|THE LEBANON COAT OF ARMS|
Location of Lebanon within the continent of Asia
Map of Lebanon
Flag Description of Lebanon:three horizontal bands consisting of red (top), white (middle, double width), and red (bottom) with a green cedar tree centered in the white band; the red bands symbolize blood shed for liberation, the white band denotes peace, the snow of the mountains, and purity; the green cedar tree is the symbol of Lebanon and represents eternity, steadiness, happiness, and prosperity.
Official name Al-Jumhūrīyah al-Lubnānīyah (Lebanese Republic)
Form of government unitary multiparty republic with one legislative house (National Assembly )
Head of state President: Tammam Salam2
Head of government Prime Minister: Tammam Salam
Official language Arabic3
Official religion none
Monetary unit Lebanese pound (LBP)
Population (2013 est.) 4,132,000COLLAPSE
Total area (sq mi) 4,036
Total area (sq km) 10,452
- Urban: (2011) 87.2%
- Rural: (2011) 12.8%
Life expectancy at birth
- Male: (2011) 70.5 years
- Female: (2011) 74.8 years
Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate
- Male: (2005) 93.6%
- Female: (2005) 83.4%
GNI per capita (U.S.$) (2012) 9,190
1By law, one-half of the membership is Christian and one-half is Muslim/Druze.
3A law determines French usage per article 11 of the constitution. In 2004 about 20% of the population spoke French in their daily lives.
Background of lebanon
Lebanon, country located on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea; it consists of a narrow strip of territory and is one of the world’s smaller sovereign states. The capital is Beirut.
Though Lebanon, particularly its coastal region, was the site of some of the oldest human settlements in the world—the Phoenician ports of Tyre (modern Ṣūr), Sidon (Ṣaydā), and Byblos (Jubayl) were dominant centres of trade and culture in the 3rd millennium bce—it was not until 1920 that the contemporary state came into being. In that year France, which administered Lebanon as a League of Nations mandate, established the state of Greater Lebanon. Lebanon then became a republic in 1926 and achieved independence in 1943.
banon, country located on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea; it consists of a narrow strip of territory and is one of the world’s smaller sovereign states. The capital is Beirut.
Though Lebanon, particularly its coastal region, was the site of some of the oldest human settlements in the world—the Phoenician ports of Tyre (modern Ṣūr), Sidon (Ṣaydā), and Byblos (Jubayl) were dominant centres of trade and culture in the 3rd millennium bce—it was not until 1920 that the contemporary state came into being. In that year France, which administered Lebanon as a League of Nations mandate, established the state of Greater Lebanon. Lebanon then became a republic in 1926 and achieved independence in 1943.
Geography of Lebanon
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Land of Lebanon
Lebanon is bounded to the north and east by Syria, to the south by Israel, and to the west by the Mediterranean Sea.
As in any mountainous region, the physical geography of Lebanon is extremely complex and varied. Landforms, climate, soils, and vegetation undergo some sharp and striking changes within short distances. Four distinct physiographic regions may be distinguished: a narrow coastal plain along the Mediterranean Sea, the Lebanon Mountains (Jabal Lubnān), Al-Biqāʿ (Bekaa) valley, and the Anti-Lebanon and Hermon ranges running parallel to the Lebanese Mountains.
The coastal plain is narrow and discontinuous, almost disappearing in places. It is formed of river-deposited alluvium and marine sediments, which alternate suddenly with rocky beaches and sandy bays, and is generally fertile. In the far north it expands to form the ʿAkkār Plain.
The snowcapped Lebanon Mountains are one of the most prominent features of the country’s landscape. The range, rising steeply from the coast, forms a ridge of limestone and sandstone, cut by narrow and deep gorges. It is approximately 100 miles (160 km) long and varies in width from 6 to 35 miles (10 to 56 km). Its maximum elevation is at Qurnat al-Sawdāʾ (10,131 feet [3,088 metres]) in the north, where the renowned cedars of Lebanon grow in the shadow of the peak. The range then gradually slopes to the south, rising again to a second peak, Jabal Ṣannīn (8,842 feet [2,695 metres]), northeast of Beirut. To the south the range branches westward to form the Shūf Mountains and at its southern reaches gives way to the hills of Galilee, which are lower.
Al-Biqāʿ valley lies between the Lebanon Mountains in the west and the Anti-Lebanon Mountains in the east; its fertile soils consist of alluvial deposits from the mountains on either side. The valley, approximately 110 miles (180 km) long and from 6 to 16 miles (10 to 26 km) wide, is part of the great East African Rift System. In the south Al-Biqāʿ becomes hilly and rugged, blending into the foothills of Mount Hermon (Jabal al-Shaykh) to form the upper Jordan Valley.
The Anti-Lebanon range (Al-Jabal al-Sharqī) starts with a high peak in the north and slopes southward until it is interrupted by Mount Hermon (9,232 feet [2,814 metres]).
Lebanese rivers, though numerous, are mostly winter torrents, draining the western slopes of the Lebanon Mountains. The only exception is the Līṭānī River (90 miles [145 km] long), which rises near the famed ruins of Baalbek (Baʿlabakk) and flows southward in Al-Biqāʿ to empty into the Mediterranean near historic Tyre. The two other important rivers are the Orontes (Nahr al-ʿĀṣī), which rises in the north of Al-Biqāʿ and flows northward, and the Kabīr.
Soil quality and makeup in Lebanon vary by region. The shallow limestone soil of the mountains provides a relatively poor topsoil. The lower and middle slopes, however, are intensively cultivated, the terraced hills standing as a scenic relic of the ingenious tillers of the past. On the coast and in the northern mountains, reddish topsoils with a high clay content retain moisture and provide fertile land for agriculture, although they are subject to considerable erosion.
There are sharp local contrasts in the country’s climatic conditions. Lebanon is included in the Mediterranean climatic region, which extends westward to the Atlantic Ocean. Winter storms formed over the ocean move eastward through the Mediterranean, bringing precipitation at that season; in summer, however, the Mediterranean receives little or no precipitation. The climate of Lebanon is generally subtropical and is characterized by hot, dry summers and mild, humid winters. Mean daily maximum temperatures range from the low 90s F (low 30s C) in July to the low 60s F (mid-10s C) on the coast and low 50s F (low 10s C) in Al-Biqāʿ in January. Mean minimum temperatures in January are in the low 50s F on the coast and the mid-30s F (about 2 °C) in Al-Biqāʿ. At 5,000 feet (1,524 metres), the elevation of the highest settlements, these are reduced by about 15 °F (8 °C).
