UMAM Documentation & Research (UMAM D&R) Lebanon

UMAM D&R is a Lebanese organisation working towards raising awareness of civil violence and war memories in Lebanon as a platform for debate and a means to break cycles of blame and conflict. UMAM D&R argue that the increasing number of voices calling for truth-seeking in Lebanon, the ongoing cycles of blame and counter blame within political discourse, and the continuous threat of renewed political violence indicate that the strategy of ‘closing the files’ cited by political leaders has clearly failed. Lebanon urgently needs to begin the tasks of truth-seeking and public truthtelling.

Public events

UMAM D&R run a variety of cultural events including film screenings, installations, roundtables, exhibitions and public lectures, as well as participating in the production of films. They provide a unique Lebanese space for cultural events through the Hangar, a large converted warehouse in South Beirut. Through this space, UMAM D&R aims to foster exchange with international artists and to provide a platform upon which Lebanese artists can engage with each other and the public. UMAM D&R enables exchange of memories of conflict and violence both within Lebanon and with other post-conflict societies. From this, it is the hope that Lebanon will formulate plans and strategies for dealing with its own unique past.

Archiving

UMAM D&R aims to preserve memories through the collection and digitalisation of materials from Lebanon’s history. It strives to revive memories of Lebanon by accepting public contributions to the archive and to provide a platform for public access to these memories of civil violence and war. The archive is a tool which can be used to investigate a whole range of episodes of violence that took place during the war, and undo the false divisions that have developed in Lebanese society. The archive also aims to reclaim the real meaning of the terms truth and justice, as well as challenge impunity, find information for victims and families of the disappeared, and pass on to future generations the lessons learnt during the war in order that the mistakes might not be repeated.

Truth & Memory

This project, launched in April 2008, combines public events and archiving in a coordinated attempt to stimulate public debate about the legacy of the civil war and the possible strategies to address it. By drawing on international experiences of truthtelling and reconciliation, UMAM D&R introduces the concepts into the Lebanese context. It is prompting both a targeted audience of decision makers (at the workshops) and a wider public audience (at film screenings, lectures etc) to assess Lebanon’s own progress to date and to make concrete recommendations for an appropriate way in which Lebanon can undertake its own truth-telling and/or reconciliation process.

Since there are numerous local NGOs working on issues directly or indirectly related to memory, confronting the past, and justice and accountability, UMAM D&R believes that a project aimed at bringing together these diverse actors in order to share ideas, learn new skills and build networks is greatly needed. UMAM D&R believes it is the responsibility of NGOs and involved individuals to begin ‘aggressively’ confronting the past and pressing for answers.