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Yousef Bey Karam


									                          Youssef Bey Karam was born at Ehden, Lebanon on the 5th May 1823.
                          His father was Sheikh Boutros Karam, then ruler of Ehden and
                          surrounding district, and his mother was Marian, daughter of Sheikh
                          Antonios Abi Khattar Al Ayntouri.

                          Youssef began his education at an early age, and he was a keen student.
                          At the age of 7 years, he was well versed in Aramaic, Arabic, French
                          and Italian. Later on, he was tutored in the arts of combat,
                          horsemanship, swordsmanship and shooting. He was a devout

                           In 1840, Youssef aged 17 years, fought beside his father and elder
                           brother against Egyptian armies then occupying Lebanon in the battles
                           of Hayrouna and Bazoun. Youssef showed remarkable skills as a
                           fighter and leader, and his reputation and influence in the area steadily
grew. So much so that in 1846, when his father died, Youssef succeeded him as ruler. Youssef
ruled with fairness, and his reputation and influence as a soldier and politician continued to grow
and spread.

Youssef Karam became the acknowledged leader of the district, and in time became one of the
most powerful personalities in Lebanese Politics. And although politically and militarily very
powerful, he remained ever loyal to his faith and church. Karam's loyalty to the Church and
Bkerke, the seat of the Maronite Patriarch, never wavered, and this loyalty was to have far
reaching implications in future years.

In 1858, when the farmers of the predominantly Maronite Kisrwan district staged an uprising
against their Sheiks and landlords, the Maronite Patriarch, conscious of Karam's influence and
loyalty to the Church, appealed to Karam to save the Sheiks and restore peace to the area. Karam
did save the Sheiks and managed to restore peace without resorting to force, and avoided what
was expected to be a long and bloody conflict.

Future conflicts however, were not to be so peacefully settled. During that period of time, when
Turkey ruled Lebanon, there existed a certain amount of distrust between the Druze and
Maronite Communities. The Muslim Druze felt threatened by the growing presence of the
Christians Maronites in their traditional area of Mount Lebanon. The suspicion and distrust
between the two Communities was allowed to be fueled by petty and personal conflicts until
September 1859 when finally open conflict broke out between the Druze and Maronite
Communities at Beit Mery, a town of different religious denominations. Karam reacted by
calling a meeting of Community leaders at the village of Baan, and concluded an agreement with
the Muslim ruler of Tripoli, North Lebanon, Abed El Hamid Karami, to keep North Lebanon free
from any religious conflict.

In May 1860 however, conflict again broke out between the two Communities, and a number of
Maronite Monks and villagers were massacred. This time Karam reacted by raising an army of
500 men to protect the Maronites in the Mount Lebanon area. On the 2nd June 1860, Karam and
his men marched to Bkerke and offered to the Maronite Patriarch their protection of Maronites.

In Karam's mind however, there was no doubt that the conflict between the Druze and the
Maronites was being nurtured by Khorshid Pasha, the then Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister, for
the purpose of justifying continued Ottoman rule in Lebanon and to counter Karam's calls for a
free and sovereign Lebanon. Turkey at that time was a mighty power that ruled Lebanon and
surrounding Arab countries. The Ottoman Empire rule was harsh and prejudicial against
Lebanese. Taxes were unjust and aimed largely at the poor. Khorshid Pasha saw Karam's calls
for Lebanese self-rule as a threat to Turkish interests in Lebanon and the area, and convinced the
European Ambassadors that Turkish presence in Lebanon was essential to maintain peace
between warring factions in Lebanon. The French Ambassador to Lebanon convinced Karam to
halt his march at Bekfaya, near Kisrwan, in return for guarantees of safety for all Christians
offered by Khorshid.

Several days later however, Christian villages were attacked and Christians massacred by Druze
aided by Turkish forces. In addition, Khorshid ordered Turkish Marines to effect a sea blockade
to stop food and military supplies entering Lebanon and reaching Christians areas. Karam and
his army retaliated against Druze and Turkish forces, and succeeded in saving the majority of
Christian towns and villages in the Kisrwan area. Christian presence in the area was therefore
established. Eventually, French ships reached the port of Beirut with supplies and the Turkish sea
blockade ended. Peace was then restored whilst a new constitution was drafted to provide how
Lebanon was to be governed. In the interim, two provisional Governors were appointed to rule
Lebanon, one to rule Christians and the other to rule the Muslims. Karam was appointed the
Governor of all Christians in Lebanon (Kaem Makam) on the 17th November 1860. Again,
Karam ruled with distinction, restoring law and order, re-organizing public institutions and
conducting an honest government. However, he still refused to allow foreigners to interfere with
Government affairs, or allow foreign troops on Lebanese soil. As Kaem Makam, Karam tendered
his resignation a number of times in protest against what he saw as Turkish insistence to provide
for continued Turkish rule in the proposed Lebanese constitution. On each occasion he was
persuaded to remain in office by the French Ambassador who always suggested further

The new constitution was finally completed in June 1861 and provided for a Governor to rule all
of Lebanon for a trial three-year period. Again a foreigner was appointed to the position, a
Christian Turk by the name of Dawood Pasha.

This decision angered all Lebanese nationals, Christians and Muslims, who were hopeful for
self-rule. Dawood Pasha was unpopular and his rule therefore ineffectual in the face of Lebanese
opposition. To win Lebanese support, Dawood offered Karam a senior Government post, the
Commander of National Forces. Karam promptly refused and insisted on nothing less than self-
rule for Lebanon. This angered Dawood who then issued an order exiling Karam to Turkey
without any trial.

