Lebanese Independence Day

Last updated

Lebanese Independence Day
عيد الإستقلال
Eid Al-Istiqlal
Flag of Lebanon.svg
Observed by Lebanese
CelebrationsMilitary parades, displaying the flag of Lebanon, fireworks, concerts and general celebration of Lebanese heritage
Date 22 November

Lebanese Independence Day (Arabic : عيد الإستقلال اللبنانيEid Al-Istiqlal, lit. "Festival of the Independence") (French : Indépendance du Liban) is the national day of Lebanon, celebrated on 22 November in commemoration of the end of the French Mandate over Lebanon in 1943, after 23 years of Mandate rule.


Pre-Independence period

Lebanese President Alfred Naqqache (right) pictured with President Taj al-Din al-Hasani of Syria. Both men were French appointees. Al Hasani Nakkash 1941.jpg
Lebanese President Alfred Naqqache (right) pictured with President Taj al-Din al-Hasani of Syria. Both men were French appointees.

While the Lebanese have been in a constant struggle for independence from foreign powers since the age of the Old Testament, the modern struggle for Lebanese independence can be traced back to the emergence of Fakhr-al-Din II in the late 16th century, a Druze chief who became the first local leader in a thousand years to bring the major sects of Mount Lebanon into sustained mutual interaction. Fakhr-al-Din also brought western Europe back to Mount Lebanon. The French traveler Laurent ďArvieux observed massive French commercial buildings in Sidon, Fakhr-al-Din's political centre, where bustling crowds of Muslims, Maronites, Orthodox Christians and Jews intermingled. [1] Under his rule, printing presses were introduced and Jesuit priests and Catholic nuns encouraged to open schools throughout the land. Fakhr-al-Din's growing influence, disobedience and ambitions threatened Ottoman interests. Ottoman Turkish troops captured Fakhr-al-Din and had him executed in Istanbul in 1635. [2]

In response to a massacre of Maronites by Druze during the 1860 civil war, 6000 French troops landed near Beirut to ostensibly protect the Maronite communities. The Ottoman sultan had no choice but to approve the French landing at Beirut and review the status of Mount Lebanon. In 1861, the Ottomans and five European powers (Britain, France, Russia, Austria, and Prussia) negotiated a new political system for Mount Lebanon in a commission chaired by Mehmed Fuad Pasha, the Ottoman Foreign Minister. The international commission established a tribunal to punish the Druze lords for war crimes and the commission further agreed on an autonomous province of Mount Lebanon. In September 1864, the Ottomans and Europeans signed the règlement organique defining the new entity, including the French recommendation of an elected multi-communal council to advise the governor. [3]

Electoral representation and rough demographic weighting of communal membership was established after the foundation of the autonomous Mount Lebanon province. A two-stage electoral process became refined over several decades, with secret balloting introduced in 1907. Mount Lebanon became the only Ottoman provincial council that was democratically elected, representing members of the major sects. Elections for one-third of the council seats took place every two years. The governor of Mount Lebanon, a non-Maronite Catholic from outside, was of Ottoman ministerial rank with the title Pasha, though a step below a full provincial governor. Presiding judges of district courts were from the same sect as the largest religious group in the district, with deputy judges representing the next two largest groups. Court decisions had to involve the Court President and at least one other judge. This system facilitated Maronite acquiescence, Druze re-integration and sectarian reconciliation in Mount Lebanon. [4]

With the onset of World War I, the Ottoman Sultanate began to disintegrate. The Ottomans feared Arab independence. In response, the Ottomans abolished the autonomous province of Mount Lebanon in 1915, putting the mountain communities under emergency military rule. The repression culminated on 6 May 1916, with the hanging of 14 activists and journalists, including proponents of both Arab and Lebanese independence, Christians and Muslims, clerics and secularists. The location of the hangings in central Beirut became known as Martyrs' Square, today the focal point of public Lebanese political expression. Respect for Ottoman authority in the local community collapsed after this event. The Ottomans confiscated grain from the Levant during the war, resulting in a massive famine. Half the population of Mount Lebanon was wiped out. [5] [6] Both Schilcher and Khalife estimated up to 200,000 deaths in the mountain.

