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Sulome Anderson @SulomeAnderson
, 13 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
I meant to tweet this a while ago but never got around to it. It's going to be a bit of a long thread, but bear with me because I think it's important. This is a story about war, what it does to people who witness it and the lessons we can learn from them. Here we go:
I was riding in an Uber in NYC a few months ago. I usually strike up conversations with all my drivers, because I do that with almost everyone I meet. It’s how I get half my story ideas. Anyway I got to talking with this driver and he tells me he’s Senegalese.
He asks where I’m from. I tell him my mother is Lebanese and I’m party based in Beirut. To my surprise, he gives a little jump and looks at me in the rearview mirror. He tells me he knows Lebanon very well. I ask him how and he says he was in UNIFIL during the 1980s.
For anyone who doesn’t know what UNIFIL is, it’s the United Nations peacekeeping force tasked with the thankless job of trying to maintain peace between Israel and Lebanon, mostly along the border. I tell him that must have been a difficult time to be in UNIFIL.
At the time, Lebanon was ravaged by a civil war just as horrific as today's Syrian conflict in its own way. As soon as I say that, he goes silent. I ask what’s wrong and he quietly tells me he was one of the first UNIFIL members on the scene after the Sabra and Shatila massacre.
For anyone unaware, Sabra and Shatila was an event that shook Lebanon, and much of the world at the time, to its core. I won’t get into the politics of it too much, but you can find more information about the massacre here:…
To make a long story short, the Christian Phalange was one of the most bloodthirsty Lebanese militias and political parties in Lebanon. I’m sorry to say my grandfather helped found it. He died when I was very small, but I've never forgiven him for that.
On September 16, 1982, the Israelis, who were occupying Lebanon at the time, allowed the Phalange into the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps. Declassified documents unearthed decades later explain Israel's role in the event. Documents here:…
By most accounts, Israeli soldiers stood guard while the Phalange murdered somewhere around 1000 Palestinian civilians, mostly women and children, in the most sickening way imaginable. Hundreds of women were raped. Babies were torn from their mothers and bashed against walls.
Both my parents covered the massacres as reporters and on the rare occasions they discuss it, they get the same look on their faces as my Uber driver did that day, over 30 years later.
That day in the Uber, my Senegalese driver starts talking about Sabra and Shatila and immediately bursts into tears. Like, almost sobbing. He tells me to this day, he still has nightmares about Sabra and Shatila. He says he hasn’t talked about it to anyone in all that time.
I put my hand on his shoulder and just let him speak. We arrived at my destination and I sat in the car for a while with him. When he had collected himself, I thanked him for sharing his story and gave him my card if he ever wanted to talk. I got out and never saw him again.
This is what war does to people. Events like Sabra and Shatila never really leave you. It’s easy for people who have never experienced that kind of brutality and violence to cheer on wars. Those of us who have seen them up close know better. End thread.
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