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

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Death for the Fatherland and Independence is a birth, while life without independence is a death.

Said Akl

An observation that many Lebanese, through contemporary history, can only accept. The independence of Lebanon has been a long journey, marked by many sacrifices, the death of many martyrs and a relentless struggle from the 19th century until today. Although celebrated on November 22 in commemoration of the events of 1943, the Land of the Cedars must also remember these critical dates which allowed the advent of Lebanon within its current geographic borders.

At the Origin, The Creation of the Moutassarifat of Mount Lebanon

May 1860: Attack of Deir el Qamar by the Druze. The troubles spread to Jezzine, Hasbaya, Saida. Zahlé is under siege.

June-July 1860: Massacres continue.

July 6, 1860:Ottoman intervention, reconciliation between Christians, Sunnis and Druze.

August 16, 1860: Intervention of the French Army in Lebanon in accordance with the so-called Capitulations Treaty which gives it the right to protect Christian minorities within the Ottoman Empire.

June 9, 1861:Creation of the Moutassarrifat of Mount Lebanon establishing a first community system in Lebanon. The administration is entrusted to a governor or Christian Moutassarrif appointed for 3 then 5 years by the Sublime Porte and not coming from Mount Lebanon. He will be assisted by a representative council of 12 members, 7 Christians and 5 Muslims. Will be named:

  • Daoud Bacha, of Armenian origin (June 9, 1861 to May 9, 1868),
  • Franco Bacha of Aleppo origin (July 27, 1868 to February 26, 1873)
  • Rustom Bacha, of Italian origin, Â (July 1973 to May 1883)
  • Massa Bacha of Albanian origin, (May 8, 1883 to June 29, 1892)
  • Naoum Bacha, of Aleppo origin, (August 15, 1892 to August 1902)
  • Mouzaffar Bacha, of Polish and French origin, (September 27, 1902 to June 29, 1907)
  • Youssef Franco Bacha, of Alépine origin, (July 8, 1907 to July 2, 1912)
  • Yohannès Bacha Kouyoumdjian, of Armenian origin, (December 20, 1912 at the date of his resignation, August 5, 1915)

After Yohannès Bacha Kouyoumdjian, the Ottoman authorities then at war alongside the empires of Central Europe will directly appoint the governors and dissolve the Representative Council. This period will be marked by a period of terror, epidemics of dysentery and Typhus, and famine caused by a blockade of the coasts by the allies on the one hand, and by Ottoman requisitions on the other. A third of the population of Mount Lebanon, mainly Christians, died while in the capital Beirut, several Lebanese nationalists were hanged by the Ottomans on August 21, 1915, then on May 6, 1916, while Governor Djemal Pasha was in power.

Lebanon switches to French Time and becomes Greater Lebanon

The State of Greater Lebanon was proclaimed on September 1, 1920 by General Henri Joseph Eugène Gouraud, representing the mandatory French authority over Syria, from the top of the steps of the Residence des Pins in Beirut, in the presence of the Patriarch Maronite, Elias Hoayek to his right and the Mufti to his left.

From 1918, Allied and mainly British troops occupied Mount Lebanon. Among the first steps taken by General Allenby, the re-establishment of the Representative Council in October 1918. The transition period will be led by High Commissioner François Georges Picot. The English troops eventually withdrew in October 1919, giving way to French troops. The Treaty of Versailles, signed on June 28, 1919, will confirm the French Mandate of Lebanon. This period will be troubled, then on the one hand, Arab nationalist demonstrations demanding the attachment of Lebanon to the Kingdom of Syria of King Faysal Ibn Hussein and on the other hand, the establishment of an independent Lebanon protected by France. The Sanremo Conference will definitively grant France the Mandate over the Land of the Cedars on April 25, 1920 and will be ratified by the League of Nations (League of Nations) on July 24, 1922.

Greater Lebanon was proclaimed on September 1, 1920.

