between the Maronites and the Druze had been mounting throughout
the 19th century. The Maronites had been very responsive to educational
and cultural influences penetrating from the west and soon outdistanced
the Druze in the economic and social race. The Maronites were starting
to establish themselves in the Chouf district, which had been dominated
by the Druze and were becoming disproportionately influential in
financial and state affairs. The Porte decided that Lebanon had
gone too far in its separatist policy and it was time to put a stop
to it. Divide and rule seemed to be the order of the day, if the
Druze were to weaken the Maronites, the way would be open for the
Ottomans to control Lebanon.
In 1840, directly
after the deposition of Bachir II, the Ottoman sultan appointed
Bachir III as amir of Mount Lebanon. He was an Ottoman-British collaborator
and was ready to serve as the tool of imperial policy. The first
conflagration occurred soon after his appointment, continued throughout
this rule, and culminated in 1842 in the burning of Deir al Qamar,
the leading Maronite town in the Chouf. Maronites fleeing to Beirut
were butchered by the Turks.
The sultan deposed
Bachir III on January 13, 1842, claiming he was incompetent and
appointed Omar Pasha, who entered Lebanon with the Ottoman army
as governor of Mount Lebanon. This appointment, however, ensured
that it created more problems than it solved and so representatives
of the European powers proposed to the sultan that Lebanon be partitioned
into Christian and Druze sections. On December 7, 1842, the sultan
adopted the proposal and asked Assad Pasha, the governor (wali)
of Beirut, to divide the region, then known as Mount Lebanon, into
two districts: a northern district under a Christian deputy governor
and a southern district under a Druze deputy governor. This arrangement
came to be known as the Double Qaimaqamate. Both officials were
to be responsible to the governor of Sidon, who resided in Beirut.
The Beirut-Damascus highway was the dividing line between the two
This partition of
Lebanon proved to be a mistake. Animosities between the religious
sects increased, nurtured by outside powers. The French, for example,
supported the Christians, while the British supported the Druzes,
and the Ottomans fomented strife to increase their control. Not
surprisingly, these tensions led to yet another conflict between
Christians and Druzes. In April 1845, the long gathering storm burst
with a Maronite attack on the Druze in the Chouf, burning fourteen
villages and advancing as victors to Moukhtara. There they encountered
a Turkish regiment drawn up in front of the Jumblatt palace that
greeted them with a rolling fire of musketry, the trap halted their
advance. At Abieh, after a fierce engagement the Maronites were
routed. All over the region similar engagements occurred with similar
results. The Turks acted as a Druze reserve, and then came the old
story of villages in flames and Christian fugitives pursued by Druze
and Turkish troops were plundered, mutilated, and slain repeating
the performance of 1842. The Maronites were defeated. Consequently,
the European powers requested that the Ottoman sultan establish
order in Lebanon, and he attempted to do so by establishing a majlis
(council) in each of the districts. Each majlis was composed of
members who represented the different religious communities and
was intended to assist the deputy governor.
This system failed
to keep order when the Maronite peasants of Kesserwan, overburdened
by heavy taxes, rebelled against the feudal practices that prevailed
in Mount Lebanon. In 1858 Tanious Chahine, a Maronite peasant leader,
demanded that the feudal class abolish its privileges. When this
demand was refused, the poor peasants revolted against the feudal
lords of Mount Lebanon and distributed the land amongst the tenants.
The situation in the Chouf was even harsher for the Maronites: 'for
the last fifteen years the Druze had been oppressing the Christians
living among them in every possible manner. A Christian could hardly
call his life his own. The Jumblatts, the Amads, and the Abou Nakads
were pre-eminent for their barbarous and unfeeling despotism.' (Col.
The Druze, fearing
a similar revolt in the Chouf wanted to crush the Maronites spirit
of independence once and for all. They laid out careful plans, they
acquired arms and support from Turks and nearby Muslims, and they
could count on reinforcements from Houran.
Several Druze sheiks
spent the winter of 1859-60 in Beirut and held numerous conferences
with the Turkish authorities, the objects of which were soon to
become clear. Early in the spring of 1860 the Druze sheiks returned
to their homes and set their plans into motion. Isolated Maronites,
were attacked and killed by the Druze, some Maronites fearing for
their lives took refuge in Deir al Qamar and Zahlé, leaving
their houses to be burnt to the ground.
