Business & Economy

Amid ruins, chaos, Lebanon turns 100 with unclear future

By Isaac J. Martín

Beirut, Sept 1 (efe-epa).- A century after the State of Greater Lebanon was declared by France, the Middle Eastern country is in danger of disappearance if measures are not taken to save it from the worst crisis in its history, according to historians.

France left the new-born state 26 years later but it has never abandoned the country.

Education and even the signs in the streets of the Arab country are in French.

France was the first country to come to the aid of Lebanon after the 4 August explosion in Beirut’s port that severely hit an already shaking country.

“I don’t think history is repeating itself. We tend to think that history repeats itself but the French intervention that followed World War Two had a colonial identity. But now it’s like mediation,” Nayla Hamadeh, head of Lebanese Association for History, told Efe.

“Part of the story is similar to what is happening now but not all. Our division is now much larger than before,” she added.

“The vision that each of us has of the government that we want and hope to have is very different. This was already present in World War Two.”

Makram Rabah, a historian and a professor at the American University of Beirut, said history does not repeat itself “for a simple reason”.

“100 years ago, France was a great country, it had power and now France is weak because it still believes in negotiating with Iran and the political power in Lebanon and it is not doing the right thing, which is to push aside these political powers and Hezbollah,” he said.

He added that “the Lebanese do not see the French solution as the solution to the problem” for the country which has been experiencing the worst economic crisis since the end of its civil war from 1975 to 1990.

But not the whole 100-year long journey has been catastrophic in Lebanon, a small oasis anchored in the Middle East.

The 1960s was a golden era in the country, when celebrities were seen on its streets and it was one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region.

“There have been times in these 100 years that we were in good conditions, but they haven’t been the longest,” Hamadeh said.

She accused the political class “which began after the civil war and on a larger scale” after the death of former prime minister Rafik Hariri in 2005 of contributing to the port explosion, which left 190 dead, more than 6,500 injured and 300,000 people homeless.

“There was no need for this day to come, something so great, this destruction. What happened sheds light on the reality of the situation in which we are living and has proven what we live,” she added.

“The Beirut port explosion is the final result of the corruption and negligence” of the political class, Rabah said.

French President Emmanuel Macron warned on 28 August that if Lebanon is left in the “hands of depravity of the regional powers, there will be a civil war”.

He called for help for the country and for Lebanon to form a government of “national unity” as soon as possible.

French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said a day earlier that Lebanon is “at risk of disappearing” if these measures are not taken.

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