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May Chidiac, a Lebanese voice unsilenced by violence


May Chidiac, a Lebanese voice unsilenced by violence


“They killed, you know, they killed me…That is to say, can you imagine a woman like me with half body? An independent woman, who used to be compared to a butterfly because my feet never touched the ground I was so busy. I never walked anywhere, in a hurry all the time…I did four political shows every morning, then the news, taught at the university and continued working on my doctoral thesis. I had a very active social life, very active. I was devoring life non-stop…and then I was crippled, struck down. In fact they wanted me dead.”

“Heaven can wait” is the title of May Chidiac’s book, detailing her Lebanese political life and near-death in a car bomb three years ago. 29 operations saved her life, but cost her left arm and and a leg.

May has not ceased her activity. Between travelling to Europe and appearing on television she invited us to her Beirut home to explain her convictions, and vision for Lebanon;

“I am a war child. When war broke out I was 10, and I’ve lived with war ever since. War has scarred me. I’ve lived with demarcation lines, where only the east of the city was Christian, and the continuity of existence of Lebanon’s Christians is what concerns me.

In my opinion our most important cause, and it always has been, is the cause of our independence, Lebanon’s freedom.

When I decided to study journalism and work in the media it wasn’t only for purely political reasons. I loved television, I said to my mother all the time ‘I don’t want to go through life unknown’…but in any case at that time I didn’t think I’d make it…not really make it, to become internationally famous after I was victim of an attack.”

Surviving her car-bombing was a miracle for the prominent anti-Syrian journalist. She became a symbol for the 14th of March movement, born and named after the massive demonstration of popular disgust following the murder of former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri.

The movement culminated in forcing Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon. Then came Israel’s bombardment of the south in 2006, and recent inter-community unrest. The movement’s euphoria has been short-lived. After a long political crisis the promise of a new government and relaunched national unity has rekindled hope, however fragile:

“Unfortunately until now every time we’ve thought we could see the light art the end of the tunnel, it’s got further away. Before I dreamt, I hoped, and I believed one day the opression would end. But independence? That lasts only until the Syrians return, one way or another, maybe without their army, but with their Lebanese agents and the politicians in their pocket, and the pro-Iranians…then we’ll see about independence. It will just be like the revolution never happened, and it’s that that makes me angry now.

Who has the weapons in Lebanon? Syrian agents, that’s who. Where are all the guns coming from? Over the Syrian frontier. Iran sends them to Syria, and they get sent here to arm their supporters. And now we must ask the French, what are you doing? You are offering a hand of friendship to Damascus as if nothing had happened? Just so you can have a successful EU-Mediterranean summit? Why is Syria invited to France’s 14th of July celebrations? I have no objection to Syria’s president being invited to meetings, but to be a guest of honour at such a ceremony, for me screams “whitewash” – making Bashar al-Assad 100 percent innocent and acceptable, not head of a terrorist regime of assassins.

If you are really supporting independence for my little country, I think one should be a little patient and not rush in to friendship with the nation that occupied it for so long, and did so much to prevent its growth.”

“With daring” is the title of May Chidiac’s show on LBC; political debate she has chaired since returning to broadcasting on LBC in 2006. She still works under several death threats. But she refuses to censor her freedom of speech: “I am a woman who really suffered throughout the years of war. I want my nephews, because I’ve sacrificed my personal life for my work, my eight nephews, to not have to remain living abroad. I want them back in Lebanon, home to live in a happy country. Lebanon deserves that, deserves a society of communities respecting each other. Finally, it would be nice if everyone respected each others ideologies , began thinking this way, and began thinking this way at home. But just don’t try to impose your ideas in my house…

I don’t want to carry on fighting the war against Israel until the end of time. My country has been freed, and we can get a diplomatic solution to the Cheeba farms…I don’t argue that Israel is the enemy; Israel always works in support of its own interests, but I don’t want to provoke Israel. I don’t want to bring down bombs on my country, for Israel to declare war on Lebanon.

Then all our bridges are destroyed, and our infrastructure shattered so we have to build it again. Enough! I’ve had it with war. I want to live in a free country where, just like in any other democratic country, we fight battles, but political ones, not with guns. Hezbollah will not be able to seize the country with weapons, in the long term it’s unworkable, because there would always be a popular revolt against them, just like the resistance they wage on Israel. The Sunnis would never accept them. The Druze refuse to accept them now. The Christians certainly won’t. We have to learn to live together in peace. We waged war once, but we’ve had our fill.”

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