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Lebanon: 1. Incident called Black Saturday in 1978; 2. Information on the Druze and the Progressive Socialist Party

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 February 1990
Citation / Document Symbol LBN0341
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Lebanon: 1. Incident called Black Saturday in 1978; 2. Information on the Druze and the Progressive Socialist Party, 1 February 1990, LBN0341, available at: https://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aab53.html [accessed 13 December 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

 

1.        According to two oral sources, the incident referred to as "Black Saturday" occurred in 1976 in Beirut. No written confirmation of the event was found among the sources currently available to the IRBDC, however, oral estimates of the number of persons who died on Black Saturday range from 50 to 1000.

Mr. Badri Hamadi, contacted through the auspices of the National Council on Canada-Arab Relations, asserted that the event did occur on a Saturday in 1976. [ Mr. Badri Hamadi, contacted through the auspices of the National Council of Canada-Arab Relations, 22 February 1990.] Members of the Phalangist militia took to the streets of Beirut on this day and allegedly massacred a large number of (non-Maronite) civilians. He mentioned that this was in response to the murder of the son of a prominent Maronite, an executive in the Phalange party. While driving in a car, the son and three of his friends were intercepted and killed. Mr Hamadi did not know whether the identity or affiliation of the murderers was ever established. However, according to Mr. Hamadi, Pierre Gemayel was in Damascus at the time of the incident, and his son, Bashir Gemayel, was in charge of the Phalangist militia. The Phalangists allegedly took to the streets and murdered a number of civilians (although it is not established whether Bashir Gemayel was involved in the event).

Another oral source, Dr. Hitti, confirmed that Black Saturday occurred in 1976, and that a number of Muslims were killed by Phalangist militiamen on that day. [ Dr. Hitti, 20 February 1990.] He mentioned another event in 1978 (corroborated by written sources), when Phalange members of the Lebanese Forces entered the family home of Tony Faranjiyya, and murdered him and his entire family in retaliation for the death of the chief Phalangist political and labour organizer in the Faranjiyya region. [ Itamar Rabinovich, The War for Lebanon, 1970-1985, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985), p. 98; David C. Gordon, Lebanon: The Fragmented Nation, (London: Croom Helm, 1980), p. 272.]

Written corroboration for the 1976 incident was not found among the sources available to the IRBDC.

2.             The Druze Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) was founded in 1948/9 by Kamal Jumblatt (and is currently led by his son, Walid Jumblatt). The "ethno-religious heartland" of the Druze community is the Chouf Mountain region east of Beirut. [Henry Degenhardt, Revolutionary and Dissident Movements, London: Longman Group UK Ltd., 1988, p. 219.] A Muslim coalition called the Lebanese National Movement (comprised of Druze and other Muslims) fought the (Christian) Phalangists during the civil war of 1975/76. [ Henry Degenhardt, Revolutionary and Dissident Movements, London: Longman Group UK Ltd., 1988,

p. 219.] However, according to the Minority Rights Group (Lebanon: A Conflict of Minorities), between 1975 and 1982, both the local Christians and the Druze had "consciously prevented Civil War from entering their area [the Chouf Mountains]". [David McDowall, Lebanon: A Conflict of Minorities, (London: Minority Rights Group, Report No. 61, 1986), p. 17.] Kamal Jumblatt, the Druze leader, was assassinated by unknown gunmen on 16 March 1977. [ The Middle East and North Africa 1983-84, (London: Europa Publications Limited, 1983), p. 449.] He had been heavily involved in leading the Progressive Socialist Party fight against Christians in the preceding months.

Reports indicate that Druze forces have been supplied with weapons by Syria for many years. In the Time article from September 1983 the author observes that, "There is no question that Syria is providing arms and ammunition to the Druze." [William Smith, "Peace Keeping Gets Tough", Time, 19 September 1983, p. 39.] Jumblatt, "with powerful help from Syrian President Hafez Assad," launched the offensive to drive Christian militias out of the Chouf mountain region in 1983 as the Israelis withdrew. [ Ibid., p. 40.]

