Monday, September 25, 2006

My 'martyr' is better than yours!

"We don't hide our martyrs. Throughout history, we have not done so."
Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, Chief of Hezbollah in an interview to al-Jazzera TV Channel in 20 July 2006

Yesterday Christian Lebanese Forces celebrated its ‘martyrs’ day, a rally that the Christian militia-turned political movement used to organise during its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s until early 1990s while it controlled East Beirut and other Christian regions in Lebanon.

The practice of celebration of martyrdom and martyrs is not unique to one group in Lebanon. Throughout the period of civil war (1975-1990), all militias and political groups had their ‘martyrs’ and had some kind of celebration for them. A major reason was to use the memory of those fallen to show the groups role in the war (or struggle) and to mobilise support. Hezbollah is one of the leading parties to use the concept of martyrdom. Squares, streets and communal places where named after the party’s ‘martyrs’. It is rare not to find a street in South Beirut or in South Lebanon without a mural for Hezbollah’s martyrs. The celebration of martyrs is not only among religion-influenced groups but also a practice among secular political groups. The secular Syrian Social National Party (SSNP) has a long tradition in commemorating its ‘martyrs’ with its unique posters on the walls of Beirut; so is the case with the Communist Party.

But whose ‘martyr’ is better? It goes without saying that one person’s ‘martyr’ is another person’s ‘criminal’. And this is the essence of the problem.

Let’s take yesterday’s ‘martyrs’. Some supporters of the Aounists National Patriotic Movement see them as a bunch of thugs that were killed during their militia control in East Beirut. For Hezbollah and other pro-Syria and anti-Israel camp of Islamist, Arab Nationalist and secular parties, ‘martyrs’ of the Lebanese Forces were members of ‘isolationist gangs’ and Israel collaborators who deserved being killed. Reverse the formula, and you get similar answers for Hezbollah or SSNP ‘martyrs’.

The issue was unresolved in the post-war settlement process with the shy and ineffective efforts of reconciliation. The ideological roots of the schism were never tackled and the war of ‘martyrs’ is only its manifestation. Without a state-run initiative to commemorate all fallen victims during the war (militants and civilians) regardless of their religion or political affiliation, the schism will continue.

Picture of a Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) 'martyr' fallen in 1985 during civil war in Lebanon


Blogger thepoetryman said...

Reading this, I was struck that a martyr to some is a criminal to others. Much truth in that, my friend.

When the US sends its troops in to "liberate" a country we seem to forget that we too use our fallen soldiers as martyrs for "our cause", and what a shame that we look at martyrdom as some sort of alien form of sacrafice for country and beliefs and as some odd radical position.

Hypocritical is what it is. We need see the truth of this practice and hopefully we will learn a valuable lesson before we invade another country to instill our own values and god upon an unwilling people.

Thank you for the nice post.


September 25, 2006 4:52 pm  
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