Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘daily Al Balad

Testimonials of a civil war

The issue of daily Al Balad, May 1, 2005

Hajj Mahmoud Kaleet is 71 years old from Bent Jbile in the South.  He has 10 children. Mahmoud had relocated to Nabaa in East Beirut before 1975 because of the Israeli retaliations against the Palestinian resistance in the Southern borders sent the Lebanese fleeing toward Beirut.

When the Phalangist militias devastated Nabaa and destroyed his house and all his belonging, he headed toward Soufar in the Aley disctrict.  He then worked as a taxi driver in Syria for a while and settled in Dahieh-Bear Abed (currently a stronghold of Hezbollah).

An Israeli shell destroyed his house in April 1982 and killed two of his children: a son and a daughters.  A second daughter suffered permanent disfiguration.  The family relocated again in Aley until Beshir Gemmayel was elected President of the Republic with Israel backing.

The fifth relocation took the family back to Ghazieh and then to Bear Abed.   Hajj Mahmoud never took arm or any of his children: they were busy surviving and staying away from any kind of militias.  He nevertheless participated in Mosques sit-in against the attempted peace treaty with Israel.

Once, his car was hit by shrapnel during his trip to Hay Selum and thus he fled to Burj Barajneh before reaching his home.

Testimonials of a civil war: Communist party member 

The issue of daily Al Balad, April 26, 2005

Samir Al Ocda was barely 12 years old when the civil war started.  His father was a dedicated Communist party member and hided a Kalashnikov in his house located in Ras Nabaa.

Samir’s father was strict in never allowing any one in the family to touch the Kalashnikov, or missing a school day for demonstrating, or to hanging out in centers where political meetings were taking place.

Once, as Samir was 10 years old, his father and a few of his comrades parked the jeep in the neighborhood.  His father lifted the kid Samir and placed him behind the Doshka machine gun mounted on the jeep. That was the first great impression for power and glory.

Samir political awareness began in 1980 when he was in middle school:  He read the daily newspaper “Al Watan” (the nation) distributed at the school door.  He badly desired to wear the green vest called “field” that was donned by the communist fighters.

When the bombing intensified, he stood at the school door and harangued the students not to enter and to join the demonstrations.  The school  principal remonstrated them and they replied by throwing rocks at him.

In Ras Nabaa stood a house called “Nadi Ruwad” (the patrons club) which hosted Russian delegates and various sports activities. In this house, Samir got indoctrinated and started reading ideological books and participating in discussions.

In 1981, Samir was already 15 years old and joined a training camp for the Communist in Kfar Matta under the direction of a comrade called “Stalin”. He had told his family that he was going out on a scout camp.

The taller the comrade the closer to the front row was the regulation and thus, short Samir was always standing in the back wearing oversized Cuban military garments.

Abu Anis, the war code name for the head of the Communist Party George Hawi, sent immediately these fresh graduating recruits to manning the barricades in St. Theresa, in the Dahia neighborhood in order to face-off the offensives of the “Amal” militias also called the disinherited Shiaas.

Samir was restless from then on and barely visited his family.

In 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon and entered Beirut.

Samir helped his comrades recover the military vehicles and hardware buried in the “Sport City” compound and distributed the vehicles to various corners in West Beirut, and mainly around the “Cola” neighborhood.

By dawn, the inhabitants got the fright seeing that amount of military vehicles and chars and started vacating to more peaceful areas in coincidence with the admonishments of the Israeli flyers for the people to empty the surroundings and so Samir’s folks did too.

Samir collected 250 house keys that the tenants left with him for safe keep.

While guarding barricades, Samir used to finger his guitar and a photo was published of him with the legend stating “The break time of a fighter at “Mat-haf” (National Museum area)”, followed by the slogans “Down with guns; Long life to guitars!”

His last battle was at “Mathaf” where he faced the Israeli soldiers and managed to earn the scare of his life before successfully retreating.

