Great Famine of Mount Lebanon
Other areas in modern-day Lebanon, according to multiple sources, were also famine-stricken. However, due to poor documentation, casualties were never recorded. Some of the areas hit with no documentation include Tyre, Zahle, Akkar & Bint Jbeil.
The Ottoman alliance with the Central Powers
caused the Entente Powers
to block international trade routes in order to hinder Ottoman supply. The blockade damaged Mount Lebanon's silk trade, a backbone of the economy. Growing crops was already a challenge in the mountainous region and the inhabitants relied on food imports from the adjacent Bekaa Valley
. To counter the Allied blockade, the Ottomans adopted a severe policy of acquisition by which all food supplies were prioritized for the army. Jamal Pasha
, commander of the Fourth Army of the Ottoman Empire
, barred crops from entering Mount Lebanon. Locust infestations
laid waste to the remaining crops.
The crisis further exacerbated a black market
run by well-connected usurers
First grain shortages
The Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers
in World War I on 28 October 1914.
The Ottoman government had appropriated all of the empire's railway services for military use, which disrupted the procurement of crops to parts of the empire.
One of the first cities to be hit by the grain shortage was Beirut
On 13 November 1914, only 2 weeks after the Ottoman Empire joined the war, a group of citizens stormed the Beirut municipality to warn the municipal council of the severe shortage of wheat
in the city. The train freight cars that regularly transported grains
from Aleppo had not arrived and the bakery shelves were empty. Angry mobs looted the bakeries of whatever little reserves of flour and grain they had left.
The municipal council dispatched a message to then Beirut Vali Bekir Sami Kunduh
who requested grain provisions from the governor of Aleppo Vilayet
and urged the Ottoman authorities to prioritize grain shipping to Beirut. Acquiring train freight cars to transport anything to the Beirut Vilayet
was impossible without paying large bribes to military commanders and to the railroad authorities. Grain prices began to soar, which prompted the president of Beirut's municipal body, Ahmad Mukhtar Beyhum, to address the grain supply bottlenecks himself.
On 14 November 1914, Beyhum took off to Aleppo, where he negotiated with authorities, securing grain freight cars from the Ottoman Fourth Army
. The wheat was paid for from the municipal treasury. Grain freights arrived to Beirut on 19 November 1914 to the relief of the masses;
however, the crisis was to worsen as both reports of the Ottoman officials and correspondence from the Syrian Protestant College
indicated that food shortages were to become a daily occurrence past November.
Around 200,000 people starved to death at a time when the population of Mount Lebanon was estimated to be 400,000 people.
The Mount Lebanon famine caused the highest fatality rate by population during World War I.
Bodies were piled in the streets and people were reported to be eating street animals. Some people were said to have resorted to cannibalism
On 26 May 1916, Gibran Khalil Gibran
wrote a letter to Mary Haskell
that reads: "The famine in Mount Lebanon has been planned and instigated by the Turkish government. Already 80,000 have succumbed to starvation and thousands are dying every single day. The same process happened with the Christian Armenians
and applied to the Christians in Mount Lebanon."
Gibran dedicated a poem named "Dead Are My People" to the fallen of the famine.
Tawfiq Yusuf 'Awwad
's landmark full-length novel Al-Raghif
(The loaf) is set in the impoverished mountain village of Saqiyat al-Misk
during World War I. In the novel, 'Awwad describes scenes from the great famine.
There was a woman, lying on her back, covered with lice. An infant with huge eyes was hanging to her naked breast. One of the men pushed her with his foot and waited... Tom bit his fingers and stepped forward. The woman’s head was tipped back and her hair was sparse. From her bosom jutted out a scratched and battered breast that the infant kneaded with his tiny hands and squeezed with his lips, then gave up and cried.
— Tawfiq Yusuf 'Awwad, Al-Raghif (1939)
The first memorial to memorialize the victims of the famine was erected in Beirut
in 2018, marking the 100th year since the end of the famine. The site is called "The Great Famine Memorial", and is located in front of the Saint-Joseph University
It was erected based on initiatives by Lebanese historian Christian Taoutel (curator of the memorial) and Lebanese writer Ramzi Toufic Salame.
- ^ Taoutel, Christian; Wittouck, Pierre. Le peuple libanais dans la tourmente de la grande guerre 1914-1918 d'après les Pères Jésuites au Liban (in French). Presses de l'Université Saint-Joseph. ISBN 9953455449.
- ^ 
- ^ a b c d e f g Ghazal, Rym (14 April 2015). "Lebanon's dark days of hunger: The Great Famine of 1915–18". The National. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
- ^ a b c d e f g BBC staff (26 November 2014). "Six unexpected WW1 battlegrounds". BBC News. BBC. BBC News Services. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
- ^ Lutsky, Vladimir Borisovich (1969). "Modern History of the Arab Countries". Progress Publishers. Retrieved 2009-11-12.
- ^ United States Library of Congress – Federal Research Division (2004). Lebanon A Country Study. Kessinger Publishing. p. 264. ISBN 978-1-4191-2943-8.
- ^ a b Tawk, Rania (18 April 2015). "Le centenaire de la Grande famine au Liban : pour ne jamais oublier (The Centenary of Lebanon's great famine: so that we don't forget)". L'Orient Le Jour (in French). Beirut: L'Orient – Le Jour. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
- ^ Herbert Albert Laurens Fisher (1936). A history of Europe: The liberal experiment. University of Michigan. p. 1161. Retrieved 15 March 2016.
- ^ a b Tanielian 2014, p.738
- ^ Tanielian 2014, p.737
- ^ Tanielian 2014, p.741
- ^ Harris 2012, p.174
- ^ Mujais, Salim (2004). Antoun Saadeh: The youth years. p. 107. ISBN 9789953417950.
- ^ Gibran, Khalil Gibran. "Dead Are My People". Poem hunter. Poem Hunter. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
- ^ Allen, Roger; Allen, Roger M. A.; Lowry, Joseph Edmund; Stewart, Devin J. (2009). Essays in Arabic Literary Biography: 1850-1950. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. ISBN 9783447061414.
- ^ "Victims of the Great Famine of Mount Lebanon finally have a memorial monument in Beirut". The961. Lebanon: The961.com. 22 July 2018. Retrieved 22 July 2018.
Last edited on 30 April 2021, at 15:04
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