download the report (pdf file) – Libano – giulia Salvatore – dicembre 2021
Lebanon, two years after the thawra: can tayfiyya be overcome?
Lebanon, a small country on the shores of the Mediterranean, the old Middle Eastern Switzerland and a present sinking ship. This country teetering on the edge of the abyss, will it recover by itself? What will be the consequences on a regional level? And which will be the new – but old – proxies fought on the Lebanese soil? According to many, we should wait until the new elections in May 2022 to understand what the future of the country will be as well as the roles played by the regional actors. On the other hand, many other people consider Lebanon as a failed State, not in terms of a war nor of natural disaster, but of an adverse condition which is self-inflicted: the government has failed the citizens and maybe the citizens have failed the government too. Victim of a political system overtaken by different crises and plagued by corruption and nepotism; Lebanon is literally suffocating. Indeed, we deal with a situation in which the political class cannot provide minimum conditions for its population: from good governance, internal peace and public order to the complete lack of services such as electricity, fuel, gas, food and medicine supply and even water. All of this translates itself into a huge flow of migration to Europe, North and South America, the Gulf countries, as well as some African countries. This is what is famously called the Lebanese diaspora.
- Thawra: what revolution?
Two years have elapsed after the famous Lebanese thawra (revolution, ndr) when thousands of people gathered in the streets of Beirut protesting against the political class of the country, its corruption, nepotism and clientelism and asking for a secular system to be adopted. This protest has been considered revolutionary by many and as a sign of change, of separating religion(s) from politics. However, after two years from the thawra can we say that the Lebanese confessionalism can be overcome? Moreover, how can a divided country like Lebanon, where religious identity overcomes national one, be de-confessionalized? What will be the future nature of the reformed Lebanese State? And, finally, is de-confessionalization a real option for Lebanon?
Taking into consideration the will of people as well as the role played by the thawra, this revolution was certainly considered as the most audacious and ambitious to date. With the slogan “Killon yaani killon”, Lebanese people took the streets demanding the removal of all the political class for its systematic corruption and the direct role they have in leading the country to financial and economic ruin, as well as humanitarian catastrophe. The famous thawra had a huge echo all over the country: from Beirut to Tripoli and Sidon, people started to realize that in order for a change to happen, they have to separate religion from politics. The thawra was basically a spontaneous reaction to an unbearable situation, which created awareness in the population. Indeed, since October 2019, new political parties were created, along with new associations and the rise of innovative initiatives with cross-sectarian and secular proposals. Nevertheless, this new wave of protests – even though revolutionary in understanding the limits of tayfiyya – did not create feasible alternatives at a political level because it has no unified program and no coordination, along with the absence of a strong leadership.
The Lebanese pluralist and confessional system represents a true rarity in the world. This rarity is the result of historical and religious roots, as well as relations which started with the Ottoman Empire, then translated into the French Constitution of 1926, reinforced with the unwritten National Pact of 1943, and eventually strengthened with the adoption of the Ta’if Agreement in 1989. Indeed, Lebanon today welcomes eighteen different religious communities or groups, all governed by a system of power sharing along sectarian lines. As a matter of fact, the President of the Republic must always be a Christian Maronite, the Prime Minister must always be a Sunni Muslim and the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies must always be a Shia Muslim. All these aspects lead to the conclusion that when dealing with Lebanon we should treat the subject in its entireness: starting from the historical roots leading to the creation of tayfiyya as the political system of the country, the sociological perspectives on the matter and the political and constitutional implications it has.
- Majority and minorities, from conflicts to cohabitation
Lebanon has always been populated by majorities and minorities. These two (or more than two) entities, apparently shifted from being in conflict to cohabitation. Understanding and explaining the majority/minority issue in the country brings us back to 1943, when Riad el-Sohl and Bechara el-Khoury adopted the famous unwritten National Pact to liberate the country from the French mandate. In particular, there are two main points to take into consideration:
- To face the ideological exclusivism of the majority (first religious majority, then national one), supported by an overwhelming demographic superiority which has two main consequences: the first one touches the social hierarchy, where majority and minority are placed in a position of superiority or inferiority; the second one is political, by the maintenance of a relationship based on domination from one side to the other.
- To enshrine the autonomy of the group as a constant and founding principle of the structure of society and of power itself, and at the same time as a functional coexistence as the principle regulating the relations between communities.
