Lebanon's Road to Independence (by Marlene Sabeh)


Original Lebanese flag as drawn (and signed) by the members of the Lebanese parliament during the declaration of independence in 1943


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. In 1920, (then) The State of Greater Lebanon was placed under a League of Nations mandate after having been under French control since the First World War. Before that, it had been ruled by the Ottoman Empire since the 16th Century. In May 1926, the Lebanese Republic was born and the first Lebanese Constitution was promulgated. 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.

On July 14, 1941, a truce was signed in Acre ending the conflict between the two sides and opening the way for General Charles de Gaulle’s visit to Lebanon; hence, ending Vichy’s control.

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. Several countries, mainly the United States recognized this independence, and some even exchanged ambassadors with Lebanon. However, this didn’t 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 unilaterally ending the Mandate. The French authorities 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 Christians and Muslims opinion against the mandate, expressed in fervent protests, led to an international pressure demanding the Lebanese leaders’ release.

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. In 1945, Lebanon became a member of the Arab League (March 22) and a member of 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.

 

           

Photo from the protests and declaration of Independence, November 22, 1943
Courtesy of the Lebanese Examiner-


Source:
History of Lebanon. (2005). www.lgic.org
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