Please refer to p. 17 of the Minority Rights Group attachment. In this report, it is estimated that at least 300 victims were massacred by each side in the battle between the Druze and the Phalangists. [ Lebanon: A Conflict of Minorities, p. 17.] Although the Druze were initially opposed to the Syrian presence in Lebanon, in 1989, the Druze have been aligned with Syrian troops.

                The Druze militia has been one of the main allies of the Syrian Army during the "war of liberation" initiated by General Aoun of the Lebanese Army on 8 March 1989. The PSP continues to be closely linked to the Syrian Army, as evidenced by news reports covering the Lebanese conflict. For example, in an article in the Globe and Mail dated 24 October 1989, Walid Jumblatt is called "Syria's main Lebanese ally". [ "Army Units Put on Alert After Aoun Rejects Pact", The Globe and Mail, 24 October 1989.]

Specific information on PSP recruitment of Druze is not available to the IRBDC. Recruitment practices by militias are not legally sanctioned by the Constitution or the government, but in lieu of an identifiable National government with the authority to act or to provide protection to the civilian population, militias have become the effective law within their respective territories. In August 1988, Walid Jumblatt told followers that "the local administration his militia [had] set up in the Chouf mountains [would] continue to function regardless of whether a new president [was] chosen" to replace Amin Gemayel. [ Ihsan Hijazi, "New Flare-up in War Feared by Lebanese as Militias Get Arms", The New York Times, 5 September 1988.] His position regarding President Hrawi is not known, however, President Hrawi has congenial relations with Syria.

Each of the militias recruits within its sector sometimes this is forceful recruitment of personnel when there is a shortage of men, [ For example, see the article by Ihsan Hijazi, ("Christian-Israeli Rift in Lebanon Security Zone", The New York Times, 28 May 1989) which does not mention the recruitment practices of Druze militias, but discusses forceful recruitment by the South Lebanon Army. ] at others, the financial inducement of employment in a militia and the peer pressure to join are enough. (A few years ago, Druze militiamen allegedly made the equivalent of about $150 per month, but now, with the economic problems in Lebanon, it is likely no more than $50. People who join the militia in active recruitment campaigns during times of conflict may not be eligible for the "wage".) [Mr. Badri Hamadi, contacted through the auspices of the National Council on Canada-Arab Relations, 2 November 1989.] According to Mr. Badri Hamadi, there is extreme psychological and some direct pressure placed on young males to join local militias; in the current political climate of uncertainty and suspicion, this pressure is manifested by the attitude: "If you are not with us, you must be a traitor".

Although direct references to Druze recruitment practices were not found among the sources available to the IRBDC, an article referring to recruitment by the South Lebanon Army (SLA) is attached. [ Ihsan Hijazi, "Christian-Israeli Rift in Lebanon Security Zone", The New York Times, 28 May 1989.] The SLA rounds up Christian, Shi'ite and Druze males living in the Israeli `security zone' to recruit them for service in the SLA militia. It has also "deported inhabitants from mainly Sunni Muslim villages in the enclave for refusing to join the militia". [ Ibid.]

Please refer to the attached materials on the Druze and the political party of Walid Jumblatt, the Progressive Socialist Party. Information from other sources (Political Parties of the World, World Encyclopedia of Political Systems and Parties, etc.) has been supplied by the Toronto Regional Documentation Centre.

Attachments:

-               William Smith, "Peace Keeping Gets Tough" Time, 19 September 1983.

-               Ihsan Hijazi, "Christian-Israeli Rift in Lebanon `Security Zone'", The New York Times, 28 May 1989.

-               Ihsan Hijazi, "Lebanese Muslims Warn of Final Battle", The New York Times, 29 August 1989.

-               Ihsan Hijazi, "New Flare-up in War Feared by Lebanese as Militias Get Arms", The New York Times, 5 September 1988.

-               Henry Degenhardt, ed., Revolutionary and Dissident Movements, London: Longman Group UK Ltd., 1988.

-               Itamar Rabinovich, The War for Lebanon, 1970-1985, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985;

-               David C. Gordon, Lebanon: The Fragmented Nation, London: Croom Helm, 1980;

-               Samir Khalaf, Lebanon's Predicament, New York: Columbia University Press, 1987;

-               David McDowall, Lebanon: A Conflict of Minorities, London: Minority Rights Group, Report No. 61, 1986.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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