Samir still believes that he fought for a just cause, but the circumstances and new facts are leaving him to wonder whether this civil war was worth the damage and death.

Since the Taef agreement in 1990, which stopped the war, and the parliament proclaiming that “All has been forgiven and all involved have been pardoned”, Samir has experienced deep depression periods and witnessed a half-peace and lack of opportunities to earn a living.

An eye witness confessed to seeing a bunch of kids playing soccer on a sandy field to discover that the ball was indeed a human skull.

Rami, now 33 years old, used to gather insects in bundles and burn them just to hear the crackling sounds in the fire.

Testimonials of a civil war in Lebanon:  How the city of Khiam fared?

Another town that suffered greatly in this war is the city of Khiam, a mixed town of Christians and Moslems.  Khiam is well renowned for the prison in South East Lebanon where the Israeli forces and their Lebanese allies tortured the Lebanese citizens, not to their liking or resisting their occupation.

In 1977, the Israeli tanks were stationed in Marjeyun and Klaiaa facing Khiam. The tanks entered the village without any resistance and shelled it all night long.

Yussef Ghezawi fled eastward toward the Arkoub region where the Palestinian Resistance had its bases.  The Palestinian Fedayyin did not shoot at the Israeli tanks during their maneuver toward Khiam, but waited until the Israeli took the town to fire a few rounds.

Yussef and his friend walked 100 kilometers: They fed from fruit trees on the way until they reached town of Mashghara. They resumed their trip to Nabatyeh and to West Beirut.

Ghezawi once sneaked in, back to his hometown of Khiam, to visit his family and never attempted that dangerous trip again.

Yussuf family left Khiam before the major Israeli invasion of that area in 1978 , which ended with mass slaughter in Khiam and many other towns. His elder sister died leaving 5 children.  His strong and well built grand mother did not survive her grief for being forced away from her hometown.

Yussef graduated from the teachers’ academy in 1978 and eventually was assigned a teaching job in Beirut.

The inhabitants of Khiam took refuge in the Bekaa, East and West Beirut, according to their religions and many ended up in Australia, Europe and Latin America.

Yusseh and his family moved in to Shiyyah, on the demarcation line and lived in an empty and crumbling building. The buildings had no doors, but enlarged holes were opened to enter and exit from one building to the next. Once, Yussef witnessed a military truck burning and no one daring to rescue the surviving persons because of the snipers.

Yussef was pursuing his studies in drawing and photography in the Lebanese university when Israel reached the suburbs of Beirut.  Israel occupying troops encircled the Capital Beirut and entered it after heavy shelling and air raids. When Yussef returned to his place, he found the building on the ground, totally destroyed, as well as all his drawings and art library.

When Israel allowed the people to return to Khiam, the town was completely transformed. All the trees were cut down and the town looked like a ghost town, the iron from the windows were  stolen and wild grass invading every empty space.

Jubran Suleiman was a fighter from South Lebanon. He joined the “Amal” militia and fought against the Communists and then against the “Lebanese Forces” as they attempted to enter the Southern suburbs of West Beirut in Dahieh, a stronghold of the Shiaa refugees from South Lebanon and members of Amal and Hezbollah militias.

When the Israeli forces entered the region of Hayy Sellum, Jubran acted as an idiot so that he was left free of detention. He then participated in resistance attacks against the Israeli invaders and was imprisoned with six others. He was set free with two of his inmates with the help of a Lebanese guard whom the Israeli killed later for this cooperation.

In the town of Arabsaleem, an officer of the Lahd renegade Lebanese army (allied to Israel forces) asked Jubran if he belonged to the “Amal” militia and then told him: ”Moussa Sader (the cleric founder of Amal) has all my respect”.

On arriving at a military “Amal” center, Jubran immediately submitted his car for a check in order to make sure it was not connected to a detonating charge by the Israelis.

