success of the insurgency, Antoun gathered his warriors for a day meeting in order to discuss the implementation of agreements and the pact they signed on together. Legal, land, security and political committees were formed to recommend adjustment to grievances, recovering of lost properties and the right of return to the outlaws who wished to come back to their hometown or monetary reward to those preferring to remain in the mountains. It was also decided that the initial core of leaders and committee members would meet weekly as de facto government members for the first three months.

The most critical danger was the constant pressure on Antoun from the insurgents demanding to demobilize the current force of law and order of the ancient regime; the leader begged to differ and regarded the dismantlement of this internal security institution an appeal to chaos and a preparation from the disillusioned citizens to bloodshed.  The committee for security headed by Hanna Al Najjar maintained the former security force in place, raised the allowances of those who served with dedication and brought to court a few of those who committed grievous blemishes and blatant uncivil behavior.

Hanna established security centers in many corners of the county with duties to rescue the helpless, downtrodden and remotely isolated citizens.  His forces toured the streets at night in formal dresses and rushed at appeals of distress or warning dangers; order was to be installed and all citizens, nobles or poor, had to refrain from the use of physical force throughout the land.

Concentration villages

The temporary government hurriedly gathered the toppled Emirs and powerful landlords into two concentration villages far from the Capital Mtein and within the outlaws’ regions: all the Emirs and first level feudal lords were gathered in one tiny remote town under development in the high altitude, the second class of feudal lords and relatives of Emirs in another camping ground a mile to the main security garrison.  These special towns were in reality detention camps with few accesses, closely guarded, and had very limited communication with the outside world.  The two communities were allotted enough lands to cultivate and survive without much intervention from the outside and were allowed to govern themselves.  

Antoun believed that he was familiar with the basic psychology of the so-called noblemen and the differences among the first class and second class feudal nobles; he knew that the Emirs will not attempt to flee the town where they were incarcerated and will wait until they are freed with due honors as long as enough food are provided within a comfort level.  As for the second class nobles he directed the officer of the security garrison to perform routine visits to the camp and harshly punish any disobedience to regulations and even to put to public trials the most virulent elements among them; in fact, two feudal noblemen with minor influence were decapitated and peace was restored for a long time in that camp.

Antoun’s decision not to execute any of his former nemesis was founded mainly on the realization that the balance of power might require judicious use of a few of these former lords in order to maintain his grip on power; he also chiefly wished to relying on the internal feuds that these close quarters might generate among their honorable inhabitants. The main reason he offered for the leaders of the insurgency not to physically harm their captives were that “our mountain counties are not familiar with internal massacres which might upset the inhabitants and hinder their cooperation, especially that they represented important families in major towns.”  Indeed, Antoun looked favorably, in the first three months, on the requests of a few traders, dignitaries, and personalities to pay short visits to the sequestered noblemen in order to allay their fears and confirm his assurances for their safety and security.  Barhoum Bey was not spared confinement but was treated equally as honorably as his inferior colleagues in ranks.

Undercover agents were sent to these concentration camps and Noura was one of them with the avowed purpose to cure and care for the sick.  She paid them biweekly visits carrying her meager load of different herbs on an old mule and stayed overnight in each encampment. Noura empathized with the camp conditions of the less fortunate landlords who were reduced to practical slavery by the more influential Emirs through moral obligations by the old order.  These discontented noble men were a boon to Noura who gathered all the intelligence she needed on the social conditions and political upheaval emerging among these closed communities.

Another undercover agent was Gergis the middleman; he was a fixture in these confined communities given that he was granted the sole permit to organizing caravans for selling and trading goods and information.  This exclusive business grant offered Gergis the break for riches with the cooperation of Haim and a restricted select, now legitimate, contraband leaders associated with Antoun’s past activities.

Yasmine moves to Mtein

Yasmine received a secret messenger in Beirut the next day of the insurgents’ victory. Her father’s face turned ashen and instantly lost courage and hope in a peaceful end for him and his family and cursed the moment of weakness he wed his daughter to that adventurer. Yasmine eventually recognized the danger the family was in after the drastic changes in her father’s demeanor and she almost miscarried from fright.  The messenger decided to delay the delivery of his other message for another day and which was for Yasmine to travel immediately to Mtein so that the mountain people could get to acknowledge her as the new First Lady.

