« Secours aux réfugiés »
Humanitarian Philately or clientelism ?
On May 1, 1926, the State of Grand Liban emits a series of 16 stamps overloaded bilingually « refugee relief ». All these stamps, that exist with inverted surcharges, were sold at face value increased with the overload, but only the face value accounted for postage. According to various reference philatelic catalogs ( Yvert & Tellier , Michel, Dallay , Stanley Gibbons ) this collected fee was paid for refugees of Jebel Druze who fled the combat zone during the Druze revolt in 1925-1927 . Their number is estimated at 40,000 refugees.
This uprising was led by a young nationalist Sultan Al Atrash . It arose from the exasperation of the Arab population to local practices of the military authorities of the French mandate
But in the 20s, the Middle East is the theater of major population movements, forcibly displaced.
In fact the handover of Cilicia to Turkey in 1921 caused the influx of Christians to Syria and Lebanon. Politics and diplomacy will thus adjust in a tragic and brutal way, but with all the force of law, the question of minorities and create uprooted refugees in search of a country.
Thus, Lebanon becomes the largest grouping center of Armenian orphans.
The estimated total number of refugees in Syria and Lebanon goes up to 200,000 people. Huge refugee camps will thus form. The largest camp was located near Beirut in the locality of Medawar. The refugees were sheltered in tents in deplorable humanitarian conditions. Considerable effort will be made by the High Commission from 1925 to integrate gradually but definitely Armenians in Lebanon and Syria.
In this tragic human context after world war I, we will witnessthe emergence of philanthropic actions by French American or British organizations . The missions are not lacking in their efforts ( stewardship and organization for orphanages and refugee camps … . ) . Thus we find on the field organizations such as the Near East Relief, the American Red Cross , the assistance health service and sanitation of the French High Commission , Catholic and Protestant missionaries .. Their action was far from being negligible !
Propaganda Posters eras intended to raise fund
In comparison, if one takes into account the draw of the different stamps , a quick calculation of the surcharge amounts we obtain the sum of 886,040 piastres. Lack of ambition of the postal authorities ?
Going over this short period of Lebanese history through this special stamp issue leads me to ask :
Why the benefit of these charity stamps would only go to Druze refugees and not Armenian or Assyrian numerically most important and also as poor? Is it an error of interpretation, communication or omission committed by philatelic authorities?
Or did the French Mandat intend to project a positive image by its concern for the protection of civilian victims of disorders populations, to hide her failure pacification of the Levant? The French authority assistance would then enter into a religious and community setting, with a clientelist dimension vis-à -vis a population that was considered dangerous and uncontrollable?
Objective response would require a look over of the mandate archives
At all events, we can only hope that Lebanon knows never again such an exodus of refugees …..