Nearly all precipitation falls in winter, averaging 30 to 40 inches (750 to 1,000 mm) on the coast and rising to more than 50 inches (1,270 mm) in higher altitudes. Al-Biqāʿ is drier and receives 15 to 25 inches (380 to 640 mm). On the higher mountaintops, this precipitation falls as heavy snow that remains until early summer.
Plant and animal life
Lebanon was heavily forested in ancient and medieval times, and its timber—particularly its famed cedar—was exported for building and shipbuilding. The natural vegetation, however, has been grazed, burned, and cut for so long that little of it is regenerated. What survives is a wild Mediterranean vegetation of brush and low trees, mostly oaks, pines, cypresses, firs, junipers, and carobs.
Few large wild animals survive in Lebanon, though bears are occasionally seen in the mountains. Among the smaller animals, deer, wildcats, hedgehogs, squirrels, martens, dormice, and hares are found. Numerous migratory birds from Africa and Europe visit Lebanon. Flamingos, pelicans, cormorants, ducks, herons, and snipes frequent the marshes; eagles, buzzards, kites, falcons, and hawks inhabit the mountains; and owls, kingfishers, cuckoos, and woodpeckers are common.
Although Lebanon’s diverse and abundant plant and animal life suffered a heavy toll during the country’s lengthy civil war and subsequent conflicts, the post-civil war period was marked by the rise of fledgling environmental groups and movements that worked toward the creation of protected areas and parks in Lebanon’s sensitive ecological areas.
Demography of Lebanon
- Ethnic and linguistic composition
Lebanon has a heterogeneous society composed of numerous ethnic, religious, and kinship groups. Long-standing attachments and local communalism antedate the creation of the present territorial and political entity and continue to survive with remarkable tenacity. Ethnically, the Lebanese compose a mixture in which Phoenician, Greek, Armenian, and Arab elements are discernible. Within the larger Lebanese community, ethnic minorities including Armenian and Kurdish populations are also present. Arabic is the official language, although smaller proportions of the population are Armenian- or Kurdish-speaking; French and English are also spoken. Syriac is used in some of the churches of the Maronites (Roman Catholics following an Eastern rite).
Perhaps the most distinctive feature of Lebanon’s social structure is its varied religious composition. Since the 7th century Lebanon has served as a refuge for persecuted Christian and Muslim sects. As religion and government in Lebanon are deeply and formally intertwined, the relative proportions of the country’s religious communities is a highly sensitive matter. There has not been an official census since 1932, however, and the data depicting Lebanon’s confessional composition are variable. In general terms, Muslims are the most numerous group overall. Among the three Muslim denominations, the Shīʿites and the Sunnis are the largest, and the Druze constitute a small percentage. Among Lebanon’s Christian population, the Maronites, which form the largest of the Catholic groups, are the largest Christian community overall. The Greek Orthodox community, the largest of the Orthodox groups, is the second largest Christian group overall. There is also a very small Jewish minority.
- Settlement patterns
Most of the population live on the coastal plain, and progressively fewer people are found farther inland. Rural villages are sited according to water supply and the availability of land, frequently including terraced agriculture in the mountains. Northern villages are relatively prosperous and have some modern architecture. Villages in the south have been generally poorer and less stable: local agricultural land is less fertile, and, because of their proximity to Israel, many villages have been subject to frequent dislocation, invasion, and destruction since 1975. Most cities are located on the coast; they have been inundated by migrants and displaced persons, and numerous, often poor, suburbs have been created as a result. Before 1975 many villages and cities were composed of several different religious groups, usually living together in harmony, and rural architecture reflected a unity of style irrespective of religious identity. Since the civil war began, a realignment has moved thousands of Christians north of Beirut along the coast and thousands of Muslims south or east of Beirut; thus, settlement patterns reflect the chasms separating sections of the Lebanese people from each other.
- Demographic trends
Lebanon’s birth rate is slightly below the world’s average, while its death rate is roughly half the global average. Almost one-third of the population is under age 15, with more than one-half under age 30. Life expectancy in Lebanon is higher than both the regional and world averages. One of the most salient demographic features of Lebanon is the uneven distribution of its population. The country’s overall density varies regionally and is on the whole much lower than that of Beirut and the surrounding area but much higher than that of the most sparsely populated Al-Biqāʿ valley.
Before the civil war began, the movement of people from rural areas was a major factor in the country’s soaring rate of urbanization. Most of the internal migration was to Beirut, which accounted for the great majority of Lebanon’s urban population. The civil war led to a substantial return of people to their villages and to a large migration abroad, primarily to the United States, Europe, Latin America, Australia, and parts of the Middle East; within Lebanon, it also led to a process of population dispersal and exchange in many areas that had previously been characterized by the coexistence of Christians and Muslims, and postwar efforts to reverse this process through programs meant to resettle the displaced were not immediately successful. Following the warfare between Hezbollah (Lebanese Shīʿite militia group and political party) and Israeli armed forces in 2006, many more Lebanese citizens—an estimated one million residents, particularly those living in the country’s south—were displaced from their homes.
Economy of Lebanon
In the years before the outbreak of civil war, Lebanon enjoyed status as a regional and commercial centre. The Lebanese economy was characterized by a minimum of government intervention in private enterprise combined with an income- and profit-tax-free environment. Although imports far outstripped exports, elements such as tourism and remittances from labourers working abroad helped balance the trade deficit. Income was generally on the rise, and Lebanese products were finding a place on the international market.
