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dahiye

Armando Perna Introduction: Estella Carpi


Migrations, marginalization and empowerment in Dahiye Estella Carpi

Beirut’s

southern

suburbs,

the

Lebanese

periphery

par

excellence,

have

been

named

in

1982, in Lebanon and in the whole region, ad-Dahiye al-Janubiyye, in addition to their previous denominations like “belt of misery” - hizam al-bu’s – and “Southern Metn”. The periphery is extended between the agro-industrial areas and the municipalities of Choueifat and Hadath. Dahiye’s history is intertwined with the rapid process of urbanization following the migration flows from the Beqaa Valley and the South since the years of the French mandate (1920-1943). Indeed, from 1950s onwards, the local employment rate increased due to the industrialization phenomenon, therefore attracting large numbers of migrants. As Lebanese scholar Mona Harb highlighted, some Dahiye’s districts are the result of old agricultural areas, such as Roueissat, Hay as-Silloum and Amrussieh. The Israeli invasions of 1978 and 1982, and other numerous incursions into the Lebanese territory, had driven the Lebanese southerners to migrate to the suburbs of Beirut where the cost of living was affordable. The

lack

of

assimilation

of

the

newcomers

into

the

new

urban

fabric,

hen-


ce, Many

has

prevented

Dahiye’s

districts

the

formation

have

illegally

of

an

been

integrated occupied

urban during

community the

years

in of

Dahiye. civil

war.

Dahiye also embraces the Palestinian refugee camp of Shatila and the settlement - tajammu’ - of Sabra, ex refugee camp. The two areas have sadly become popular because of the massacres perpetrated by the Israeli alliance with the Lebanese Phalanges in September 1982 during the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990). While Harakat Amal divides the area into five squares (murabb’at), Hezbollah divides it into six cells, divided, in turn, into khalliyat. These subdivisions basically reflect the location of the service providers of the two parties. The main Dahiye districts under the political influence of Harakat Amal - the second Shiite party after Hezbollah - are Ouzai, Bir Hassan and al-Jnah, named Dahiyet ar-rumul (“the Dahiye sands”, due to the its proximity to the coast). Al-Ghobeiry is one of the few historical Shiite municipalities in the area, separated in 1956 from ash-Shiyyah because of its different confessional demography, increasingly Shia. Also the municipality of Borj al-Barajneh, founded in 1933, was separated by the Christian al- Mreije in 1965 due to its new confessional demography. The Municipality of Haret Hreik is instead regarded as the “security square” (al-murabba’ al-amni) of Hezbollah. With ar-Rouess and Bir al-’Abed, these districts are located at the east of the airport road (tariq al-matar), and they are called altogether ad-Dahiye al-mazbuta – “the correct Dahiye” – so to speak, the social capital of the Islamic Resistance against the Zionist enemy. The municipalities of Haret Hreik and ash-Shiyyah still retain a Christian mayor, even though these municipalities have been governed de facto by Hezbollah since the 1990s. The mentioned eastern and western sections of Dahiye were in fact divided in 1998 by the construction of the airport road. Under the mandates of president Suleiman Franjieh (1970-76) and Elias Sarkis (1976-82) Dahiye was never included in urban development plans. Under the mandate of Amin Gemayel (1982-88), Dahiye was bombed and


many of its residents were evicted from the coastal district of Ouzai, in order to de-populate the area. In fact, Dahiye would be suitable to accommodate 80,000 inhabitants, but in 1995 it could already count 500,000 people. These lop

historical disaffection

events towards

led the

the

local

Lebanese

residents institutions

of

the and

suburbs even

open

to

devehostility.

The general label attributed to Dahiye as a homogenously poor, Shiite, disordered, illegal and securitized ghetto fed external stereotypes to the extent that it is considered today a non-go area. The stereotyped misery of Dahiye and its historical exposition to war, end up overshadowing the dreadful conditions of other Beirut’s districts. Also the socio-political rhetoric used by Imam Musa as-Sadr, disappeared in Libya in 1978, contributed to depict the area as merely backward. Dahiye’s inhabitants are called daiy’ajiyye (“rural”) and mehtallin (“squatters”), contributing to Dahiye’s stigmatization. As Wafa Charafeddine pointed out, Dahiye was already discriminated by the Lebanese state policies when it was inhabited by Lebanese Christians and then became home to the 1948 Nakba Palestinians. The latest inhabitants of Dahiye are predominantly Shi’a, seen as more religious and culturally conservative. The rural migration and the rapid urbanization have locally led to the creation of illegal settlements, which are unlikely to be dismantled today, as the Lebanese institutions are too weak and corrupt to be able to implement efficient plans and enforce regulations. The government’s intervention in the illegal settlements of Dahiye would actually eradicate chronic poverty and enhance economic sustainability, by investing in infrastructure development programs. The administration of Dahiye, due to the void left by the state, is in the hands of various organizations affiliated to Hezbollah and Amal that have created together the “State in a non-State”. The first informal cells of Hezbollah, however, were present in Dahiye since 1978, when Israel conducted the Litani operation in South Lebanon.


