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Atlas of Lebanon

Part 1 - Lebanon: A Century of Unrest and Wars

State formation in Lebanon and regional geopolitics

Walid Bakhos et Éric Verdeil

Texte intégral

1From the 16th to the 20th century, the regions composing what has now become Lebanon lived under the authority of the Ottoman Empire. Pashas and emirs ruled their constituencies with various and changing levels of autonomy, but all paid taxes to the Sublime Gate. Inside the Ottoman territory, circulation was fluid and administrative divisions shifted frequently. In the aftermath of the First World War, upheavals and the gradual formation of new states superimposed borders on the region and triggered massive population displacements. Lebanon bears the imprint of these transformations.

Lebanon and the transformation of the Middle East

2In 1920, France proclaimed the establishment of the State of Greater Lebanon, which was to include the Mount Lebanon region but also the southern Jabal Amil, the Bekaa Valley in the East, and Tripoli and the Akkar in the North. The French Mandatory power was thus giving in to the demands of the Maronite Patriarch, who attended the Versailles Peace Conference. Nonetheless, both the Mandate and the new borders collided with the aspirations of large parts of the population, including among Muslims and Orthodox Christians communities. Meanwhile, Syria was divided in several autonomous states following sectarian lines: the Alawite State with Latakia as its capital, and the States of Aleppo, Damascus and Jabal al-Druze.

3Between 1943 and 1946, independent political institutions were set up in both Lebanon and Syria. The date used as a reference for the Lebanese independence, 1943, refers to the year of establishment of the National Pact, an unwritten power-sharing agreement between Christian and Muslim political leaders. Accordingly, the President was to be a Maronite Christian, the President of the Council of Ministers a Sunni Muslim, and the Speaker of the Parliament a Shiite Muslim. Ministerial positions and seats in Parliament were allocated on the basis of a similar logic.

4The creation of the State of Israel in 1948, rejected by the Arab States and enforced through war, constituted another major change in the regional map. Israel and its neighbours were at war in 1956, 1967, 1973 and 1982. The confrontation between Israel and the Palestinian forces escalated at the end of the 1960s and played a major part in the Lebanese Civil War.

Figure I-2: Administrative and state boundaries in the Mashrek region (1880-1948)

Figure I-2: Administrative and state boundaries in the Mashrek region (1880-1948)

Population movement and population growth

5Both these regional phenomena provoked massive population movements that fueled the demographic growth in Lebanon.

6After the First World War, the new state boundaries were partly set up based on the Wilsonian concept of national self-determination. However, religious and ethnic affiliations did not necessarily lead to the emergence of homogeneous territories and have never been the only components of social and individual identities. Moreover, some groups, such as the Armenians and the Kurds, did not benefit from the creation of any State. The number of refugees in Lebanon and Syria in 1925 is thus estimated to be 125,000, including 100,000 individuals having fled the massacres of the Armenian genocide. If all the refugees registered on Lebanese soil in 1924 obtained Lebanese citizenship, the migrants that moved later to the country remained without clear legal status for most of the century. Only in 1994 did the Lebanese State issue a decree aimed at settling those cases.

Figure I-3 : Refugees from Anatolia and Cilicia in Syria and Lebanon (1924-1925)

Figure I-3 : Refugees from Anatolia and Cilicia in Syria and Lebanon (1924-1925)

7In turn, the creation of Israel and subsequent wars prompted the exodus of Palestinian refugees in all bordering countries, including Lebanon where they were about 129,000 in 1950 and 270,000 at the beginning of the 2010s. The integration of Palestinian refugees has been subject to contrasted policies in the Arab States, even though none of them recognized the State of Israel until 1977 and all have supported the right of return. In Lebanon, starting from the 1960s, Palestinian refugees were at the center of internal political debates, as the Lebanese society was experiencing a growing divide between “Lebanonist parties”, mostly composed of Christians, and progressive and pro-Palestinian parties, gathering representatives of all the communities. Up until today, Palestinians living in the country have been denied social rights and unrestricted access to the labor market.

Figure I-4 : Palestinian refugees in the Middle East

Figure I-4 : Palestinian refugees in the Middle East

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure I-2: Administrative and state boundaries in the Mashrek region (1880-1948)
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13202/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/, 251k
Titre Figure I-3 : Refugees from Anatolia and Cilicia in Syria and Lebanon (1924-1925)
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13202/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/, 49k
Titre Figure I-4 : Palestinian refugees in the Middle East
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13202/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/, 57k

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