Particularly, the National Pact revitalized the hegemonic impact of the majority by setting aside the exclusive relationship of the same majority with society and the State. This allowed for the development of the social and political pluralism. The political hegemony of the majority is reduced to an identification principle but also to an internal structure and operation of it. The demographic preponderance which kept the hegemony of the majority over national power is therefore neutralized as a political factor which sets aside the dominant vs dominated relationship.
The dialectic that runs around the majority and minority issue is the result of historical events. The desire to marginalize the minority away from the social and political life of the majority results in discriminatory and unequal attitudes, which are the souvenirs of past events and political decisions.
Indeed, autonomy from France had two inner faces that maybe no one really understood, and which are at the basis of the current divisions in societies. If at an early stage, the desire to independence had the objective of unification, this last was achieved through isolation. As a matter of fact, once obtained, self-sufficiency was absorbed in the structures of dominant vs dominated – or majority vs minority – issue. Autonomy became the symbol and the general principle of singularity which characterizes all the communities in their common relations and, most importantly, in their relations with the State. Majority and minority eventually merged and became part of the unique statute of equivalent communities which recognized each other and were consequently recognized by the State. From that moment on, a new pluralist society emerged, and it was founded on the parallelism between the equivalent status from a legal point of view, and at the same time, different from a structural and organizational point of view. Namely, the societal communitarianism. Simultaneously, a pluralist State was formed. This is the exact political reflection of society, founded on a shared power and participation of the ruling communities. Namely, the political communitarianism.
For what concerns the societal communitarianism, it has always been a reserved domain from a structural point of view. Indeed, to respect this imperative aspect, the Lebanese State has always abstained from interfering into the personal and internal affairs of the eighteen different communities. Moreover, another point to take into consideration is that the State has always abstained from taking the initiative to integrate the communities. It starts from a principle of common recognition of the different autonomies, where majorities and minorities are perceived as equivalent groups which, on their part, enjoy an equal treatment following a legal plan. The respect of the communities’ autonomy has always been seen as a prerequisite to a pacific relation between State and communities and, at the same time, any violation of these principles becomes a possible face-to-face between the two entities. As a confirmation of this, the respect of the autonomies of the communities is stated under Articles 9 and 10 of the Lebanese Constitution. At a functional level, the relations between State and communities can be seen under the rationale of a “personal federalism”, where two main areas of expertise emerge:
- A common and political area where all communities can participate.
- A communitarian field in which its affairs are directed by the communities and all their internal affairs are managed by them. We can therefore say that in this field they have a complete sovereignty on the matter of personal status, as well as organization and function of the confessional community.
- The national identity and the citizenship discourse
All these aspects lead also to the national identity and citizenship discourse which are, on their part, strictly related to tayfiyya and if and to what extent it can be overcome in present Lebanon. Citizenship in the Lebanese State is not a matter of restriction nor of exclusion, but at the same time it is not a common citizenship, which includes all equal citizens. Rather, we deal with a conditional citizenship. It has a mixture of differentiations which makes the legal membership dependent on the criteria of community membership.
This discourse it is a very difficult one and it requires clarification about the combination of religious community and citizenship. Every Lebanese has a juridical double membership or affiliation: a social-communitarian and a political-communitarian membership. However, it is also important to note that citizenship, as well as civil and political rights cannot exclude the mandatory affiliation to a religious community. Consequently, this affiliation is not a deliberate choice, rather a legal obligation which influences the whole legal status of the citizen. Briefly, the citizen is not considered socially, politically, and legally in its human and civilian nature, rather he is considered as member of a religious community within the State. As a consequence, all the legal rules contained in the personal and civil rights are as many as the number of communities living in Lebanon. Therefore, citizenship – intended as the body of rules which determines the forms of membership to society and to the State – is various. We can, in fact, say that there is not a typical Lebanese citizen, but different types of citizens whose rights and obligations are different and follow their affiliation to a community or another.