For the first 10 years of the civil war, the Lebanese economy proved remarkably resilient; after the mid-1980s, however, the value of the Lebanese pound plummeted as the continued destruction of the country’s infrastructure took its toll. After the civil war, Lebanon embarked on an ambitious program of social and economic reconstruction that entailed extensive renovation of the country’s flagging infrastructure. Initiated by Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri in the 1990s, it aimed to revive Beirut as a regional financial and commercial centre. Beirut’s reconstruction program made considerable progress in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, albeit at the expense of an increasing internal and external governmental debt load: much of the rebuilding program was financed through internal borrowing, which led to the emergence of both budget deficits and a growing public debt. Yet, to attract and encourage investment, tax rates were reduced. This led to severe budgetary austerity, resulting in only limited investment in Lebanon’s social infrastructure and a growing reliance on regressive indirect taxation to meet budgetary shortfalls. Hence, while a fraction of Lebanese became very rich in postwar Lebanon, at the beginning of the 21st century some one-third of the Lebanese population lived below the poverty line.
- Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
Arable land is scarce, but the climate and the relatively abundant water supply from springs favour the intensive cultivation of a variety of crops on mountain slopes and in the coastal region. On the irrigated coastal plain, market vegetables, bananas, and citrus crops are grown. In the foothills the principal crops are olives, grapes, tobacco, figs, and almonds. At higher elevations (about 1,500 feet [460 metres]), peaches, apricots, plums, and cherries are planted, while apples and pears thrive at an elevation of about 3,000 feet (900 metres). Sugar beets, cereals, and vegetables are the main crops cultivated in Al-Biqāʿ. Poultry is a major source of agricultural income, and goats, sheep, and cattle are also raised.
As a result of the continued violence, many small farmers have lost their livestock, and there has been a noticeable decrease in the production of many agricultural crops. The production of hemp, the source of hashish, has flourished in Al-Biqāʿ valley, however, and the hashish is exported illegally through ports along the coast.
- Resources and power
The mineral resources of Lebanon are few. There are deposits of high-grade iron ore and lignite; building-stone quarries; high-quality sand, suitable for glass manufacture; and lime. The Līṭānī River hydroelectric project generates electricity and has increased the amount of irrigated land for agriculture. Lebanon’s power networks and facilities were damaged during the country’s civil war and by Israeli air strikes carried out during the periodic warfare of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
Leading industries in Lebanon include the manufacture of food products; cement, bricks, and ceramics; wood and wood products; and textiles. Many of the country’s industries were harmed by the civil war, and its effects on the textile industry were especially severe. Although some of the country’s large complexes were unharmed, Beirut’s industrial belt was razed; in addition, Israel’s occupation of the Lebanese south led to an influx of Israeli goods that also harmed Lebanese industries. The construction industry initially played a significant role in the postwar reconstruction that began in the early 1990s; recurrent violence in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, however, caused further damage to Lebanese industry and infrastructure.
During the first 10 years of the civil war, the finance sector of Lebanon’s economy, including banking and insurance, showed an impressive expansion, and the monetary reserves of Lebanon continued to rise despite political uncertainties. The strength of the Lebanese pound and of the balance-of-payments position reflected large inflows of capital, mostly from Lebanese living abroad (whose numbers rose considerably during and after the civil war) and from the high level of liquidity of commercial banks. By 1983, however, inflows from Lebanese living abroad had begun to decrease, and the value of the Lebanese pound fell dramatically.
As a result, two major challenges for post-civil war Lebanon were to secure enough capital to finance its reconstruction program and to reestablish the value of the Lebanese pound through a program of economic stabilization. Lebanon was forced to rely on capital-bond issues in the European market as well as domestic borrowing through the issue of treasury bills, which resulted in a rise in the level of both domestic and international indebtedness. Despite some gains in the early 21st century, the economy suffered marked declines with both the assassination of former prime minister Hariri in 2005 and the destruction wrought by the 2006 warfare between Israel and Hezbollah.
Beirut’s seaport and airport and the country’s free economic and foreign-exchange systems, favourable interest rates, and banking secrecy law (modeled upon that of Switzerland) all contributed to Lebanon’s preeminence of trade and services, particularly before the outset of the country’s civil war.
During the civil war, however, widespread smuggling, covert foreign aid to armed groups, and illegal drug production combined to disguise the country’s pattern of trade. Exports, chiefly vegetable products, textiles, and nonprecious metals, are sent mainly to Middle Eastern countries. Imports such as consumer goods, machinery and transport equipment, petroleum products, and food come mostly from western Europe. A huge trade deficit has been partly covered by “invisible” items such as foreign remittances and government loans. A series of economic and trade agreements signed with Syria after the end of the civil war resulted in a considerable degree of economic and commercial integration between the two countries.
Before the civil war, the growth of the service sector—which generated the overwhelming proportion of national income and employed the largest proportion of the labour force—was related mainly to international transport and trade and to the position of Beirut as a centre of international banking and tourism. The abundance of natural scenery, historic sites, hotels, bars, nightclubs, restaurants, seaside and mountain resorts, outdoor sports facilities, and international cultural festivals in Lebanon traditionally helped maintain tourism as one of the country’s most important year-round industries.
Although all economic sectors were affected by the warfare, the detriment to the service sector was among the most profound. Following the end of the civil war in 1990, extensive reconstruction programs aimed to return Beirut to its status as a hub of finance and tourism, although progress was disrupted by periods of ongoing violence in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
- Labour and taxation
Large-scale unemployment and the emigration of many skilled labourers during the Lebanese civil war had a devastating effect on the country’s workforce. As a result, numerous sectors were greatly hindered during the civil war period, with industry, construction, and transport and communications suffering the most significant contractions in workforce populations.
Lebanon has a comparatively well-developed labour movement. Although faced with significant challenges, including government interference and restrictions, trade unions have secured some tangible gains, such as fringe benefits, collective bargaining contracts, and better working conditions. During the civil war, divisions in many of the trade unions weakened their normal functions, and many of their members joined the warring factions; many others emigrated. The end of the civil war saw the revival of Lebanon’s trade union movement, which became an active participant in Lebanon’s postwar civil society and demonstrated against the rising cost of living in the country and the increase in indirect taxes on such items as gasoline and oil. Lebanon’s trade unions are organized into confederations, including the General Confederation of Lebanese Workers (Confédération Générale des Travailleurs au Liban).
