Thursday, October 12, 2006

A tale of a city

I have developed an obsession with the Lebanese civil war over the last 7 years. I had vague memories of the war when I was a child; I used to hear words like: militias, snipers, identity killings, black Saturday, PLO, airplane high jacking…but I never understood what it was all about.

I first visited Lebanon in 1998; the war was well over, except for the occupied south back then. I entered the country via the Syrian border, and as we drove though meadows and hills, my Syrian driver would occasionally point at a destroyed building and say “A great battle took place here…some 100 Syrian soldiers were killed”, “this destruction was caused by Israeli air raids in 1982” my fascination started. As we approached Beirut…devastating destruction was more and more evident. Bullet holes everywhere…

Me: I’m surprised these buildings are still standing…some of them look like Swiss cheese, and they are still occupied by tenets!?!?!?
Driver: Ohhh yeah, they are managing, where would they go my friend? Look at the bright side, It’s a great ventilation system (laughing); You know, the Lebanese have developed the ability to recognize ammunition type by looking at the size of the hole…RPG, 20 ml, 40ml…artillery shell (laughing again).
Me: (silent…staring out the window)

Reaching the outskirts of Beirut….

Driver: My friend…this is the red line….
Me: (What red line?? I don’t see any redlines…but the amount of destruction has increased drastically…it looks like a war scene…wait…it is a war scene) what do you mean red line??
Driver: Basically…Beirut was divided by this street, west Beirut (Muslim) on our right…East Beirut (Christian) on our left…my friend…this is “no mans land”, not a living soul has walked this ground for 15 years….only snipers occupying buildings on both side of the street.
Me: Snipers??? (This is getting interesting) I’m sure there is a story behind every bullet hole…anger, hatred, tears, despair, hope…death.
Driver: …(silent)…yeah I guess, that’s another way to look at it.
Me: (that’s the only way to look at it)
Driver: HEEY…look to your right…this is Shateela refugee camp, more than 1,500 unarmed Palestinian women and children were raped and killed here overnight…heartbreaking.
Me: (Sabra & Shateela…memories are revived …massacre….I can almost smell the rotten corpses…dry blood stains on the walls….death is still infused in the air)…can we speed up…how far is the hotel??
Driver: We are almost there…

Ever since that day, I decided to take on the task of finding out the truth about this war…parties involved, events, individuals, causes and effects…I must say that I learned some of the greatest lessons in life from this war, so much for us to learn…unfortunately nobody seems to care, everyone wants to bury the past…specially the Lebanese people themselves…I want to resurrect.

Picture that speak a thousand words:


ScarlO said...

The west and the south .. reminds me of a slightly arsed movie that I watched called 'West Beirout', you might find it interesting of sorts. It's mainly focused on the war; its a story but the setting is the civil war. The story itself is a bit dumb and stupid.

I guess people have always wanted to bury the past and start anew. It's almost impossible, of course. There are always remains of the past. War is very ugly and yet it never seems to stop from happening.

The pictures you posted are very heartbreaking, allah yesaam7ek ..

Truthseeker said...

I never watched the movie…I was thinking of buying the DVD only because the setting is during the civil war, but I think it’s a love story or something….and I prefer watching something more realistic. A must watch in my opinion is the Al-Jazira TV documentary “War of Lebanon”…it was aired 4 years ago….In fact all the pictures you saw were captured from that DVD.

BTW, I agree the pictures are all tragic…I should’ve at least commented on them, I didn’t mean to be that blunt. But at the same time I believe that history does not tolerate and form of censorship, and for those who do care about the truth (not a lot I presume) I think its important to show the ugly face of the war…

Thanks for your comments..

Truthseeker said...

scarlo: Truh becomes so vital during war time because of this...“In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.”
- Winston Churchill-

ScarlO said...

The movie does not say much about the war, really. It does say a few things every now and then but as you said, it's not serious material in my opinion. I liked how it shows an aspect of the lives of the Lebanese back then, perhaps.

And please do read 'Chickamauga' by Ambrose Bierce whenever you have some free time. It's a short story and you can google it whenever you have time; I'm sure you'll find it. It sort of says what I think of truth & war & lies. Only it says it in a more elegent and clear way :-)