Patriarch Elias al-Huwayyik in 1899. Elie Hoyek 1899.jpg
Patriarch Elias al-Huwayyik in 1899.

A Phoenician identity

Following Ottoman repression, the Arabs were fed up with Ottoman rule. After the Turks were expelled from the Levant at the end of World War I, the Syrian National Congress in Damascus proclaimed independence and sovereignty over a region that also included Lebanon in 1920. [7] In Beirut, the Christian press expressed its hostility to the decisions of the Syrian National Congress. Lebanese nationalists used the crisis to convene a council of Christian figures in Baabda that proclaimed the independence of Lebanon on 22 March 1920. [8] Despite these declarations, the region was divided among the victorious British and French according to the Sykes-Picot agreement.

Mount Lebanon Maronites under the Maronite Patriarch Elias al-Huwayyik lobbied the French for an enlarged Lebanon to become a Catholic Christian homeland. Patriarch al-Huwayyik shrewdly conflated a new Lebanon with ancient Phoenicia to highlight a unique personality. The Phoenician allusion derived from a European passion for romanticizing antiquity (see Ernest Renan's Mission de Phénicie, 1864). [9] Among the wider public, the resurrection of Phoenicia and the concept of a distinctive Lebanon received stimulus from the literary output of Jibran Khalil Jibran. Jibran drew out feelings of oppression and conflict with established religion and interpersonal tensions. These themes resonated with a multi-sectarian Lebanon. Jibran's combination of Christian ambience with outreach to Muslims reinforced Lebanese nationalist thought. Incorporation of Jibran into school curricula in the 1920s helped make him by far Lebanon's most influential writer.

Greater Lebanon from Ra's Naqura in the south to Nahr al-Kabir north of Tripoli, and from the coast to the Anti-Lebanon mountains was established under the French provisional mandate in April 1920. Patriarch al-Huwayyik, with the Ottoman imposed famine in recent memory, insisted on the acquisition of the Biqa valley, a principal food producing area. The French were supposed to guide the population to self-determination with regular progress reports to the League of Nations. In reality, the French arrested and suppressed proponents of self-determination at various times. [10]

France confirmed the electoral system of the former Ottoman Mount Lebanon province in setting up a Representative Council for Greater Lebanon in 1922. Two stage elections, universal adult male suffrage, and multimember multi-communal constituencies continued the situation that prevailed in Mount Lebanon up to 1914.

The brief term (November 1925-August 1926) of the first civilian High Commissioner, French senator and journalist Henry de Jouvenel, proved decisive in the history of the Lebanese republic. A newly elected Representative Council became the clearinghouse for Lebanese input, and de Jouvenel endorsed it as the de facto constituent assembly. The Representative Council delegated drafting of a constitution to a twelve-member committee. The concept of Greater Lebanon as a Christian/Muslim partnership distinct from its Arab hinterland underpinned the project. The leading lights of the committee were non-Maronite Christians - Michel Chiha, Orthodox chairman Shibli Dammus and the Orthodox Petro Grad. They adapted the 1875 French constitution, and De Jouvenal hastened the Representative Council to enact the draft in May 1926. [11] It included a republic, executive power shared between the President and Prime Minister, a two-chamber legislature, equittable multi-communal representation, and Greater Lebanon as the final homeland of its inhabitants.

The Franco-Lebanese Treaty of 1936 promised complete independence and membership within the League of Nations within three years. The conservative French National Assembly refused to ratify the Treaty.