From a legal perspective, this situation is reflected in the recognition by the State of a personal status and of an inheritance law of each community. This is particularly motivated by different aspects. First of all, Article 9 of the Lebanese Constitution guarantees freedom of conscience and of religion. However, this liberty is limited. Indeed, the contrary to freedom of religion is exactly that of not believing in anything. By creating the mandatory religious affiliation to one of the Lebanese communities, the State limits freedom of religion itself. Yet, citizens have the right to believe and to exercise their religious convictions, but they also have the obligation of believing in something. Therefore, it is impossible for them to demonstrate publicly or legally their atheist nature. Legally speaking, the citizen is obliged, even if formally, to profess a religious confession, otherwise he can find himself in a situation of legal vacuum regarding the personal status.
We should also take into consideration that the logic behind this personal status was inspired by the theological and spiritual doctrines of each community. This better explains the differentiation among the religious groups. Moreover, the application of the rules of the personal status are under the legal jurisdiction of the communities, which sentences have a direct legal effect, while the State just takes note of the decision taken subsequently performing the substance of the same decision. At the same time, controversies deriving from the application of the personal and civilian status are under the competences of the religious tribunals.
We can draw some conclusions about the civil communitarianism in Lebanon. The societal and communitarian division blocks the formation of a common social platform and makes it almost impossible to let emerge an ideology of unification of Lebanese people. However, this dimension of social but legal division can be understood also – and primarily – in historical terms. Despite the course of time and the different events that society and State have experienced, the autonomy of the different communities remains a central aspect in the citizenship discourse. This maintenance has to be seen not only from a top-down perspective, rather it is highly encouraged from a bottom-up point of view. The autonomy of each community is intended to control and to shape the relationship with the other communities and with the State. The willingness of maintaining this autonomous supremacy over the State is strictly related to the idea of identity. The Lebanese identity is secondary to the religious one.
The creation of a civilian citizenship cannot be imposed by the State, because right now this would probably lead to a harsh conflict between State and religious communities. In the event of a possible conflict, the outcome will be that of major consequences and severing of relations (already damaged) between the different communities. The differentiation or the separation between “religious” and “civilian” seems to be far from becoming reality.
At the same time, the recognition of a political identity must be linked to the political and civilian communitarianism. Indeed, the pair political and communitarian autonomy cannot be broken. The religious community presents itself as the defining and constant element of a diverse society into a different political and statal structure of Lebanon. Indeed, the communitarian inclusion in the political structure of the State (the political pluralism and power sharing, ndr) is the result of its social autonomy. This autonomy is an historical outcome of years of claimed independence and it presents itself in the effective political participation to which the State is submitted to. The contraposition between autonomy and cohabitation has always been one of the major reasons, since the Lebanese development and political life is extremely polarized. The difficult cohabitation can therefore be seen as a permanent point to the Lebanese question. It must also be said that periods of living together did exist in Lebanon, but they were destroyed by conflicts and by a never accomplished, neither considered, process of transitional justice or national amnesty after the civil war.
Cohabitation, as the new principle that regulates the majority and minority dispute, presents itself in a difficult and new situation. If at the beginning the State was the place in which there could have been a sort of consolidation and grouping of the different and antagonist communities – concerning their political and ideological disagreement – the possible insertion of the dynamic of cohabitation required the transformation of the State as common land for the communities. However, nor history neither present nor future perspectives lead society to live together. The conflict between majority and minority exacerbated even more at the political level, creating a conflictual history made of open political clashes, different interests and objectives, as well as divergent and parallel evolutions. Even today, both majority and minority nourish mistrust among them. On the one hand, the majority sees the pain of having lost its power and the impossibility to realize their continuous demands. They also fear the future evolution of the minority from autonomy to self-determination and independence. On the other hand, instead, minority must settle for a minoritarian position in national politics, facing the political power of a no-longer majority.
The cooperation born with the National Pact of 1943, is giving way to the pair autonomy-conflict which creates a very weak social and political subdivision. We can also say that reconciliation and mutual coexistence are not even considered as an option by the ruling class of the country. This can also be seen from an historical perspective. Indeed, since the beginning of Great Lebanon, the different communities were in a way “obliged” to live together. This transforms itself in ideological and political ideas very different from one another, although they put aside their irreducible differences to come up with a new and tumultuous path towards reconciliation and nationality, never really achieved.
- The Lebanese identity discourse: is unification an achievable goal?
Talking about nationality and unification, are these two aspects an achievable goal when dealing with current Lebanon? The perception of the State where the Lebanese national identity is found, or better the population’s sentiment of identity, are two important aspects to consider when analysing the current situation in Lebanon and the best future perspectives for the country.
