During the early 20th C the Ottoman Empire did not have complete influence over Lebanon. When WWI broke out, Lebanon seemed like a neutral province that did not have its allegiance either to Turkey or Britain. According to the National Journal of Middle East Studies in 1974, the French attempted to recruit Lebanese citizens into their army and have them become spies of their enemy Turkey. Upon discovering the intentions of France, Turkey invaded Lebanon and it was placed under siege. The Turkish army was unsympathetic to the Lebanon people (Ajay Jnr.
1974). They would rule by inducing fear into the people. Constant harassment and curfews disrupted the daily economic activities of the province. People believed to be spies were hanged in the courtyards in front of the public as a form of stern warning against defying the orders of Turkey.
The Turkish army also robbed Lebanon of its natural resources and used them to strengthen and finance the army. Young men were forcefully removed from their homes and recruited into the army (Morrock, 2010).
They were allowed to participate in the line of fire against the French and Britain, and most of them died in the process. Lebanon consequently lost its sovereignty and was placed under the Turkish army commander Jamal Pasha who was known for being harsh and vindictive. In 1915, in retaliation to Turkish enemies, Pasha blocked all ports in the Mediterranean Sea to reduce the constant supplies to his enemy (Fawaz, 2014).
This adversely affected Lebanon; widespread hunger and famine was resulting in massive death and casualties.
The economic activities slumped and the population decreased.
Refuge came in 1920 when the British army made it to Syria and opened ways for supplies to come into the country. Five years of hunger and living under fear for Lebanon had resulted in normlessness and destruction (Morrock, 2010). There was not much to be recovered.
The story of how Lebanon was robbed and oppressed during the aforementioned period is well narrated by Nicholas Ajay Jr. in his book on Political Intrigue and Suppression in Lebanon during World War I. Using references from the war memoirs of William Graves and Pasha who were present during the time, Nicholas reveals the crude ways in which innocent people were killed and imprisoned while there was not much the public could do. William, who as a young boy saw the death, execution, and suffering of his elders at the hands of the army vividly, recalls isolated incidences that were meant to spread fear amongst his people. At the time he could only watch with innocent eyes and not question.
Ajay Jr. also uses interviews with prominent people at the time, like George Ashqar who understood the reason behind the decision made during the times of war, as well as the repercussions. He incorporates the Stamboul: Imprimerie Canine of 1916 which contains the names and crimes of all the Lebanon people killed and executed during the period.
Before the siege by Ottoman and the Turkish army, Lebanon had a vast economy that engaged in internal and external trade and welcomed tourists. Conversely, the Turkish army robbed the country and its people of independence and prosperity and induced them with fear, hunger, poverty, and death.