86_DO05_Boyadjian_Alam_Beirut’s Green Line
Johnny Alam Beirut’s Green Line, 2015.
Photo : courtesy of the artist

Surviving Beyond The Green Line

Mirna Boyadjian
A photograph taken in 1982 by Franco-Iranian photojournalist Abbas shows, among the ruins of downtown Beirut, a street entirely covered with dense vegetation that stretches indefinitely into the distance. During the Lebanese civil war from 1975 to 1990, Damascus Street became a no-man’s-land known as the Green Line1 1 - The toponym “Green Line” was also used in reference to the frontiers established by the Arab-Israeli Armistice Agreements of 1949, on which the State of Israel was founded. due to the wild vegetation that had invaded its deserted spaces. From Martyrs’ Square to Mount Lebanon, Damascus Street constituted the dividing line between two sectors of the capital, each defined by a confessional identity. East Beirut was controlled by Christian Phalangists, whereas West Beirut was controlled by Muslim parties, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and revolutionary leftists.

The Green Line became the bloody battleground for fighting between Christian and Muslim militias — not to mention confrontations between groups of the same faith — and the site of thousands of abductions. It was a frightening place, one that was best avoided. For this reason, the majority of Beirutians born during the war did not cross the city until 1989, when calm was restored to the territory. In Je me souviens, cartoonist Zeina Abirached evokes this reality by telling how, as a girl, she was surprised that people from East Beirut spoke the same language as her, since she had the impression that she was visiting a foreign country.2 2 - Zeina Abirached, Je me souviens (Paris: Éditions Cambourakis, 2008). Often compared to the Berlin Wall,3 3 - Joseph L. Nasr, “Beirut/Berlin: Choices in Planning for the Suture of Two Divided Cities,” Journal of Planning Education and Research 16 (September 1996): 27 — 40. the Green Line represents a frontier that is obviously much more than a simple line.

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This article also appears in the issue 86 – Geopolitics - Géopolitique
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