1990: The October 13 Massacre

Add comment October 13th, 2014 Headsman

This date is the dolorous anniversary of the “October 13 massacre”, a bloodbath wrapping up the Lebanese Civil War when the Syrian army executed hundreds of captured Lebanese.

The intractable war, which dated back to 1975 and made “Beirut” a 1980s watchword for conflict, had boiled down* to two rival governments: a Maronite military government based in East Beirut under the leadership of Michel Aoun, and the Syrian-sponsored Muslim government in West Beirut putatively headed by Selim al-Hoss. Over the course of 1989-1990 Aoun’s “war of liberation” against the occupying Syrian army all but emptied the city of Beirut.

Thanks to a complex political schism, Aoun was also ensconced in the city’s presidential palace from which he issued decrees denouncing and rejecting the political settlement that was supposed to return the country to normalcy.

Unfortunately for him — and moreso for the prisoners who are the day’s topic — Aoun was also supported by Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein. In August 1990, Hussein invaded Kuwait, precipitating an American attack on Iraq in response.

As this latter operation involved the U.S. attacking a Muslim oil-producing state with military resources it deployed for that purpose the politically sensitive sands of a neighboring Muslim oil-producing state, the U.S. spent the last months of 1990 working the Middle East diplomatic circuit to bring the region’s governments on board for the impending bout of ultraviolence.

Syria’s particular carrot was the green light to finish off Aoun — who, simultaneously, had of course been deprived of aid from the now-preoccupied Iraqis. This the Syrian army did with a massive attack on Beirut’s presidential palace beginning at seven in the morning on October 13th. The palace was overcome by 10:00 a.m., but resistance continued elsewhere throughout the day from pro-Aoun militias who had not received word of that gentleman’s surrender and escape to the French embassy.**

Several hundred people were killed during the onslaught into pro-Aoun enclaves. An unknown number of these ballparked to around two or three hundred are thought to have been killed by summary execution after capture (or after intentional rounding-up). A Lebanese nurse claimed that at the nearby village of Dahr al-Wahsh “I counted between 75 and 80 [executed] … Most of them had a bullet in the back of their heads or in their mouth. The corpses still carried the mark of cords around their wrists.” Other captured Lebanese fighters were reportedly deported to Syria and never heard from again.

There are several other atrocity accounts collected here. This two-part documentary on the end of the Lebanese civil war available on YouTube has several participants’ perspectives (including Aoun’s) on the chaotic situation marking the war’s last days: 1, 2.

* This is quite a gross oversimplification of a fractious civil conflict in which innumerable blocs continually rearranged their alliances.

“I had a chart on my wall of the constantly proliferating militias — four dozen or so by the time I left in 1985 — and their constantly shifting alliances and enmities,” one former Beirut denizen wrote recently. “Allies one day could be trying to kill one another the next, even within sects, over issues that had digressed far from their common cause.”

** Aoun went into exile in France, returning in 2005 when the Cedar Revolution finally drove the still-occupying Syrians out of Lebanon. He has served in the Lebanese parliament since that time, leading the country’s largest Christian party.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Borderline "Executions",Disfavored Minorities,Execution,History,Known But To God,Lebanon,Mass Executions,No Formal Charge,Occupation and Colonialism,Shot,Soldiers,Summary Executions,Syria,Wartime Executions

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1915: Eleven Arab nationalists

1 comment August 21st, 2009 Headsman

On August 21, 1915, the Turkish governor of Syria had 11 Arab nationalists publicly hanged in Beirut for seditious contacts with the French.

A larger and more famous batch would follow these the next year, like today’s victims the fruit of the French consul‘s leaving an incriminating list of potential allies in its embassy when it bugged out.

According to Charles Winslow,

[i]n all, fifty-eight individuals were tried and sentenced to death; forty-five of these were either out of the country or avoided arrest; two were given reprieves; and the other eleven, ten Muslims and one Christian, were disgracefully hanged. This public display of terror was only a prelude to additional steps taken as part of the wartime policy of repression…

Lightly defended, Jemal argued that he had no means other than those of terror to hold the area. He claimed that the executions had, in fact, forestalled a rising in Syria. Others, however … see Jemal’s actions in Syria as turning the tide against Istanbul, “causing the Arab Muslims in the area to make up their minds once and for all to break away from the Turkish Empire.” Jemal had perpetrated a “Remember-the-Alamo” for the Lebanese. Throughout the country, the story of his perfidy was passed from person to person and from village to village … One can hardly measure the significance of these hangings in stimulating people to abandon their Ottoman attachment.

By the next year, Arabs had risen in revolt, in alliance — as Pasha had feared — with the Triple Entente.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,Lebanon,Martyrs,Mass Executions,Ottoman Empire,Power,Public Executions,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Separatists,Treason,Wartime Executions

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1947: The avatar of Doctor Wonder

1 comment July 1st, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1947, according to the modern mystical sect of Daheshism, the eponymous founder Dahesh was shot as a spy at the Iran-Azerbaijan frontier — only to reappear perfectly alive in his native Lebanon.

Not that Dr. Wonder.

This Dr. Wonder:

Now, every theology looks like mummery to an outsider practically by definition, and far be it from Executed Today to impugn anyone’s spiritual truth. But: you might want to strap yourself in for Dahesh.

Born Salim Moussa Achi, “le docteur Dahesh” — “a Franco-Arabic amalgam that translates as ‘Dr. Wonder'” — made his unusual name in Beirut in the 1930’s and 1940’s “for his mesmeric gaze, the sway he held over some highly placed Lebanese (especially women), and his propensity for performing Houdini-like ‘wonders’ — including transmuting strips of paper into banknotes, appearing and disappearing at will, removing his head before retiring, and summoning spirits.”

Expelled from Lebanon, he is supposed to have walked across Syria and Turkey to Azerbaijan,* been caught without papers in that dangerous neighborhood, and shortly thereafter executed as a suspected spy.

Next thing you know, he’s back in Beirut, ready to fulfill his destiny of dying in New York in 1984 as a collector of forgettable 19th century art. And also performing “thousands” of miracles revealing him to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, which we know for a fact because he never claimed to be Jesus.

Something like that. Finer points elided.

Daheshism today evidently claims a few thousand followers — including the wealthy Zahid family — and no centralized church-like entity. Its most prominent public billboard is New York’s Dahesh Museum, which houses the late Doc Wonder’s collection of the official French Academy art overthrown by impressionism.

And the miracle on this date in 1947?

Sure, you (o ye of little faith!) might think that he slipped back into Beirut and seized on the shooting of some poor undocumented schmo who happened to resemble him.

But actually, the trick was to swap places with one of your six celestial avatars, a race of real good sports about suffering martyrdom since that’s also what the “crucified” Jesus did.**


* The sourcing is mixed on whether “Azerbaijan” here should be considered the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic then a constituent of the USSR, or its neighboring Iranian region, also called Azerbaijan.

** In this, Daheshism echoes very longstanding mystical approaches to spirit/body dualism; some early Gnostic Christians seem to have believed that Christ was not flesh in the literal human sense, and therefore his apparent death was otherwise. The Koran also supports the notion that Christ did not die bodily.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Arts and Literature,Azerbaijan,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Espionage,Execution,History,Iran,Known But To God,Public Executions,Religious Figures,Shot,The Supernatural,USSR

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