Adonis Diaries

Famine Hecatomb in Lebanon (1915-18)

Posted on: November 14, 2013

Famine Hecatomb in Lebanon (1915-18)

Lebanon had a calamitous decade (1909-1918).

In 1909, waves of deadly diseases such as typhus, cholera, diphtheria… swept the cities and towns in current coastal Lebanon and in Mount Lebanon.

Many Lebanese, particularly Christians, immigrated. Their preferred destination was the USA and Egypt, but the ship captains would on many occasion drop the people in Africa and Latin America and telling them: “This is America

Linda Schatkowski Schilcher dissected the German and Austrian sources and achieves for her book “The Famine of 1915-18 in Greater Syria” and advanced the number of 500,000 victims of famine and related to famine in Syria and Lebanon, 200,000 of them died in Mount Lebanon, particularly in the districts of Byblos and Betroun and Tripoli.

For example, the village of Abdilleh lost 35% of its people and the town of Chabtine 63%.

How people die of Starvation?

“Due to absolute lack and bad quality of food, people experienced terrible feet swelling, and many fell exhausted on the roads, vomiting blood… The dead toddlers and kids were thrown with the garbage in the corners of the villages. Chariots collected them and dumped them in public ditches. These horror spectacles were observed in the villages of Bilad Jubeil and Bilad Batroun and the city of Tripoli…”

The Turkish feminist author Halide Edib wrote in her Memoirs: “The nights in Beirut were atrocious: You heard the whining and screaming of starved people “Ju3an, Ju3an” (I’m hungry, I’m famished)

Jubran Khalil Jubran wrote to Mary Haskell:

“The famine in Mount Lebanon has been planned and instigated by the Turkish government. Already 80,000 have succumbed to starvation, and thousands are dying every single day. The same process happened with the Christian Armenians and applied to the Christians in Mount Lebanon…”

What were the main causes for this endemic famine?

1. Turkey had joined Germany in WWI on November of 1914, and France landed in a few Islands on the coast such as Arwad, and established a maritime blockade that secured that no foodstuff reach Lebanon and Syria.

2. General Jamal Pasha instituted an internal blockade of cereals to enter Mount Lebanon, particularly the Christian Maronite Canton (Kaemmakam) that included the current districts of Kesrowan and Betroun. Consequently, the Lebanese could not receive wheat and cereals from the district of Akkar and the Bekaa Valley.

Mind you that the people in Mount Lebanon relied on the grains from Akkar and the Bekaa for immediate need, but relied on the grain arriving from Syria for the winter reserves.

3. In April of 1915, the locusts ate the green and the dry (akhdar wa yabess) of the harvests and plants for 3 months.

4. The Turkish troops had already emptied the grain reserves of the Lebanese homes at the start of the war, and there were no ways to replenish any foodstuff.

5. The war lasted 4 years, but the Lebanese suffered an extra year of famine: 10,000 kids were roaming the roads at the end of 1918, begging for crumbs of bread

Famished people from the coastal towns thought that they might get some relief in the higher altitude regions (Jroud of Bilad Jubail and Bilad Betroun) and they died there. In a single town, over 3,800 of them were buried in a communal ditch because the town refused to bury them close to the churches of the town.

Najib Murad-Diyarbakri mentioned in his book “Sinine al Ghala” (Years of expensive prices) a Lebanese epitaph that read as a poem:

“They died from famine along the roads,

No father or mother or anyone to pity on them

We witnessed couples perishing from the cold

In this rough climate…

And not receiving absolution from a priest or anybody

The Drums of war are beating their sad rhythm

And the living people, wrapped in their shroud

Believing the war will not last a year…

Dear God, may this fifth year be the end of it”

Even in 1933, Charles Corm noted: “In a single afternoon, I counted 823 houses without roofs, doors and windows between Kesrowan and Betroun…”

Note 1: Even in August 7, 1914, the Jesuit priest Joseph Delore urged the Catholic Missions in “Immense material and morale distress in Lebanon” to quickly come to the rescue.

Note 2: Stories are still being circulated in my hometown of Beit-Chabab (Metn district) that a few amassed wealth during the war by hoarding properties in exchange of a loaf of bread. The contraband from Syria was in full swing, and those with connections reaped wealth from the miseries of the little hapless people…

Note 3: Official Lebanon is doping its hardest to bury this famine calamity, on the ground that it is a shame to mention people dying of hunger.  Instead, Official Lebanon celebrate the hanging of 6 Lebanese by Jamal Pasha as martyrs.

Note 4: A decade ago, I knew a wonderful elderly couple in Montgomery County, originally from Adbelli, and they were in fine physical health. Jean was recounting how the people in the town were expecting to see the bed sheet displayed in the morning, as they got married in the town. Elizabeth would have nothing of that nonsense, and the sheet was never displayed from the window to show any red blotches.

Note 5: The locust came on whatever was still edible after the Turkish army grabbed the harvest for its war front on the Suez Canal

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2 Responses to "Famine Hecatomb in Lebanon (1915-18)"

cousin tu as oublie un facteur tres important de la famine 14/18 .
les sauterrelles qui ont manger toute sorte de verdure se qui a laisser les gens sans rien du tout.
et l’armee turque a confisquer tout les bestiaux pour l’effort de la guerre

I didn’t forget. Might add these extra reason in notes

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adonis49

adonis49

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