A Lebanese delegation received by General Weygand, November 22, 1920

Three Military High Commissioners will succeed him

  • General Henri Gouraud (1919 to 1922) who imposed the French Mandate in Syria and proclaimed Greater Lebanon on September 1, 1920.

During their mission, the main organs of what will become the State of Lebanon will be born and in particular on January 24, 1924, the Lebanese-Syrian Pound.

Following the failure of the Military Administration of the area, a civilian administration will be set up at the initiative of Henri de Jouvenel, with the aim of the Establishment of the Lebanese Constitution which will be made official on May 23, 1926. Largely inspired by the Constitution of the Third French Republic, just like the latter, it will limit the executive powers of the President of the Republic. It will not be promulgated until 4 years later, on May 22, 1930, and will be the cause of great instability at the government level.

1926, a crucial year with the establishment of the Lebanese Constitution and the first public administrations.

May 26, 1926: Election of Charles Debbas as President of the Republic.

May 29, 1926: Auguste Bacha Habib constitutes the First Lebanese Government. IIt will have 7 members, therefore 2 Maronites, 1 Sunni, 1 Shiite, 1 Druze, 1 Greek-Orthodox and 1 Greek-Catholic. On 29 May, the Lebanese Senate, chaired by Mohammed el Jisr, will also be set up on 29 May.

October 1926: The Lebanese National Anthem is adopted.

1927-1933: the beginning of instability

Henri Ponsot succeeds Henri de Jouvenel on August 26, 1926. His arrival will be marked by political instability with the succession of 6 governments from 1927 to 1933. He will be at the origin of the abolition of the Senate in 1927.

May 5, 1927: First government of Béchara Khoury

January 5, 1928: Second government of Béchara Khoury

August 19, 1928: The government of Habib es Saad is put in place.

March 23, 1929: Re-election of Charles Debbas for an additional 3 years

May 8, 1929: Amendment of the Constitution bringing the Presidential Mandate to 6 years.

May 10, 1929: 3rd government of Béchara Khoury

October 12, 1929: First government of Emile Eddé

February 3, 1930: Law decree establishing the administrative division into 5 Mohafazat (Beirut, Mount Lebanon, Békaa, Sus Lebanon and North Lebanon) and 18 subdivisions into Caza.

March 25, 1930: Auguste Adib Pasha becomes Prime Minister

Henri Ponsot suspends the Lebanese Constitution while a Muslim, Mohammed el Jisr, supported by Christian deputies, could arrive at the Presidency of the Republic. He invested Charles Debbas with full powers.

The Lebanese Constitution will be restored first partially on January 2, 1934 and then fully on January 24, 1937, to be suspended again on September 21, 1939 due to the Second World War. In the meantime, general elections will take place on January 20, 1934 and Emile Eddé will be elected President of the Lebanese Republic on January 20, 1936.

On November 13, the Franco-Lebanese Treaty will be signed which stipulates the accession to Independence within 3 years. The latter will be denounced by Sunni personalities gathered at the so-called Sahel Congress who demand the attachment of Lebanon to Syria. The text of the Treaty stipulates coordination between the two countries in terms of foreign policy and defense while establishing diplomatic relations. France undertakes to protect Lebanon and the Land of the Cedars to accept the presence of French troops without limitation of duration or number and that for the next 25 years.

Inter-communal unrest broke out in Beirut and Tripoli, which led to the birth of the embryos of Lebanese militias from the 1975 civil war. In the end, it will not be ratified either on the Lebanese side or on the French side.

These movements will be dissolved by the Government of Kheireddine Ahdab, Prime Muslim Prime Minister of Lebanon, by decision dated November 18, 1937 by the Minister of the Interior, Habib Abi Chahla.

The Lebanese Pound will be created on May 29, 1937.