This coastal city sedentary family had deformed opinions and prejudices about the mountain residents and a feeling of rebellion swept Yasmine: she never dreamt of being ordered to be displaced to cold areas and rough social customs.  Life was not looking as happy and as peaceful as Yasmine had contemplated it and Antoun had to keep away from home as long and as frequently as possible for months until his wife acclimatized to her surroundings.

The confinement of the old political elite gave the region a reprieve from fear of persecution and of retaliation by uniting ever further behind the new leaders and allowed the new regime to instruct the people on its new views, values, equality to the laws of the land, justice and a one step higher level of democracy in running society through rudimentary municipal elections.

Initial skirmishes

Many noblemen from the Metn managed to escape capture and sought refuge in the neighboring counties and put the squeeze on their respective Emirs to avenge their trampled honors and reclaim their feudal rights. In the beginning, the neighboring northern hostile Emirs lent financial credit to the displaced noblemen who had mortgaged their properties in the Metn and hastily and individually gathered their cavalry of noblemen to quickly quell these so-called ragtag insurgents and regain their tarnished honors.  The initial hostilities were directed by the closest Emirates of the Kesrouan and Byblos districts in the north but the Chouf district in the south kept quiet simply because the Druze sect was enfeebled and had not yet transformed its society into a cohesive political entity.  As a minority in Mount Lebanon, the Druze viewed with favor the insurrection in the Metn but did not support it outright in order not to bring down the wrath of the Sultan of Egypt or his Viceroys in Tripoli or Damascus on themselves in the event the revolution was squelched.

The feudal forces were too hasty, disorganized and terribly misinformed on the war tactics and determination of their foes.  Antoun’s small voluntary army decimated his hotheaded enemies of noblemen in separate combats and cut them in sizes relying on its familiarity with the terrain, flexibility, archery and speed of movements.   The insurgents in power preempted the coordinated attacks by low level guerillas skirmishes choosing the strategy of time on their side as the best weapon: their foes could not endure a protracted fight because most of the cavalries were noblemen who could not afford long hardships and waging dirty wars not in their style.  

The former outlaws had strong links to other outlaws from these northern regions and intelligence on enemies’ movements was timely and accurate. Two dozens of outlaws were usually dispatched to harass the rears of the enemies’ troops only in night raids. The tactics were to fight a war where the attackers are never seen:  casualties were evacuated and by dawn the only reality was the dead and injured enemy soldiers.  The enemy was under the impression of fighting ghosts and moral would plunge.  By the time the main body of the enemy army crossed the Metn boundaries then Antoun’s forces launched limited frontal attacks in familiar territories aimed at the weak flanks.  The surprise deep incursions into hostile territories, one at a time, terrified Emirs into withdrawing from coalitions.  They separately folded back to more secure areas and settled into individual peace agreements with the new and hated province. The hostile Emirs had to quiet down and coordinate their war activities.

The main danger would be the refusal of the more powerful neighboring kingdoms to accept a usurped land from a legitimate traditional Emir family.  The leaders of the insurgency learned from experience the rules of real politics.  They had an analogy to the animal world: If you are a minor player among wolves then the best strategy is to make yourself scares.  If you are ever noticed by wolves then hide your traces. If your tracks are discovered, then let your acts prove that you are a lousy scavenger. If your behaviors are not convincing, then leave plenty of food for the wolves and bid time until the wolves weaken, fight among themselves, or flee the area to make room for a more powerful carnivore. While the wolves are leaving, then prepare yourself for the new changing environment and adapt accordingly.

Antoun then realized that the stability for his Emirate will never be over until he reaches an understanding with the more powerful Viceroy of Tripoli.  Generally, the powerful coastal kingdoms didn’t care that much about the rivalries in the mountain areas, which were self ruling, as long as whoever was in power paid the requisite tributes for the central power in Egypt at that period.


The insurgents were two steps ahead of the neighboring Emirs.  Antoun had instructed Mustafa to strike deals with the contraband leaders in Beirutt and Sidon for supplies in weapons and clothing items. While the Emirs could afford to pay cash for their requirements, Antoun would agree to receive on consignment only 35% of what the Emirs paid for in cash until the new regime has consolidated its hold on power. The contraband leaders could not refuse Antoun’s deal because they were apprehensive of the great damage he could do to their business if antagonized while they were making excellent profit from this war that might drag on for years.

