Sect-sy Lebanon: National Liberal Party

February 19, 2008 § 1 Comment

All images are from the Ihrar Gallery.

The National Liberal Party, or Hezb al-Watineen al-Ihrar, is a Maronite group which was formed in 1958 by former Lebanese President Camille Chamoun. Like most Lebanese sectarian groups, it has undergone several transformations — from political party to sectarian militia and then back to political party. Currently, it is a political party under the leadership of Duri Chamoun, the son of Camille, affiliated with the March 14th Movement — the coalition of political/sectarian parties which initiated the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon in 2005. The process by which al-Ihrar was able to transform itself from a participant in a bloody civil war into a political group with a Facebook following is beyond me, but it is surely a process familiar to all Lebanese sectarian groups. (Most of this information is from an Arabic-language documentary called “Ihzab Libnan.”)

(Camille Chamoun)

Al-Ihrar and the Lebanese Civil War

In 1975, Lebanon was engulfed in sectarian conflict which would last over a decade. Al-Ihrar did not participate militarily at first, but in 1978, the group formed a militia called “al-Numoor” or the Tigers. Camille Chamoun’s son Dani led the military wing until he was killed by gunmen along with his wife and two children. The military wing took part in the massacre at Tel al-Zatar, but the group describes this incident as a “battle.” Al-Ihrar accepted military aid from Israel and is not very apologetic about it. One member said that not many countries were willing to help the group out financially and that in those desperate times, money was money.

Poster of an Ihrar martyr.

Eventually, the military activities of al-Ihrar faded out and there was more of a focus on political participation and re-building the party after the death of Camille Chamoun in 1987.

Here is the group’s website where there is plentiful amounts of party propaganda and photos.

(Also, credit to Travis for the heading whose suggestion for my thesis title was “Lebanon: Too Sect-sy?”)

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