NNA - Written by Rana Hajj
Lebanon's 73rd Independence Day is abound in hope now that the nation anticipates new-fangled political activity under new Lebanese President, Michel Aoun, who was elected on October 31st to mark an end to more than two years of presidential void.
The appointment of Prime Minister-designate, Saad Hariri, and the preceding political activity, have all heralded positive decisions in the making, not to mention have left the door wide-open for politicians to spring into action and put end to the prevailing deadlock nationwide.
In most of the countries worldwide, Independence Day carries a momentous meaning, but nothing matches the extraordinary magnitude that this occasion carries for the Lebanese this year -- this year's Independence will celebrate new political agreements on which Lebanon's destiny hinges.
The Story of Lebanon's Independence
The Lebanese Independence Day, on November 22, 1943, is a national day celebrated in remembrance of the liberation from the French Mandate, which was exercised over Lebanese soil for over 23 years.
After the First World War and after the Ottomans left Lebanon and the rest of the Arab region, France came to Lebanon to begin a new French mandate. In September 1920, the High Commissioner of the State of the French Mandate, General Gouraud, declared the "Great State of Lebanon" with its capital Beirut.
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 April 4, 1941.
After 5 days, Dentz appointed Alfred Naccache for a presidency period that lasted only 3 months and ended with the surrender of the Vichy forces posted in Lebanon and Syria to the Free French and British troops.
On July 14, 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 November 26, 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 did not stop the French from exercising their authority.
On November 8, 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.
After the imprisonment of the Lebanese officials, the Lebanese MPs reunited at the residence of the speaker of parliament, Sabri Hamade, and assigned the two uncaught ministers Emir Majid Arslan and Habib Abou Chahla to carry out the functions of the government.
The two ministers then moved to Bechamoun, and by so, their government became known as the Government of Bechamoun. The Government was provided shelter and protection in the residence of Hussein El Halabi.
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 November 22, 1943.
Since then, this day has been celebrated as the Lebanese Independence Day. This historic site of Lebanese Independence and residence of the Halabi's continues to welcome tourists and visitors throughout the year to celebrate national pride.
In 1945, Lebanon became a member of the Arab League (March 22) and a member in the United Nations (UN San Francisco Conference of 1945). On December 31, 1946, French troops withdrew completely from Lebanon, with the signing of the Franco-Lebanese Treaty.
We can't discuss Lebanon's independence without mentioning the country's valiant army. The military parade is a tradition that is practiced on this holiday and is organized by the Lebanese Army Command, which includes all the military brigades, as well as the Lebanese Army Air Force and Navy, side-by-side with the Civil Defence, the Red Cross, and other scout movements.
Marking this occasion, wreaths are placed on the tombs of Independence martyrs, who had contributed to this achievement. The Lebanese President also delivers a word, which emphasizes the meaning of this day and capitalizes on national unity and coexistence.
In 1979, Minister of Education, Boutros Harb, declared "Lebanese Flag Day" on the eve of Independence celebration on November 21st in order to allow the Lebanese people, particularly students, to learn more about the Lebanese flag which carries the meaning of unity.
Marking Lebanon's 69th Independence Day, the global search engine "Google" celebrated this day by creating a special doodle on which appeared the Lebanese Flag and Baalbek fortress.
Today, for the first time in two and a half years, there will be a military parade that will hopefully spark a new era of lengthily awaited state activity. The scene opens a new page in the Lebanese political life in light of nascent understandings and puts an end to a political era which has somewhat exceeded a decade.