About the Project

With a succession of interrelated wars spanning over 15 years, a number of devastating conflicts with Israel, a string of targeted assassinations, as well as internal clashes, Lebanon carries a significant legacy of human rights and humanitarian law violations – most of which have not been addressed in a serious or transparent manner. Today, this legacy renders Lebanon vulnerable to resurging violence.

As a result, the post-war generation is extremely vulnerable to political manipulation. Moreover, there is a dominant narrative today that glorifies the war and its “heroes”, or at least, that normalizes the war and life during the war.

More focus brought on the consequences of violence, and especially how it impacts the past, the present, and our future, may encourage young people to learn from the pain of the past. Engaging them and making them active in a process aimed at capturing the stories of what life was like during the war may encourage a process of shared understanding of war-related suffering that could make them, and by extension us all, less prone to conducting partisan violent actions.

This project has 5 objectives:

Objective 1: Increase young people's understanding about political violence, its consequences during a civil war, and the effect it has on people in the long term;
Objective 2: Raise awareness about the impact the conflicts have had on their parents’ generation;
Objective 3: Facilitate discussion between two generations in a well-framed, secure environment;
Objective 4: Train high-school students in oral history and storytelling as a vehicle for thinking reflectively about a volatile present and future;
Objective 5: Create an archive of stories focused on human experiences during the conflict. This archive, which will be put at the disposal of the wider public, will be available for schools to use as they see fit within their own curricula.

A consultative panel composed of academics, mental health specialists, and activists was first formed to discuss the project. This panel met on 22 October, 2010, at the offices of CEMAM, USJ.

The panel included representatives of CEMAM, USJ, and ICTJ, as well as the Director General of the Ministry of Education, a representative from the European Union, a psychiatrist, a child and youth psychologist, members of the history and sociology departments at USJ, the NGOs Al Jana, and the Committee of Families of Persons Abducted and Missing in Lebanon.

Members of the panel approved the project, and offered a number of recommendations which were taken into account as the project developed. This included setting up focus group discussions, building on resources already existing, training the teachers to accompany the students, keeping the children in a safe environment (i.e. interviews to be held privately, with close and trusted members of family).

The project involved 12 schools from greater Beirut. This included:

- School directors who were willing to engage in this project, who approved the project, and who provided feedback to the project coordinators, and appointed the teacher who liaised on the project;
- Teachers who were appointed by the school directors, who attended the one-day training of teachers, and then the two-day training of their students. They liaised between the students and the project coordinators as the students collected the testimonies to ensure that the students benefitted from a sound source of support, monitoring, and participated actively;
- Students. From each school, two students from the 2nde (or sophomore year of High School), were selected by the school director to participate in this project. They attended the two-day trainings, after which they were each responsible for conducting two audio-recorded interviews with members of their immediate environment (family, neighbors, friends) who were the same age as the students are now during the war. This took place on an entirely voluntary basis, with only the student and a trusted member of his/her environment.

Once they were received, the interviews were divided according to language to be transcribed and then developed into research resources by the research centres UMAM and CEMAM. This process means that the interviews will become a rich source of material for reseachers and activists, as well as a baseline for future efforts to collect narratives about the past. Developing the interviews also allows the memory of the people interviewed to be preserved for society as a whole.

This project also has a second stage, which includes interviews between university students who have relatives that are missing/disappeared as a result of the conflicts, and with Palestinian experiences of the conflicts in Lebanon. As the website is a living resource, more summaries of these interviews will be uploaded soon.
This website has been created with the assistance of the European Union and the Embassy of Switzerland in Lebanon. The content of this website can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union or the Embassy of Switzerland.
© Badna Naaref, 2012 - Development: Multiframes