Historically speaking, the idea of a spontaneous creation of a Lebanese identity during the pre-1920 period was an absurdity. However, what can be said is that at least the bases for a Lebanese identity were created very early in its history, but what stopped it to become the real national identity is related to the communitarian polarization of politics and society. The division of the Lebanese identity emerged from the different conflicts happening during time and with the objective of finding and concretizing a real Lebanese identity. In spite of this, what was ripping apart was the very same reason behind the fight, and what was going to become disintegrated was motivated by another unity. Therefore, the Lebanese identity was becoming basically one: confessional.
It is also true that the communitarian polarization and the consequent crystallization of the communities defeat the possibility towards a national identity. The division was also translated into politics and the Lebanese Civil War, along with its consequences, represented a stage of controversies, where violence imposed two specific outcomes: no national identity and a growing fear that is still shared by all the communities. Indeed, these elements can be related to an enormous lack in the Lebanese history. After fifteen years of bloody and violent war, where everyone was against everyone else, there was not a process of transitional justice. Rather, the same people belonging to different religious groups and those who fought against each other during the war are now representing the political élite of the country. Indeed, Lebanon needed a process of pacification and a common elaboration of the past in order to build a collective memory of what occurred during the fifteen years of conflict. Many things remained unsolved in the aftermath of the Lebanese Civil War and what endured was a common sentiment of fear, which was then passed on from generation to generation. Today, this fear transforms itself in sectarian belonging and territorial one. Many people fear of moving in their own country and they prefer to be confined in the territories populated by a majority of their religion. The process of amnesty and transitional justice through the deployment of criminal prosecutions, truth-seeking, reparations and even reforms can be useful for Lebanese population to participate in the process of collective re-elaboration of what occurred and, most importantly, how to move forward.
All in all, today’s deep societal and political crisis in which the communitarian system finds itself is a consequence of non-achievement of a national or even common identity, which in its part is the result of an inexistence process of national or even communitarian pardon.
- The Lebanese federalist utopia
This sentiment of division, separation, and religious refuge into each different confessional group gradually created an idea of a Lebanese federation or of decentralization. However – and despite this topic is a very in-trend one in present Lebanon – the federal scheme cannot be applied in today’s country for different reasons. The first one, is that the Lebanese society has its own basis on their religious identity as it was already explained. However, apart from this aspect which remains the heart of the matter, the Lebanese territory is not uniformly divided. Indeed, probably as a consequence of the civil war, today’s Lebanese regions contain preponderant “majorities” and “strong minorities”. When dealing with the exclusive powers of a federation, the current Lebanese political problems concern precisely foreign policy, national defence, and management of public finance. In the case of a federal system, these three spheres of competence cannot be vetoed by communities. Moreover, there is another element which is extremely important, and which makes present Lebanon unsuitable to pursue the federalist project: the Hezbollah’s disarmament. The Party of God controls some parts of the country, and it is impossible to create a federal State without first restoring the central State sovereignty in the whole territory.
Nevertheless, current Lebanese federalists believe that the social identities are at the basis of the political tensions. Therefore, they declare themselves in favour of a territorial division of Lebanon into different confessional cantons. However, no one really advances such proposition. This is also linked to the fact that many political personalities have already understood that federalism is rather a utopia than being a possible near future reality. In the local context federalism will create secessionist intentions rather than a pacific way to live together, even if territorially and administratively separated. In addition, if the emergence of Hezbollah as a very influential political actor in the whole country is the symptom of the decadence of the Lebanese State, what will happen if the south starts to approve its own system and regulations?
It is of unquestioned truth that Lebanon should be reformed through the adoption of modern, liberal, and democratic ideas and decentralization. Nevertheless, it is necessary that before thinking about a huge project as the federal one is, we should first and foremost face reality: Lebanese people lack of the culture of vivre ensemble. This is the exact consequence of the end of the civil war and of the non-adoption of a system of transitional justice, as already analysed in this article. One can also argue that many old federations did not know how to live together, and this is true. However, in the case of Lebanon we deal with a country which experienced a legal apparatus since 1926, or even before under the Ottoman Empire. We cannot say it has always worked properly, but it surely had its glory days. While, today the memory of the civil war translates itself into fear of moving inside their own country, of leaving their majoritarian-confessional neighbourhoods, along with a complete lack of trust between the different communities. Moreover, in this huge discourse about the Lebanese federation, the most important pawn is Hezbollah and the possibility of really transforming itself into “a State within a State”. As a matter of fact, there are not concrete basis to create a democratic federation in today’s Lebanon.
