Saturday, January 22, 2011

Beirut Memories: a field note

Last week an Iranian photographer told a fascinating story about his time in Beirut during the civil-international war during the 1980s. He was here on assignment with Stern magazine in Germany and was walking around near the hippodrome in Bir Hassan with a European journalist. Of course this was a contested area at the time and the two were stopped by the Christian gendarmerie (not the Phalange militia). Apparently Hizbullah had captured the brother of the gendarme only a few days before, and so when he learned that the photographer was Iranian he excitedly asked him to get his brother back. The photographer said that he was sorry but he had no connections, however the gendarme was insistent. He called up the Iranian embassy to confirm the identity of the photographer and the embassy sent an officer to come and collect him and the European journalist. When the officer arrived, a young Lebanese man from Hizbullah, the gendarme began furiously writing down the names of people whom he wanted released in exchange for the surrender of the two journalists. The gendarme handed the officer the list and that was that, they were released. Afterwards the photographer called his editors and they told him to leave Lebanon as soon as possible so he departed a couple of days later. The day he was leaving, newspapers announced the release of the Christian hostages.

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