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.

Bi-Weekly Report (#25) on Lebanon and the Middle East (June 8, 2009)

 

Sunday, June 7, 2009 Election Day in Lebanon

 

I got up at 4 a.m. on Sunday June 7, 2009; it is Election Day for the Parliament in Lebanon.  I wrote and published the post “I have a position: I am voting today”.  As my parents were ready we drove around 8:15 to one of the three election centers in the town of Beit-Chabab. Our center was located in the previous private school that the municipality has purchased five years ago and didn’t move in yet.  This is the first time in Lebanon that election is done in one day: Parliamentary elections were performed in two successive Sundays until the last election proved that parties with heavier financial muscles could regroup, focus, and swing elections to their advantages by chastising parties that didn’t stick to the alliance terms in the previous Election Sunday. 

I was shocked by the long line that did not move. The army was positioned outside the perimeter and the internal security forces within the enclosed place.  You had first to exhibit your ID to enter the only entrance/exit “door”.  You wait for a security officer to call on a range of numbers corresponding to your family civil record.   The elder people were given priority and my parents voted within half an hour.  The urn assigned to my category was very slow in processing voters. I sat and ate a loaf of “mankoush bi zaatar” that one party was distributing. I asked my parents to hitchhike home.  I waited for an hour and a half and the line never budged. I lost any hope for my turn to come in the morning. I returned home hoping to come back after lunch for the line to get moving.  Those who arrived at 7 a.m. made it nicely. My brother-in-law, a retired military officer, voted for the first time as well as one of his eligible daughters.

  I retuned at 1:30 after lunch to the voting urns and had to wait another hour before I managed to vote.  There were too many voters for the reduced number of urns (kalam ektira3); citizens complained that they lined up as if they were receiving rations “i3ashi”.  General Michel Aoun of the Tayyar Party has warned a couple of months ago on the strong possibility of this problem and had suggested that election be resumed on two successive days.

The opposition claimed that the slow process was intentional to discourage their voters from exercising patience.  Apparently, the slow processing of voter lines is due mainly, in addition to the first reason, to the decrease in numbers of urns because of shortage in personnel.  By law, any voter within the enclosed voting area was eligible to vote after 7 p.m.  Dozens of election monitoring groups from around the world were gathered in Lebanon to take notes of the proceedings; the groups of ex-US President Jimmy Carter, the European Union, and the Arab League were present weeks before that well “observed” and critical day.

News are that over 100 thousands Lebanese immigrants flew in to participate in the election process.

 

Monday Morning, June 8, 2009

                       

            I got up at 4 a.m. and watched TV for any crumbs of news on the election results and removed to my study to read.  Official results will not be in before noon but I got a good idea of the trend.   Our neighborhood and the districts of Metn and Kesrouan are very calm and not because people are not up.  The government coalition parties that usually are the loudest and the most trouble makers have lost the election in these two districts.

            Unofficial results indicate that the government allies received a majority of 67 deputies to 57 for the opposition.  Actually, the results were already known before midnight.  The minister of the interior Ziad Baroud had announced previously not to expect any official results before late afternoon.  My contention is that, in addition to waiting for formal arrival of evidences, the minister of the interior was asked to delay official results for 18 hours.  The purpose of that delay is first, to permit negotiations for swapping deputies from losers to winners as the implicit entente of the Dawha agreement demanded so that the main leaders represented there will re-enter Parliament and second, so that the difference between opposition and government coalition deputies would not exceed more than 5 deputies.

            The opposition coalition major defeats were in the districts of Betroun, Koura, Zahle, and Ashrafieh (Beirut 1).  The government coalition lost Baabda and Zghorta districts.

            The main leaders on both sides are winners; Saad Hariri, Michel Aoun, Walid Jumblat, and Hezbollah. Thus, any government has to be formed of the three major blocks representing the three main religious sects (Maronite, Shiaa, and Sunni) with practically even power politically in the parliament. 

            Basically, the Tayyar of Michel Aoun has increased the number of its deputies from 20 to over 27; the Tayyar gained the leader Suleiman Frangieh of Zghorta and lost Skaf of Zahle.  Michel Aoun strengthened his unchallenged Maronite leadership in Mount Lebanon (the district of Jubeil, Kesrouan, Metn, Baabda, and Jezzine). The block of General Michel Aoun represents two third of the Maronite deputies and 50% of the Christian deputies and an overwhelming popular support in all Lebanon.

            Hezbollah gained the strategic district of Baabda because it is an extension to its headquarters in south Beirut.  Consequently, the resistance had secured internal political backing of all Mount Lebanon to the southern borders. Obviously, Hezbollah prevails militarily and Lebanon policy of defense cannot circumvent Hezbollah’s concerns for its internal security. 