As soon as sporadic
cases of violence in mixed districts began in April 1860, the flare
up spread. Within weeks more than sixty Maronite villages lay in
ashes. The turn of the towns came next. The butchery followed a
general procedure, the Ottoman garrisons would offer the Maronites
protection and disarm them, and then they would leave them to the
mercy of the Druze and even actively take part in the slaughter.
Such was the fate of Deir al Qamar, Jezzine, Hasbaya, Rashaya and
By the end of May
the Maronites of Deir al Qamar found that their town was in a state
of blockade as the Druze surrounded the town, cut of the supplies
and even reaped and carried away the corn in the nearby fields.
On the 1st of June 1860, the forces of the Jumblatts, Abou Nakads,
Amads, and the Hamadis, amounting to some 4000 troops set upon the
town in furious onslaught. The Maronites made a desperate defense,
in the words of Colonel Churchill:
'The battle raged till sunset, the Christians
gallantly keeping their enemies at bay, and inflicting on them a
considerable loss; upwards of one hundred were killed besides large
numbers of wounded. They themselves only lost twelve. Several Turkish
soldiers belonging to the garrison fought in the Druze ranks.'
Despite the Maronite
success of the first day, they realized that they had no chance
and decided that in order to minimize loss of life their best course
would be to surrender. The next day Deir al Qamar surrendered to
the Druze. On the 3rd of June 400 Turk soldiers arrived with Taher
Pasha from Beirut to 'keep the peace', and after a brief conference
with the Druze on the edge of town, the Druze burnt 130 houses and
withdrew. The Pasha then accused the inhabitants of being rebels,
intriguers, and disturbers of public peace. The Druze then cut off
the town's water supply and prevented food from entering. It was
far from over for Deir al Qamar.
On the same day as
the attack on Deir al Qamar, Said Jumblatt sent a messenger with
a letter of protection to Jezzine. As soon as the messenger left
the Jezzine, 2000 Druze, headed by Selim Jumblatt, attacked. The
Maronites, before they had a chance to arm themselves were overwhelmed.
The majority of population of the town made a rapid panic-stricken
run towards the nearest ravine with the Druze chasing them with
sword in hand, Jezzine in flames behind them. Over 1200 Maronites
were massacred over a space of two miles. A large body of women
and children took the road to Sidon and were pursued to the very
gates by Kassem Amadi. The Sunni Muslims of Sidon would not let
them in and some joined the Druze in the slaughter that followed.
Upward of 300 bodies littered the beach and the gardens, many had
been raped. Young girls were carried off by a mixed horde of Sunnis
and Shiites that had mysteriously appeared and pounced upon them.
On the 3rd of June
Druze forces attacked Hasbaya and after a brief battle with 200
defenders the Druze took the town and within two hours it was wrapped
in flames. The surviving Christians took cover in the town barracks
where the Ottomans had offered them protection. Over the next two
hours the town was wrapped in flames. Naisie Jumblatt, Said's sister,
demanded that the Christians surrender, which they did on the following
morning. After their weapons were removed the Christians were imprisoned
in the barracks and given very little food or water. Tenants on
lands belonging to the Jumblatts were removed to her palace. Were
they to be killed the Jumblatt lands would go uncultivated.
At nearby Rashaya,
Turkish troops prevented the Christian population from escaping
and were told that if the need arose they would be protected. On
the morning of the 4th of June Turkish soldiers fired a signal and
shortly afterwards the town was attacked by 1500 Druze. The town
maintained a resolute defense throughout the day and inflicted heavy
losses on the Druze, but as night fell, and having expended their
ammunition they abandoned their barricades and flocked to the Turkish
barracks as the Turks swore to defend them to the death.
The next few days
saw the Christians of nearby villages being assembled at Qaraoun,
by Druze and Turkish soldiers who promised them protection and safe
passage to Damascus via Hasbaya. On the 10th of June they were brought
to Hasbaya along with a Druze reinforcement of some 300 infantry
and 150 cavalry. The Christians were all held together at the Turkish
barracks and were told they would be in Damascus the following day.
While the Christians prepared for the departure the Turks and the
Druze chiefs met with Naisie Jumblatt and received their orders.
Turks ran through the barracks gathering the Christians from its
three floors and forcing them at bayonet point into the parade arena.
After a few minutes to allow the Turks time to take to the terraces
so as to be able to observe the forthcoming spectacle, the gates
were thrown open and the Druze rushed in and the butchery began.