A minimum wage is set by the Labour Code, and legislation provides for cost-of-living increases, such as those that occurred prior to, during, and after the civil war, mainly because of a substantial rise in the cost of housing, education, food, and petroleum products. Tax revenues are an important source of income for the Lebanese government, among which domestic taxes on goods and services and income tax are the most significant.
As in antiquity, Lebanon’s location makes it a vital crossroads between East and West. The road network traversing Lebanon includes international highways, which form part of major land routes connecting Europe with the Arab countries and the East. There are also national highways, paved secondary roads, and unpaved roads.
Numerous ports lie along the seacoast. Berths for oil tankers have been built offshore at Tripoli and at Al-Zahrānī, near Sidon, where pipeline terminals and refineries also are located. The principal cargo and passenger port is that of Beirut, which has a free zone and storage facilities for transit shipments. The port has been expanded and deepened, and a large storage silo (for wheat and other grains) has been built, but port facilities were severely damaged during the civil war and the postwar fighting. The harbour at Jūniyah has grown in importance.
Beirut International Airport was one of the busiest airports in the Middle East before the civil war. Its runways were built to handle the largest jet airplanes in service, and a number of international airlines used Beirut regularly. After 1990, renovations to Beirut’s airport were undertaken to facilitate a return to its prewar importance.
At the end of the civil war, Lebanon’s transportation infrastructure on the whole required significant reconstruction; many roads were rebuilt, including a highway along the coast from Tripoli to Sidon. Although some repairs were undertaken in 2004, Lebanon’s railway system—which included lines along the coast and up Al-Biqāʿ valley, as well as a cog railway across the Lebanon Mountains—remained out of service in the years following the civil war. Many transport facilities—including the airport, ports, and major highways—were damaged anew during the warfare between Israel and Hezbollah in mid-2006.
Government and Society of Lebanon
- Constitutional framework
Modern Lebanon is a unitary multiparty republic with a parliamentary system of government. Its constitution, promulgated in 1926 during the French mandate and modified by several subsequent amendments, provides for a unicameral Chamber of Deputies (renamed the National Assembly in 1979) elected for a term of four years by universal adult suffrage (women attained the right to vote and eligibility to run for office in 1953). According to the 1989 Ṭāʾif Accord, parliamentary seats are apportioned equally between Christian and Muslim sects, thereby replacing an earlier ratio that had favoured Christians. This sectarian distribution is also to be observed in appointments to public office.
The head of state is the president, who is elected by a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly for a term of six years and is eligible to serve consecutive terms. By an unwritten convention the president must be a Maronite Christian, the premier a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of the National Assembly a Shīʿite. The president, in consultation with the speaker of the National Assembly and the parliamentary deputies, invites a Sunni Muslim to form a cabinet, and the cabinet members’ portfolios are organized to reflect the sectarian balance. The cabinet, which holds more executive power than the president, requires a vote of confidence from the Assembly in order to remain in power. A vote of no confidence, however, is rarely exercised in practice. A cabinet usually falls because of internal dissension, societal strife, or pressure exerted by foreign states.
- Local government
Lebanon is divided into muḥāfaẓāt (governorates) administered by the muḥāfiẓ (governor), who represents the central government. The governorates are further divided into aqḍiyyah (districts), each of which is presided over by a qāʾim-maqām (district chief), who, along with the governor, supervises local government. Municipalities (communities with at least 500 inhabitants) elect their own councils, which in turn elect mayors and vice-mayors. Villages and towns (more than 50 and fewer than 500 inhabitants) elect a mukhṭār (headman) and a council of elders, who serve on an honorary basis. Officers of local governments serve four-year terms.
The system of law and justice is mostly modeled on French concepts. The judiciary consists of courts of the first instance, courts of appeal, courts of cassation, and a Court of Justice that handles cases affecting state security. The Council of State is a court that deals with administrative affairs. In addition, there are religious courts that deal with matters of personal status (such as inheritance, marriage, and property matters) as they pertain to autonomous communities. Stipulations in the Ṭāʾif Accord have led to the post-civil war establishment of a Constitutional Council, which is empowered to monitor the constitutionality of laws and handle disputes in the electoral process. Despite the country’s well-developed legal system and a very high proportion of lawyers, significant numbers of disputes and personal grievances are resolved outside the courts. Justice by feud and vendetta continues.
- Political process
The political system in Lebanon remains a blend of secular and traditional features. Until 1975 the country appeared to support liberal and democratic institutions, yet in effect it had hardly any of the political instruments of a civil polity. Its political parties, parliamentary blocs, and pressure groups were so closely identified with parochial, communal, and personal loyalties that they often failed to serve the larger national purpose of the society. The National Pact of 1943, a sort of Christian-Muslim entente, sustained the national entity (al-kiyān), yet this sense of identity was neither national nor civic. The agreement reached at Ṭāʾif essentially secured a return to the same political process and its mixture of formal and informal political logic.
Provisions are in place for power sharing among Lebanon’s various sectarian groups. Women have not typically participated in the government; the first position in the cabinet to be held by a woman occurred in 2005. Palestinian refugees in Lebanon do not enjoy political rights and do not participate in the government.
The armed forces consist of an army, an air force, and a navy. Lebanon also has a paramilitary gendarmerie and a police force. During the civil war the army practically disintegrated when splinter groups joined the different warring factions. Reconstruction of the Lebanese armed forces has been attempted, particularly with the assistance first of the United States and then of Syria, with substantial effect. Responsibility for maintaining security and order has often fallen to the various political and religious factions and to foreign occupiers.
- Health and welfare
Public health services are largely concentrated in the cities, although the government increasingly directs medical aid into rural areas. As in the field of social welfare, nongovernmental voluntary associations—mostly religious, communal, or ethnic—are active. The Lebanese diet is generally satisfactory, and the high standard of living and the favourable climate have served to reduce the incidence of many diseases that are still common in other Middle Eastern countries.
Lebanon has a large number of skilled medical personnel, and hospital facilities are adequate under normal circumstances. Following the destruction of the civil war, considerable efforts—largely on the part of Lebanon’s religious communities and nonprofit sector—were made to upgrade the infrastructure and services in the health and social welfare sectors.
