A sectarian history of Dahiyeh
Thirty-eight years after the start of the Lebanese civil war, the country is divided, to a great extent along sectarian lines, following the methodical forced displacement to which whole communities were subjected with the help of all actors of the civil war, be they Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians, and others. The southern Metn coast – nowadays known as Dahiyeh – is one of the main regions whose demographic structure was changed by the war: It went from being a predominantly Christian area to a “mini-state” that is stronger than the state; one with its own economy, security, weapons, and culture. A ‘Hezbollah state’ par excellence.
M. al-Moqdad, a resident of Haret Hreik since the 1950s, reminisces about how Muslim and Christian inhabitants of the southern Metn coast lived in perfect cohabitation until the early tidings of the civil war started to loom on the horizon. The displacement of Christians from Dahiyeh has gone through through several stages since 1975, detailed below:
First stage: Syria displaces Dahiyeh’s Christians between 1975 and 1983
A few hours after the killing of 27 Palestinians by members of the Christian Kataeb party in Ain al-Rummaneh, Haret Hreik native A. Alami remembers that stores and businesses owned by Christian natives of Haret Hreik came under attack by groups affiliated with the Saïka and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC), both of which are affiliated and loyal to the Syrian regime. The attacks were launched from the Palestinian refugee camp of Burj al-Brajneh, which was adjacent to the predominantly-Christian Haret Hreik. These stores and businesses were burned and pillaged, prompting their owners and other Christians to flee the area, seeking refuge in the Christian town of Hadath, adjacent to Haret Hreik, as well as other regions.
Hussein specifically accuses armed Saïka members, other Palestinian and Lebanese members of pro-Syrian Palestinian organizations and tribal neighborhood thugs in the area of being behind the most vicious forms of kidnapping, displacement, confiscation of property, kickbacks and various aggressions and robberies. This prompted the few Christians remaining in Shiyyeh neighborhoods to leave their houses and flee, especially following the destruction of the Kataeb and National Liberal Party headquarters by Palestinian organizations and parties affiliated to the Lebanese National Movement, such as the Communist Party and the SSNP.
According to a former member of the Communist Party, similar exactions were committed on the other side in Christian southern Metn villages controlled by militias such as the Kataeb, the NLP, and Lebanese Front parties, such as in Ain al-Rummaneh, Furn al-Shebbak, Hadath, and Baabda. This included pursuits against and mass displacement of Muslims living in these areas, occupations of their houses, sectarian-based killings, and other exactions. Demarcation lines formed between the eastern and western sections of the southern Metn coast for fifteen years. The Israeli invasion of 1982 resulted in the temporary removal of these demarcation lines following the Israeli Defense Force’s withdrawal and the handover of security to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). Many Christians returned to their houses. However, the situation soon deteriorated once again about a year later, on August 27, 1983.
Second stage: Amal and Hezbollah continue the job… Aoun’s MOU is of no use
The first stage of the civil war in Lebanon – which started on April 13, 1975 – ended with the Israeli invasion of Lebanon on June 4, 1982 – which went all the way to Beirut and Dahiyeh. It thus inaugurated a new era along the southern Metn coast in which players and roles changed, with the Amal Movement and Hezbollah replacing Palestinian organizations and National Movement parties against a backdrop of increasing divisions along sectarian lines following the Mountain War. The LAF entered Dahiyeh and West Beirut following Israeli withdrawal from these areas.
Haret Hreik inhabitant A. Issa reminisces about how a great number of Christian inhabitants of Haret Hreik returned to their houses and lands following September 1982. Local Kataeb and NLP headquarters reopened in the area with party members and supporters showcasing their strength, bullying local residents, and openly carrying weapons under the eyes of the LAF and security forces in front of the Kataeb HQ, the miniature local garden patch known as the Minshiyyeh, and the Saint Joseph Church. They used to threaten whoever had contacts with the Palestinians and volunteered lists of ‘wanted men’ to security services so that they would be arrested out of revenge. Tensions grew.
The spark came on August 27, 1983 when a decision was made to remove building violations in the Ramel al-Aali area of Burj al-Brajneh and to regain the Christians’ properties in the region. Rumor had it that the state intended to bulldoze entire neighborhoods. This led to the displacement of tens of thousands of residents who had sought refuge in the area from the south Lebanon, the Beqaa, and East Beirut.
S. Awwad has been living near the Rasoul al-Aazam Mosque in the Ramel al-Aali area for decades. He recounts to NOW the early armed confrontations pitting the residents who were angered by the state’s decision to remove their houses against security forces and the LAF tasked with removing the building violations, leading to many people being wounded.
These confrontations awakened the slumbering sectarian beast as clashes spread. The area was riddled with demarcation lines, separating LAF positions in Dahiyeh from the eastern areas of the southern Metn coast. The LAF and the Lebanese Forces laid a months-long siege of Dahiyeh, which only ended with the uprising of February 6, 1984 and the LAF withdrawal to eastern areas of the southern Metn coast.
More + little map at : https://mobile.mmedia.me/lb/en/repor...ory-of-dahiyeh
I keep visiting Lebanon on a yearly basis. I love every part of it. Usually, I pass through Dahya in my way to Hazemiah where I have some business there. Although of the clear existence of Hizbulla slogans there , the visitor will hardly sense any tension there .
Quiet informative thread . Thanks.