Exactly 100 years ago, 20 Arab nationalists were publicly executed by the Ottoman ruler Jamal Pasha in the heart of Beirut and Damascus on May 6, 1916.
Being subject to Ottoman rule, these Syrian and Lebanese nationalists were caught cooperating with the British and the French in an attempt to weaken the Ottoman Empire. The Turkish authorities incriminated them as "traitors," which ultimately resulted in their execution in the present-day Martyrs' Squares in both Damascus and Beirut.
Now, here we are 100 years later commemorating these nationalists, among them poets and journalists, who in our eyes stand as martyrs, not traitors.
1. In 1773, the Martyrs' Squares were initially named Sahat al Burj in Beirut and Marjeh Square in Damascus
2. Beirut's Martyrs' Square was an enclosed urban space in the 1860s, which the municipality modernized in 1878, making it the main meeting place of the city
3. In 1884, it was named Hamidiyyeh Square in honor of Sultan Abdul Hamid II
4. Beirut's Martyrs' Square displayed the first commemorative sculpture in memory of the Arab nationalists who were executed in 1930
The artwork by Youssef Hoyek represented two women, a Muslim and a Christian, holding hands in a symbolic gesture over a coffin. Unfortunately, the sculpture was was removed in the 1950s.
5. In 1931, the name Martyrs' Square was given in commemoration of the martyrs executed there under Ottoman rule
An image from the 1950s.
6. Lebanon's President Fouad Chehab inaugurated today's four-meter high statue, created by Italian artist Marino Mazzacurati, in 1960
7. During the Lebanese Civil War, the monument was damaged and ultimately divided the city in half
8. It was removed and restored after the Lebanese Civil War ended
In 1996, the monument was dismantled to be restored in the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik. It took eight whole years for the monument to be restored and returned to its original site
9. Cinema Opera (now Virgin Megastore) and Ezzedine building were the only two buildings on Martyrs' square to remain after Lebanon's civil war
The Cinema Opera building goes back to 1932 when architect Bahjat Abdelnour designed it for deputy and businessman Abboud Abdel Razzak. It was restored in 2001, with the main features of the building retained. The Ezzedine building was formerly the Royal Hotel. It was also restored in 2001 and its original dome was rebuilt.