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Political renewal, freedom and a culture of resistance
Third day of the Arab Meeting
by Gustavo Marin <>

We have had an amazing day today:

Still under Lebanon's deep blue summer sky, we started our day with a trip Southward to the region that has recently been liberated from Israeli occupation. We went to Nabatiye, another town seeping with history and the seat of the Cultural Council of South Lebanon. We were received by a large group of Lebanese that took an active part in the liberation process, young and old, some of them true survivors of all the wars and occupations that Lebanon has suffered.

A renewal of Arab thinking and culture

We spent one session working on political and cultural renewal of the Arab world within the context of economic globalization. It was a very lively debate, with intense discussions on the different interpretations of recent history and the new demands placed on the social players of the Arab world to change the societies of the region into active, participative democracies and find a new place on the world stage, so that the Arab peoples can help to consolidate a culture of peace.

Tears and smiles behind barbed wires

In the afternoon, we were guided by a group of former prisoners around the Khyam prison, opened just a year ago when the Israelis retreated from the area. Our guides had been imprisoned there for 6, 7 and 10 years. Ahmad, Samir, and Mohamed showed us the torture chambers and solitary confinement cells. Kiffah (meaning "fight") and his fellow inmates told us in great detail about how they survived in this enormous prison surrounded by barbed wire fencing. As Kiffah spoke, her eyes were filled with tears but she had a radiant smile, even as she evoked all the tortures that detained women could suffer. Later, we all went to the border together and embraced each other next to the barbed wire of the frontier between Lebanon and the lands occupied by Jewish settlers.

Books, song and dance

In the late afternoon, we returned to the Cultural Council's center in Nabatiye. Habib Sadek, the chairman, gave us some symbolic gifts: photos taken during the liberation of prisoners and wood carvings by Naji Al-Ali, the Palestinian artist killed in 1987. A group of young people then entertained all the participants with Lebanese songs and dances accompanied by a lute.

Sculptures and paintings for life

Finally, in the evening, any tiredness we felt was completely overcome by the wonderful welcome extended to us by Charbil Fares, sculptor and painter, who showed us his pictures and sculptures, some of them made with shells found right after Israeli bombing raids, and others with giant stones into which we could walk and share his art, and his feeling of rebellion and resistance.

- From Nabatiye, South Lebanon, 23 June 2001
- Meeting of the Arab World


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