The Lebanese Flag

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The Lebanese flag is formed of two horizontal red stripes enveloping a horizontal white stripe. The white stripe is to be two times a red one (ratio 1:2:1).  The green cedar in the middle touches each of the red stripes and its width is one third of the width of the flag.

A green cedar tree on a white base was used as a Lebanese flag after Ottoman (Turkish) rule came to an end in the region at the end of the First World War, in 1918. During the French mandate of Lebanon, the president of the Lebanese Renaissance Movement, the late Naoum Moukarzel, designed the Lebanese flag. It was based on the French tricolor with a cedar in the middle.

On 11 November 1943, street demonstrations took place because the French authorities had jailed Presidents Bechara al Khoury and Riad al-Solh as well as other Ministers. Seven Deputies; Henri Pharaon, Maroun Kanaan, Saêb Salam, Sabri Hamadé, Rachid Beydoun, Saadi al-Mounla, and Mohamed al-Fadl, forced an entry into the Lebanese Parliament, where they designed a new national flag for Lebanon. The actual flag was first drawn by Henri Pharaon in the Chamber of deputies Saêb Salam’s house in Mousaitbeh by the deputies of the Lebanese parliament. It was adopted on December 7, 1943, during a meeting in the parliament, where the article 5 in the Lebanese constitution was modified after gaining independence, on November 22, 1943.

One theory is that since Henri Pharaon was a long-time consul in Vienna, Austria and was an avid friend and founder of the “Austro-Lebanese Association of Friendship”, the colors could have been inspired by the red-white-red flag of Austria, where the flag colors are based on the Lebanese geography and therefore, the first red represents the Mount of Lebanon and the second red represents the Anti-Lebanon Mountains and the white represents the Beqaa valley, which is situated in the middle of the two mountain ranges. And the cedar was added because Lebanon is sometimes metonymically referred to as the Land of the Cedars.

Others say that the flag of Lebanon’s colors represent the martyrs’ blood for the red color, the victims’ blood of independence against the Ottomans, the French, and the rest of colonizers. The white snow of holiness and eternity is the representation of the white color. It can also represent the purity of their cause. The cedars tree a tradition that has been connected to Lebanon for many years. Its location in the middle of the flag touching the upper and lower red stripes is also a reminder of Lebanon’s constant troubles because the red stripes represent the blood spilt by the Lebanese throughout their history.

There are five flags in the world that have a tree on them (Fiji, Belize, Haiti, Equatorial Guinea, and Lebanon). We’re the only flag in the world to just have a central tree on its flag. For the Lebanese, the cedar is a symbol of hope, freedom and memory. In 1920, in a text of the proclamation of the State of Greater Lebanon, it was said: “An evergreen cedar is like a young nation despite a cruel past. Although oppressed, never conquered, the cedar is its rallying. By the union, it will break all attacks”.

Sometimes I wonder if we truly understand our flag, or is it just another thing we take for granted? No matter what version of the story you choose, or whether like me, you decide to amalgamate both, it’s still a beautiful story to be told about a little nation whose been here since the crack of time, living, growing, exporting, educating, creating, struggling, being invaded, fighting to live on, to dream.

For me the flag means this: from the Mount of Lebanon to the Anti-Lebanon mountains, to the Beqaa valley that lies like a dormant patched river in between those sentinels of Lebanon, this blood that has been shed to safeguard it and the will of its people to live free are like the cedar of Lebanon, proud, resilient, and soaring. Alphonse de Lamartine marveling at the cedars of Lebanon once said “the most famous natural landmarks in the universe. They know the history of the earth, better than the story itself”.

To holding one flag… To my Lebanon, free, proud, and prosperous in its beauty, its land, and its people…

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