Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Untold tales of courage: A series?

A few posts ago, Loulia left a hilarious comment on what she dubbed "the most vocal, loud and intimidating" people on earth: post-menopausal Arab women. As soon as I stopped laughing, it occurred to me that Loulia was not joking. There are actually so many layers of truth to her statement that it got me thinking, "Who dares talk back to these women?" And it's not just the post-menopausal. I think this applies to many Arab women who could intimidate the living hell out of any adult male. Maybe it's because they have brought humans out of their bellies and know it. And they know that others know it.

Anyway this inspired me to attempt a series of posts - if I gather enough stamina and material to see it through - in recognition of some amazing feats of courage by women and mothers, who stood up to what they believed in, be it their families or causes, despite the extraordinary duress they were under: The Lebanese Civil War.

My first story is that of Elizabeth Kobeissi, who is incidentally the mother of one of my closest friends. Elizabeth is a French woman who fell in love with and married a Lebanese university professor and had 4 children. She's a passionate woman who stayed in Lebanon through its most tumultuous times. Here is her story (for a more poetic account in French written by Elizabeth, click here):

The events of 4 February 1984 had just passed and Bir el-Abed (an area in the suburbs of Beirut) was a vision of the apocalypse: destroyed buildings, shattered glass and dented cars all around. Once the fighting stopped, the local grocer opens his shop, fresh vegetables on display and children playing in the street bring life back to the area. The garden in our home was lush green, inviting my children and the pigeons in the area to playfully enjoy the quiet.

The truce never stopped the young fighters of the area though, who upon seeing the children playing, brought out their pellet guns and started shooting at the innocent pigeons that had survived the real fighting. The first day I saw a bloody pigeon lying on the ground, I quickly understood that these poor naive creatures were targets in shooting exercises, and started thinking of a way to stop it. My husband of course told me that we cannot do anything. There were too many militias running the area and it's better not to get involved. But I couldn't care less about who reigned supreme in our neighbourhood. What interested me was what they were doing to the population.

The next morning, I found a dying pigeon in our garden, so I carried it delicately and marched to the Hizbollah headquarter office where I demanded to see the person in charge. Once in his office, I let loose all my anger, placed the dead creature on his desk and asked him "Is it normal to kill for pleasure? Wasn't there enough death on February 4?" And then I suggested that they confiscate all pellet guns in the area.

To my utter surprise, the next day, militias arrived, two by two, entered each building in our neighbourhood and collected all the pellet guns they could find. After that, and to the joy of my children, the pigeons could play safely again in our garden in Bir el-Abed...

Anyone who knows of an inspiring story of courage by a woman who lived the Lebanese civil war, please let me know. I'd love to hear and blog about it.


Khaled said...

Love it! A tiny victory on the scale of things, but a victory nonetheless.
Also explains why Leila is so cool. :)

Kosmo said...

Truly inspirational. On a very cliche (but sincere) note- it's stories like this that really make you want to change the world... and maybe, even give it a shot!

Zainab said...

WOW is all I could think of... respect to Elizabeth

Matt said...

A lovely anecdote, it made chilly London a little warmer today! Keep them up.