The National Social Security Fund, which is not fully implemented, provides sickness and maternity insurance, labour-accident and occupational-disease insurance, family benefits, and termination-of-service benefits.
In response to the need for low-cost housing, the Popular Housing Law was enacted in the 1960s, providing for the rehabilitation of substandard housing. Prior to the civil war a substantial percentage of homes were without bathrooms, and thousands of families, including Palestinian refugees, were living in improvised accommodations. When an economic boom attracted villagers to the capital, the housing shortage worsened considerably. The civil war drastically increased the problem. Thousands of homes in battle zones were destroyed, and entire villages were evacuated and others occupied. The result was chaos in which property rights were violated as a matter of course. The government, in an attempt to remedy the situation, set up a Housing Bank to make housing loans.
Lebanon’s well-developed system of education reaches all levels of the population, and literacy rates are among the highest in the Middle East. Although education was once almost exclusively the responsibility of religious communities or foreign groups, public schools have sprung up across the country. Nevertheless, the majority of Lebanese students continue to be educated at private schools, which are generally considered more favourably than their public counterparts. Although more than two-fifths of students were enrolled in public schools in the early 1970s, at the end of the civil war the number had dropped to about one-third.
The five-year primary school program is followed either by a seven-year secondary program (leading to the official baccalaureate certificate) or by a four-year program of technical or vocational training. Major universities include the American University of Beirut (1866), the Université Saint-Joseph (1875; subsidized by the French government and administered by the Jesuit order), the Lebanese University (Université Libanaise; 1951), and the Beirut Arab University (1960; an affiliate of the University of Alexandria).
- Social and economic division
Lebanese society was able for a long time to give a semblance of relative economic stability. The existence of a large middle-income group, in addition to the political and social legitimacy of kinship ties and religious and communal attachments, reinforced the veneer that masked the growing socioeconomic dislocations. The interaction of these factors covered up the growing class polarization, especially around the industrial belt that encircled Beirut. The eruption of civil conflict in 1975, and the state of chaos that ensued, is attributable in part to the fact that the system of government was unresponsive to the acute social problems and grievances.
The problems of increasing socioeconomic disparity and government inaction continued into Lebanon’s post-civil war period. Despite the visible success of some aspects of Lebanon’s reconstruction program, the reality of the country’s postwar economic situation has been characterized by a dwindling middle class and the descent of many Lebanese citizens into poverty.
Culture Life of Lebanon
- Cultural milieu
Historically, Lebanon is heir to a long succession of Mediterranean cultures—Phoenician, Greek, and Arab. Its cultural milieu continues to show clear manifestations of a rich and diverse heritage. As an Arab country, Lebanon shares more than a common language with neighbouring Arab states; it also has a similar cultural heritage and common interests.
A number of Lebanon’s rich cultural sites have been designated UNESCO World Heritage sites: the remains of the city of ʿAnjar (founded by al-Walīd in the early 8th century); the ruins of successive cultures at the old Phoenician cities of Baalbek, Byblos, and Tyre; and the Christian monasteries in Wadi Qādīshā, together with the nearby remains of a sacred forest of long-prized cedar.
- Daily life and social customs
Lebanon’s diverse culture is a result of its admixture of various religious, linguistic, and socioeconomic groups. Family and kinship play a central role in Lebanese social relationships, in both the private and public spheres. Although family structure is traditionally largely patriarchal, women are active in education and politics.
Because of the country’s diverse religious makeup, Lebanese citizens observe a variety of holidays. Those celebrated by the Christian community include Easter and Christmas, the dates of which vary, as elsewhere, between the Catholic and Orthodox communities. ʿĪd al-Fiṭr (which marks the end of Ramadan), ʿĪd al-Aḍḥā (which marks the culmination of the hajj), and the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday are celebrated by Lebanese Muslims; ʿĀshūrāʾ, a holiday particular to Shīʿite Muslims, is also observed. In addition, Martyrs’ Day is observed on May 6 and Independence Day on November 22.
- The arts
Lebanon’s antiquities and ruins have provided not only inspiration for artists but also magnificent backdrops for annual music festivals, most notably the Baalbek International Festival. At one time, international opera, ballet, symphony, and drama companies of nearly all nationalities competed to enrich the cultural life of Beirut. Following the end of the civil war in 1990, Lebanon’s cultural life gradually began to reemerge, though that revival remained subject to interruption by periods of violence in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
Lebanon has produced a number of gifted young artists who have shown a refreshing readiness to experiment with new expressive forms. Some Lebanese are active in international opera, theatre companies, and television and movie productions, while others are intent on creating a wider audience for classical Arabic music and theatre. Other artists have remained cultural staples for many years: with a career spanning several decades, the immensely popular Lebanese singer Fairuz (Fayrūz) remains a well-known vocalist and a treasured cultural icon.
The cultural awakening encouraged the revival of national folk arts, particularly song, dabkah (the national dance), and zajal (folk poetry), and the refinement of traditional crafts.
In the 19th century, Lebanese linguists were in the vanguard of the Arabic literary awakening. In more recent times, writers of the calibre of Khalil Gibran, Georges Shehade, Michel Chiha, and Hanan al-Shaykh have been widely translated and have reached an international audience.
- Cultural institutions
While for a time cultural life in Lebanon was predominantly centred around universities and affiliated institutions, there has been an impressive proliferation of cultural activities under other auspices. Beirut has several museums and a number of private libraries, learned societies, and research institutions. The National Museum houses a collection of artifacts from Phoenician, Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine eras, and the National Library of Lebanon, closed in 1979 because of the civil war, began undergoing restorations in the early 21st century.
- Sports and recreation
Football (soccer) is among the most popular sports in Lebanon, although basketball is also favoured. Weight lifting has been popular with many Lebanese athletes since the mid-20th century, and the country has traditionally sent weight lifters to international competitions with some regularity. Participation in outdoor activities has also gained momentum. Lebanon has several well-equipped ski resorts, and downhill skiing is popular among the wealthy, while windsurfing and kayaking are favoured pastimes among the younger generation. The untamed peaks and breathtaking scenery of the Lebanon Mountains contribute to the popularity of hiking expeditions and mountain biking.