Indeed, the municipalities run by Hezbollah, yet representing the state at a local level, have gained strategic importance and executive power over the years, upholding their responsibilities towards their citizens. In a framework where the State does not perform efficiently Hezbollah has been able to weave a thick network of services and generate – though selective – local development. Such successful territorial citizenship has shown how these are the political strategies of the party to dominate Dahiye’s territory. In this regard, the international actors that provided aid and promote projects in the area complain about the administrative totalitarianism they need to deal with, where all their programs are strangled by municipal decision-making. This totalitarianism is, however, mistaken by outsiders for internal oppression, as though Dahiye’s residents were to be considered as hostages of Hezbollah, denying to them any deliberative action. In summer 2006, when the suburbs have been stricken by the Israeli aviation, the areas chronically suffering from higher levels of poverty and vulnerability have been again neglected both by non-state structures and the ruling parties. These areas are generally inhabited from various ethnic groups that are not generally politically affiliated to Hezbollah. The massive arrival of new residents and the return of ex-residents, displaced or evicted throughout the civil war, have in fact generated new spaces of exclusion that are still under-researched. In

the

absence

of

political

interests,

historical

misery

is

again

ignored.

In fact, in 2006 Hezbollah reached its greatest popularity by distributing resources to any confessional community, and empowering the residential areas at unprecedented levels – resorting to the workforce of the local emerged middle class. Nowadays, on the contrary, the party is decreasingly described as a supernatural force, and rather compared to any other Lebanese party struggling to maintain the constituency’s loyalty. The hegemonic project of citizenship established in Dahiye by Hezbollah mainly addresses Lebanese Shi’a, with


the exception of the emergency states that involve the whole population. In such circumstances, as a matter of fact, social mobility in Dahiye and in all Lebanon is still a mirage, and local enfranchisement is still selective. Despite the ability of the municipal Hezbollah to foster inclusiveness and co- participation in local projects, the public display of pictures of martyrs and other symbols of resistance against Israel are still the classical markers of Dahiye’s space, and, similarly, they decide the local ethics every resident is expected to comply with. Such symbolism, however, by now does represent the collective memory of most inhabitants. Dahiye’s collective memory is distinguished by other Lebanese geographies insofar as it is fed by anti-state rhetoric used by Hezbollah. The party’s rhetoric denounce against the inaction and adversity of the central state has gradually acquired credibility since, at a local level, a tangible sense of civic rights and duties has been successfully cultivated, in particular after their pyrrhic victory in the July War. Hezbollah, in that occasion, overtly expressed its own responsibility for the urbicide of Dahiye, by adopting moral and material compensation strategies. The periphery is widely stigmatized in terms of “iranization”: the inhabitants are indistinctively associated with Iran by all outsiders. Thereby, the proximity of this confessional group to Iran in diplomacy, politics and religion, brought up a new stereotyping term to indicate Dahiye, which is Dahiyet al-Khomeini, referring to the Iranian Ayatollah. Likewise, Dahiye’s residents are often believed “the people who are all ready to die”. By contrast, if the external visitors ever extend their stay in Dahiye, they will be able to experience how some local residents do not feel represented and are not willing to adhere to the moral and cultural standards provided by the party, as it can happen in any system of values ​​and beliefs, defined as social ethics. The societal role of the Resistance and the emotional attachment of the Shiite community to Dahiye - as well as of the original Christian inhabitants, nostalgic of their past hegemony – confirm that solidarity has been reinforced by Hezbollah among most local strata.


The

discussed

unexplored

cally

marked

ting

macro-perspectives,

spaces

of

lines

Dahiye as

of are

they

exclusion not

will

visible rather

and

marginalization

to

the

focus

on

eye

of

and

scholars

Hezbollah’s

the prone

security

less

politi-

to

adop-

stronghold.

The photographer and the researcher will similarly find themselves delving into the spaces of Dahiye that are unknown to the international public. This is mostly due to the ruling party’s unwillingness to welcome foreigners and the impossibility of moving freely and interacting within the securitized headquarters. Throughout this book, in fact, Armando Perna is able to show new perspectives of Dahiye, and spaces that do not hold the international spotlight as less politically marked than Hezbollah’s security stronghold. Hezbollah’s

restrictions

will

therefore

end

up

pushing

both

the

photographer

and

the

resear-

cher into alternative sources of knowledge, interestingly showing the party’s weak sides and local dissent. In other words, an under-explored Dahiye that is paradoxically more likely to be explored.


_Ouzai#1


_Tayyouneh


_Hafez El Asad


_Al Imam Mousa El Sader


_Ghobeiri


_Hadi Hassan Nasrallah


_Ouzai#2 _Ouzai#2


»Dahiye«  

Armando Perna

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