As far as decentralization is concerned, for decades now this theme has been very recurrent in the Lebanese political scenario. Decentralization is characterized by the establishment of locally elected legal entities, each of them enjoying administrative and financial autonomy and having a legal personality. Until now, decentralization in Lebanon has been achieved at the level of municipalities. It was from Ta’if onward that decentralization has shattered the political scenario of the country, this is related to the fact that decentralization is perceived being not neutral by each of the confessional communities in Lebanon. Indeed, it adversely affects the political arena by shifting the balance of power from the central government to a possible local one and by restricting the provision of resources vital to the interests of the Lebanese political class. This might result in the voluntary inability to implement decentralization after more than three decades since the adoption of the Ta’if Agreement. It is exactly here that lies the problem of present-day Lebanon: a (still) centralized State in a decentralized, pluralist and deeply divided society, at a confessional basis.
- Is de-confessionalization possible?
That said, is the Lebanese de-confessionalization possible? Considering the historical roots the question (still) has, the “pacification” rationale that lied behind the civil war conflict was that of finding a political transition at the State’s level. The restructuring of the State has in fact gone from a moment of fear and hate, erupted in the fifteen years of civil war, towards a temporary application of what characterized the conflict itself: division. It was perceived as necessary, as a sort of matter of life or death, to integrate one part to the other at the political level, leaving aside the sociological features of the question. However, the reconciliation that was put in place lacked from its inseparable counterpart: the historical reconciliation between majority and minority to end the conflict and the state of tension that has remained to present day. Therefore, the State turned into an entity meant to control and manage the communitarian vivre ensemble and the shift from a conflictual to a pacific society. Nevertheless, both vivre ensemble and pacific society were just apparent conditions. Moreover, as many academics firmly believe, there is no legal apparatus in Lebanon. Or better, the parallelism that exists between the legal Constitution and the National Pact of 1943 confirms once again that the historical supremacy that the oral pact has obtained still prevails over the legal, consequently emarginating the Constitution from the constraints of the Muslims – Christians accord.
The confessional structure of the State is something that communities have organized at their convenience, on the basis of the prevalence of the communitarian structure over the State one. As a matter of fact, they organized a political equilibrium which allows them to live as separate entities, but with the State as a sort of intermediary. Indeed, there is not a common interest, but different communitarian ones. There is to say, the State is represented as the place in which the confessional divisions are identified and therefore it is the subordinate place where different identities and communitarian structures try to coexist, delimitating the State’s field of action as very weak. This is confirmed by a constitutional trick which affects the structure, but also the objectives and the function of the State. Indeed, on the one hand we find a constitutional uniqueness over the institutional unity and its decisions through the existence of the Chamber of Deputies and of the Council of Ministries. At the same time, there is a constitutional duality which is purely communitarian of the functions of the State’s institutions. As a matter of fact, there is a confessional decision-making plurality within the internal structures of the State. For this reason, it is impossible to conciliate a de facto federalist society with an inefficient and de iure unitarian structure of the State. The unitarian structure of the State is inefficacious for different reasons:
- It should represent, without any sort of distinction as it is reported within the Constitution, the interests of the nation.
- It should harmonise and meet the communities’ intentions.
- It should reflect the principle of equal representation in the State’s institutions.
Reality tells us that there is no national interest without a pure Lebanese identity, and there is no harmonisation of intentions because communities always resort to religious differences rather than committing to few but existing common roots. Last but not least, equal representation might also exist in Lebanon, but the focus of the problem is that within the logic of coexistence the divisions in the institutions represent a right for each community. This right translates the communitarian autonomy into politics.
The formula they decided to adopt after the civil war, even if not new in the Lebanese scenario, is a sort of hybrid. It is in-between being a unified State à la carte, although without knowing how to adapt to new realities, and a de facto non-effective federal State. This is the result of the confusion between political coexistence and political unity and of the idea of the State as a structure that embodies the different communitarian identities and its institutions as those in charge of the development of political unity. The present state of communitarian relations makes coexistence impossible because it is the result of an ideological and political conflict filled with mutual mistrust and hate. The difficulties and ruptures generated from the conflict has made the State powerless before the communities. The hierarchy is not represented by the State as the most influential entity and then communities being one step lower. The reality reflects the exact opposite. The sectarian interests prevail over the national ones, as the sectarian identity is even stronger than the Lebanese one.