When the Vichy government assumed power over French territory in 1940, General Henri Fernand Dentz was appointed as High Commissioner of Lebanon. This new turning point led to the resignation of Lebanese president Emile Edde on 4 April 1941. After 5 days, Dentz appointed Alfred Naccache for a presidency period that lasted only 3 months and ending with the surrender of the Vichy forces posted in Lebanon and Syria to the Free French and British troops. On 14 July 1941, an armistice was signed in Acre ending the clashes between the two sides and opening the way for General Charles de Gaulle's visit to Lebanon, thus ending Vichy's control.

Having the opportunity to discuss matters of sovereignty and independence, the Lebanese national leaders asked de Gaulle to end the French Mandate and unconditionally recognize Lebanon's independence. After national and international pressure, General Georges Catroux (a delegate general under de Gaulle) proclaimed in the name of his government the Lebanese independence on 26 November 1941. Countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, the Arab states, the Soviet Union, and certain Asian countries recognized this independence, and some of them even exchanged ambassadors with Beirut. However this didn't stop the French from exercising their authority. [12]

On 8 November 1943, and after electing president Bechara El Khoury and appointing prime minister Riad al-Solh, the Chamber of Deputies amended the Lebanese Constitution, which abolished the articles referring to the Mandate and modified the specified powers of the High Commissioner, thus unilaterally ending the Mandate. The French responded by arresting the President, the Prime Minister, and other cabinet members, and exiling them to an old citadel located in Rashaya. This incident, which unified the Christian and Muslim opinion towards the mandate, led to an international pressure demanding the Lebanese leaders' release and massive street protests.

Government of Bechamoun

After the imprisonment of the Lebanese officials, the Lebanese MPs reunited in the house of the speaker of parliament, Sabri Hamadé, and assigned the two uncaught ministers Emir Majid Arslan (Minister of National Defence) and Habib Abou Chahla to carry out the functions of the government. The two ministers then moved to Bechamoun and their government became known as the Government of Bechamoun. The Government was provided shelter and protection in the residences of Hussein and Youssef El Halabi, recognized leaders in Bechamoun. These residences were strategically located, providing optimum protection to the ministers.

The newly formed government refused to hold talks with General Catroux or any other mandate official, stressing that any negotiation should be done with the captured government. It also formed a military resistance under the name of the "National Guard", whose supreme commander was Naim Moghabghab, with the help of Adib el Beainy and Munir Takieddine. This military group fought the battle of independence and later became the core of the Lebanese Army that was later formed in 1946 under the leadership of Emir Majid and Naim Moghabghab.

Bechara El Khoury (official portrait). Bechara elkhoury.jpg
Bechara El Khoury (official portrait).

Finally, France yielded to the augmenting pressure of the Lebanese people, as well as the demand of numerous countries and released the prisoners from Rashaya in the morning of Monday 22 November 1943. Since then, this day has been celebrated as the Lebanese Independence Day. [13]

Martyrs' Square in Beirut during celebrations marking the release by the French of Lebanon's government from Rashayya prison on 22 November 1943. Beirut's Martyrs' Square during celebrations marking the release by the French of Lebanon's government from Rashayya prison on November 22, 1943, the day of Lebanon's independence. Adib Ibrahim.jpg
Martyrs' Square in Beirut during celebrations marking the release by the French of Lebanon's government from Rashayya prison on 22 November 1943.

This historic site of Lebanese independence and residence of Hussein El Halabi, where the first Lebanese flag was raised on 11 November 1943, continues to welcome tourists and visitors throughout the year to celebrate national pride.

Flag as drawn and approved by the members of the Lebanese Parliament during the declaration of independence in 1943. Lebanese flag.JPG
Flag as drawn and approved by the members of the Lebanese Parliament during the declaration of independence in 1943.

