“I looked outside my window and there it was, a civil war..."

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Prepared by: Ahmad Mohsen, Marwan Tahtah

George Samarjian used to smuggle bread to those under siege in West Beirut during the Israeli occupation of the second Arab capital since the Nakba. They say that he used to call his besieged friends on the other side of Beirut and ask them about the bread situation and what can be done. Later on, Samarjian died as he was taking photos of another dirty war between the Lebanese army and the Lebanese Forces militia.

Other photographers tried to save him. They took him to the American University Hospital in Beirut and gave him blood, including the photographer Khalil Duhaini. Fifteen days later, Duhaini thought the war was over and that the Lebanese army reached Tayouneh so he went outside pointing his camera at the soldiers. They shot him because they thought he was a member of the Lebanese Forces who withdrew tactically to Shiah in the early 1990s.

Before that, photographer Abdel Razek al-Sayed who took pictures of the Two-Year War and organized an exhibit about it died from a land mine in the Beirut markets. Even the photographers who survived have been stuck in the history of the war. Unfortunately, their testimonies indicate that they see no difference between pre and post 1990 - the year that marked the end of the war.

This blog is more of an homage than documentation. It is an homage for those who saw the war up close and reported it to the generation that is about to resume it without looking at the photos. It is a tribute to those who were content to observe the war from behind a window.

*The title is a quote from a poem by the Lebanese poet Mohammed al-Abdallah

(Photo: Jamal al-Saaidi)
The fate of this Palestinian woman and her child remains unknown. The War of the Camps between the Amal Movement and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was one of the most vicious subconflicts within the Lebanese Civil War. In this photo, the woman is holding her child and trying to escape unidentified snipers. The Sabra area in 1982 (near the Shatila Refugee Camp) had witnessed one of the worst massacres in the past century perpetrated by extremist right-wing militias under the supervision of the Israeli occupation army. (Photo: Jamal al-Saaidi)
(Photo: Nabil Ismail)
Beirut in its eastern and western parts was a city senselessly divided against itself. Checkpoints at the Mathaf Crossing, the most infamous in the history of the war, and the photo was taken during one of the few cease-fire intervals that would soon reignite before those crossing would trickle back to the areas where they came from. The photo is by Nabil Ismail who worked as a photographer in As-Safir newspaper during the siege of Beirut and worked with the Associated Press before settling in Al-Mustaqbal newspaper. (Photo: Nabil Ismail)
(Photo: Michel Brizghal)
The old Saida road on a dark 1975 day. The photo is by Michel Brizghal whose work suffered neglect in the post-Taif period. No one kept his photos except few photographers who were his contemporaries. The Lebanese Photo Bank preserved some of his rich archive and it is the source of this photo. Brizghal is one of the first photographers of the Lebanese civil war. In addition to his work as a photojournalists in As-Safir, he photographed Ziad Rahbani’s plays and some Fairuz concerts. He died in the middle of the past decade from a fatal illness. (Photo: Michel Brizghal)
(Photo: Abdel Razek al-Sayed)
A displaced person carrying the past and fleeing to another past. The photo is by Abdel Razek al-Sayed during what was known as the Two-Year War taken in an unknown location in Beirut. Sayed organized his first exhibit on Tuesday 12 April 1977. He was one of many who believed that the end of the Two-Year War meant the end of the Lebanese Civil War. He died in 1982 in a landmine explosion in the Beirut markets. (Photo: Abdel Razek al-Sayed).
(Photos: Jamal al-Saaidi)
The woman in the picture on the right is a displaced person from the South of Lebanon after the Israeli invasion. She is taking a short break from the shelling. Many people who were forced to leave their homes lived in the buildings that were destroyed early on in the war in downtown Beirut and the surrounding area or buildings whose residents had to flee in response to the demographic balance brought about by the fighting. These people came to be known as the displaced. In the mid 1980s, Beirut’s amusement park stands steadfast in the background observing the empty street while the Joint Forces raise the victory sign while on one of their patrols in the Raouche area. This photo was taken after the departure of the PLO from Beirut. Photo by Jamal al-Saaidi who began his work in Al-Nidaa newspaper and today he manages the photography department at the Reuters agency in Beirut. (Photos: Jamal al-Saaidi)
(Photo: Nabil Ismail)
The actual post-Taif agreement era began from here. The photo, in front of the presidential palace in Baabda, shows Syrian soldiers on the morning of October 12, 1990. It was taken hours after General Michel Aoun left the presidential palace to the French embassy and from there to exile in Paris. The palace was renovated after the war and three presidents lived in it, two of them were also generals in the Lebanese army. (Photos: Jamal al-Saaidi)
(Photo: Khalil Duhaini)
A woman looking for her children in the aftermath of a powerful bomb that blew up in Tarik al-Jdideh in the mid 1980s. Later on the woman found out that her children survived but the photographer was not as lucky. Khalil Duhaini was shot by the Lebanese army in 1990 because they thought he was a member of the Lebanese Forces militia during the war led by General Michel Aoun on the outskirts of Shiah, in Tayouneh area specifically. (Photo: Khalil Duhaini)
(Photo: George Samarjian)
Many photographers of the civil war generation consider George Samarjian their teacher. He began taking photos before the war in An-Nahar newspaper. Samarjian is described by some photographers as the artist and his colleagues attest to his humanity. This photo was taken at the Beirut International Airport, as it used to be called, after it was bombed by the Lebanese army loyal to President Amin Gemayel early on in his term. Samarjian died in the Nahr al-Mout area having been caught in the crossfire between the Lebanese army loyal to General Aoun and the Lebanese forces under the leadership of Samir Geagea. (Photo: George Samarjian)
(Photo: Ali Seifeddine)
“Keep your hand on your ID card and squeeze it as tight as you can.” The photo is in West Beirut, as it was known at the time, and it shows a fighter from al-Mourabitoun checking the papers of the Mercedes driver. The car’s red licence plate indicates that it was a cab. The photographer remembers that al-Mourabitoun fighters liked to take photos even though they wore masks fearing that they would be discovered when the war is over. The photogher is Ali Seifeddine. He began his work in the Quds Press Agency and works today as a reporter for the United Arab Emirates Al-Khaleej newspaper. (Photo: Ali Seifeddine)
(Photo: Ali Seifeddine)
Um Aziz carries on her chest the pictures of her four sons who were kidnapped at the beginning of the war. She found out later that they died in Syrian prisons. Um Aziz is one of thousands of mothers who lost sons and relatives. They put up a tent in downtown Beirut after the war, that the political class has no recognized till today despite the death of Audette Salem in front of the tent in 2009. Salem was a woman with a similar story to that of Um Aziz. (Photo: Ali Seifeddine)
(Photo: Nabil Ismail)
The General Security building is still in place and somewhere near by, the Palace of Justice is still in East Beirut in the area named after it and known as Adlieh. Only the man died. He was shot by a sniper during the war between the Lebanese army and the Lebanese Forces militia. After the war, licence plates - such as the black one on the Mercedes - were replaced with colorful ones but no one compensated the families of the victims. (Photo: Nabil Ismail)
(Photo: Ali Seifeddine)
The Lebanese Civil War included countless subconflicts, one of the major ones is the Mountain War. This photo shows a fighter from the Syrian Social Nationalist Party after a fierce battle with the Lebanese Forces in Dhour al-Choueir in 1985. The Mountain War ended with the withdrawal of the Lebanese Forces and caused the death and displacement of thousands of Lebanese civilians. (Photo: Ali Seifeddine)

