General Lahoud and his wife have three children. Although they speak almost no Armenian, they have a great respect for their ethnic roots. “They are Armenians, just like my wife and myself,” says the former president. “Their mentality is Armenian, they are proud of their blood, especially our daughter Karine. She has lots of books on Armenian history. Our children dream of visiting Armenia. The sons of my brother are also Armenian patriots — one of my nephews even took up Armenian citizenship.”
Émile Lahoud has been to Armenia only once, in May of 2001. Despite a busy schedule of official events and working meetings in his two-day state visit, the Lebanese president found time to walk around Yerevan and to lay a wreath at the eternal flame in memory of the victims of the Genocide. This was a rare occasion when a statesman’s visit to Tsitsernakaberd was not a mere ceremonial event. “When I approached the eternal flame, I felt my eyes fill with tears,” Lahoud said. “I thought of grandmother Rebecca at this moment, her whole family killed. I recalled her words to me: ‘Never forget what happened to our ancestors. Otherwise it will turn out that all these people died in vain.’”
Even when he was still commander of the Lebanese Army, Émile Lahoud made a big effort to convince the country’s Parliament to condemn the crimes of the Young Turks. On April 3, 1997, the National Assembly of Lebanon proclaimed April 24 the “Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Genocide of Armenians.” Four years later, the Parliament officially recognized the Genocide. “The first Lebanese politician to raise the issue of recognizing the Genocide of Armenians was my father,” the former president explains. “Of course, I felt obligated to carry his initiative through. My political opponents tried to use this against me. They claimed that because I was half-Armenian, I was motivated by the Armenian community’s interests, not by Lebanon’s interests as a whole. But Lebanese society supported me. The people of Lebanon know that Armenians are justified in their demands.”
During Émile Lahoud’s nine-year rule, relations between Armenia and Lebanon attained a new level. Beirut began to actively support Yerevan on the international arena. The former president says that the Lebanese know the Armenians to be hardworking and conscientious people.
People remember that even after the Genocide, there were almost no Armenian beggars on the streets of Beirut.
“While others would beg with an outstretched hand, the Armenians would work tirelessly. Have no doubt about this: every Lebanese with at least a little bit of Armenian blood is proud of this fact. And I am one of them,” Lebanon’s 11th president concludes.
In honor of the peacemaking general, the inhabitants of Beirut named one of the city’s central avenues after him.
The story is verified by the 100 LIVES Research Team.