The Lebanese Independence Day, on November 22, 1943, is a national day celebrated in remembrance of the liberation from the French Mandate which was exercised over Lebanese soil for over 23 years.
When the Vichy government assumed power over French territory in 1940 it became a new turning point that led to the resignation of Lebanese president Emile Edde on April 4, 1941. After 5 days, Dentz appointed Alfred Naccache for a presidency period that lasted only 3 months and ending with the surrender of the Vichy forces posted in Lebanon and Syria to the Free French and British troops. Having the opportunity to discuss matters of sovereignty and independence, the Lebanese national leaders asked de Gaulle to end the French Mandate and unconditionally recognize Lebanon’s independence. After national and international pressure, General Georges Catroux (a delegate general under de Gaulle) proclaimed in the name of his government the Lebanese independence on November 26, 1941. Countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, the Arab states, the Soviet Union, and certain Asian countries recognized this independence, and some of them even exchanged ambassadors with Beirut.
Fighting for freedom
On November 8, 1943, and after electing president Bechara El Khoury and appointing Prime Minister Riad al-Solh, the Chamber of Deputies amended the Lebanese Constitution, which abolished the articles referring to the Mandate and modified the specified powers of the high commissioner, thus unilaterally ending the Mandate. The French responded by arresting the president, the prime minister, and other cabinet members, and exiling them to an old citadel located in Rashaya. This incident, which unified the Christian and Muslim opinion towards the mandate, led to an international pressure demanding the Lebanese leaders’ release and massive street protests.
After the imprisonment of the Lebanese officials, the Lebanese MPs reunited in the house of the speaker of parliament, Sabri Hamadé, and assigned the two uncaught ministers Emir Majid Arslan (Minister of National Defence) and Habib Abou Chahla to carry out the functions of the government. The two ministers then moved to Bechamoun and by so their government became known as the Government of Bechamoun. The newly-formed government refused to hold talks with General Catroux or any other mandate official; stressing that any negotiation should be done with the captured government. It also formed a military resistance under the name of the “National Guard”, whose supreme commander was Emir Majid. This military group fought the battle of independence and later became the core of the Lebanese Army that was later formed in 1946 under the leadership of Emir Majid and General Fouad Chehab.
Finally, France yielded to the augmenting pressure of the Lebanese people, as well as the demand of numerous countries and released the prisoners from Rashaya in the morning of Monday November 22, 1943. Since then, this day has been celebrated as the Lebanese Independence Day.
Happy 69th Independence day!
Helwi El Hayet
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