After firing a volley, the Druze set on the Maronites with swords,
hatchets and billhooks. Those who tried to escape by the gate were
either cut down by the Turks or turned over to the Druze. Not a
sole was spared. The orders were explicit, no Christian was to be
left alive. At sunset, Naisie Jumblatt inspected the dead and congratulated
her men on a job well done. An English traveler, Mr. Graham, who
was in Hasbaya after the massacre, in a letter to Lord Dufferin
'From the wounds I have seen, both on the living
and the dead, it would appear that the assassins went to work with
the most systematic cruelty; ten, twelve, and fourteen deep cuts
on the body of a person are not infrequent; some of the wounds show
that they were made with blunt instruments. In short everything
was used which came to hand; and, according to the nature of the
weapon, hands and limbs were cut off, or brains dashed out, or bodies
Druze from the Houran
under Ismail-al-Atrash, amounting to 3,000 men including 1,500 horse,
headed for Wadi-el-Tame. On the way they arrived at Kanakin where
numerous Maronites peasants had taken shelter, the Druze slew them
all. On the 11th of June as they headed towards Zahlé these
Druze passed by Rashaya and were summoned there by the Turks. For
the past few days the Turks had been amusing themselves by stripping,
robbing, and torturing those Christians that had turned to them
for sanctuary. They were now ready for slaughter. What was to follow
was a copy of what had happened at Hasbaya the day before. Mr. J.
Lewis Farley, there present reports:
'The Christian inhabitants were put to the sword
under circumstances of unparalleled barbarity, the assailants being
Druze from Houran, under Ismail-al-Atrash. The aged Emir Effendi,
with his entire family, was brutally murdered. Male children were
slaughtered in their mother's arms; and women in many instances,
were killed, while vainly endeavoring to save their offspring.'
The Druze of Houran
now joined those of Wadi-el-Tame making around 5,000 and headed
in the Beqaa where they were joined by local Shiites. The Christians
were hunted down, their houses were burnt, their men slain, their
women violated. It was the turn of Zahlé next. At the time
Zahlé had a population of some 10,000 Greek Catholics and
amongst them some 500 Maronites, it was the shield of the Christians
and terror for the Druze. Within a certain radius of Zahlé,
no Christian, no matter from where he came, could be insulted and
degraded with impunity. In 1841 the Druze suffered a heavy defeat
there, in the words of Col. Churchill 'the Druze forces broke upon
it like waves upon a rock, to be scattered like spray.' Now it was
By the time the Druze
forces reached Zahlé on 13th of June 1860 they numbered close
to 9,000 whilst the defenders could only field 4,000 men. On the
14th and 15th the Christians made sorties against the Druze, which
ended in disaster. On the first day of action the Druze took seventy
Christian heads to the camp. After the second day the Christians
decided to confine their efforts to defense. The 16th and 17th passed
without major incident but involved Turkish attempts to disarm the
Christians and offering them protection. It is not known if the
people of Zahlé knew of what had taken place at Hasbaya but
they refused to disarm. On the morning of Monday the 18th of June
the Druze launched an all out assault. For four hours they sent
wave after wave against the defenders who fought with distinction
and kept up a rapid fire on the Druze for as long as their ammunition
lasted. When the Druze reached the town a desperate hand-to-hand
struggle commenced with the Christians throwing away their musket
and attacking their foe with sword and dagger. The Druze began to
retreat after having lost some 1,500 dead. Christian's losses numbered
700. At that point reports Mr. J. Lewis Farley, the Turks who were
supposed to be defending Zahlé, 'fired upon the victorious
Zahliotes, even using it is said, a field piece they had brought
with them from Beirut. The Christians retired in good order; but
seeing that the Turks had joined their enemies, they gave up all
hope, and, during the night, effected their retreat towards Kesserwan.'
The next morning the Druze returned to the attack but only found
a few old and infirm men and women whom they killed. Zahlé
was plundered and then burnt.
Zahlé had fallen
but Deir al Qamar still stood, and even though it had surrendered
two weeks before, the Druze decided to destroy it. On the 19th the
Druze started to slowly enter the town pretending to be protectors.
