Empty Chairs, Waiting Families: The Families of the Missing Persons in Lebanon Keeping the Memory of their Loved Ones Alive

This week marks two years since the Lebanese Parliament passed Law 105 on the Missing and Forcibly Disappeared, thus acknowledging the families’ right to know the fate and whereabouts of their missing loved ones. The establishment of the National Commission for the Missing and Forcibly Disappeared, in June 2020, is an important first step in the implementation of this law.
News release 12 November 2020 Lebanon

People whose relatives are missing undergo untold suffering. They continue to bear the consequences of the absence of their loved ones and find themselves trapped between hope and despair while they look for answers.

 Accompanying the families in their struggle and addressing their suffering is a vital part of ICRC’s work in Lebanon. Therefore, and as part of the ICRC’s accompaniment program, the families of the missing were invited to take part in psychosocial and memorialization sessions that gave them the opportunity to talk and reflect on their personal experiences.

 “Empty Chairs, Waiting Families” is a memorialization project that started in 2016 as a collaboration between the ICRC, ACT for the Disappeared, and Artichoke Studio. The empty chairs, symbolizing the empty spaces that the missing left behind, were designed and painted by the brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, wives, daughters, sons, and even grandchildren of people who went missing during armed conflicts since 1975. The sessions of this project helped keep the memory of the missing persons alive by telling their stories and spreading awareness within society about the plight of the families of the missing.

  “The chair is decorated with drawings of a garden because Ihsan loved to sit on a chair to drink his morning and evening coffee while contemplating nature in our yard.” This is how Ihsan’s wife, Nawal, chose to represent her husband.

 Unfortunately, due to COVID19 measures, it was not possible to physically display the chairs. However, they will be exhibited online on www.emptychairswaitingfamilies.com and in a booklet that will be available in hard and soft copies.

 “It is part of the ICRC’s determination to foster a supportive network between the families of the missing, their communities and society”, insisted Christophe Martin, Head of the ICRC Delegation in Lebanon. “The passing of Law 105 and the creation of the National Commission are two milestones for the families and we look forward to cooperating with the Commission and other stakeholders to start giving the families the answers they deserve”.

 For more information, kindly contact:

Rona Halabi, ICRC Lebanon, ralhalabi@icrc.org, +961 70 153 928