Lebanon in turmoil of WWII marches towards independence

Following the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany on September 1, 1939, Gabriel Puaux, French governor, announced the suspension of the Constitution on September 21, 1939, while Lebanon was chaired by Emile Eddé. The latter will remain head of state and will be accompanied by a secretary of state, Abdallah Bayhum to help him.

While Marshal Pétain signed the Armistice on June 22, 1940, General Mittelhauser, who was nevertheless in favor of continuing the fight against the Hitler regime, announced the end of hostilities in the Levant on June 28. Henri Ferdinand Dentz, appointed by the Vichy Regime, succeeds Gabriel Puaux.

Already tested by the First World War, the Lebanese population fears while a new famine will set in while the prices of the main raw materials are soaring and food stocks are dwindling. Troubles then affected Beirut and the main cities of the country.

Ferdinand Dentz will then push Emile Eddé to resign and be replaced by Alfred Naccache

 April 9, 1941: Alfred Naccache becomes Head of State to replace the President of the Republic, Emile Eddé, who resigned on April 4.

June 8, 1941: Free France troops backed by British troops take control of Lebanon in reaction to Germany’s use of military infrastructure in Syria and Lebanon against the British based in Iraq. General Catroux abolished the Mandate and proclaimed the Independence of Lebanon before being appointed General Delegate of Free France in Levat on June 26.

July 12, 1941: General Ferdinand Dentz accepts the cease-fire and will sign 2 days after the armistice.

November 26, 1941: Alfred Naccache, previously head of state, is proclaimed President of the Republic.

1941

The fighting between Forces de la France Libre supported by English troops against men who remained loyal to the Vichy regime, as presented by Vichy propaganda.

On December 25, Patriarch Arida, in front of the delegations of all the Lebanese communities, calls for the total independence of Lebanon. General Catroux refuses, considering this independence premature as long as the Second World War lasts. In August 1942, General de Gaulle then traveling to Lebanon denounced foreign interference and considered it impossible to hold legislative elections as long as the conflict lasted.

On January 24, 1943 , General Catroux re-established the Lebanese Constitution, appointed Ayoub Tabet the new President of the Republic and decided to organize legislative elections in the next 3 months. He will then be replaced by Jean Helleu. The latter will dismiss Ayoub Tabet to replace him by Petro Trad.

Béchara Khoury, First President of Lebanon

A new parliament will then be elected, which in turn will elect Béchara Khoury President of the Lebanese Republic on September 21, 1943. This same chamber will annul the articles of constitutions relating to the French Mandate on November 8. Governor Helleu responded by arresting Lebanese leaders including President of the Republic Béchara Khoury and Prime Minister Riad el Solh and members of the government. They will be transferred to the citadel of Rachaya.

Also on November 11, 7 parliamentarians (Maroun Kanaan, deputy for South Lebanon; Henri Pharaon, deputy for Béqaa; Saadi Mounia, deputy for North Lebanon; Mohamad al-Fadl, deputy for South Lebanon; Saeb Salam, deputy for Beirut; Rachid Beydoun, deputy of South Lebanon; Sabri Hamadé, president of the Chamber and Khalil Takieddine, secretary general of the Parliament) enter the parliament despite a blockade of the Forces of the 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 the Independence of Lebanon will henceforth be celebrated.

Following this crisis, General Beynet, who replaces the disowned Jean Helleu, will return most of his powers to the Lebanese Government. On December 20, 1943, the administrations and services of common interest will be handed over. The President of the Republic Béchara Khoury, anxious to mark the end of the French Mandate, will create the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense and will make the Land of the Cedars join the Arab League in October 1944 as a founding member.

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

August 1, 1945 , will be created the Lebanese Army placed under the command of General Fouad Chéhab and which takes again the traditions of the troops of the Levant.

The Franco-British treaty of December 13, 1945 decides the departure of French and British troops from Lebanon. The last troops left Beirut on April 7, 1946. Thus ended, with several dramatic events, the mandate and the French presence in Lebanon and the independence of Lebanon began.

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