Lebanon sent a delegation of officials to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, paving the way for the formation in 1947 of the Lebanese Olympic committee, which was acknowledged by the International Olympic Committee the following year. Since then, Lebanon has participated regularly in both the Summer and Winter Games. Lebanon has also hosted various competitions, including the Pan-Arab Games in 1997 and the Asian Cup in 2000.
- Media and publishing
Lebanon has long had a strong print media tradition. The country’s major Arabic papers include Al-Nahār and Al-Safīr; other publications include a French-language newspaper, L’Orient–Le Jour, and The Daily Star, an English daily. While Lebanon’s print media has been vulnerable to a certain degree of political influence, the country’s press nevertheless remains among the freest and most lively in the Arab world.
The relative independence of the print media contrasts sharply with the relatively high degree of regulation exercised by the government over audiovisual media. Television and radio broadcasting stations (especially those that air political news and commentary) are more heavily influenced by the government. Among these are television stations such as Télé-Liban, the official government station, as well as Future Television and the National Broadcasting Network; in addition, there are numerous stations that feature music and general entertainment programs.
History of Lebanon
Early History to Independence
In ancient times the area of Lebanon and Syria was occupied by the Canaanites, who founded the great Phoenician cities and later established a commercial maritime empire (see Phoenicia). Lebanon's cities as well as its forests and iron and copper mines (since exhausted) attracted the successive dominant powers in the Middle East. The Phoenician cities occupied a favored position in the Persian Empire and were conquered by Alexander the Great. The region came under Roman dominion starting in 64 B.C. (there are notable Roman ruins at Baalbek) and was Christianized before the Arab conquest in the 7th cent. By then the Maronites had established themselves—a cardinal fact in the history of Lebanon, which long remained predominantly Christian while Syria became Muslim. Later (11th cent.) the Druze settled in S Lebanon and in adjacent regions of Syria, and trouble between them and the Christians was to become a constant theme in regional history.
The Crusaders (see Crusades) were active in Lebanon (late 11th cent.) and were aided by the Lebanese Christians. After the Crusaders, Lebanon was loosely ruled by the Mamluks (c.1300). Invasions by Mongols and others contributed to the decline of trade until the reunification of the Middle East under the Ottoman Turks (early 16th cent.). Under Ottoman control, Lebanon had considerable autonomy, and powerful families ruled the country.
Many Western religious missions and businesses were established in the area in the 19th cent. Conflict among the religious communities, culminating in massacres of the Maronites by the Druze in 1860, led to intervention by France (1861), and the Ottoman sultan was forced to appoint a Christian governor for Lebanon. The French were given the mandate of Syria after World War I by the League of Nations; Lebanon was a part of that mandate.
The French, being Catholic, separated Lebanon (home of most of the Maronite Catholics) from Syria, thus creating a new state. There was much discontent and, among the Muslims, a desire for independence within a wider Arab state. In 1926 the mandate was given a republican constitution. A treaty with France in 1936 provided for independence after a three-year transition period, but it was not ratified by France. In World War II the French Vichy government controlled Lebanon until a British–Free French force conquered (June–July, 1941) the Lebanese coast. The Free French proclaimed Lebanon an independent republic. Elections were held in 1943, and, after considerable controversy, Lebanon became independent on Jan. 1, 1944.
- New Nation, New Leadership
In 1945, Lebanon became a member of the United Nations, and all British and French troops were evacuated by the end of 1946. As a member of the Arab League, Lebanon declared war on Israel in 1948 but took little part in the conflict. In 1952, after the election of Camille Chamoun as president, Lebanon formed closer ties with the West. In the spring of 1958, opposition to Chamoun's pro-Western policies and his acceptance of U.S. aid under the Eisenhower Doctrine erupted in rioting in Tripoli, Beirut, and elsewhere. The rioting grew into full-scale rebellion, and Chamoun called in U.S. forces (July, 1958). Gen. Fouad Chehab, a nonpolitical personality who had kept the army out of the civil strife, was elected to succeed Chamoun, and the rebellion ebbed. By autumn U.S. forces had left the country.
Lebanon subsequently steered a course closer to that of the other Arab nations. The secession of Syria (1961) from the United Arab Republic revived once again the rift between pro-Western and pan-Arab elements in Lebanon. In 1962 a military coup was attempted in Beirut but was crushed. Chehab was succeeded in 1964 by Charles Hélou; Suleiman Franjieh was elected president in 1970.
- Lebanon, Israel, and the Palestinians
During the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Lebanon gave verbal support to the Arab effort against Israel but did not become involved in any military action. After that, however, Lebanon's position became increasingly difficult because of the activities against Israel of Palestinian terrorists based in Lebanon. Israel repeatedly accused Lebanon of not doing enough to control the terrorists, and in 1968 Israeli forces began a series of reprisals against Palestinian strongholds in Lebanon. In 1969 fighting broke out between the Lebanese army and the Palestinian commandos after the government had threatened to limit the latter's activity.
After the bloody suppression in 1970–71 of the guerrillas in Jordan, large numbers of Palestinians fled into S Lebanon and Beirut. Again in 1972 heavy fighting took place between the Lebanese army and the Palestinians. Anti-Israeli terrorist attacks continued into the 1970s, and Israel continued its attacks on Palestinian guerrilla bases in S Lebanon. Lebanon did not enter the Oct., 1973, Arab-Israeli War, nor did the Lebanese army interfere with Palestinian guerrillas operating in S Lebanon.
Civil War Lebanon became embroiled in civil war among the Christians, Muslims, and Palestinians from early 1975 to late 1976. At the request of Lebanon's president, Syrian forces entered Lebanon (Apr., 1976), halting Muslim and Palestinian advances. An estimated 50,000 Lebanese were killed and twice that number wounded. The country became devastated, the economy crippled, and tourism plummeted to a standstill. A cease-fire in Oct., 1976, proved unstable, and hostilities resumed full scale in 1977. In response to guerrilla attacks by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Israel occupied S Lebanon in Mar., 1978, but withdrew in June. This came with the installation of a UN peacekeeping force of 6,000, which was unable to effectively maintain control of Lebanese militia activity.
