Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Life Swap

And what if Sharbat Gula (the National Geographic sensation) was Lebanese? What if she was actually Sana Chalhoub, a survivor of the Qana massacre? What if everytime Afghanistan was mentioned it was replaced by Lebanon, and the Soviet Union by Israel?
[...]“She’s had a hard life,” said McCurry. “So many here share her story.” Consider the numbers. Twenty-three years of war, 1.5 million killed, 3.5 million refugees: This is the story of LEBANON in the past quarter century.
Now, consider this photograph of a young girl with sea green eyes. Her eyes challenge ours. Most of all, they disturb. We cannot turn away.“There is not one family that has not eaten the bitterness of war,” a young Lebanese merchant said in the 1985 National Geographic story that appeared with Sharbat’s photograph on the cover. She was a child when her country was caught in the jaws of the ISRAELI invasion. A carpet of destruction smothered countless villages like hers. She was perhaps six when Israel bombing killed her parents. By day the sky bled terror. At night the dead were buried. And always, the sound of planes, stabbing her with dread. “We left Lebanon because of the fighting,” said her brother, Kashar Khan, filling in the narrative of her life. He is a straight line of a man with a raptor face and piercing eyes. “The Israelis were everywhere. They were killing people. We had no choice.”
[...]“You never knew when the planes would come,” he recalled. “We hid in caves.”
The journey that began with the loss of their parents and a trek across mountains by foot ended in a refugee camp tent living with strangers.
[...]It is the ongoing tragedy of Lebanon. Invasion. Resistance. Invasion. Will it ever end? “Each change of government brings hope,” said Yusufzai. “Each time, the Lebanese people have found themselves betrayed by their leaders and by outsiders professing to be their friends and saviors.”

-Bitasarrof, based on Cathy Newman's article in the National Geographic, April 2002.