Note: Taken from the issue of the daily Al Balad, April 23, 2005 

Testimonials of a civil war: The case of Carmen Meshleb Chahine 

Note: civil war in Lebanon 1975-1991

The issue of the daily Al Balad, April 16, 2005

Carmen Meshleb Chahine is 41 of age, married, and her daughter is 21 years old now. She lived in Ain Rumany during the civil war and used to wake up at the sound of gun fire and artillery. Her husband, daughter, and she used to hurry to the shelter in the next door building when the haphazard shelling started.

Rich, poor, the chatty and silent people, the hardy men and the cowered used to meet at these moments. Carmen used to imagine the impossible ways to disinfect the food for her daughter, and let her sleep quietly amid the screams, sickness and fumes.

Carmen believes that mothers were the real fighters during this war, the most solid and resilient fighters of all regardless of religious sects.  Mothers were fighting death to conserve their families.  The happiest instances for the mothers were when they discovered that their families were intact after a terrible explosion in the vicinities.

In these bad times, there were no vacations for professionals earning decently their living. In order to survive, people sold drugs, arms, stolen goods and even rotten meat that were contaminated by radiation. One day, Carmen’s daughter arrived home from school and told her that a girl friend of her fell asleep in the court yard and red dirt covered her cloth.  She asked her mother from where did the red dirt came from.  She did not realize that the shell that fell on the school killed her friend.

It was common for students in public schools to wrap up two school years in one and no student failed his exams:  it was admitted as inconceivable that some students from another confessional affiliation proved to be below standards.

One day, Carmen’s husband went to purchase bread and a bomb struck the crowded lines of citizens, lined up in front of a bakery. Carmen hurried to the place and mingled with the wounded, and amid the dislocated members of some unfortunate citizens, searching for her husband.  He was bleeding but alive this time around.

Carmen still hear a few old timers of the war, between 35 and 50 years of age, bemoaning the good days of the war because they cannot find jobs that generate quick riches; they try their old swindling tricks on the innocents because these tricks are the only profession they learned during the war.

Testimonials of Lebanon civil war 1975-1991: What happened in Ashrafieh (Lebanon)? 

The issues of daily Al Balad, April 14 and 15, 2005

Ashrafieh is on the hilly part of East Beirut, surrounded by highways on all sides, and cut by a major artery that divides it into two main regions.

This district of Beirut was originally inhabited by Christian Oriental Orthodox, and slowly middle class Christian Maronite families moved in and constituted the majority before the civil war.  Ashrafieh is famous for its labyrinths of narrow streets, of mainly one directional ways, and tall buildings that overlook most of Beirut.

This region was crowded with gang members exhibiting machismo trends.  The gang members packed places of flippers and pool games. Mafia-type groups, enjoying the backing of the Lebanese internal intelligence agencies called the “Second Bureau”, were setting the rules in the streets. They rode motorcycles and red American convertibles and wore white suits and mafia hats.

Western young girls, picked from bordellos in El Zeitouny area, were exhibited in the convertible cars of these Mafiosos. The militias of the Christian “Lebanese Forces” would later displace these gangs and transfer them to the demarcation lines going as far as Ain Rumany and Furn Chebak.

Many families suffered irreversible psychological injuries because no specialized centers existed for cases that could be rehabilitated.

Many feel lucky to be alive and thus consider that anything less than death must be a superficial damage not worth confessing about.  The mother of Hani stated that her child could not sleep without pills and kept trembling in her arms for long time since the end of the war.

Samira, now 45 years of age, lost her parents and never felt the urge to return to her home. Mohamad, of 40 years now, lost his eldest son and goes into fits whenever he hears a loud noise.

In his book “Streets war”, Charles Chehwan describes an event of two football (soccer) players finishing a tough game under pouring rain and then screeching their car on the highway toward the war front and having a quick fuck with a girl before reaching destination.

There was a group of fighters who shaved their heads and wore priest cloth who joined the Phalanges Party.

