NAYA| Women from the Civil War: Journalist Maria Chakhtoura

Chakhtoura completed her doctorate degree in France. Back then, there were ongoing elections for Jacques Servan Schreiber and graffiti filled every corner of the streets.
by Nassab Helal

5 March 2020 | 19:27

Source: by Annahar

  • by Nassab Helal
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 5 March 2020 | 19:27

This file photo taken at the Beirut Film Festival shows a portrait of Maria Chakhtoura.

"Women from the Civil War" introduces you to Lebanese women who lived through the war and were able to contribute to society all while creating a better Lebanon. Share your story with NAYA's Editor, Sally Farhat: [email protected]

BEIRUT: The Lebanese Civil War inhibited and destroyed the lives of many. A considerable number of youngsters lost their youth to war, others were separated from their families, and some let fear take over and hid at home. This wasn’t the case for active journalist Maria Chakhtoura. She saw an opportunity, held on, and crafted something timeless out of it.

“I started my career during the civil war and took a studio in Hamra. I used to always carry a camera with me to photograph anything worth sharing,” Chakhtoura told Annahar.

Chakhtoura completed her doctorate degree in France. Back then, there were ongoing elections for Jacques Servan Schreiber and graffiti filled every corner of the streets. She felt very drawn to the work of art taking over France. Similarly, when the Lebanese civil war started, opposing parties took it upon themselves to describe how they felt via graffiti. This called for Chakhtoura personally as she decided to photograph what was written all over Lebanon. She sensed the graffiti being written on both ends was a form dialogue that needs to be reported. Although she was captured and threatened by several militia parties, she didn’t allow them to waver her decision nor her bravery.

“When they used to stop me, a million scenarios would cross my mind as to what they might to do. However, I got away every time and that strengthened my determination to get the truth out. I combined all the images and created a book called ‘La guerre des graffiti’,” Chakhtoura explained.

Passionate about news writing, Chakhtoura recalled driving to Jounieh to interview a foreigner who brought a multitude of donations to Lebanon from abroad. As she was driving, a bomb detonated and her car flew about 10 meters.

“I was paralyzed with fear and confusion. The intensity of the bomb made me go deaf for about half an hour. One would think I would have taken a break from reporting after that,” she laughed. “I resumed back the next day.”

Adamant about giving a voice to the unheard, Chakhtoura sparked on a new journey to capture the memories of survival. She loved communicating with Lebanese people, understanding them and listening to the stories of their survival stories as well as living conditions.

“I was so curious to the extent that I followed survivors to Cyprus to know how they escaped the war and how they were being treated in a foreign country. I collected 40 stories and published them in my second book ‘Memoires des Survies’,” Chakhtoura told Annahar.

Not only did she spread news within her country, she took an extra step and went international. She reported back to L’est Republican and Jeune Afrique, both located in France, and L’Echo in Switzerland. Whether it is death of a loved one or displacement of families, she shared the struggles and dehumanization of the Lebanese citizens with the world.

Both of her books stand as testimonies to the horrors, injustice, and destruction that flooded Lebanon between the years of 1975 and 1990. Chakhtoura felt the need to write history down in the hopes of everyone taking a lesson from it.

“The Lebanese war is a product of warlords preying on society’s differences. Educating the future generations on the atrocities and hatred is the only guarantee to prevent it from happening again,” Chakhtoura told Annahar.

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Welcome to “NAYA," the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment. We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. NAYA is devoted to women of all generations-NAYA Editor, Sally Farhat: [email protected]

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