Coming to Blows over a School Textbook: History of the Lebanese Civil War

Analysis, posted 04.18.2012, from Lebanon, in:
Coming to Blows over a School Textbook: History of the Lebanese Civil War (Photo: DW)

It was 37 years ago, in April 1975, that the Lebanese civil war began; a conflict that was itself made up of a multitude of civil wars: Christians against Palestinians, Druze against Maronites, Syrians against Lebanese, Sunnis against Communists, Shia against Shia. The violence was officially brought to an end 22 years ago with the Taif Agreement. The accord was followed up by an amnesty law for all crimes committed by the militias before 1991.

But violence continues to flare up. And to this day, most Lebanese are fearful that civil war could break out again at any time. For two decades, society – scarred as it is by its war-wounded and the many people that disappeared – has teetered on the brink of a new conflict.

The murder of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005 also made it clear to his opponents that the nation shows no signs of finding peace. Hariri's death was followed by the Syrian withdrawal and a long debate over the legacy of the past. Has the amnesty law pacified society? Or has Lebanese society been left in limbo because no legal or moral public discussion has taken place? This is a question posed by increasing numbers of people in Lebanon today; even by militiamen and fighters who allude to the fact that they themselves have profited from the amnesty.

A gaping hole in school history books

The Taif Agreement explicitly postulates a school curriculum that strengthens national affiliation just as much as spiritual and cultural openness. Even then, the accord stipulated the drawing up of a generally binding history book for the post-war generation. But to this day, no school textbook currently in use deals with the period from 1975 to 1990.

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By Sonja Hegasy; Translated by Nina Coon

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