Books

Revisiting the war of 1975... Let us not forget

The fourth edition of Zaven Kouyoumdjian's book "Lebanon Shot Twice," released in January, continues to chronicle the war, its images and its memory.

War-time newlyweds on the cover from the fourth edition of the book "Lebanon Shot Twice" by Zaven Kouyoumdjian

On the 45th anniversary of the Lebanese Civil War that broke out on the fateful day of April 13, 1975, a new edition of Zaven Kouyoumdjian's book, "Lebanon Shot Twice" (ed. Hachette-Antoine), came on time to revisit the history of the Lebanese war, showcasing texts and images, and to review the evolution and transformation of places and survivors.

Zaven, a TV host and producer from 1999 to 2014, sought, in the first edition of his book released in 2002 by an-Nahar Editions, to publish iconic images of the Lebanese war by finding, in peacetime, the places and people who appeared in original photos from the war: militiamen, first responders, and ordinary people who had lost loved ones. He also returned to the scenes of war, such as the souks of Beirut, the city towers (Rizk and Murr), the demarcation lines, and the scenes of explosion, assassinations, the Israeli invasion, and the infamous bosta (bus)… In short, Zaven sought to approach the memory of the war in a different way, through photos.

Once archiving and photo selection were completed, he called on a young photographer, Hayat Karanouh, to take photos of the same places and people, but a decade or two later. The book was a great success. A second edition was published in 2005, with little change except for a few photos related to the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri. In its third version, released in bookstores in 2009, the book became trilingual after adding French to the Arabic and English texts, to mark the sixth Francophone Games held in Lebanon. Photos of the "Cedar Revolution" were also added to the book.


Varied themes

"For the fourth edition, which I wanted to release in 2019, adding to it the legislative elections of 2018, I called on Ali Chehadeh, a young videographer and photographer, but then the October 17 revolution erupted. I replaced the elections theme with that of the popular uprising," Zaven said. "I also added a wedding photo, because during the war, many iconic photos (including those of Georges Semerdjian, one of the greatest photographers of the Lebanese war, taken in Rue de Damas in 1983), relate to this subject and for me this brings good fortune and gives hope for the future."


Photo from the fourth edition of the book "Lebanon Shot Twice" by Zaven Kouyoumdjian


He also found, on social networks, the wedding photo of Malak Alawieh, the young woman who kicked a minister's bodyguard last October 17 and became an icon of the October 17 Revolution. Zaven chose Mohammad Yassine, graphic designer and photographer at L'Orient-Le Jour, to design the cover of the latest edition." This new edition, released in January, has a total of 370 photos, including over 150 new pictures."

Since the beginning, Zaven paid copyright fees to major Lebanese publications that had covered the war. "I made a point of adding the names of the photographers and not of the newspapers which hold the rights, in order to pay tribute to their work in my own way, because without their courage, the documentation of the war of Lebanon would have been impossible," he explained.

Zaven, who has been accumulating information over the years, sought to flesh out his subjects and enrich his stories with new testimonies, while maintaining a common theme between all editions. Thus, in 2009, he published a photo dating back to 1990, showing the dead body of Georges Semerdjian lying under a bridge after he was killed during an assignment. Nineteen years later, he shared a testimony of the photographer’s widow along with a picture of her surrounded by her two grown daughters.

"Three new faces appear this year, those of Assaad Chaftari, Ziad Saab and Badri Abou Diab, former militiamen of various factions, who are now working for peace, within the framework of 'Fighters For Peace,' an NGO they have created," Zaven said.


The scars of war

"The photos of the people I found after the war all have one thing in common: sadness in their eyes. We do not come out of war intact. "And to specify:" Even the buildings with the restored facades still bear the aftereffects of the war. "


Photo from the fourth edition of the book "Lebanon Shot Twice" by Zaven Kouyoumdjian


"What has also saddened me over the years was my last meeting with Rida Ali Hussein, the son of Aïn el-Remmaneh bus driver, whom I spoke to again for the fourth edition," Zaven said. He recalled that during their meeting for the first edition, Hussein had pictures of old Beirut hanging on the walls of his house. When he saw him again at the same place, he had replaced those pictures with others of himself in military fatigue from the time he was a militiaman with the Amal movement in the 1980s. "He told me that he changed the photos after May 7, 2008 when Hezbollah and Amal seized Beirut. I was sorry for that, because many people who tried to turn the page of the war when it ended, are today returning to their memory of the war, which has become a reassuring memory for them. "

"By working intermittently for 18 years in the same places, I can visualize the evolution of the country and the city," Zaven said. "We are losing beautiful buildings, green spaces, emblematic sites; Lebanon is no longer what it used to be. It’s like Beirut is losing its soul with each passing day. "

In recent weeks, the coronavirus pandemic, which brought the country to a standstill, prevented Zaven from properly presenting his new book. "The hardest part was the death of my uncle last week. We had to organize a funeral reduced to a minimum and the church service was held in the cemetery chapel, not the church. I couldn't embrace his wife to comfort her. This is probably the most traumatic memory I will have of this period. I miss touching the people I love, shaking hands ... "


Photo from the fourth edition of the book "Lebanon Shot Twice" by Zaven Kouyoumdjian

Zaven Kouyoumdjian - Short Bio

Born in 1970

Master in Communication Studies

Professor at several universities and media consultant to numerous NGOs

1992: TV reporter and news anchor on Télé-Liban

1996: 5/7, his first talk show on Télé-Liban

1999: Siré wenfatahet on Future Television

2005: Newsweek magazine included him in its list of the 43 most influential figures in the Middle East

Zaven Kouyoumdjian has published five books: "Lebanon Shot Twice" (an-Nahar editions, 2002), a best-selling photo album, which he released in a second edition in 2005, then in 2009 and now in 2020; "Shahed bel moujtamaa" - A witness to the society - (Academia International editions, 2012), co-written with clinical psychologist Dr. Dolly Habbal, the book deals with conflicting situations on a social and individual level; "Assaada Allah masaakoum" (The 100 moments that made television in Lebanon), which chronicles significant events in the history of Lebanese television, and finally "Lebanon on Screen" (Lebanon via its small screen: the greatest moments of Lebanese television and pop culture, Hachette-Antoine editions, 2016).


(This article was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour on the 16th of April)



On the 45th anniversary of the Lebanese Civil War that broke out on the fateful day of April 13, 1975, a new edition of Zaven Kouyoumdjian's book, "Lebanon Shot Twice" (ed. Hachette-Antoine), came on time to revisit the history of the Lebanese war, showcasing texts and images, and to review the evolution and transformation of places and survivors.

Zaven, a TV host and producer from 1999 to...

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