In 1981 fighting continued between Christian and Syrian forces, and Beirut was subjected to Israeli air raids in reprisal for PLO attacks. In June, 1982, Israeli forces invaded Lebanon, primarily to eliminate Palestinian guerrilla bases. Nearly 7,000 Palestinians were forced to leave Lebanon, which was accomplished under the supervision of a Multinational Force (MNF) comprised of U.S. and European-allied troops, who left immediately afterward. On Aug. 23, Bashir Gemayel (see under Gemayel, family) was elected president of Lebanon, but he was killed three weeks later by a bomb. In the wake of his death, Christian Phalangist forces entered the Palestinian refugee camps in Israeli-controlled areas and massacred some 1,000 civilians, provoking an international outcry.
Bashir Gemayel's brother, Amin, was elected president a few days later on Sept. 20. Another multinational force, of U.S. Marines and British, French, and Italian soldiers, returned to Lebanon to monitor the Lebanese militias. A U.S.-aided peace treaty, concluded with Amin Gemayel and Israel in May, 1983, called for the removal of foreign troops. Syria rejected the peace agreement, refusing to evacuate its holdings. As Israeli troops slowly left the Beirut and southern area, Lebanese militias fought among themselves in the wake of the Israeli withdrawal. In Apr., 1983, a terrorist bombing partially destroyed the U.S. embassy in Beirut, killing 50 people. On Oct. 23, 260 U.S. Marines and 60 French soldiers were killed by a truck bomb.
The multinational force left Lebanon in 1984. Israel completed its withdrawal in mid-1985 but left soldiers to work in conjunction with the Christian South Lebanese Army (SLA) to maintain a security ("buffer") zone. Palestinian action gradually resumed as PLO members and units returned to S Lebanon. Beirut remained a major battle area, and in Feb., 1987, Syrian troops moved into the city to suppress the warring factions. By this time, Iranian-supported Lebanese Shiite groups had become notorious for their holding of Western hostages. When Gemayel's term ended in 1988, it proved impossible to hold national elections and find a successor. A transitional military government was led by Gen. Michel Aoun, whose aim of ousting Syrian forces from Lebanon sparked new rounds of battles and bloodshed.
A tentative peace accord was reached between Christian and Muslim representatives, but Aoun complained that the peace accord failed to pressure the Syrians to withdraw. On Nov. 22, 1989, the newly elected Syrian-backed president, René Moawad, was assassinated; he was succeeded by Elias Hrawi. Revolts by Aoun in late 1989 and 1990 were put down with the help of Syrian forces, and Aoun was ousted from the country. In Nov., 1990, major rival Shiite Muslim groups signed an agreement to end their fighting.
Post–Civil War Lebanon In early 1991, Lebanese troops organized to regain control of the south from PLO guerrillas and Israelis who controlled a 6-mi (10-km) deep security zone. There were repeated and largely successful attempts to disband rival militias. A treaty (1991) of friendship and cooperation with Syria, which continued to have significant forces in Lebanon, essentially guaranteed Syrian domination of Lebanon's foreign relations. Meanwhile, beginning in the same year, Lebanon participated in peace talks with Israel, Syria, and a joint Palestinian–Jordanian delegation. International pressures on Lebanon eased with the release of the last U.S. and Western hostages in 1992.
By the mid-1990s, neither the Israeli nor the Syrian forces had quit the country, and clashes between Palestinian units and Israeli troops, as well as among the existing Lebanese militias, continued. Intense fighting erupted between Shiite Hezbollah (Party of God) guerrillas and Israel in S Lebanon in early 1996, as the guerrillas fired rockets into Israel and Israel retaliated with shelling and bombing. A tentative cease-fire was reached in late April; the episode generated a heavy flow of refugees from areas of S Lebanon. The many years of heavy fighting in Lebanon crippled the nation's infrastructure and economy, and devastated tourism, but a major rebuilding effort was undertaken in the 1990s.
In 1995, President Hrawi's term in office was extended by three years by a constitutional amendment. Gen. Emile Lahoud was elected president in 1998. Fighting between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas erupted again in June, 1999, following an announcement by Israel's new prime minister, Ehud Barak, that he would withdraw Israeli troops stationed in S Lebanon within a year. In May, 2000, Israeli troops engaged in a gradual withdrawal from S Lebanon, turning over its position to its Lebanese Christian ally, the South Lebanon Army (SLA), but the SLA collapsed, leading Israel to accelerate its withdrawal, which was completed by late May.
The 2000 parliamentary elections brought the opposition back into power, and Rafik Hariri became prime minister; he had previously held the office from 1992 to 1998. President Lahoud's term was extended for three years by constitutional amendment in 2004 at the behest of Syria, which still had some 18,000 troops in Lebanon. The blatant meddling in Lebanese affairs caused a governmental crisis in Lebanon, eventually resulting in the resignation of Hariri's government and the appointment of Omar Karami as prime minister; Karami had served as prime minister from 1990 to 1992. The UN Security Council denounced foreign interference in Lebanese politics and demanded that all foreign forces leave Lebanon. Some Syrian forces were withdrawn or redeployed in the following months.
In Feb., 2005, Hariri was assassinated in a Beirut car bombing, provoking a rash of anti-Syrian demonstrations and leading to increased international pressure on Syria to withdraw, although Hezbollah rallied its supporters in defense of Syria. Syria subsequently agreed to withdraw all its troops, and did so by the end of April. The crisis also led Karami's government to resign (February), but the president subsequently asked Karami to form a new government, which he proved unable to do. In April, however, Najib Mikati, a pro-Syrian politician who was also responsive to some opposition demands, became prime minister and formed a new government.
Parliamentary elections in May–June resulted in a majority for the anti-Syrian coalition; Fouad Siniora, a former finance minister and an ally of Hariri, became prime minister. The new government moved, albeit cautiously, to reduce Syrian influence in the Lebanese security forces, and arrested several high-ranking security officials associated with the president as suspects in the assassination of Hariri. A UN investigation into the killing meanwhile implicated senior Lebanese and Syrian officials. By the end of 2005, however, a cabinet vote in favor of an international trial of the suspects in Hariri's murder provoked a split in the government, with Shiite ministers refusing to attend cabinet sessions; the boycott lasted until Feb., 2006.
