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Beirut Snapshot

Following the massive blast that took place at the Port of Beirut on August 4, 2020, the aim of this project is to portrait the current financial and political crisis that Lebanon faces three decades after the end of the Civil War

Victim of the Blast of Beirut: “We Have to Persist in Their Honor”

From this balcony she used to see the destruction of Lebanon’s war. There is Rubble Again. “During the war I used to sit on this Balcony and contemplate the destroyed buildings. Now I am back where I was 30 years ago,” says Norma Fouad Irani, 58, who lives and has a shop in Mar Mikhael neighborhood, next to the Port of Beirut, where a massive blast took place on August 4, 2020 killing nearly 200 people and injured thousands.

Mrs Fouad explains that her family lived “a very difficult time” during the Lebanese civil War, which lasted from 1975 and 1990. She explains that it started “by divisions in religion and political parties.” “Beirut was ruined in a nutshell.” “We lost the sense of fear,” she continues.
Now, she says that they have to persist “in their honor.” “In respect to the people we lost, we should persist”, she adds.

A Christian Veteran of the Lebanese Civil War : “We Used to Hide in these Bricks”.

In this episode Carmen Yahchouchi traveled to Ouyoun el Simane, Mzar Kfardebian, in the mountains of Lebanon, to meet Haida and Hanna Sebios Abu Khalil, a Christian veteran who fought in the civil war.

Hanna’s father was a shepherd, so he knew very much the territories. When he passed away his son, Hanna Sebios Abu Khalil took his place and he became the guide of the Phalangist militia.

For Haida and Hanna, the snapshots of the war of Lebanon are the memories of the relatives they lost. They still face difficulties to talk about their memories. During the War they lost six members of their family and Hanna Sebios got severely injured while a bomb crashed. He lost an eye. Haida got married shortly before turning 18. Six years later, in the midst of war, she was already raising 3 children.

They were trained as a civilian militia during the Lebanese Civil War to protect their village.

In this episode Carmen traveled to the village of Yahchouch in the Keserwan District of Mount Lebanon to meet Joseph Al Hachem, Charbel Barakat and Samir Attalllah, who were trained as a civilian militia during the Civil War to defend and protect their village. They were trained in Chekka, a small Christian industrial town on the coast south of Tripoli.

Joseph Hachem was a director of a radio channel, “Sawt Loubnan” (Lebanon’s voice) and a former Minister. Today, he writes books. Samir Attalah is a political analyst responsible for the Phalange community in Yahchouch and Charbel Barakat was part of a civilian militia during the Civil War that defended the village. The three of them had different positions but in the same village of Yahchouch.

Over 1 million Syrian Refugees Live in Lebanon: “We’re Somehow Homeless”

In this episode Carmen traveled to Arsal city in northern Lebanon. This town, traditionally a cherry and apricot producer, in the Bekaa Valley, bordering Syria is home to at least 65,000 Syrian refugees.

“I escaped pregnant to Lebanon”, says Ghada, a young Syrian widow from Homs who lost her husband and children in the Syrian war. She says that she was scared for her baby. She arrived in Lebanon in 2013.

Domestic Workers are Abandoned in Lebanon Amids Economic Crisis and Pandemic

In recent years, humanitarian organizations have documented serious abuses against migrant domestic workers in Lebanon. Now amidst an economic crisis and a pandemic, many of them have been kicked out of their employers’ homes and are sleeping on the street. Most of them without passports, money or belongings, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW) and without being able to leave Lebanon.

Carmen has documented the life of her helper that became her friend as well through the years, Sylvie from Togo. Lebanon is home of an estimated 250,000 migrant housekeepers, mostly from African and Asian countries.

Lebanese Protesters Talk: “Youth has so much Potential but No Opportunities.”

October 2020 marked the one year anniversary of the 2019–20 Lebanese protests, also known as the October Revolution, a series of peaceful protests that erupted on 17 October 2019 as the government announced new tax measures to address an economic crisis. Thousands of people took the streets and the security forces responded with beatings, teargas and rubber bullets.

The protests have been followed by months of economic and health crisis and then, new protests after the blast at the Beirut port. In the 6th episode of “Beirut Snapshot”, some Lebanses protesters explain why they take to the streets.

“What’s Beautiful About Lebanon?” The Lebanese People Answer

It has been hard for artists based in Lebanon to document anything other than the financial and political crisis that every Lebanese is facing even three decades after the end of the Civil War. For this last episode, photographer Carmen Yahchouchi explains that she wanted to see in her country a glimpse of light somewhere in through their eyes. She met people from the city, near the sea and in the mountains and she asked them “What’s beautiful about Lebanon?” She says that in her mind, she thought this would turn out positively to the last episode of Beirut Snapshot. However, as she was recording testimonies, she realized that still many people do not see anything beautiful anymore. Yes, the standard answer is: “the sea, the trees, our mountains, the water, coffee, and people.” But through their voices too, we can feel a kind of disappointment: an image of a beautiful Lebanon somewhere in their memories, intact, but far from yesterday’s.

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