             

            Saad Hariri emerged as the unchallenged leader of the Sunni sect in Beirut, Saida, North Lebanon, and the central Bekaa Valley.  Fouad Seniora PM got a seat in Saida.

            The main losers are the President of the Republic, Michel Suleiman, because the opposition coalition badly defeated the President’s implicit list of candidates in the district of Jubeil. The Maronite Patriarch lost because he can no longer claim any political weight in Mount Lebanon since he publicly supported the parties challenging Michel Aoun.  Thus, Michel Aoun is practically the political leader of the Maronite sect according to Lebanon’s caste system.

            One fact stands out in this tough election: it is my contention that the sacerdotal caste of the Christian Greek Orthodox did its best to challenge Michel Aoun as the pre-eminent representative of all the Christians in Lebanon.  The Greek Orthodox clergy played politics big time by defeating the Tayyar in Koura, Betroun, and Ashrafieh.  I am not worried about this positioning at this phase because the Greek Orthodox citizens are the staunchest Lebanese patriots against our main enemy Israel; most of the secular and national founders of political parties were Greek Orthodox.  Michel Aoun will have to temper his zeal and negotiate with this Christian sect as an equal.  In any event, Saad Hariri will owe the Christian Orthodox big time for the next four years otherwise he is doomed to lose the majority in next Parliamentary election. 

            The Christian Armenians could swing victory only in the Metn district because they failed in Ashrafieh and Zahle to make any difference facing the outnumbered Sunni voters. 

            Actually, the 4,000 Sunni voters in Koura reversed a sure win for the opposition to a defeat by less than one thousand votes. The opposition lost the district of Zahle because the government hads transferred the registration of over 25 thousands of Sunnis to Zahle in preparation for this election. This election was an exacerbation of Sunni confessional rallying cry as the other religious sects were distancing from confessional rhetoric.  Saudi Arabia monarchy is deeply immersed in an ugly and dirty confessional battle.

 

Monday Evening

 

            Ziad Baroud returned partial official results of 15 out of 26 districts (kada2) by noon and a full declaration by 6 p.m. The trick that there were discussions going on for swapping deputies did not take off in Lebanon’s archaic confessional political system.  For example, I considered that at least two losing traditional deputies in Zahle would be declared winners in return for two traditional losers in the Metn District.  Lebanon election experienced high turn out averaging over 60%.

            Hassan Nasr Allah of Hezbollah delivered a speech by 8:30 p.m. He reminded the citizens of the lies of the government coalition leaders who used scare tactics claiming that the resistance would use its military power to affect election procedures and results.  In any case, if the new political power sharing is to take off then any discussion of Hezbollah military reality should be restricted to the special conference table on defense strategies.

 

            Iran is having its Presidential election on June 12, 2009.  The candidates Ahmadinajad and Mossawi faced off in a television debate.  Moussawi suckered to the public opinion of the western nations’ demands: he is speaking as a foreign affairs minister and not a candidate to win the presidency.  The attitude of appeasing the western public opinions is considered very disgusting in Iran and not the characteristic of a vast “Empire”.

            The largest, widest, and lengthiest military exercise conducted by Israel for 5 days and which started on May 31 faltered and was a failure.  The Israeli citizens did not respond as expected and went on to their daily routine as if nothing is happening, regardless of the loud and frequent siren alarms.  Those five days were a holiday and not of any serious exigencies.  The Israelis on the Lebanese borders were the least concerned.  The message was clear and louder than the siren alarms “Governments of Israel, we want peace.  We no longer believe than security should take priority over peace treaty.  For 61 years you have driven us hard to countless pre-emptive and expansionist wars. Enough is enough.  We paid dearly for mindless and losing priorities and we want your policy to do the right thing.  We want peace, period”

 

            President Barak Obama has to deliver something tangible in the Middle East and very soon, and not six months from now as he is planning. Periods of sweet talking with nothing tangible in return are gone.  The Palestinian Statehood is due now!  The return of the Golan Heights to Syria is due now!  Direct negotiations with Palestinian Hamas and Lebanon Hezbollah are due now!  Stabilizing Pakistan is due now!  The return of the Shebaa Farms and the Hills of Kfarshouba to Lebanon is due now!  A specific schedule for the return of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon to Palestine is due now!

 

            Why my urgency to resolving decades of roadblocks in the Middle East? Simple: the Middle East has been steadily catching on to extremist confessional attitudes as the absolution of Israel’s horrors and genocides has been the trade mark of the western nations.  Lebanon is catching on quickly to isolationist confessional extremism and if Lebanon is no longer a viable experiment for democracy then the USA and Europe will have no one to blame but themselves for laxity in executing and enforcing what is the right thing to do in this region.

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

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