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Remembering Janet Lee Stevens, a Martyr for Palestinian Refugees

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By Franklin Lamb


This letter was written to Janet Lee Stevens on the 25th anniversary of the Sabra & Shatila Massacre, on Sept. 14, 2007, from Martyr's Square, Shatila Camp



Dearest Janet,

It's a very beautiful fall day here in Beirut today. Twenty-five years ago this week since the massacre at the Palestinian refugee camps at Sabra-Shatila. Bright blue sky and a fall breeze. It actually rained last night. Enough to clean out some of the humidity and dust. Fortunately not enough to make the usual rain created swamp of sewage and filth on Rue Sabra, or flood the grassless burial ground of the mass grave (the camp residents named it Martyrs Square, one of several so named memorials now in Lebanon) where you once told me that on Sunday September 19, 1982, you watched, sickened, as families and Red Crescent workers created a subterranean mountain of butchered and bullet-riddled victims from those 48 hours of slaughter. Some of the bodies had limbs and heads chopped off, some boys castrated, Christian crosses carved into some of the bodies.

As you later wrote to me in your perfect cursive:
"I saw dead women in their houses with their skirts up to their waists and their legs spread apart; dozens of young men shot after being lined up against an ally wall; children with their throats slit, a pregnant woman with her stomach chopped open, her eyes still wide open, her blackened face silently screaming in horror; countless babies and toddlers who had been stabbed or ripped apart and who had been thrown into garbage piles."

Today Martyr's Square is not much of a Memorial to the upwards of 1,700 mainly women and children, who were murdered between Sept. 15-18. You would not be pleased. A couple of faded posters and a misspelled banner that reads: "1982: Saba Massacer", hang near the center of the 20 by 40 yard area which for years following the mass burial was a garbage dump. Today, roaming around the grassless plot of ground is a large old yellow dog that ignores a couple of chicken hens and six pullets scratching and pecking around.

Since you went away, the main facts of the massacre remain the same as your research uncovered in the months that followed. At that time your findings were the most detailed and accurate as to what occurred and who was responsible.

The old 7-storey Kuwaiti Embassy from where Sharon, Eytan, Yaron, Elie Hobeika, Fradi Frem and others maintained radio contact and monitored the 48 hours of carnage with a clear view into the camps was torn down years ago. A new one has been built and they are still constructing a mosque on its grounds.
I am sorry to report that today in Lebanon, the families of the victims of the massacre daily sink deeper into the abyss. Nowhere on earth do the Palestinians live in such filth and squalor. "Worse than Gaza!" a journalist recently in Palestine exclaims.

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Since 2013, Professor Franklin P. Lamb has traveled extensively throughout Syria. His primary focus has been to document, photograph, research and hopefully help preserve the vast and irreplaceable archaeological sites and artifacts in (more...)
 

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