National Public Radio (NPR)
SHOW: Morning Edition 11:00 AM EST NPR
April 13, 2005 Wednesday
LENGTH: 624 words
HEADLINE: Lebanon marks the 30th anniversary of the start of a civil war
ANCHORS: RENEE MONTAGNE
REPORTERS: DEBORAH AMOS
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
For the first time, Lebanon is marking publicly the start of its brutal 15-year civil war with a mass rally, concerts and other events. It was that civil war that brought about Syria's involvement in Lebanon. Now that Syria is finally pulling out its troops, Lebanon is struggling with political turmoil. NPR's Deborah Amos reports from Beirut.
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DEBORAH AMOS reporting:
Marking the 30th anniversary of the start of a civil war with rock concerts at a fresh grave site may seem unusual, but then so much has been unusual in Lebanon since former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated on February 14th. A short walk from the music stage, Hariri's coffin is smothered in white flowers, still surrounded by mourners. Today's event is called a day of unity and memory with activities to ensure families with children attend. But Lebanese children do not learn about the civil war in school. The memory of the war has been a closed book for their parents, the ghosts of those days buried without examination. With Hariri's assassination, Christians and Muslims have found a new sense of national unity, but it is still fragile.
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AMOS: A television quiz show called "See the Difference, But Don't Differ" debuted last night. Six teams competed to answer complex questions about the practices of the 18 different religious sects in Lebanon.
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Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)
AMOS: Another event: Lebanon's flag was cut into 18 pieces, taken around the country for a pledge to never fight again. This is more than symbolism says Jamil Mrowa, publisher of the English language newspaper, The Daily Star.
Mr. JAMIL MROWA (The Daily Star): It's very important. We have not had an exercise of public politics for a very long time. Politics is a contact sport. So I think that going around with the flags and I think making contact with people, for those young people, this will be the first.
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AMOS: A team of three college students came to the villages in the mountains outside Beirut. The team is mixed--a Sunni Muslim, a Christian and a Druze. Mohammad Jamish(ph) carried a piece of the flag into the mayor's office for him to sign.
Mr. MOHAMMAD JAMISH (College Student): It's up to us now. The old people, it's over for them. They had the war, they destroyed the country, but it's now for the youth of Lebanon to rebuild it, I guess, on a stronger basis.
AMOS: George Kerri(ph) is the 67-year-old mayor here. This village was completely destroyed during the civil war when neighbor turned on neighbor and has now been rebuilt. Kerri quietly weeps as he gets out his official stamp and pen for the signing.
Mr. GEORGE KERRI (Village Mayor): (Through Translator) We've built our country through mistakes. As far as our age is concerned, it's over.
AMOS: Kerri stamps the flag, signs his name bearing down on the pen. These young people are different than the old Lebanon he says.
Mr. KERRI: (Through Translator) We don't love our nation. We don't have a patriotic feeling. They do, and they must build their nation on these stamps.
AMOS: Gina El Halibi(ph), one of the team, was touched by Kerri's support.
Ms. GINA EL HALIBI (College Student): Every word is true.
AMOS: Were you surprised by him?
Ms. EL HALIBI: I am really surprised because another villager, there are some persons, they don't want to sign.
AMOS: The team wrapped up their piece of the flag and drove off to another village to meet the mayor in a church for his signature and stamp. The flag will be sewn together today in the capital on the anniversary of the start of Lebanon's civil war. Deborah Amos, NPR News, Beirut.