Karam remained in Turkey for 2 and 1/2 years, from late 1861 to 1864. He was given to
understand that if he remained outside of Lebanon, his people would receive better treatment,
and Dawood's term in Office would not be renewed after three years.
In 1864 however, Dawood Pasha's term was renewed for a further five-year period. Karam
immediately returned to his hometown Zgharta in Northern Lebanon where he was greeted as a
national hero by many Lebanese. Thousands of people railed around Karam, who then prepared
for a revolution based on the following aims:

1. End of all foreign rule in Lebanon
2. Abolition of the 'Mutassarafiya' doctrine, which prohibited Lebanese sovereignty and
3. End of high taxes and levies
4. Abolition of imprisonment without trial
5. Expulsion of all regular Turkish troops from Lebanon

At that time, Turkish regular troops were stationed in Lebanon contrary to the provisions of the
new constitution, brought in by Dawood Pasha on the pretext that Lebanese forces were unable
to maintain peace in Lebanon. The Maronite Patriarch had already pleaded with Dawood to
withdraw all his troops from Lebanon, to reduce excessive taxes and to release political prisoners
held without trial. The Turkish Government, through Dawood Pasha, rejected all these pleas and
thus the stage was set for a major confrontation.

Many battles followed, one of the earliest being at Mo'amaitayn, Jounieh on the 6th January
1866. There Karam was attending Mass at St. Doumit Church when regular Turkish troops
attacked his men stationed outside the Church. A fierce battle followed, and Karam, aided by
neighboring villagers, defeated the Turkish troops. Karam immediately wrote to Istanbul and
European Governments detailing the causes of conflict, and claiming his people's right to defend

Dawood Pasha however, was determined to rid himself of Karam and deal a fatal blow to the
Lebanese nationalist movement. Dawood instructed his military Commander, Amin Pasha, to
arrange a meeting with Karam in the presence of the Maronite Archbishop at Karem Saddah, and
there gain Karam's allegiance to Dawood's Government. The meeting was arranged for Sunday
the 28th January 1866. Karam agreed to Dawood's request on condition that Dawood accede to
the Patriarch's pleas. Whilst the meeting was in progress, Turkish troops were sighted advancing
at nearby Bnasha toward Karem Saddah.

The meeting was abandoned, and one of the fiercest battles was fought at Bnasha involving some
800 of Karam's men opposing several thousand Turkish troops. Here, Karam won a decisive
victory. This led to other victories which included:

Sebhell lst March 1866
Ehmej 14th March 1866
Wadi El Salib 22nd March 1866
Aytou 5th May 1866
Ey El Yawz 7th June 1866
Wadi Miziari 20th August 1866
Ehden 15th December 1866
Ejbeh 10th January 1867 and
Wadi El Sabeeb 17th January 1867

Karam never lost a single battle. He and his army felt their cause was just; they enjoyed wide and
popular support, were familiar with the countryside, and were therefore able to out maneuver the
enemy. So successful was Karam, that he finally decided to march on 'Beit El Din', the
Governor's residence, over-throw Turkish rule and install a Lebanese national Government.
Thousands of people joined Karam in his march to 'Beit El Din', and Dawood Pasha was forced
to flee to Beirut. Victory must have seemed imminent to Karam and his men.

In Beirut however, Dawood Pasha rallied support from the European Ambassadors. These
emissaries warned Karam that as their Governments were parties to the Lebanese constitution,
which allowed Turkish rule over Lebanon, they were bound to support Turkey and would
actively oppose Karam and refuse to recognize any Government he may form.

At a meeting at Bkerke, the French Ambassador ordered Karam in the name of Napoleon III, to
leave Lebanon in return for French guarantees of safety for his men and people and the
implementation of all of Karam's national demands. Karam was warned that to refuse would
mean to place his men and the welfare of his people in jeopardy. On Thursday the 31st January
1867, Karam left Lebanon on board a French ship bound for Algeria.

Karam traveled from Algeria to European capitals explaining the plight of the Lebanese people
and stressing their desire to form a sovereign and independent state. Whilst there, he wrote many
letters and memoirs in support of self-rule for Lebanon. Most of his writings have survived to
this day, and include:

An open letter in which Karam calls for the establishment of a 'League of Nations' or 'Human
Rights Association' as he called it. Karam explained that this would be an International
Organization, which would work for world peace and guarantee the rights of small nations.

A letter to Amir Abdul Kader AI Jazaa'irri encouraging him to liberate all Arabs from Turkish
occupation and then establishing a form of 'Arab League', where each member State would retain
sovereignty and independence.

Karam also traveled to European capitals seeking economic help for Lebanon. He offered to
mortgage all his personal Lebanese holdings, amounting to five million francs, to French
businessmen in return for the establishment of coalmines and a railroad network in Lebanon.

On the 7th April 1889, Karam died of a heart attack in Razinia, Napoli in Italy. His last words
were "God ... Lebanon". He was buried in a private temple where a simple sign read, "This is the
resting place of Youssef Boutros Karam, Prince of Lebanon". In September 1889, his body was
taken to Ehden, Lebanon, and buried where it now lies at St. George Church. In September 1932,
a statue of Karam on his horse was erected in his memory at St. George Church, Ehden, as a
monument to the man who devoted his life to the liberty of all Lebanese people. His actions and
philosophy..."I shall sacrifice myself, that Lebanon may live", became an inspiration to future
generations in the pursuit of a free and independent Lebanon.


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