Civil war memorial divides Lebanese

Plans for a ‘Museum of Memory’ are marred by arguments.

More than 17,000 Lebanese are still unaccounted
for 17 years after the civil war ended

Along the ‘Green Line’ that divided Beirut during Lebanon’s bloody 1975-1990 civil war stands and bullet-marked building – the site for a new ‘Museum of Memory’ being constructed to tell the story of life in the capital during the conflict.

But disagreements still exist 17 years after the complex crisis came to an end.

Lebanese authorities and local heritage activists have disagreed on how to represent the situation.

“This building should stay with all the memories including the war; it should remind the people how many people died,” Mona Hallak, a heritage activist, told Al Jazeera.

“Do you know? Why did they die? What happened? What is the real history of the war?”

But there is no agreed story of the conflict as most textbooks have not tackled the controversial period of the war.

Antoine Messaram from the Foundation for Civil Peace spent many years putting together a study of the war and its legacy in an attempt to achieve that but her report was never approved by the authorities.

“Historians found a consensus but the leaders didn’t,” Massaram said.

“Students learn about the war from their parents and political leaders. This is dangerous,” she said.

Painful memories

For countless families across the country, the psychological and physical wounds of the 15-year war are still open.

More than 17,000 Lebanese remain unaccounted for. Many are believed to have been kidnapped by rival Lebanese militias, as well as Syrian and Israeli forces.

The museum is being built in a building on the
‘Green Line’ that divided Beirut during the war

Maryam has not seen her son, Maher, since 1982. When he was 16 years old he joined the Communist Party, and his mother says he was too young to know what he was doing.

Maher disappeared during the fighting and Maryam was never able to find him or his body.

“The officials ignore us and want us to be silent,” Maryam said. “They say if they open this file there will be war.

“I don’t think so. I think it is just not in their interest to resolve this issue.”

Many of the country’s political leaders were militia leaders during the war and any actions that could stir the turbulent political climate seem unlikely.

In 1991, a general amnesty was passed for politically-motivated crimes preventing the prosecution of the members and leaders of the various militia.

Christine Rechdane, a tracing agency officer for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said this has stopped officials from taking the issue seriously. 

“A government committee said there are mass graves but they didn’t do anything about it. The issue hasn’t been tackled seriously,” she said.

Some Lebanese say there has been a large effort to forget all traces of the war but Lebanon’s future is as uncertain as its past as the country now grapples with its worst internal political crisis since the conflict.

Source : Al Jazeera


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