Tayfiyya presents many aspects that are difficult to be replaced by other types of systems and the Lebanese reality does not obey to the constitutional law nor to the rule of law as we normally intend both of them, from a European perspective. Rather, citizens look at institutions from a confessional point of view, instead of considering their constitutional functioning.
However, it is far from true to say that the Lebanese situation is hopeless and beyond repair. The most important aspect to reform is the radical evolution of society and its mentality towards a new system based on a unique citizenship. This will be the turning point and hope to change current situation, which has very old roots. Unfortunately, we should also face the facts: currently such change is impossible in Lebanon. This is particularly related to the attachment and devotion of communities towards their religions. Indeed, presently a de-confessionalization of society and then of politics is unfeasible. Every step taken towards the de-confessionalization of Lebanon has never seen the light of the day. Nothing appears as more difficult and riskier as to separate the entities from their sociological and historical roots.
The abolition of tayfiyya can happen as a result of a process of change that starts from the collective and then reaches the political sphere. The decrease in the societal communities will be the efficient cause of the overcoming of political confessionalism. This will be the result of years of gradual instalment of a new mentality, related more to the human sphere than to the religious one and, above all, of a process of pardon and common interest to overcome the sentiment of fear that has affected society since 1990.
In the end, after having analysed the different aspects from which the discourse over confessionalism and power sharing in Lebanon arose (sociological, historical, political and constitutional aspects), this analysis can be concluded by saying that the Lebanese tayfiyya cannot be overcome; at least for the time being. Thinking about eliminating confessionalism in present Lebanon without primarily preparing the ground for society to live together, means basically to give rise to a new civil war that will mark the end of the country, once and for all. A semblance of turning back to 1975 was marked by the events of October 14th, 2021, when the streets of Beirut became the theatre of violent disputes, once again. That day, Hezbollah and Amal’s supporters gathered to protest against Tariq Bitar, the appointed judge for the inquisition on the Beirut explosion which happened on August 4th, 2020 and killed more than two hundred people. During the dispute between the Shia groups and the Christian Lebanese Forces, six people were killed and eighty were wounded. This protest was a proof to say that violence is on the corner, and people’s fear of a new civil war is becoming reality. On October 14th, Lebanon has literally taken a thirty years step back in time.
 This research is the result of an on-sight research project conducted in Lebanon from July to August 2021, with the aim of understanding the Lebanese tayfiyya and if and to what extend it can be overcome through the information gathered from locals and from the academic interviews conducted during the stay. To this end, I would like to thank Dr. Elie Elias and Dr. Francisco Barroso Cortes from USEK University in Kaslik; Dr. Georges Charaf, Dr. Wahhad Sharara and Dr. Ahmad Beydoun from the Lebanese University of Beirut; and Dr. Abdel-Raouf Sinno from Makassed University of Beirut. Each interview gave me the possibility to come up with a personal idea on the matter, seen from a detached point of view and described here in this article.
 Jackson, R. H., “Failed States and International Trusteeship” in The global covenant: Human conduct in a word of states, Oxford: University Press, 2006, p. 2.
 “All of them means all of them”. This slogan was invented by the Lebanese poet Jumana Haddad.
 It should also be emphasized that the strong sectarian divisions in the Lebanese society have also an influence in the economic differences among the confessions. This has also been strengthened by the diverse regional powers’ interests in the Land of the cedars, which consequently fuel the economic and confessional divisions. To make an example, on May 2008 Hezbollah – backed by Iran – paralyzed Beirut as a protest campaign against the government’s decision to take steps against the telecommunication network operated by the Party of God. Indeed, Hezbollah conducted a political campaign against Siniora’s government. While, at the same time opposition gunmen took over an office of the Future political group led by Saad al-Hariri, leader of the governing coalition, Lebanon’s most influential Sunni politician and a close ally of Saudi Arabia. Supporters of both sides (Shia and Sunni) pelted each other with stones in Mazraa, a Beirut district. This is remembered as one of the most violent episodes between Sunni and Shia Muslims after the civil war. Behind the fuelling of sectarian divisions between the two, a great role was played by both Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Perry, T., Lebanon political conflict turns violent, May 7th, 2008, Reuters. available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-strike-idUSL0761005520080507
 Charaf, G., Communautés et État, communautés dans l’État, p. 288-289.
