Imane Khalifeh

Awarded 1984

Lebanon

For inspiring and organising the Beirut peace movement.

Imane Khalifeh (1955-1995) was a Lebanese peace activist who had given voice in the 1980s to the frustration of the majority of Lebanese people with the ongoing civil war in the country. In April 1984, she initiated the idea of organising a peace march, at which the “silent majority” of Lebanese people could express their protest and frustration over the nine years of death and destruction, which they had been forced to live through.

Her idea caught on. A poem written by Khalifeh suggesting the march was printed in most of Beirut’s newspapers. There seemed to be an enormous upsurge of popular feeling for the march and against the war. Perhaps for this very reason, there was also an upsurge in the fighting between the rival militias the day before the proposed march, which was called off to prevent any more casualties. A petition circulating instead quickly collected over 70,000 signatures.

I was not introducing an original thought - it was not a new idea. But it was the cry of the "silent majority" voiced aloud by a people that suffered and endured nine years of ugly war.

Imane Khalifeh, 1984 Laureate

Giving voice to the "silent majority" of Lebanon

Imane Khalifeh was born in 1955 and was educated in Beirut both before and during the civil war that erupted in 1975. While a teacher at the Nursery School of Beirut University College, at which she was also a research assistant and teacher trainer, she saw the misery of both children and adults. Out of this experience, she came up with the idea of organising a peace march in April 1984. This march was to allow the silent majority of Lebanese, who were against the war, to express their protest and frustration over the nine years of death and destruction, through which they had been forced to live.

The idea caught on. The poem written by Khalifeh suggesting the march, was printed in most of Beirut's newspapers. There seemed to be an enormous upsurge of popular feeling for the march and against the war. Perhaps for this very reason there was also an upsurge in the fighting between the rival militias the day before the proposed march, which was called off to prevent any more casualties. A petition circulating instead quickly collected over 70,000 signatures.

Khalifeh's mobilising poem said in part:
"We want simply to live in peace
We want to raise up our children
And save our brothers and sisters...
We want our families to remain whole
Let us walk out of our isolation and join one another.
Let us walk out of our tears and screams of pain."

Khalifeh remained in Lebanon until 1989, working for peace. In the end, disgusted and frustrated, she left the country and lived in Paris. The civil war ended in her country, she said, but the people never found the peace they dreamed of. She passed away in 1995.

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