The Diary of a Lebanese Schoolgirl

Soumaya holding her notebook in the offices of Al-Akhbar. (Photo: Marwan Bu Haidar)

By: Mohamed Nazzal

Published Tuesday, August 14, 2012

From the first day of the war she knew “we will not be defeated.” Her certainty came from her “confidence in the resistance,” she says. So six years ago Soumaya Noureddine (now 18 years old) spent a lot of her time keeping a diary of the Israeli war on Lebanon in one of her old school notebooks.

Soumaya looked to the headlines and the articles published by the Lebanese daily al-Safir, which she then would note down in her diary, without intervening with the text. She would also cut out and paste some photos of “pain and resilience” in her notebook.

A little over a month ago, near the anniversary of the war, Soumaya took out the notebook, as she has does every year. The notebook takes her back in time. She remembers how refugees from Dahiyeh, Beirut’s southern suburb, and from South Lebanon flocked to the Basta area in Beirut, where she lives with her family.

Some of the displaced came to stay at her home. She would look after them, as well as the refugees who took shelter in the schools and abandoned buildings in the area. Then at night, she would return to her notebook, which grew thicker every day, until August 14, when she concluded her 32-day archive.

She only missed one day. “I don’t remember why I did not write about the events of July 17 in my diary. Perhaps we did not get the newspaper that day, or maybe I wanted to please my mother who was complaining about the scraps of paper I was leaving around, because she was afraid of the roaches being attracted by the paper,” she said.

Soumaya smiles and then adds, “The roaches were manageable back then, because of the rockets. Today, I have this notebook which I will hand down to my children, and maybe grandchildren, so they can know that we did not fear Israel…or the roaches.”

One story captured by Soumaya was about a young boy, Raad. He was born to a displaced family in Saida, and was named after the rocket used by the resistance against enemy settlements. Soumaya says, “He was born on July 19. Every year I look at his picture, and try to imagine what he looks like. I wish I could see him today,” she adds.

In Soumaya’s diary, there are also photos of the devastation in Dahiyeh. Next to the images, she had written: “A tour of the suburb, now stripped of everything except its dignity.”

The young woman was keen on noting down the daily struggles of the displaced in her archive as well. There are pages that contain comments about and photos of the refugees in Beirut Mall in the Tayouneh area. There, Iktisab Kassab gave birth to her baby daughter, whom she named Waad al-Sadeq [The sincere man’s promise – a reference to Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah].

Maybe their child was what put a smile on the parents’ faces, even at the height of the war and very close to danger – as Tayouneh is one of the entrances to Dahiyeh. Soumaya relives all this every year, when she returns to her notebook. The picture of the smiling mother carrying her baby daughter means a lot to her.

Soumaya pauses at a picture of the Arab foreign ministers who were on a bus to the airport after their meeting in Beirut. A comment next to the picture asks, “What did these people achieve exactly?” The 18-year old says, jokingly, “Look at these faces. Why was Abu Ibrahim not there back then to kidnap them?” [a reference to the kidnapper who is holding the Lebanese pilgrims in Syria]

Soumaya also kept the picture of then-Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, embracing the US Secretary of State at the time, Condoleezza Rice, at the airport in Beirut. She also included an Israeli leaflet, one of many that were thrown out of Israeli planes to warn the Lebanese people.

She did not forget to archive what happened in Qana. Opposite a picture of dead Israeli soldiers in the settlement of Kfar Giladi, she placed a picture of the aftermath of the massacre in Qana, the village which was brutally struck twice.

Soumaya wrote a brief comment about 31 July 2006, “the day we awoke for the second time to its name, to the blood of its children. Arise, for Qana has been slaughtered a second time; Peace be upon its children.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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