The Turkish governor put his troops on the streets and told the
Christians that they would not be harmed. As soon as the Druze in
the town had numbered several hundred, trumpets recalled the Turks
to the barracks. Pillage of the shops and houses soon followed and
in the afternoon after the Turks signaled by means of a volley,
Druze musketry was heard on all sides. The Christians were told
by the Turkish governor to head to the barracks with their valuables
where they would be protected until order was restored. The booty
the Christians had brought with them was divided amongst the Turks.
Next a general slaughter started, whenever a Christian was seen
he was cut down. On the morning of the 20th, the Druze headed by
Ali Hamadi gathered in front of the Turkish barracks, which by now
contained over 1200 Christian men and their families. The Druze
entered the grand court where the Christians had been rounded up
and ordered the women to be separated.
All the horrors of
the previous butchery were now repeated again with swords, hatchets
and axes being used to cut down the Christians. Col. Churchill states
'For six long hours the infernal work went on.
The blood at length rose above the ankles, flowed along the gutters,
gushed out of the waterspouts, and gurgled through the streets.
Standing on their ghastly and mutilated pray, the Druze now turned
to the women.... The Turkish colonel all the while sat at the gate
smoking his pipe, the bowl resting on a corpse.'
As the slaughter of
Christians continued in the Chouf, the Christians of Beirut were
being systematically disarmed by the Turkish police. Muslims, on
the other hand being joined and encouraged by the Druze were allowed
to carry their arms. On the 24th June a mob of 400 began to shout
that the time had come to murder the Christians. Fortunately a Turkish
line-of-battle ship and six English, French, and Russian vessels
of war gathered in the harbor. Their presence saved Beirut from
the fate of Deir al Qamar. Whilst all eyes were on Beirut, the Christians
of Baalbeck were killed, their property pillaged, their houses and
churches burnt. By the end of June the Druze had destroyed 300 villages
leaving 80,000 Christian refugees to depend on charity for their
daily bread. From Lebanon, the spark flew towards Damascus leading
to the deaths of thousands of Christians.
It is not known exactly
how many Christians were slaughtered in Lebanon but most sources
put the figure between 7,000 to 11,000 and some well over 20,000.
A letter in the English daily news in July 1860 states that between
7,000 and 8,000 had been murdered, 5,000 widowed and 16,000 orphaned.
Mr. Farley, in a letter, speaks of 326 villages, 560 churches, 28
colleges, 42 convents, and 9 other religious establishments, had
been totally destroyed. Churchill puts the figures as 11,000 murdered,
100,000 refugees, 20,000 widows and orphans, 3,000 habitations burnt
to the ground, and 4,000 perished of destitution.
At last, in July 1860,
the great powers decided to act with France taking the initiative
dispatching 7,000 troops. The Ottomans fearing this intervention
sent their foreign minister, Fouad Pasha, to Lebanon ahead of the
French and put an end to the violence. The French troops landed
in Beirut in August 1860.
On October 5, 1860,
an international commission composed of France, Britain, Austria,
Prussia, and the Ottoman Empire met to investigate the causes of
the events of 1860 and to recommend a new administrative and judicial
system for Lebanon that would prevent the recurrence of such events.
The commission members agreed that the partition of Mount Lebanon
in 1842 between Druzes and Christians had been responsible for the
massacre. Hence, in the Statute of June 9, 1861 Lebanon was separated
from Syrian administration and reunited under a non-Lebanese Christian
moutasarrif (governor) appointed by the Ottoman sultan, with the
approval of the European powers. The moutasarrif was to be assisted
by an administrative council of twelve members from the various
religious communities in Lebanon. Maronite nationalists strongly
objected to a non-Lebanese governor and insisted on self-rule.
This Statute which
was revised on September 6, 1864 and also adhered to by Italy in
1867 recognized and guaranteed the autonomy of Lebanon, but not
the Lebanon of Fakhr-al-Din and Bachir, but one stripped of its
maritime and inter-mountain plains with their cities and reduced
to its mountainous region. Only Mount Lebanon was to be out of the
Ottoman grasp. The leading signatory, Turkey, cherished the conviction
that Lebanon, without its ports, cities, and plains was unviable
and could not survive. Turkey was wrong, despite the moutasarrifs
being totally incompetent and completely subservient to Constantinople,
Lebanon, thanks to the efforts of its inhabitants, not only survived,
but registered a record of prosperity, security, and progress that
made it the envy of the provinces of the Ottoman Empire.
found expression in the saying:
'Happy is he who owns but a goat's enclosure