30 BEYOND THE GREEN LINE - Beirut and Lebanon thirty years after the Civil War
BEIRUT / LEBANON
2020 is a very meaningful year in Lebanon's history: in fact, thirty years have passed since the end of the Civil War. Despite time, today in Lebanon that part of recent history people in the country do not often talk about it and it is almost completely absent from the topics of study in schools. Nonetheless, in many cities buildings still clearly show the scars of the conflict.The causes of the war are manifold, and its protraction from 1975 to 1990 is often linked to games of power between foreign countries with strategic interests in the area. One of the main triggering factors is the strong presence of Palestinian refugees on the Lebanese territory, as well as of Palestinian armed groups such as PLO - Palestine Liberation Organization. The latter was seen as a direct threat by the neighbouring State of Israel. In fact, Israeli forces invaded Lebanon twice during the war, leading to the consequent intervention by the Syrian army. Furthermore, the worsening of ancient interreligious tensions between Muslims and Christians first, and Sunnis and Shiites after, led to the creation of armed militias within the various religious groups and political parties.
Among other consequences, the fifteen years of fratricidal conflict left the capital Beirut ravaged by clashes, 150.000 deaths and the increase of the Lebanese diaspora, marking a point of no return in the country's history. Hence, since the end of the war, the gap between new generations and those who suffered the consequences of the conflict has progressively widened. This fact prevented the necessary catharsis within Lebanese society to overcome the social and religious divisions already present before the conflict and aggravated by its outbreak. As a consequence, the collective trauma of its tragic memory was never commonly processed among people.Among other consequences, the fifteen years of fratricidal conflict left the capital Beirut ravaged by clashes, 150.000 deaths and the increase of the Lebanese diaspora, marking a point of no return in the country's history. Hence, since the end of the war, the gap between new generations and those who suffered the consequences of the conflict has progressively widened. This fact prevented the necessary catharsis within Lebanese society to overcome the social and religious divisions already present before the conflict and aggravated by its outbreak. As a consequence, the collective trauma of its tragic memory was never commonly processed among people.
The title of the project refers to the famous green line, the former front line that divided the city of Beirut into two sides, with Christians on the East and Muslims on the West. Both were deeply internally fragmented due to the different confessions that always characterized the peculiar Lebanese socio-political structure. In fact, the constitution officially recognizes eighteen religions and the political system is organized on confessional basis. This means that the different political charges are divided according to the demographic and social relevance of each confession. Following this principle, the President of the Republic is a Christian Maronite, the prime minister a Sunni, and the President of the Parliament a Shiite. Moreover, the 2008 global economic crisis caused an unemployment rate of 37% among under-35s and the third highest public debt in the world. The already critical general situation within the Lebanese society is also worsened by indirect repercussions of the Syrian Civil War. According to the UN, the number of Syrian refugees who fled to Lebanon is about one million out of 4.5 million inhabitants, not counting the approximately 475,000 Palestinian refugees.The high rate of widespread institutional and administrative corruption led almost a third of the population to take to the streets on October 17th 2019 to protest against the entire political establishment. It is significant that it happened almost exactly thirty years after the Lebanese Civil War, which officially ended on October 13th 1990. The riots forced Prime Minister Saad Hariri to resign on October 29th and, a month and a half later, to the election of Hassan Diab as substitute, still considered by many to be part of the nizam, the “system” that Lebanese people are still trying to break down. The result is a country on the brink of collapse with growing internal social and political tensions.
30 beyond the green line is a documentary project mainly composed by portraits taken in places strongly linked to both the history of the subjects and the Lebanese Civil War. In fact, the subjects were portrayed in the same place where, about thirty years ago, a specific event strongly marked their existence. In other cases, the protagonists of the images highlight themes linked to the post-war Lebanese society, but always attributable to the years of conflict. The large space left to the urban context in the images is also meant to strengthen the connection between subjects’ personal history and the places related to it.The purpose of this project is therefore to tell stories and describe places relevant to the Lebanese Civil War through the experience of those who experienced it. Furthermore, this work highlights the social repercussions of the thirty years following the conflict, such as the widespread corruption, the secularization of the country and the unresolved question of the Palestinian refugees.