How the Citadel of Rashaya shaped the Lebanese Independence

On November 8, 1943, after the election of President Bechara El Khoury and the appointment of Prime Minister Riad al-Solh, the Chamber of Deputies altered the Lebanese Constitution – abolishing the articles referring to the French Mandate.

The French responded by arresting the President, the Prime Minister, and other cabinet members, and exiling them to an old citadel located in Rashaya.

Located in the West Bekaa area, Rashaya is still considered a traditional Lebanese town with its old paved streets and small shops. It retains a distinguished character of traditional stone houses with red-tiled roofs.

The economy of the town is primarily based on agriculture:  cherries, olives, apricots and grapes.

The Rashaya Citadel or Citadel of Independence is a national monument.

It was built around the 14th century and was refurbished as a palace by the Shihab family in the 18th century. It was used by the French Mandate and is now stationed by the Lebanese Armed Forces.

It is open for tourists and locals, under the army’s surveillance.

Located on a hill, the castle was considered a strategic location in wars and battles. Underground passages between the town and the citadel are established in case of sieges, providing food, water and all kinds of equipment.

Due to its remote location, strategic position and strong protection, it was the perfect place for the French Mandate to lock up the “men of the independence”.

The prisoners included Bechara El Khoury (later the first post-independence President of Lebanon), Riad El-Solh (later the Prime Minister), Salim Takla, Camille Chamoun, Adel Osseiran and Abdelhamid Karameh.

The imprisonment lasted for 11 days, leading to national and international pressure for their release and France soon relented.

On November 22, 1943, the prisoners were released.

That day was declared the Lebanese Independence Day.

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