Lebanon: doc seeks to shed light on 17,000 disappeared

Homage to the victims of the still unresolved civil war

12 April, 20:33

    Anniversary of the Lebanese Civil War Anniversary of the Lebanese Civil War

    (ANSAMED) - BEIRUT - The 15-year Lebanese civil war which broke out on April 13, 1975 left more than 100,000 dead and at least 17,000 disappeared due to fighting, kidnappings and arbitrary detentions. As the Syrian civil war reignites tensions in Lebanon, the opposition to the Damascus regime, which occupied Lebanon from 1976 to 2005, allege that many of the disappeared were incarcerated in Syrian prisons. The Committee of Families of the Kidnapped and the Disappeared commemorated the 38th anniversary of the beginning of the civil war on Friday with the screening of a documentary by Eliane Raheb titled 'Sleepless Nights'.

    It tells the story of Mariam, a Shiite mother, and her search for her son Maher, a Communist Party militiaman who disappeared during the 1982 Israeli invasion as he fought the occupying forces and the Christian Lebanese Forces. None seems willing or able to help, not even Elias Atallah, a high official in the Lebanese CP at the time. ''I don't know, I don't remember'', is is his only reply.

    Also appearing is Assaad Shaftari, at the time head of Intelligence of the Lebanese Forces, who in 2000 publicly confessed to crimes committed during the civil war. But his version of events is also full of holes.

    ''I once killed a prisoner with my own hands, by stabbing him to death, to show my men that like them, I too was willing to have blood on my hands. But I don't remember his face, how it happened, where I stabbed him'', he says. Mariam comes up against a sort of collective amnesia, sanctioned by the amnesty law for civil war participants, many of whom are now respectable politicians. ''This country is a lie, our life is a lie'', Mariam cries desperately in the film. ''There was no reconciliation in Lebanon'', Raheb, whose documentary screened at the San Sebastian and Dubai festivals as well as in London and the US, told ANSAmed. ''People see politicians shaking hands and think everything is resolved, but it's not''. Almost as though to confirm her words, Lebanese Forces press officer Maroun Maroun, a Christian, harshly criticized the director just outside the hall. ''Raheb is showing a very limited and partial aspect of reality'', he said. ''Let us not forget that 1,300 of the disappeared were taken to Syria and imprisoned there, some after the civil war ended. We know nothing of their fate. Once in a while one of our ministers asks Damascus for information, but we never get any news''. ''This was the story I had and this is the one I chose to film'', the director replied. ''If Maroun has another story, let him make his own film. I wanted to give a voice to people who have been abandoned but decided to speak out anyway. They must be taken as examples to shed light on what happened. Our people needs political, sociological and psychological help to deal with the past. This is the only way for the Lebanese to become citizens of a State, and not isolate themselves within their sectarian identities, like tribes''. (ANSAmed).

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