Post-Independence period

After the independence, the modern Lebanese political system was founded in 1943 by an unwritten agreement between the two most prominent Christian and Muslim leaders, Khouri and al-Solh and which was later called the National Pact (al Mithaq al Watani الميثاق الوطني ). [14]

The National Pact had 4 principles:

  1. Lebanon was to be a completely politically independent state. Lebanon would not enter into Western led alignments; in return, Lebanon would not compromise its sovereignty with Arab states.
  2. Lebanon would have an Arab face and another for the West, as it could not cut off its spiritual and intellectual ties with the West, which had helped it attain such a notable degree of progress.
  3. Lebanon, as a member of the family of Arab states, should cooperate with the other Arab states where possible, and in case of conflict among them, it should not side with one state against another.
  4. Public offices should be distributed proportionally among the recognized religious groups, but in technical positions preference should be given to competence without regard to confessional considerations. Moreover, the three top government positions should be distributed as follows: the president of the republic should be a Maronite and the prime minister, a Sunni Muslim. The speaker of the Chamber of Deputies was reserved for a Shi'i Muslim in 1947. The ratio of deputies was to be six Christians to five Muslims.

In 1945, Lebanon became a founding member of the Arab League (22 March) and a founding member of the United Nations (UN San Francisco Conference of 1945). On 31 December 1946, French troops withdrew completely from Lebanon.

See also

Related Research Articles

The history of Lebanon covers the history of the modern Republic of Lebanon and the earlier emergence of Greater Lebanon under the French Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon, as well as the previous history of the region, covered by the modern state.

Mount Lebanon

Mount Lebanon is a mountain range in Lebanon. It averages above 2,500 m (8,200 ft) in elevation.

Fakhr al-Din II Druze Maan Emir of the Mount Lebanon Emirate (1572-1635)

Fakhr-al-Din ibn Maan, also known as Fakhreddine and Fakhr-ad-Din II, was a Druze Ma'an Emir and an early leader of the Mount Lebanon Emirate, a self-governed area subject to the Ottoman Empire.

Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon League of Nations mandate (1923-1946)

The Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon (1923−1946) was a League of Nations mandate founded in the aftermath of the First World War and the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire, concerning Syria and Lebanon. The mandate system was supposed to differ from colonialism, with the governing country intended to act as a trustee until the inhabitants were considered eligible for self-government. At that point, the mandate would terminate and an independent state would be born. In reality, the Mandate was treated more like a French colony rather than an official mandate, partly due to French involvement in the region. It was also one of the two French colonies in Asia, the other being French Indochina, though the latter was an official colony compared to the former.

Greater Lebanon Former state

The State of Greater Lebanon was a state declared on 1 September 1920, which became the Lebanese Republic in May 1926, and is the predecessor of modern Lebanon.

Maronite Church Eastern Catholic sui iuris particular church of the Catholic Church headquartered in Lebanon

The Maronite Church is an Eastern Catholic sui iuris particular church in full communion with the pope and the worldwide Catholic Church, with self-governance under the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. It is headed by Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi since 2011, seated in Bkerke northeast of Beirut, Lebanon. Officially known as the Syriac Maronite Church of Antioch, it is part of Syriac Christianity by liturgy and heritage.

Deir al-Qamar Place in Mount Lebanon Governorate

Deir al-Qamar, meaning "Monastery of the Moon" is a village south-east of Beirut in south-central Lebanon. It is located five kilometres outside of Beiteddine in the Chouf District of the Mount Lebanon Governorate at 800 m of average altitude.

Sidon Eyalet

The Eyalet of Sidon was an eyalet of the Ottoman Empire. In the 19th century, the eyalet extended from the border with Egypt to the Bay of Kesrouan, including parts of modern Palestine and Lebanon.

Bashir Shihab II Emir of Lebanon

Emir Bashir Shihab II was a Lebanese emir who ruled Ottoman Lebanon in the first half of the 19th century. Born in a family who had converted from Sunni Islam, the religion of previous Shihabi Emirs, he was the only Maronite ruler of the Emirate of Mount Lebanon.

