Jenny October 7, 2012

Went with a friend to Khiam, a village in Lebanon’s south where his father was born and brought up. The name Khiam immediately makes you think about one thing: the notorious Khiam prison, which came under the control of SLA, the South Lebanese Army which was Israel’s allies in Lebanon, in the mid-80s. Mistreatment, torture and political imprisonment are things that are associated with the detention center, which was only closed in 2000 after the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon.

Today, what is left of the barracks (which were built by the French in the 30s) is open for people to visit. Like other symbolical and politically significant places in the south (Mleeta, the Iranian park in Maroun al-Ras), Hezbollah has taken upon themselves to host the open-air exhibition – there are yellow flags on top of the piles of rubble, and a large photo of Nasrallah right by the entrance (AUBs Mona Harb and Lara Deeb wrote an excellent paper on the phenomena of this religious/political shaping of the landscape that you can find here).

Walking around among what used to be prison cells and now is half ruins is not something you do untouched. The rubble speaks about what once took place there – but it also signifies a break with the past. The prison is no more, and the residents of Khiam are no longer neighbours to it.