It has been 18 years since the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990) ended. The significance of the recent April 13 anniversary, the official day in which the civil war erupted, is profoundly felt by the Lebanese people today.
The grave crisis that the state has endured over the past three years and the rampant civil and sectarian clashes have brought back memories of the Ain al Rummaneh [incident], evoking images of the atrocities of war. This has developed into a fear that those days will return, which is why the reassurances issued by some politicians and Lebanese figures stating that there will be no infighting do not guarantee that the fragile peace that governs the Lebanese arena today will persist.
This year, the April 13 anniversary gained a lot attention from Arab and Lebanese media, which dedicated special coverage on a number of levels, and from numerous civil associations and cultural authorities that sought to undertake a different and deeper interpretation of what happened during the Lebanese war. Never before has this issue been met with such deep examination by the Lebanese.
But Lebanon is not the only country in the world to have endured a civil war. Some other countries, most notably South Africa, have examined and confronted the crimes that had been committed [during civil war]. In these assessments, which incorporate public confessions and discussions regarding what had taken place in the war, the media plays a fundamental role; it is one of its most important forums. There are also seminars, closed sessions and conciliation meetings that are conducted away from the media.
Assessment endeavours can take on many forms; as well as discussions and interviews with people who survived the war, a new approach has emerged which tends to interpret the Lebanese infighting from a cultural or archival angle, for example, by collecting political posters from the war and organising them in chronological order through the slogans that had been raised by Lebanese groups and parties. From a creative standpoint, there have been video recordings, writings and diaries that narrate real-life experiences of the absurdity of war.
In Lebanon, this kind of assessment was delayed. In 1990 the political framework that ended the war imposed a swift transition that entailed overlooking the war years. Thus, the Lebanese had been immersed in war but were unable to understand what they had endured and why.
Today, fears that the Lebanese could become embroiled in another war have driven some into undertaking a practical assessment of the war that ravaged the country for 15 years. However, we must not forget that such assessment, or the attempt of conducting an assessment, is desperately needed by other Arab countries such as Iraq and Palestine, both of which are witnessing a state of division and crises that could drive them down the same path as Lebanon.
But let us not exaggerate; the inclination towards assessing the Lebanese war is still at an early stage. The media, which is responsible for motivating and developing these assessments and which should not misuse them as exclusives, is also responsible for creating assessments that aim to protect Lebanon, and other countries, from the possibility of history repeating itself.