The Emir of Kesrouan sent secret emissaries to Antoun for an armistice which prompted the leader to convene his inner circle of counselors for an urgent meeting. Hanna Najjar, Miriam, Noura, Gergis, and Mustafa assembled around their leader along with a few undercover agents.  Antoun opened the conference and said: “There are indications that the Emir of Kesrouan is ready to deal with us on fair terms and I need your feedback.  Shall we negotiate an armistice or do you have any contrary intelligence as to the seriousness of his sincerity?”  Gergis replied: “The Emir of Kesrouan is in touch with the Viceroy of Tripoli and he has been sending valuable gifts and asking in return for material supports, especially horses and mercenaries”  Mustafa added:  “We need to make haste and contact the Viceroy of Tripoli.  He wants money and promises that order be secured to please his Master in Egypt.  We have to figure out how much money we can save to please his greed in return for political support.”  Hanna said: “While we are in contact with the Viceroy of Tripoli we have to win a definitive battle inside Kesrouan because this Emir is in disarray and negotiating for time”.  Gergis offered a suggestion saying: “We might promise the Viceroy of Tripoli a gift of five percent over the regular tribute once an armistice is struck with the Emir of Kesrouan.  In the meantime, I agree with Hanna that we need to deal with the Emir from a much stronger position if an armistice is to last and allow us to organize our society and our army”.  Noura said: ” I have solid referrals among a few highly placed nobles in the court of the Viceroy and I volunteer to connect you with his Excellency”

The negotiations with the Emir of Kesrouan were underway and starting smoothly but for the sticky clause asking for the repatriation of the noble fugitives in Kesrouan to Metn that was blocking any agreement.  In fact, the sudden counter proposal that the captive noblemen in Metn should instead be freed and transferred to Kesrouan made it plain the imminent resurgence of hostilities.  A month later, Antoun entered Ghazir, the Capital of Kesrouan.  The conditions for an armistice with the Emir of Kesrouan were harsh.  Antoun’s administration was to be the sole collector of tributes and taxes according to the tax laws adopted in the Metn and they would establish military garrisons in return for the Emir to keep nominal administration in his Capital Ghazir and form his own body guards of noblemen. Negotiations with the powerful family clans in the Chouf facilitated the free movements of men and goods without any taxes on the trades between the two counties and an implicit political cooperation.

Two years later, severe natural calamities befell the whole region.  Rainfall was two third the average in Mount Lebanon and almost half inland while waves of locusts ravaged the crops.  The inhabitants were hard hit in their livelihood and convoys of wheat and cereal from Syria and the Bekaa Valley were reduced to a trickle. The Sultan of Egypt decided nevertheless to increase the tribute to be levied in the Levant at this frustrating period.  The Chouf district could not afford this increase by its archaic tax system.  A revolt was underway and Antoun feared that any Mameluk military expedition in the Chouf might open the gate to reprisals into other Mount Lebanon counties and would undermine their self administration status.  The young government in the Metn hustled and turned calamities into opportunities.  Gergis shifted into frantic diplomatic endeavors to ward off further aggravation and convinced Antoun to agree paying off the additional charges levied on the Chouf in return for the Metn administration to take over the collection of taxes. The three main feudal families of Jumblat, Erslan and Nakad were to be spared taxes in the domains of their residency and the tax collectors would be mostly Chouf’s residents and supervised by servicemen in the ministry of the treasury.  At this period, hordes of Maronite families emigrated from the north to Metn and Chouf and worked the land as expert hard working daily laborers and masons. 

It was in that period that ingenious irrigation projects took hold.  In Mount Lebanon the small rivers crossed the land from the western mountain chains and invariably the water was lost in the sea.  In the meantime, the agricultural ministry in the Metn set in motion a grand plan to dam parts of the main small river of Nahr El Kelb.  The project was to select four of the deepest sections along the river and dam underwater half the height of the lower water level so that the river would run normally during the rainy season and accumulate enough reserves for the long dry season that stretched for at least seven months. Trout was cultivated and rudimentary access paths to the dams were cut and enlarged to encourage cultivation along the banks.  Sediments that accumulated at the bottom were hauled to enrich the land. The army would provide mules to the village to chary the sediments in return for maintaining the dams, canalization and the opening of new roads from the valleys up to the higher grounds. Water mills with buckets were installed on both sides of the man made small lakes to draw water into canals; when the river beds were low these mills were utilized to remove the slush and dump it on special parcels of land to be dried and then hauled to nearby gardens as fertilizer.

In order to negotiate satisfactory agreements with the coastal kingdoms Antoun had to bring stability and prosperous commerce to his own Emirate and plan for opportunistic circumstances to expand to the sea. 




October 2008

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