Students present projects on commemoration sites in Barbir hospital in Beirut

On 29 April 2017, the former and presently closed Barbir hospital in Beirut came to life again: Students from twelve schools from various parts of the country presented information, films and artworks on various commemoration sites and important events of the Lebanese civil war.  Visitors could see, among others, a reproduction of the Hope for Peace monument in Yarzeh where tanks have been put on top of each other to form a memorial, a room with empty beds representing people gone missing in the war, or reproductions of old newspaper articles about Musa Sadr and other religious leaders in Lebanon going on hunger strike in protest against the civil war.

The exhibition was part of a project on commemorations sites implemented jointly by forumZFD and the Lebanese Association for History in collaboration with the Barbir hospital. As part of the project groups of teachers and students from different secondary schools researched the history behind various commemoration sites in Lebanon and their current meanings.  Among others, they conducted interviews with people living in the respective area. The aim of the project was to enable teachers and students to better understand the Lebanese past and to encourage them to critically reflect upon different narratives related to it.

The exhibition was opened by speeches from Soha Fleyfil and Bernhard Hillenkamp (forumZFD), Nayla Hamadeh (Lebanese Association for History), Moutasem Ghandour (Barbir hospital) and Layal Fakih (Martyr Mohamed Saad High School). A short film by Christina Foerch informed the 150 visitors about the hospital and its history. Speakers highlighted the importance of understanding and remembering the violent past of Lebanon for building a peaceful future.

After the screening the students and their teachers received visitors in the rooms of the hospital where their works were displayed. They were very active in presenting and explaining their work to visitors. Several students said that they had learned a lot about the past from the projects and enjoyed working on them.  Students and visitors engaged in lively discussions among about the Lebanese history, the Lebanese civil war and the commemoration of the event, bringing live to Barbir hospital, itself a site of memory on the civil war.

The event took place in a building with a long and interesting history itself. “We chose Barbir hospital as a place for this exhibition, because it is itself a historically important building”, explains Soha Fleyfil (forumZFD). During the Lebanese civil war, Barbir hospital was located very close to the demarcation line between East and West Beirut and the most important crossing between the two parts of Beirut. It served people irrespective of their place of residence or affiliation during the civil war. The hospital building was severely damaged and repaired several times. The hospital closed down in 2002 due to a lack of funding. Today, the building is largely intact; it has been preserved in the hope that it might re-open in the future.

The following commemoration sites were presented:

  • Hope for Peace monument – Al Karameh Secondary School
  • “The Egg”, downtown Beirut – Hasan Qassir Secondary School
  • 888 site and Salima massacre – Maroun Aboud Secondary School
  • Lebanese Phalangists Martyrs statue – International Eastwood School
  • Maarouf Saad statue – Martyr Mohamed Saad Secondary School
  • Kidnapping and disappearance – Al Tahrir Secondary School
  • Belfort Castle- Qala’at al-Shaqif – Hasan Kamel Al Sabah Secondary Public School
  • Breeh Massacre  and Kamal Jumblat Associations site – Al Erfan School
  • Iman Sadr protest against the civil war and site of Khalde Battle – Bilal Fahs Secondary School
  • Mleeta  – Imam Hasan School
  • Qana site – Qana Secondary Public School
  • Mar Michael church – Al Kawthar Secondary School

There were newspaper reports about the exhibition in various newspapers, for example in the Arabic-language Al-Ahbar newspaper. The event was also documented in a video.