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Key avenue in Beirut drops name of former Syrian president

Avenue again renamed after Lebanon’s second president Chamille Chamoun

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Beirut: Authorities in the Lebanese capital renamed the stretch of the airport road that was known as Hafez Al Assad Avenue after 1991 as President Camille Chamoun Boulevard.

A brief ceremony was held earlier this week in the presence of Dory Chamoun, the son of the country’s second president, along with representatives from the National Liberal Party and the Camille Chamoun Association.

The celebration of the reversion to the old name occurred in front of the Monroe Hotel in Beirut where the Minister of Education, Elias Bou Saab, delivered a short speech saying: “President Camille Chamoun inspires us through his political work to be open to all citizens of the nation.

“The lesson here today on the eve of Lebanon’s Independence Day is that Lebanon is only strong through the solidarity of its people and their rallying around their institutions, Constitution and president.”

What was left out in the brief talk, delivered in the presence of deputy Bahia Hariri and Beirut Governor Ziad Chebib, was the pain that many felt when traditions were upset during the three decades-long Syrian occupation of the country.

The boulevard, which runs by the Camille Chamoun Sports Stadium and across from the Rafik Hariri University Hospital in Bir Hasan, was originally named after the former president but was renamed after the then-Syrian president when Damascus exercised unparalleled influence in Lebanon.

Chamoun, who was president from 1952 to 1958, was one of the country’s founding fathers, fought the French, was arrested on November 11, 1943 and imprisoned with Bisharah Al Khoury and Riad Al Solh at Rashayyah Castle, served as ambassador to the United Kingdom from 1944 to 1946, and as ambassador to the United Nations afterwards, before he was elected head of state in 1952.

Amid corruption allegations against Al Khoury in 1952, Chamoun was elected though pan-Arab and Nasserist groups attempted to overthrow his government in June 1958, after Chamoun tried to illegally seek another term as president. Facing internal unrest and regional threats, especially in the aftermath of the Iraqi Revolution and upheavals in Jordan, Chamoun called on Washington to deploy troops to beef up his fledgling authority.

Despite some controversial initiatives he pushed for, Chamoun remains an integral part of Lebanon’s modern history.