A guy named Zorro drove a black Mercedes convertible and carried a silver shining revolver. Another guy named Kosov was a fan of Che Guevara.  A gangster formed the “Death squad” which located in an old house by a major school and hired an American Kong Fu trainer. This gangster became filthy rich and would usually drive, forwarded by a band of motorcyclists.  A famous soccer player got ever more famous in battles and amassed riches.

A renowned 100 m sprinter turned into an ugly killer and forced tribute on his neighborhood.

Those who tortured prisoners were mostly handymen, ironworkers, wood craftsmen and butchers.

One circus professional committed atrocities in Karantina, a very poor neighborhood adjacent to the Phalange Party main headquarter, while he exhibited utmost kindness, politeness and modesty in his social surrounding.  Many students wore pistols dangling from large belts, long leather overcoats and cowboy boots.

Girls started to accompany their boyfriends to the war fronts. University graduates, especially engineers, were given the task of manning canons and thus, the Christian Maronites raised the slogan of “Quality versus quantity”. It was common to wear a large wooden cross, let the hair grow tall and have long beard.

Leftists had to leave Ashrafieh and move to West Beirut.

In this confessional war, the Christian militias made St. Charbel and Saint Mary appear in different places, simultaneously,  and on many occasions. Obviously the Palestinian was made the nemesis and the devil; he was the unfaithful, the dirty, the one who sold his homeland and honor.

During this war no verbal or written culture chanted or honored the martyrs in the Christian cantons as was very common in West Beirut.

All schools were transformed into barracks for training fighters and old houses for partying and having good time.

Testimonials & Eye witness accounts of a civil war (Lebanon, 1975-1991)

Note: Abridged translations from dailies, mostly from Al Balad

The issues of daily Al Balad, April 12, and 13, 2005

It was a Sunday on April 13, 1975.  A car drove by a church in Ain Rumany where the leader of the Phalange party “Al Kataeb” was attending a funeral.  The member Elias Abu Assi was shot to death.  Around noon, a bus carrying Palestinian women and children crossed the area and a fusillade killed 18 of the passengers. At the same time around Ras Dekwany in East Beirut people already were spreading the bad omen that the war has started. By night fall a few Palestinian factions were put on alert.  The civil war was to begin.

In the afternoon, Ain Rumany was deserted but the populace in Shyyah, the next neighborhood to Ain Rumany, were gathering and crowding the street of Asaad Al Asaad seeking information and getting to converse about what happened.

By sundown the streets emptied and then gun shots were heard throughout the night and most of the street lamps were shot at. The morning witnessed the cadaver of an unknown individual on a street.

The next day, people in Shyyah cooperated with the Fedayyins and promenaded them through the back alleys and a sort of forced extended holiday settled in throughout the summer. Individuals would come in and families would leave with all their belongings.

Throughout the civil war Shyyah was a demarcation line and no major infiltration or offensive attacks were substantially noticed but constant shelling demonstrated that this line should not be crossed.

The relationship between the fighting militias and the families were not intimate and this distancing created a sense of power in the militiamen that would grow and get entrenched in the Lebanese fabric. The crowded streets continued to give a sense of nonchalance and old-time social traditions with this feeling that death would strike when Allah wished.

One of the last to be killed in October 30, 1977 was Badih Kozma, the best known cadres in popular activities.  He was assassinated in the middle of the day and in a crowded street by the Syrian forces that have entered Shyyah.  Everybody knew the real perpetrators and a huge demonstration followed his coffin.

Anyone who visited Shyyah, 2 years after the first major rounds of the civil war, would be struck by this pale yellow color with red nuances dominating the landscape from the building, the faces of the people and the sand barriers.

A yellow cloud that hovered in the air and would not give hope to find any living person.  You could feel however that within these destroyed, decrepit and bullet riddled buildings, pale-faced people still inhabited them. The original families were still there because they didn’t have anywhere else to go but the government employees and middle class families had from long time vacated the area


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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