La Marche des Femmes, lors de l'indépendance du Liban, le 12 novembre 1943
La Marche des Femmes, lors de l'indépendance du Liban, le 12 novembre 1943

Women have been stakeholders in the history of this country, but have seen their respective roles somewhat underestimated.

They are often in the forefront of all battles, in the figurative and literal sense, like yesterday, Mounira Solh, the first woman candidate for deputy, the historian and poetess May Murr who will be considered with Saïd Akl as one of the Founders of the Guardians of the Cedars, or today Paula Yacoubian as spokesperson for civil society, in favor of Civil Marriage like Raya Hassan. The fight is also social, with Leila Solh Hamadeh who manages the Walid Ben Talal foundation after having been one of the first 2 women ministers in a Lebanese government in 2004.

Women today are also continuing this fight for Lebanon, mostly anonymously through institutions, the Lebanese Army or the Internal Security Forces.

The role of women during the independence of Lebanon

The March of Women, during the independence of Lebanon, November 12, 1943
The March of Women, during the independence of Lebanon, November 12, 1943

During the process that led to the Independence of Lebanon, among the first demonstrations, if not the first demonstration, the Women’s March of November 12, 1943.

As a reminder, the parliament had canceled the constitutional articles relating to the French Mandate on November 8. Governor Helleu responds by arresting the Lebanese leaders on November 11, including the President of the Republic Béchara Khoury and the Prime Minister Riad el Solh and members of the government. They will be transferred to the citadel of Rachaya. 7 parliamentarians enter the parliament despite a blockade by the Forces of Order and adopt the Lebanese flag.

The President of the Republic and his government will not be released until November 22 following a British ultimatum in their favor. It is on this date that we will henceforth celebrate the Independence of Lebanon.

Women also present during the Civil War from 1975 to 1990

Like the population, women will suffer the horrors of the civil war, sometimes as victims, sometimes by participating directly in it. Mothers, wives, they will try, on several occasions, by peaceful marches, to put an end to the cycle of violence, demanding Peace.
They were notably in the front row of the Nahr Mott march on October 1, 1990, candle in hand when Lebanese Forces militiamen fired, killing 25 people.

Many women took part in the civil war, whether by taking up arms – the Kataëb party would have had up to 1,500 female fighters, for example – or by choosing a more peaceful path, becoming doctors, nurses, trying to change things for the better.

For the combatants, the reasons for their commitments were multiple. For some, it was a matter of simply defending the right to exist, as for Christian women fighters – to defend their neighborhood, their region, their family and even themselves – or those of the Palestinian Fatah – to claim a return to Palestine -.

Others for ideological causes, on the left in particular, such as the case of Souha Bechara, who, barely 20 years old, attempted to assassinate in 1988 the head of the South Lebanon Army, a pro-Israeli militia, Antoine Lahd.

Joseline Khoueiry, combatant during the civil war
Joseline Khoueiry, combatant during the Lebanese Civil War. In 1976, she will face several hundred Palestinian fighters with 6 other girls on Martyrs’ Square in Downtown Beirut and will even command an all-female unit of fighters. Laying down her arms in 1986, she would later become a figure of the Lebanese peaceful movement.

We will remember, for example, his Kataëb fighters who threw themselves from the top of the Holiday Inn so as not to fall into the hands of Palestinian fighters during the Hotel War in 1976.

It would be totally unfair to evoke the Civil War without also mentioning these mothers, sisters, daughters of the disappeared of the civil war who still hope that Justice can be rendered to them and finally be able to grieve.

They are also the spearhead of this more peaceful fight of which we can only be proud.

Odette Salem with Ghazi Aad, also since deceased. Photograph taken 2007 in the aunt of the disappeared from the Civil War, Place Gébran in Beirut, Lebanon. Photo Credit: Libnanews.com, all rights reserved
Odette Salem with Ghazi Aad, also since deceased. Photograph taken in 2007 in the tent of the disappeared from the Civil War, Place Gébran in Beirut, Lebanon. Photo Credit: Libnanews.com, all rights reserved

We can only remember Odette Salem, who tragically died on May 16, 2009, mowed down by a driver while she was on her way to the tent where the mothers of those who died in the civil war gathered at the time, at the Center -City of Beirut. Wives and mothers of the disappeared in the hands of Lebanese or Palestinian militias, Syrian forces or Israeli forces, they were all present, united in pain, in hope, beyond differences.

Odette had never lowered her arms to find her 2 children, Christine and Richard, kidnapped at a roadblock in Beirut.

This fight, in fact, still lasts him many years after the end of the Civil War. It was not until 2018 that a law was finally adopted allowing the latter and families more generally to reopen the files concerning these disappearances .

More recently, women in protests

First involved in the observation of the deterioration of social and economic conditions in Lebanon, due to the economic crisis that the country has been going through since 2018, women were very early involved in the latest events. Thus, from the night of October 17, 2019, Malak Alawiye did not hesitate to attack a bodyguard of the Minister of National Education, Akram Chéhayeb, after he threatened the demonstrators with his weapon.

This is how his gesture, captured by a video recording, will become one of the symbols of what is now called the October 17 Revolution.

Subsequently, women have always occupied the first places in the events that followed, with mothers in particular in front of the prisons during the arrests of people who cut the roads.

They were therefore at the forefront of these events which continue until today with the deterioration of purchasing power and the first-order concerns over the economic crisis that Lebanon is currently going through.

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