The Battle of Ain Dara took place in the town of Ain Dara in 1711 between the Qaysi and Yamani tribo-political factions. The Qays were led by Emir Haydar of the Shihab dynasty and consisted of the Druze clans of Jumblatt, Talhuq, Imad and Abd al-Malik and the Maronite clan of Khazen. The Yamani faction was led by Mahmoud Abu Harmoush and consisted of the Druze Alam al-Din, Arslan and Sawaf clans. The Yamani faction also had backing from the Ottoman provincial authorities of Sidon and Damascus. The battle ended in a rout of the Yamani faction and resulted in the consolidation of Qaysi political and fiscal domination over Mount Lebanon. The battle's outcome also precipitated a mass migration of pro-Yamani Druze nobility and peasants from Mount Lebanon to the eastern Hauran, in a mountainous area today known as Jabal al-Druze.

Lebanon–Syria relations Diplomatic relations between Lebanon and Syria

Lebanon–Syria relations were officially established in October 2008 when Syrian President Bashar Assad issued a decree to establish diplomatic relations with Lebanon for the first time since both countries gained independence from France in 1943 (Lebanon) and 1946 (Syria). Lebanon had traditionally been seen by Syria as part of Greater Syria: under the Ottoman Empire, Lebanon and Syria were included within one administrative entity. Following World War I, the League of Nations Mandate partitioned Ottoman Greater Syria under French control, eventually leading to the creation of nation-states Lebanon and Syria. Relations between the two countries had been strained, especially with the 29-year Syrian occupation of Lebanon, accusations of Syrian intervention within Lebanese politics before and after withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, and suspicions of Syria assassinating Lebanese political figures like former prime minister Rafic Hariri. Syria officially recognized Lebanon's sovereignty in 2008.

Shihab dynasty

The Shihab dynasty were an Arab family whose members served as the paramount tax farmers and local chiefs of Mount Lebanon in the 18th-mid-19th centuries, during Ottoman rule. They were established as the traditional chiefs of Wadi al-Taym in the southern Beqaa Valley from 1172, according to the family history, and were traditional allies and marital relatives of the Ma'n dynasty, which established a practical emirate over Mount Lebanon from the late 16th century. They succeeded the Ma'ns after the death of the last Ma'nid chief without male progeny in 1697. The transfer of leadership was decided by the Qaysi faction of the emirate's Druze feudal chiefs and confirmed by the Ottoman authorities, who conferred to the family authority over the tax farms of Mount Lebanon. Under Emir Haydar Shihab, the Qaysi faction and the Shihabs consolidated control over Mount Lebanon from their Yamani Druze rivals at the 1711 Battle of Ain Dara. Their victory also precipitated an exodus of Druze tenant farmers from Mount Lebanon and their gradual replacement with Maronite and Melkite Christians. During the era of Emir Yusuf Shihab, members of the family, including the latter, began to convert from Sunni Islam to the Maronite Church. Some of the Shihab dynasty members were Druze, and they converted later from the Druze faith to the Maronite Church.

Man dynasty Druze chieftains of southern Mount Lebanon

The Ma'n dynasty, also known as the Ma'nids, were an Arab family of Druze chiefs based in the Chouf area in southern Mount Lebanon who were politically prominent in the 12th and 15th–17th centuries.

1860 Mount Lebanon civil war Sectarian conflict in the Ottoman Empire in what is now Syria and Lebanon (1860)

The 1860 Mount Lebanon civil war was a civil conflict in Mount Lebanon during Ottoman rule in 1860-1861 fought mainly between the local Druze and Maronites. Following decisive Druze victories and massacres against the Christians, the conflict spilled over into other parts of Ottoman Syria, particularly Damascus, where thousands of Christian residents were killed by Muslim and Druze militiamen. The fighting precipitated a French-led international military intervention. By the war's end, around 20,000 people, mainly Christians, had been killed in Mount Lebanon and Damascus, and 380 Christian villages and 560 churches were destroyed. The Druze and Muslims also suffered heavy losses.

