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NZers celebrate ‘true’ independence for Lebanon

PRESS RELEASE
17.11.05

New Zealanders celebrate ‘true’ independence for Lebanon

The Auckland Harbour Bridge plays host to a historic event next Tuesday. It will fly the Lebanese flag, alongside the New Zealand flag, for the very first time.

November 22nd marks Lebanon’s 62nd Independence Day, and though Lebanese New Zealanders celebrate the event every year, this year’s celebrations are particularly significant. That’s because this year Lebanon is truly free.

The withdrawal of Syrian troops in April this year has left the nation free to control its own destiny for the first time in 30 years.

In a fitting tribute, the Lebanese Society of Auckland has sought permission from Transit New Zealand and the Lebanese Embassy (in Australia) to fly a 7m by 3.5m flag from Auckland’s iconic harbour bridge.

To fully mark the occasion, the Lebanese Society will host an Independence Day dinner on November 19, to be attended by the Minister for Ethnic Affairs, the Hon Chris Carter.

ENDS

Facts about Lebanon:
- From 1516-1918 Lebanon was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.
- Following World War I Lebanon and Syria were placed under French Mandate – the influence of the French is still witnessed strongly in Lebanon’s Christian quarters.
- In 1940 Lebanon came under the control of the Vichy French government.
- In 1943 the Republic of Lebanon gained political independence.

Lebanon and New Zealand:
- In 1878 the New Zealand census listed 14 males born in Lebanon.
- 1892 saw the first Lebanese become a naturalised New Zealander.
- In World War I, New Zealand soldiers were attached to the "Desert Mounted Corps" of the British army that drove the Ottoman Turks out of Syria and Lebanon (just before Lebanon was placed under French Mandate). An inscription is carved in the rock walls of Nahr el Kalb (Dog River) to commemorate this event.
- In World War II, NZ troops were part of the British army that freed Lebanon from the rule of the Vichy French in July 1941. This helped lead to the eventual independence of Lebanon on November 22nd, 1943.
- Thirty years ago, Lebanon essentially lost its independence again with the beginning of the civil war in 1975.
- New Zealand sent peacekeepers to help during the Lebanese civil war.
- Though the war ended in 1991, this is the first Independence Day the Lebanese can celebrate without foreign troops on their soil.


ENDS

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