Comments

I witnessed the Lebanese civil war from 13 April1975to 28Nov.1979, as i arrived then, in London/U.K !! 4 years only as things were warming up ,because the following 11/12 years it reached its Climax?? 1975 we were living in Khandaq al Ghamiq district,nearly close to the so called the Green Line/by mid 1976 moved to Zokak al Blat area ,a bit far from the mayhem..but still heavy shelling/bombing heard and seen,but as an Armenian & a Catholic individual i never been treated ,,differently,but more than that, been looked after /cared for by my good Muslim environment.. (Neighbours & Friends) and protected ...too! /if i left the country the only reason was ..the stray shooting and bombing around us ,or in other words ..fear of cheap and senseless loss of one s life?? or frankly as The late Egyptian actor, Late FOUAD AL MOHANDESS said in a movie / Gaban ..Gaban.. bass A3iish,// or as we The Lebanes say Al Haribeh nesf el Marjaleh , meaning : Sometimes, running away is a kind of MANLY act?? Mind you i had too many Close Shave >>> worrying incidents .<<<.even though i was not a warrior myself.../// Sir , seeing your war photos ..i understand what you all ..especially you Mr.Tahtah r went through during shooting those, if not nostalgic but historic snaps..i congratulate your courage and devotion to record the Dark Side Of The Moon ,if my impression about those gloomy days fits, of our beloved Lebanon.////.By the way it was nice to see you on AL JAZEERA Docu. The WOODEN Rifle ?? recently !! glad too that you are fine and doing alright ..GOD bless/ and may PEACE overshadow Lebanon ..forever ! ! yours truly ISAHAK BARSOUMIAN /London U.K

what a bloody days of middle-east! why cant you live in peace? why do you always war with yourself muslims? there isnt' any war in europe except bosnia, there isn't any war america, why always muslims kill themselves? why do you always blame each others for being "Kafir" ?

I think either Islam is wrong or you completely failed to understand Islam...

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