AUB Libraries Online Exhibits

Nationalism & Independence

Seeking Independence

"As the new policy seems to be to give more autonomy to small states, the University has a great responsibility and a splendid opportunity to send forth men and women who can interpret the meaning of public service to their fellow countrymen."

Report of the President of the American University of Beirut for the Seventy-Eighth Year, 1943-1944: p. 6





A Country in Turmoil, and AUB Students at the Forefront of the Demonstrations!

" In Lebanon the local officials tried to enjoy the fruits of independence faster than the former mandatory powers was willing to permit. The President of the Republic and most of the members of the Council of Ministers were put in prison. The national leaders ordered merchants to close their shops and students to absent themselves from school. For over a week the day students did not attend classes and the large group of boarding students were kept on the grounds and amused by "movies", sports, and meetings. When the government officials were finally released things became normal again and the student settled down to an excellent year of work."

Report of the President of the American University of Beirut for the Seventy-Eighth Year, 1943-1944: p. 4

The Lebanese Government in Prison!

On November 8, 1943, and after electing President Bechara el Khoury and appointing Prime Minister Riad el Solh, the Chamber of Deputies amended the Lebanese Constitution, which abolished the articles referring to the Mandate and modified the specified powers of the high commissioner, thus unilaterally ending the Mandate. The French responded by arresting the president, the prime minister, and other cabinet members, and exiling them to an old citadel located in Rashaya. This incident, which unified the Christian and Muslim opinion towards the mandate, led to an international pressure demanding the Lebanese leaders' release and massive street protests.



AUB students demonstrate in front of Main Gate, on Bliss Street, in support of the Lebanese Government, and the release of the Lebanese dignitaries and officials, 1943

Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library, AUB

The Struggle for Independence

After the imprisonment of the Lebanese officials, the Lebanese MPs reunited in the house of the speaker of parliament, Sabri Hamade and assigned the two uncaught ministers Emir Majid Arslan  (Minister of National Defence) and Habib Abou Chahla to carry out the functions of the government. The two ministers then moved to Bechamoun and by so their government became known as the Government of Bechamoun. The Government was provided shelter and protection in the residence of Hussein El Halabi, a recognized leader in Bechamoun. This residence was strategically located providing optimum protection to the ministers.

The newly formed government refused to hold talks with General Catroux or any other mandate official; stressing that any negotiation should be done with the captured government. It also formed a military resistance under the name of the "National Guard", whose supreme commander was Naim Moghabghab, with the help of Adib el Beainy and Munir Takieddine. This military group fought the battle of independence and later became the core of the Lebanese Army that was later formed in 1946 under the leadership of Emir Majid and Naim Moghabghab.



Reception held in honor of the First Anniversary of the Lebanese Independence, 1944.jpg

Reception held at AUB in honor of the first Anniversary of the Lebanese independence, 1944

Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library, AUB

Release of the Prisoners and Independence Day

Finally, France yielded to the augmenting pressure of the Lebanese people, as well as the demand of numerous countries and released the prisoners from Rashaya in the morning of Monday November 22, 1943. Since then, this day has been celebrated as the Lebanese Independence Day.


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"Medal of National Struggle" awarded by the Lebanese Government to AUB students on November 21st, 1945, in recognition of their support to the Lebanese independence cause

Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library, AUB

AUB 's Role:

"As the University is a small League of Nations it has an especially important role to play in developing good will and team work between the Arabs and the neighbors who surround them. It must also pass on to the hundreds of students who come from all parts of the Arab world knowledge of what cooperation means. What the students need to learn is how each individual state can manage its own internal affairs at the same time that it cooperates with its neighbors and with other lands beyond. An even more important responsibility is to teach the young men and women of the Middle East how to express nationalism in the form of public service."

Report of the President of the American University of Beirut for the Seventy-Eighth Year, 1943-1944: p. 4