Lebanese Civil War facts for kids
Quick facts for kidsLebanese Civil War
|Part of the Arab Cold War, the Arab–Israeli conflict
The Martyr's Square statue in Beirut, 1982, during the civil war
The Lebanese Civil War (Arabic: الحرب الأهلية اللبنانية, romanized: Al-Ḥarb al-Ahliyyah al-Libnāniyyah) was a multifaceted civil war in Lebanon. It lasted from 1975 to 1990. About 120,000 poeople were killed. As of 2012, approximately 76,000 people remain displaced within Lebanon. Almost one million people fled from Lebanon as a result of the war.
Before the war, the territory Lebanon was shared between diffrent ethnic groups. Sunni Muslims and Christians were the majorities in the coastal cities, Shia Muslims were based in the south and the Beqaa Valley to the east, and the mountain populations were mostly Druze and Christian. The government of Lebanon had been run under a significant influence of the elites among the Maronite Christians. The link between politics and religion had been reinforced under the mandate of the French colonial powers from 1920 to 1943, and the parliamentary structure favored a leading position for its Christian population. However, the country had a large Muslim population and many pan-Arabist and left-wing groups opposed the pro-western government.
The establishment of the state of Israel and the displacement of a hundred thousand Palestinian refugees to Lebanon during the 1948 and 1967 exoduses contributed to shifting the demographic balance in favor of the Muslim population. The Cold War had a powerful disintegrative effect on Lebanon, which was closely linked to the polarization that preceded the 1958 political crisis, since Maronites sided with the West while leftist and pan-Arab groups sided with Soviet-aligned Arab countries.
Fighting between Maronite and Palestinian forces (mainly from the Palestine Liberation Organization) began in 1975, then Leftist, pan-Arabist and Muslim Lebanese groups formed an alliance with the Palestinians. During the course of the fighting, alliances shifted rapidly and unpredictably. Furthermore, foreign powers, such as Israel and Syria, became involved in the war and fought alongside different factions. Peacekeeping forces, such as the Multinational Force in Lebanon and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, were also stationed in Lebanon.
End of war
The 1989 Taif Agreement marked the beginning of the end of the fighting. In January 1989, a committee appointed by the Arab League began to formulate solutions to the conflict. In March 1991, parliament passed an amnesty law that pardoned all political crimes prior to its enactment. In May 1991, the militias were dissolved, with the exception of Hezbollah, while the Lebanese Armed Forces began to slowly rebuild as Lebanon's only major non-sectarian institution. Religious tensions between Sunnis and Shias remained after the war.
The post-war occupation of the country by Syrian Arab Republic was particularly politically disadvantageous to the Maronite population as most of their leadership was driven into exile, or had been assassinated or jailed.
In 2005, the assassination of Rafik Hariri sparked the Cedar Revolution leading to Syrian military withdrawal from the country. Contemporary political alliances in Lebanon reflect the alliances of the Civil War as well as contemporary geopolitics. The March 14 Alliance brings together Maronite-dominated parties (Lebanese Forces, Kataeb, National Liberal Party, National Bloc, Independence Movement) and Sunni-dominated parties (Future Movement, Islamic Group) whereas the March 8 Alliance is led by the Shia-dominated Hezbollah and Amal parties, as well as assorted Maronite- and Sunni-dominated parties, the SSNP, Ba'athist and Nasserist parties. The Syrian civil war is also having a significant impact on contemporary political life.
Since the end of the war, the Lebanese have conducted several elections, most of the militias have been weakened or disbanded, and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) have extended central government authority over about two-thirds of the country. Following the cease-fire which ended 12 July 2006 Israeli-Lebanese conflict, the army has for the first time in over three decades moved to occupy and control the southern areas of Lebanon.
In all, it is estimated that around 150,000 people were killed, and another 100,000 permanently handicapped by injuries. In 1989 AP reported 150,000 dead over fourteen and a half years. Reuters gave a figure of 140,000. These very high figures (200 killed/week for fourteen years) contrast with totals from official figures of 35-40,000 dead.
Approximately 900,000 people, representing one-fifth of the pre-war population, were displaced from their homes. Perhaps a quarter of a million emigrated permanently.
Thousands of land mines remain buried in the previously contested areas. Some Western hostages kidnapped during the mid-1980s were held until June 1992. Lebanese victims of kidnapping and wartime "disappeared" number in the tens of thousands.
In the 15 years of strife, there were at least 3,641 car bombs, which left 4,386 people dead and thousands more injured.
Lebanonization is a pejorative political term meaning the process of a country degenerating into a civil war or failed state in reference to the Civil war, first used by Israeli president Shimon Peres in 1983, referring to Israeli minimization of its presence in Lebanon following the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
In popular culture
- The British synthpop band The Human League released The Lebanon (song) a track about the Lebanese Civil war, and in particular the Sabra and Shatila massacre, in April 1984.
- The Argentinean rock/new wave band GIT wrote and recorded a song, in 1986, called "Buenas noches, Beirut" (Good night, Beirut), about the Lebanese Civil War, include on their third eponymous studio album.
- Out of Life by Maroun Baghdadi, from 1991, was awarded the Jury Prize at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival.
- In 2009, Saleh Barakat curated "The Road to Peace" exhibition at Beirut Art Center. The exhibition featured paintings, photographs, drawings, prints and sculptures by Lebanese artists during the war. Its title comes from a series of prints by Aref Rayess that depict Lebanese survivors of war.
- Waltz with Bashir, a movie from 2008 that deals with the 1982 Israeli intervention and the Sabra and Shatila massacre.
- The 2010 Canadian film Incendies depicts the civil war and its aftermath. It is partly based on incidents in the life of the Lebanese writer Souha Bechara.
- 1995 children's book, From Far Away by Robert Munsch is based on a true story of a family of asylum seekers to Canada, from the perspective of a girl who does not speak English and is unfamiliar with Western culture and customs, although the conflict is not specifically indicated, it is heavily implied.
- The war is the subject of Nabil Kanso's paintings The Vortices of Wrath (Lebanon 1977), Lebanon (painting), Endless Night (painting), Lebanon Summer 1982.
- The 2021 Lebanese-Canadian film Memory Box is based on co-director Joana Hadjithomas' notebooks and tapes made when she was a teenager in Beirut during the civil war in the 1980s.
Images for kids
U.S. Marine sits in a foxhole outside Beirut during the 1958 Lebanon crisis
Picture of the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing
USS New Jersey fires a salvo against targets in the Shouf, 9 January 1984
In Spanish: Guerra civil libanesa para niños
Lebanese Civil War Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.