The disarming of the Shiite Hezbollah militia, as demanded by the United Nations, slowed the resolution of the boycott, and the prime minister ultimately acknowledged the group as a "national resistance movement," but many in the government continued to support disarming Hezbollah. In July, 2006, Hezbollah forces captured two Israeli soldiers in fighting along the Israeli border, leading Israel to launch air attacks against targets in Beirut, Sidon, Tyre, and many other locales, place a blockade on Lebanon, and send troops into S Lebanon. Hezbollah respond largely by mounting rocket attacks against N Israel, including Haifa and Tiberias, but the its forces also offered resistance to Israeli troops, slowing their advance.
A UN-mediated cease-fire took effect in mid-August, and by the beginning of October Israel had essentially withdrawn from Lebanon and ended its blockade. As much as a fifth of the Lebanese population was displaced by the conflict, and Israeli attacks destroyed much of the country's infrastructure, a setback for the rebuilding that had occurred since the end of the civil war. Tourism and agriculture were among the sectors of the Lebanese economy most severely hurt by the fighting. Amnesty International accused both sides of war crimes in the fighting, mainly because of their attacks on civilians.
The Israeli pullout left Hezbollah in position to proclaim its resistance and survival a victory, and emboldened it to insist on a re-formation of the Lebanese government that would give it and its allies a much stronger political position. Hezbollah also continued to resist disarming, as called for by the UN Security Council, and neither were the captured Israeli soldiers released. At the same time, however, the Lebanese army was deployed, albeit not forcefully, throughout S Lebanon for the first time since the civil war; UN peacekeepers were also deployed there. Israel, for its part, continued its military overflights of Lebanon, also despite the UN Security Council.
The political stalemate over the role of Hezbollah and its allies in the government led it and Amal, the other Shiite party in the cabinet, to leave the government, giving the government an interim standing under the Ta'if accord (because Shiites were no longer represented in the cabinet). The move also stalled the government's approval of an international tribunal to prosecute Hariri's suspected killers. Hezbollah subsequently mounted demonstrations and strikes calling for the government's resignation, and their clashes between government and antigovernment partisans at times.
The situation continued unsettled and unresolved into 2007, despite talks in March. Assassinations of members of parliament, mainly those opposed to Syria, also continued, and in Dec., 2007, an army general was killed. In May–Sept., 2007, there was fierce fighting in a refugee camp near Tripoli between the Lebanese army and Palestinian guerrillas aligned with Syria; a bank robbery by the group provoked the clash. More than 200 people died in the fighting before the government took control of the camp. Also in May the United Nations approved an international tribunal to try suspects in the Hariri assassination; the tribunal first convened in Mar., 2009, but in April the four Lebanese officers who had been held since 2005 in connection with the case were released for lack of evidence. In Aug., 2010, Hezbollah asserted that it had evidence implicating Israel in the assassination; the accusation was apparently prompted by information that the tribunal had found indications that some Hezbollah members had been involved.
The political stalemate delayed the election of a successor to President Lahoud, who left office in Nov., 2007. Although the parties agreed on army chief Michel Suleiman as a presidential candidate by early 2008, disputes over the makeup of the government postponed his election by parliament until May, 2008. The May agreement that led to a new president and cabinet was negotiated in Doha, Qatar, and was finalized only after the government's attempt to ban Hezbollah's private telephone network led Hezbollah to attack its Lebanese opponents in Beirut and elsewhere. After a week of bloody fighting, the government rescinded its ban.
A new government, with Siniora as prime minister, was finally established in July, 2008; Hezbollah and its allies received enough cabinet seats to give them veto power over government decisions. In September, an agreement was signed to end sectarian fighting in Tripoli, which had sporadically continued there between Sunnis and Alawites since May. The following month, Syria formally established diplomatic relations with Lebanon for the first time; Syria's previous failure to do so had been seen as a rejection of Lebanese independence. Parliamentarly elections held in June, 2009, resulted in a victory for the pro-Western Sunni, Druze, and Maronite coalition, led by Hariri's son, Saad. Attempts to form a coalition government proved difficult. In September Saad Hariri stepped down as prime minister designate, but he was renamed to the post, and a national unity government that included Hezbollah and its allies was formed in November.
Syria's influence in the country was again evident in 2010, as Hariri traveled several times to Damascus and, in September, said that he had been wrong to blame Syria for his father's assassination. In Jan., 2011, as an indictment from the Hariri assassination tribunal prosecutors neared, Hezbollah called on Prime Minister Hariri to repudiate the tribunal, which was expected to accuse members of Hezbollah of involvement in the crime. When the prime minister refused, Hezbollah and its allies withdrew from the government, forcing negotiations to establish a new government; they supported former prime minister Mikati, who as prime minister designate sought to establish a unity government, but Hariri's coalition announced it would not join the government, which was finally formed in July. Later than month, the Hariri tribunal delivered confidential arrest warrants to the Lebanese state prosecutor; its indictment of four Hezbollah members was made public the following month, and that of a fifth member was revealed in Mar., 2012.
Lebanon was increasingly affected by the civil war in Syria as 2012 progressed. The conflict sparked sporadic violence between Lebanese Sunnis on the one hand and Alawites and Shiites on the other. Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees also fled to Lebanon, with some 340,000 there by Mar., 2013. In Oct., 2012, a senior intelligence official who had led the investigation into Hariri's assassination was himself killed by a car bomb; his death provoked antigovernment protests and violence between Sunnis and Shiites. In Mar., 2013, Mikati resigned as prime minister as a result of disagreements within the coalition over a number issues. In April, Tammam Salam was asked by the president to form a new government; in May the June 2013 parliamentary elections were postponed until late 2014 due to deadlock over electoral law changes and to the effects of the Syrian civil war. By mid-2013 Hezbollah was playing an open military role in Syria in support of its government, and the spillover from the Syrian civil war had led to increasing sectarian violence in Lebanon. Lebanon also experienced the influx of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.
Lebanon Area: 10,372 sq km (4,005 sq mi) Population (2010 est.): 4,125,000 (including registered Palestinian refugees estimated to number about 400,000) Capital: Beirut Head of state: President ...>>>Read On>>>
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