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Of monkeys and donkeys: Arab wars sparked by animosities

In Arab history, there are many famous wars triggered by animals - causing thousands of deaths

Published: Updated:

Last week , a bloody crisis broke out in Libya , sparked by a pet monkey, causing the deaths of 16 Libyans, and wounding 50 in clashes that lasted four days between the factions of tribes in the city of Sabha, 660 kilometers from Tripoli.

However, this monkey is not the only case of animals responsible for human bloodshed in the Arab region.

Long back, 156 years ago in Lebanon, a donkey caused massacres and claimed the lives of thousands, both dead and wounded.

The monkey, owned by a shopkeeper from the tribe of Khadafa , attacked school girls as they passed by next to the store, and began playing pranks with them and taking off their head scarves. This angered the tribe members who shot and killed the animal and also three tribe members from the Khadafa in the process who had apparently come to the aid of the owner and the pet.

The security situation deteriorated quickly, escalating in the second and third day to the point of ‘tanks, mortars and heavy weapons’ being used by the two sides.

Many bloody events

This slaughter caused by the playful monkey in Libya is one among the many bloody events that occurred in the region, the most serious of which happened in the battle between the Druze and Maronite sects in Lebanon, and between Christians and Muslims in general.

In the spring of 1860 , a member of the Druze tribe who was riding a donkey met a Maronite on a donkey near Antelias, in the district of Metn , from the Governorate of Mount Lebanon , eight kilometers from Beirut.

The road was very narrow, and the two men very stubborn , twith both insisting on passing first . To cut the story short, a fight broke between the two , first with fists, but it ended with Druze hitting and killing the Maronite.

Hours later, the whole country flared up. In retaliation, dozens were slain. The Marxist philosopher Karl Marx in London , wrote about the "savage tribes in Lebanon", and described their battles as a power struggle, a popular revolution by Maronite peasants against their feudal Druze masters.

The massacres that ensued crossed the current borders of Lebanon, and hatched one bloody battle in Damascus and a smaller one in Latakia. Twenty-five thousand Christians were executed.

Prince Abdelkader from Algeria organized rescue operations led by himself, which was publicized internationally. A drawing by a Belgian artist shown below displays the Prince visiting a camp for Christian women who has been rescued from ‘the Christian Quarter’ in the Syrian capital.

Massive toll

The massacres and destruction in Lebanon resulted in a toll of 15,000, with 5,000 widows, 16,000 orphans and 100,000 displaced citizens and refugees. The battles brought ruin to more than 500 villages and hundreds of places of worship and religiou structures, schools and houses.

As was reported by French newspapers at that time, because of the incident, the entire village converted to Islam in the south , while the cities of Sidon and Tyre, “escaped genocide”. The events paved the way for the Christian emigration from the East to the ‘new world’ in Brazil, Argentina ,the United States and others.

In Arab history , there are many famous wars triggered by animals such as the Basus war and the Dahes and Ghabra war.

The conflict between the two fellow tribes in Arabia was sparked by the slaughter of a camel owned by a woman named al-Basus.The Taghlib and Bakr tribes fought for roughly 40 years, in a vicious cycle of vengeance, until the two tribes signed a truce in the year 525 under the custody of Prince Mondher the Third .

As for the Dahes and Ghabra war , It was named after two race horses - Dahas and Ghabra - who were the racehorses of the masters of the two tribes. Dahas was winning the race , when one of the spectators of the opposite tribe, sabotaged the animal causing him to lose.

A war broke out between the two tribes, in the second half of the 16th century. The war lasted 40 years.