Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Kesrouan

Massacres of 1860 between Druze and Maronite: Eye-witness Account of French diplomat in the field

In 1860, Mount Lebanon was composed of:

1. About 120,00 Christian Maronite

2. 30,000 Druze, claiming to be Moslem

3. 40,000 Christian Orthodox who were called Melkite or Royalist affiliated to Byzantium instead of Papal Rome

4. A few thousand of Shiaa called Metwalis

After the animosity of 1840 between Druze and Maronite, as the Egyptian occupying troops, headed by Ibrahim Pasha, vacated Lebanon and Syria and Emir Bechir II was sent to exile to Malta by the British, Mount Lebanon was wrecked with violence and massacres.

The resolution of the situation ended up dividing Mount Lebanon in two Kaemmakam, or two cantons, self autonomous: One canton administered by the Druze and the second one by the Maronite.

The dividing line was the Beirut-Damascus road. This line was somehow arbitrary since many villages in the Druze cantons were mixed. The Maronite canton was not mixed.

The Ottoman foreign minister, Chekib Effendi was sent to Beirut in 1845 to execute the resolution.

The Druze were not happy with the privileges that Emir Bashir II extended to the Maronites during his over 40 years of reign and were ready to have the Christians pay back as Bashir was exiled to Malta by the British.

Before Egypt Ibrahim Pasha retreated from Syria in 1840, he summoned the Moslem clerics and leaders of Damascus and gave them this warning:

“I have protected the Christians. If I learn that you are back to persecuting and harassing them, I will be back with my army and will take revenge…”

All the while the Maronite exacerbated the Ottoman administrators for demanding the acquired rights and privileges after Ibrahim Pasha vacated Lebanon.

In 1940 and again in 1845, the Maronites launched two offensives in the Druze canton and were smashed hands down.

The Druze warlords and chieftains behaviors were close to Medieval tradition: The Maronite were laborers at the sold of the Druze feudal lords and treated as chattel.

The village of Deir al Kamar was the largest Maronite conglomerate, smack within the Druze canton, followed by Jezzine (on the south) and Beit Merry (at the north and within the Metn district). Zahleh was the far away Christian main town in the Bekaa Valley.

Hasbaya, in the southern part of the Bekaa, was mainly mixed with Christian Orthodox who were very industrious and amassed wealth.

In 1857, the Christian Kaemmakam Bechir Ahmed Abi Lema3 was kicked out of office by the Christians, leaving a serious void in the administration. The Ottoman administration wanted to bring back this Kaemmakam to his post.

At the same period, the Christian feudal Khazen clan in Kesrouan had been chased out of the district for serious egregious mistreatment of the peasants, trying to abuse of them as chattel. Consequently, the Maronite canton had no one to administer it: The Maronite clergy was the sole power remaining to keep the peace.

The peasant appointed the illiterate Tannous (Tanios) Chahine as leader of the peasant revolt. They gathered in Antelias and promulgated the human rights for the peasants and work ethics.

The Maronite peasants in the Druze canton got contaminated by the spirit of the revolt in the Maronite canton and started demanding basic rights.

This revolt lasted two years until the Maronite clergy felt the heat and reversed the objectives of the revolt. A year later, the Maronite clergy appointed the young Youssef Karam from Bsherri (up north) to militarily lead the Maronites. Karam was closely linked to the clergy and France and welcomed the Europeans visiting the Cedars and gave them lodging and dinner.

The Druze Kaemmakam Roslan was very young and basically this canton was administered by Said Jumblat, residing in Moukhtara, and the assembly of Okkal in Bayyada.

Said Jumblat was filthy rich and had acquired vast properties. He was a bastard, very short, ugly, and wore Turkish attire instead of the Druze traditional sherwal.

In 1960, a row took place in Beit Mery, where the European traders and consuls lived for the summer season. This fight spread and the Druze assassinated a few Maronites and burned property.  In general, the Druze men do the killing and their women follow them to burn properties that have been vacated.

The first blood was shed. The European vacated the town, back down to Beirut, a couple hours of horse ride.

Beit Mery was legally in the Maronite canton, but the Metn district was tacitly considered a buffer zone. Consequently, the Nahr el Kalb (Dog River) was the Lebanese Rubicon river not to cross by either parties in period of military upheavals.

The Druze committed another massacre in Jezzine and calmly went back to harvest the silk worms.

The winter of 1961 was spent in both cantons in war preparations.

In Beirut, the Maronite bishop Tobia was the most active politically and harangued the Maronite for revenge.

The Druze attacked Deir al Kamar and the villages of East Saida. The Christians around Saida, fleeing the massacre, were denied safe entry to the city by the Moslems and more Maronites suffered this calamity. (Story to be followed)

Note: Memoirs of a French diplomat who participated in the French expedition of 1860 to Lebanon and Damascus. The book was published in 1903.

Greece and Hungary

 

I returned to Lebanon via Abidjan.  I applied to different teaching positions but was denied a job, even in high schools. My cousin Jihad connected me with Nasri, a lawyer, who needed someone with “industrial” background to join him for a trip to Greece; the brother of Nasri, working in Saudi Arabia, wanted to evaluate the financial viability of a manufacture of juice that was for sale in the Peloponaise.  We visited the installation and we met with a Lebanese agent representing the Saudi owner and who came from Switzerland for that purpose. I quickly discovered that I was “an add on” to impress in the negotiation because I was denied any fact sheets on equipments or sales.  Thus, I spent a week in Greece and a few days in Athens, but I was not impressed.  I was very naïve; when we returned to Lebanon I immediately returned the one thousand dollars cash in fees to Nasri because I felt that I was of no use and did not contribute much in the transaction.  Nasri later became the coordinator of the Syria-Lebanon High Committee for economic resolutions.

It was during that period that I joined a school friend Charles for a two weeks vacation tour in Hungary, during the Soviet hegemony. It was a good trip and I was impressed with Budapest; I was even more impressed by the scheming embezzlement skills. I once was approached by a scoundrel to change dollars to the national currency. We were under the impression that we receive higher value from currency changers than formal banks.  I offered to change one hundred dollar-bill and the scoundrel bilked me bad; he inserted small bills at the end and made me feel scared that a police is coming and he fled; I realized that I was not the only sucker in the touring group.  I bought a heavy black coat for $75 and the seller wanted dollars exclusively.  I befriended an elegant lady named Mona during the trip and the company considered us as boyfriend-girlfriend; we kept in touch and met a couple of times till I returned to the USA.  I once took Mona to a day tour of the Metn and Kesrouan districts because she never set foot in Christian areas.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

July 2021
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