In Lebanon, the 15 years of multi-sided armed conflict officially ended in 1990 with imposed silence on the victims and on society. State-sponsored reconciliation that was based on the formula “no winner, no loser” was done between the former warlords without a meaningful reconciliation taking place at the societal level.
As a consequence, 28 years after the end of the Lebanon’s wars the wounds are not healed and, for many, the conflict never ended. The Taef agreement which led in 1992 to the disbanding and disarming of militias, with some exceptions, did not establish a new social pact. It organized power sharing between the former warlords and gave birth to a fragile coexistence and precarious civil peace that continuously gets disrupted by new rounds of violence. The forced reconciliation left little room for individual and collective healing. This unresolved trauma transmitted across generations, forms the basis of historical myths that are being regularly activated by political figures in Lebanon and provide fertile ground for mistrust and conflict.
At the heart of legacy of the Lebanese war lies the unresolved fate of thousands of people who went missing during the conflict, estimated at 17,000 individuals according to official figures. The families of these missing and forcibly disappeared people are still waiting for information on the whereabouts of their loved ones.
The decades of uncertainty and loss affecting the relatives of the missing has led to severe mental distress and anguish. This “ambiguous loss” – a loss that occurs without closure or understanding – prevents families from properly mourning, an experience so cruel International Law has deemed it a form of torture.
Who are the missing and disappeared persons?
The great majority of the disappeared went missing during the Lebanese war (1975- 1990) at the hands of the Lebanese militias, as well as local and armed foreign groups. However, disappearances continued to occur after the war on a smaller scale, namely in the context of the presence of the Israeli occupation army and the Syrian army.
In Lebanon most of the missing and disappeared are civilians. Many were kidnapped from their homes, from the streets, or at checkpoints controlled by militias or foreign troops.
Apart from kidnappings, many people are thought to have disappeared as a result of mass killings and the incessant rounds of violence during the years.
To commemorate those who disappeared and record their stories, ACT created Fushat Amal in 2016, an interactive online memorial for the missing and disappeared.
To know more about their stories, read our publication “Do not let my story end here”