Mount Lebanon 1915/1918: the famine

The famine which affected the Mount Lebanon during the 1915/1918 period was the result of converging factors. The invasion of locusts in 1915, the impossibility of receiving foodstuffs from Egypt or other countries by sea, because of the maritime blockade imposed by the British, and finally the will of Jamal Pasha to weaken the mountain population, especially the Christians who were openly in favor of the French. The specter of genocide hangs over those events, but the contemporary Lebanese historian Youssef Mouawad* restricts the classification to “serious and cruel negligence” because “it is apocryphal intentions” referring to the speech on the Armenians and the Christians of 1916 held by the Turkish Minister of war Enver Pasha.

From an iconographic point of view, this event has left us many photographic evidence of a crude representation.

© Archives privées Ibrahim Naoum Kanaan Une famille souffrant de la famine au Mont Liban

We publish this as a light example, but we refrain from posting others because it is not our purpose here.

What I had not seen, or at least, what had never been published, concerns the humanitarian organizations which at the time took care of the population to alleviate their suffering. A recent discovery has put a bit of light on this topic.


It is an envelope sent from Beirut on 11th of June 1919 and addressed to New York, it presents a rectangular purplish seal, barely readable, affixed in the upper left of the cover. Of course thanks to my stubbornness and Mr. Nohra Hobeika, after several attempts I was able to obtain a bilingual transcription in French and Arabic:




COMITE DE SECOURS POUR LES VICTIMES DE LA FAMINE EN SYRIE Branche de Beyrouth & Liban” (RELIEF COMMITTEE FOR THE VICTIMS OF THE FAMINE IN SYRIA Branch of Beirut & Lebanon). I ignore the nationality of the organization but I presume it was Lebanese-French.

*In “Grande Guerre: la famine oubliée qui tua un tiers des Libanais” Article published on 30/12/2014 in

Bernardo Longo