BEIRUT, 30 BEYOND THE GREEN LINE
2019 / Ongoing
Beirut, 30 beyond the Green Line is an ongoing project that aims to tell the today’s Beirut and Lebanese society in the 30th anniversary from the civil war's end, through a work combining photography and written reportage.
Mohammed owns a secondhand shop inherited from his father (top left photo behind him). During the civil war he fought in the Lebanese army. He lost his right eye when the Israeli army invaded Beirut in 1982. "In the last few years there are more and more people willing to sell their belongings because of the economic crisis", he says.
Sami never wanted to join any militia, always preferring to work as a taxi driver, which is still his job. In 1982, while carrying some people, he got involved in a clash between the Lebanese Forces and some militias in the east of Beirut. The photograph is taken at the point where the shots of a sniper hit his car, wounding him and causing the loss of the index of his right hand. Not far away, in 1978 occourred one of the attacks against the Falangist leader Bashir Gemayel.
Ali was 18 when he joined the Lebanese Army at the outbreak of the civil war. With the beginning of the clashes and the subsequent division of Beirut between east and west, the army also split in two. Under the command of Gen. Sami al-Khatib he was destined to the front line (Green Line), not far from where the photo has been taken. Behind him is visible the western side of Beirut and part of the Downtown area.
Mons. Georges arrived in Beirut in 1986 at the Church of Sant'Elia (behind him), located a stone's throw from the front line with west Beirut. His opinion is clear and the war broke out due to the intention of the Palestinian forces to oust the Christian communities from power in Lebanon. Nevertheless, it has never escaped from bringing humanitarian aid to the affected populations of both sides. He has been threatened with death several times in the intent to celebrate mass despite the fights tacking place all around. Today he is Auxiliary Bishop of the Armenian Patriarchal Diocese of Beirut.
Jamileh is comes from the first generation of Palestinians born in Lebanon after the Nakba (the Palestinian diaspora of 1948). She lives in the Chatila refugee camp since she was born. Here she witnessed the events linked to the 1982 massacre when a huge number of Palestinian civilians were slaughtered by Israeli forces backed by the Falangist militias. Behind her, at the end of the alley there is the house she escaped from with her family in the evening of the first attack. When they bumped into the Israeli tanks their father is forced to turn back, and she got separated from the rest of the family until the next day. When she returned to the camp she got to walk among a huge number of bodies scattered around the narrow streets of the camp. Since then she dedicates her life to the Palestinian cause. Today she is the director of the Beit Atfal Assumoud center in Chatila, which works supporting families and young people in the refugee camps.
Victor's family has been in charge of Beirut's lighthouse for generations. Today the old lighthouse, of which he was the guardian for his whole life, is in disuse due to the buildings that have sprung up all around, compromising its functioning. In 2003 another one was built, visible in the lower right corner on the background. During the war, Victor as a Christian Maronite found himself isolated in the western part of Beirut under the control of Muslim and leftist militias. From 1976 the lighthouse could only work during the day, in order to not to provide the Israeli navy with an easy reference to shoot to the Syrian artillery located in the area around the lighthouse. For his faith, he was kidnapped three times because he was considered a potential spy.
Despite appearances, Selma is Muslim. She dresses like a Christian nun since, she says, four years ago Mother Mary appeared to her in a dream, ordering her to dress the same way. She prayed reading the Koran at this exact point over the last 13 years, from 5:00 am to about 5:00 pm. This after God’s apparition together with apostles and prophets, ordering her to pray for the good of the world. During the war, this same place has been theatre of some of the most violent clashes. It was in a strategical area between Downtown, the Green Line, the hotels area and the Burj El Ghazal, originally an offices building that during the clashes had become an important location for snipers shooting from the east side.
Ibrahim, Palestinian, has lived in the Chatila refugee camp since he was born. He has already tried five times to reach Europe, unless being regularly sent back. He accuses the European Union of having anti-Palestinian positions, preferring to welcome Syrian refugees. With the outbreak of the war in Syria, the situation in Lebanon's refugee camps is becoming increasingly difficult. Unable to work regularly, a Palestinian is willing to accept to be payed much lower than a Lebanese would. Now the Syrians are willing to work for even less, creating many conflicts within the camps, which areas has remained the same since 1948 despite a growing population. Chatila is built on an area of one square kilometer, originally designed to accommodate three thousand people. Today it hosts about thirty thousand.
Within the urban and social fabric of Beirut, the Armenian community has always been a special case. With the outbreak of the civil war and until its conclusion the Armenians have always kept a neutral profile. Despite this, every family used to keep weapons in order to defend the neighborhood (Bourj Hammoud) from the incursions of the militias. The main target were above all the commercial activities, mostly dedicated to jewelery. The same sector in which Vatché worked since 1979, at the age of seventeen, until 2001. Today he runs a bar in the same neighborhood and makes no secret of his passion for weapons.
In Beirut from only two months, Annuar is working since just three days for a big cleaning company. The area he is in charge of was, unbeknownst to him, one of the most significant places related ti the the civil war. Every afrternoon he works cleaning a small square located between the modern Beirut Souks and what remains of the historic headquarter of the newspaper L'Orient-Le Jour (behind him). Of Bengali origin, like many of his countrymen, he is in Lebanon thanks to a local "sponsor" who has paid the entry visa, becoming de facto dependent by him for his documents.