The Ottoman Empire at least nominally ruled Mount Lebanon from its conquest in 1516 until the end of World War I in 1918.

Qabb Ilyas Place in Beqaa, Lebanon

Qabb Ilyas also spelled Kab Elias, Qab Elias, Qob Elias, Qoub Elias) is a municipality in Zahle District, in eastern Lebanon. Qabb Ilyas is 15 kilometers from Zahleh and 45 kilometers from the Lebanese capital Beirut. Its average elevations is 950 meters above sea level. Its area is approximately 32 km². Qabb Ilyas is the third largest city in the Beqaa Valley, after Zahleh and Baalbek in terms of area size and geography. The majority of the residents are Sunni Muslims.

Lebanese Druze Ethnic group in Lebanon

Lebanese Druze are Druze people with Lebanese citizenship. The Druze faith is a monotheistic and Abrahamic religion, and an ethnoreligious esoteric group originating from the Near East who self identify as unitarians.

Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate Subdivision of the Ottoman Empire

The Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate was one of the Ottoman Empire's subdivisions following the Tanzimat reform. After 1861 there existed an autonomous Mount Lebanon with a Christian mutasarrıf, which had been created as a homeland for the Maronites under European diplomatic pressure following the 1860 massacres.

Mount Lebanon Emirate

The Emirate of Mount Lebanon was a part of Mount Lebanon that enjoyed variable degrees of partial autonomy under the stable suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire between the mid of the 16th and the beginning of the 19th century.

Fakhr al-Din Uthman ibn al-Hajj Yunis Ibn Ma'n also known as Fakhr al-Din I, was the Druze emir of the Chouf district in southern Mount Lebanon from at least the early 1490s until his death in 1506, during Mamluk rule. He was the head of the Ma'n family, whose emirs controlled the Chouf from 1120. He is credited by an inscription for building a mosque in Deir al-Qamar in 1493. He was briefly imprisoned by the Mamluk authorities in 1505 in relation to his alliance with the Bani al-Hansh clan against the Mamluk-appointed, Druze governor of Beirut.


  1. Deidre Pettet, "A Veritable Bedouin: The Chevalier ďArvieux in the Camp of the Emir Turabey," in Distant Lands and Diverse Cultures: The French Experience in Asia, 1600-1700, ed. Glen Ames and Ronald Love (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2003), p. 25
  2. Harris, William. Lebanon: a history, 600-2011. Oxford University Press, 2012, p. 102.
  3. Harris, William. Lebanon: a history, 600-2011. Oxford University Press, 2012, p. 159.
  4. Harris, William. Lebanon: a history, 600-2011. Oxford University Press, 2012, p. 160.
  5. L. Schatkowski Shilcher, "The Famine of 1915-1918 in Ottoman Syria," in J. Spagnolo ed., Problems of the Modern Middle East in Historical Perspective: Essays in Honour of Albert Hourani (Reading: Ithaca, 1992), pp. 234-238.
  6. Isam Khalife, Lubnan 1914-1918 min khilal Arshif Wizarat al-kharijia al-Faransiya (Beirut: Isam Khalife, 2005), p. 39.
  7. King, William C. King's Complete History of the World War, The History Associates, 1922, p. 665.
  8. Elie Podeh, The Politics of National Celebrations in the Arab Middle East, Cambridge University Press, 2011 p. 54.
  9. Asher Kaufman, Reviving Phoenicia: The Search for Identity in Lebanon (London: I.B. Tauris, 2004), p. 22.
  10. Harris, William. Lebanon: a history, 600-2011. Oxford University Press, 2012.
  11. Salibi, Kamal. The Modern History of Lebanon. New York: Caravan Books, 1977.
  12. http://countrystudies.us/lebanon/21.htm, World War II and Independence.
  13. www.lgic.org, (1920-1943) Mandate Period and Independence. URL accessed on 7 June 2008.
  14. Harris, William. Lebanon: a history, 600-2011. Oxford University Press, 2012.