 Meaning that it is reserved to a specific group
 Maronites and Greek-Orthodox follow the Roman Church; Sunni and Shia Muslims refer to the Holy Quran.
 There are different laws for the delimitation of competences of the confessional authorities. For instance, the one concerning Christian and Jewish communities was established on April 2nd, 1951, the so-called Motu Propio “Crebrae Allatae” and then revised in 1990 by Pope John Paul II with the title “codice dei canoni delle chiese orientali”. They include everything that approaches the personal status from a legal and extensive perspective: family, finance, marriage, parentage, parental authority, custody of minors and their education, alimony between spouses, etc.
The “codice dei canoni delle chiese orientali” can be found at the web page:
While, the personal status of Muslim communities in Lebanon is regulated by their own legislative system. Sunni Muslims follow the Hanafi school, which is one of the madhabat (schools) of the Islamic jurisprudence, or fiqh. On the other hand, Shia Muslims and Alawites follow the Islamic jurisprudence under the Ja’fari fiqh.
About the theory about Islamic jurisprudence: Corrao F., Islam: religione e politica, LUISS University Press, October 2015.
 Beydoun A., La Dégénérescence du Liban ou la Réforme orpheline, Sindbad-Actes Sud, Arles, 2009, pp. 61-62.
 During the activity of research that I conducted in Lebanon, it was possible to ask for opinions on the future legal structure of the country once it will be reformed. The results of the research demonstrated that a federalized system is aspired by some parts of the population, while others believe that a reform of the consociational system will be more suitable for Lebanon. This section tries to understand if a Lebanese federation can be achievable by taking into consideration the examples of successful federations and if – and to what extent – it can be applied to Lebanon.
 On the FedLeb website – which reports the thesis of Iyad Boustany, a political activist in favour of the federalist project – Lebanon is divided into 1,633 villages. Those villages which are landlocked and in a canton of a different sect would be subject to the regulations of their canton of confessional affiliation. In other words, if a Christian village is landlocked in a Shia canton, it will follow Christian jurisdiction and does not have to apply the other confession’s regulations.
This project can be found at: https://fedleb.org
 After being one of the most influential supporters of federalism, even Bashir Gemayel understood that the application of a federal system in Lebanon was rather a utopia. It is for this reason that he presented himself as the President of Lebanese people, promoting unification rather than divisive policies.
Currently, no one forwards the federalist proposition. Indeed – even though he does not declare himself against this project – Samir Geagea recognizes that its application would be impossible, because the other parties do not agree with the same proposition. As a matter of fact, at a local level, the idea of a federation hides secessionist desires rather than the creation of a real form of well-functioning federation.
 Council on Foreign Relations – What is Hezbollah? (September 1st, 2020). Available at: https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/what-hezbollah
Sharara, W., Dawlat Hizballah: Loubnan Moujtamaan Islamiyan (The State of Hezbollah: Lebanon as an Islamic Society), Dar Annahar, 1996.
 In 1989, the Taif Agreement gave a push to decentralization, attempting to enforce this new system as a part of a fairly broad national consensus. Therefore, this could have been perceived by political, partisan and sectarian groups as neutral in the fact that it did not upset the balance of their “vested rights”. This can explain the stalemate that decentralization keeps facing today: some would like to see it narrowed down to a technicality, while others firmly believe it can bring a major shift in the Lebanese politics. In the former sense, it can be neutral but in the latter one it is not. This is because decentralization can reshape the national landscape with the beginning of new dynamics and leading to a broader participation and democratic governance, apart from being a great anticorruption and anti-clientelism strategy, since it will improve accountability and reduce the political élites’ discretion.
This analysis on decentralization is taken from the former Minister of Interior and Municipalities of the Republic of Lebanon between 2008 and 2011, Ziyad Baroud. This analysis can be found at:
Baroud, Z., Decentralization in Lebanon is not neutral, MEI, April 5th, 2021. Available at:
 Rabbath, E., La formation historique du Liban politique et constitutionnel, Université Libanaise, Beyrouth, 1986.