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French Version

It's the end of Lebanon as we know it

What is the fate of confessions in Lebanon? Are cantons feasible?

What is the number of the Lebanese population? What is the number of actual residents and emigrants? How are they distributed by confession? These questions raise discussions and controversies, especially given the contradicting figures and the lack of official statistics. The confusion exacerbated by the fact that Lebanon's system is based on a confessional power-sharing formula. A new controversy has emerged about fast population growth in some confessions and zero or declining growth in others.

The Monthly* studied the Lebanese age-sex pyramids based on the number of registered citizens by confession. It also drew a picture of what Lebanon would look like in the next few decades if it is divided into cantons, knowing that some confessions would not be able to maintain a strong presence in the country.

Confessional Distribution in 1860

In 1860 (Lebanon was at the time a Mutasarifia, a state under the Ottoman Empire, of 3,500 square kilometers), the number of residents reached 217,675, distributed by confession as shown in Table 1.

Lebanon in 1932

In 1920, Greater Lebanon was created and its area was extended to include confessions other than the ones that already existed. Consequently, the number of Sunnis and Shiites significantly increased.

According to the only official census ever conducted in Lebanon in 1932, the number of Lebanese reached 1,046,164 people, of whom 793,396 resided in the country. Residents were distributed by confession as shown in Table 2.

Confessional Distribution in 2006

The number of Lebanese in 2006 reached around 4,571,000 people, while the number of residents was estimated at 3,800,000 people as shown in Table 3.

Age-Sex Pyramid Distribution in 2006

A researcher cannot draw the real picture of Lebanon's demographic situation without studying its age categories by sex and confessions.

The number of registered Lebanese is around 4.6 million, with females representing 50.1 percent (2,290,653) and males 49.9 percent (2,280,439); 60.8 percent of citizens (2,783,062) are below 40 years old.

Maronite Population

The number of registered Maronites reached 879,666 by 2006. Females represent 49.76 percent (437,694) and males 50.24 percent (441,972). Concerning the age categories, 449,470 people, or 51 percent, are below 40 years old.

Greek-Orthodox Population

The number of registered Greek Orthodox is 309,847 with 50.53 percent females (156,572) and 49.47 percent males (153,275); 46.4 percent of Greek Orthodox (143,800) are below 40 years old.

Greek Catholic Population

The registered Greek Catholic population reaches around 203,940 people. Females represent 50.5 percent (102,997) while males form 49.5 percent (100,943) of the population; 47.7 percent of the Greek Catholic population (97,246) is below 40 years old.

Armenian Orthodox Population

The registered Armenian Orthodox population counts 104,753 people, 54,139 of whom are females (51.7 percent) and 50,614 males (48.3 percent). Only 33.3 percent of the population (34,875) is below 40 years old.

Armenian Catholic Population

There are 23,323 Armenian Catholics registered in Lebanon, with 51.3 percent females (11,963) and 48.7 percent males (11,360); 34.7 percent (8,097) of the population is below 40 years old.

Evangelical Population

The Evangelical population in Lebanon counts 21,318 people, 11,462 of whom are females (53.7 percent) and 9,856 males (46.3 percent). Only 32.4 percent of the population is below 40 years old (6,914).

Latin Population

There are 14,428 registered Lebanese who belong to the Latin confession. Females represent 55 percent (7,942) of the population, and males 45 percent (6,486). The number of people below 40 years old is 6,287, or a percentage of 43.5 percent.

Syriac-Orthodox Population

The number of Syriac Orthodox in Lebanon is 20,766 people, 10,443 of whom are females (50.3 percent) and 10,323 males (49.7 percent); 49 percent are below 40 years old (10,190).

Syriac Catholic Population

There are 12,936 Syriac Catholics registered in Lebanon. Females represent 50.5 percent (6,535) and males 49.5 percent (6,401); 42.6 percent are below 40 years old (5,515).

Sunni Population

The Sunni population in Lebanon reaches 1,336,375 people, 667,694 of whom are females (49.9 percent) and 668,681 males (50.1 percent). A high percentage of 68.3 percent is below 40 years old (913,604 people).

Shiite Population

The number of registered Shiite reaches 1,333,233 people, out of whom 664,116 are females (49.81 percent) and 669,117 males (50.19 percent); 69.3 percent of the population is below 40 years old (923,997).

Druze Population

There are 247,652 registered Druze, 123,832 of whom are females (50 percent) and 123,820 males (50 percent); 60 percent of the population is below 40 years old (148,839).

Aalawite Population

There are 37,474 Aalawites registered in Lebanon. Females represent 49.4 percent (18,508), and males 50.6 percent (18,966); 69.5 percent of the population are below 40 years old (26,077).

Growth Projections

Population growth in Lebanon is decreasing and the society is ageing. In 2081, the number of Lebanese will reach around 6,199,544 people.

Concerning confessions, it is expected (after taking all possibilities and scenarios into account) that the Maronites would decrease to 17.19 percent of the total population in 2016 and to 6.9 percent in 2081.

It is also expected that all Christian confessions will decrease and that Christians will make up 11 percent of the total population in 2081.

On the other hand, the Sunni population is expected to reach around 31 percent in 2016 and 36.6 percent in 2081. The Shiites will represent 32 percent and then 44.83 percent in the same years respectively.

The Druze population is expected to maintain the same percentage as today and will represent 5.72 percent of the population, with a slight difference from that of Maronites.

The new face of Lebanon if divided into cantons

Today and following a period of political and security upheaval - which started with the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1559, the extension of President Emile Lahoud's term, the assassination attempt against Minister Marwan Hmadeh on October 1, 2004, followed by the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on February 14, 2005, the withdrawal of the Syrian troops after a presence of 30 years, explosions and assassinations that targeted many Lebanese figures, the July-August 2006 war with Israel, the resignation of six ministers from the Cabinet, the sit-in in downtown Beirut and the adoption of a United Nations resolution stipulating the establishment of an international tribunal - internal divisions have reached their climax. Is Lebanon facing plans of partition into confessional cantons, where each area would be controlled by a certain confession?

In fact, such plans are not new to this country, which went through many partition scenarios in 1860 and during the 1975-1990 Civil War.

Partition Plans in 1860

Two plans were proposed by the Commissioners of Great Britain, Austria, France, Russia, Prussia and Turkey in 1860 to divide Lebanon according to confessional considerations.

Plan number 1

The first plan divided residents as follows:
- Koura: Greek Orthodox (9,000), Muslims (1,000) and Maronites (500)
- Zghorta, Bsharri, Batroun, Jbeil, Mnaitra, Ftouh Kesrouan: Maronites (6,200), Greek Orthodox (3,500), Muslims (2,100) and Greek Catholic (1,500)
- Metn and the coast: Maronites (18,750), Greek Orthodox (11.000). Druze (7.910). Greek Catholic (5,750) and Muslims (420)
- Zahleh: Greek Catholic (15,000), Muslims (2,005), Greek Orthodox (2,000), Druze (600) and Maronites (600)
- The west, al-Jerd, al-Arqoub, Chouf, Shahar, al-Manasef, Iqlim al-Kharub:
Druze (24,000), Maronites (17,000), Greek Catholic (9,675), Greek Orthodox (4,875), Muslims (4,385) and Protestants (500)
- Deir al-Qamar: Maronites (3,300), Greek Catholic (1,950), Druze (700) and Jews (290)
- Iqlim al-Touffah and Jezzine: Maronites (5,750), Greek Catholic (5,500) and Muslims (200)

According to this distribution, the Maronites would have formed the majority in three areas out of seven, while the Druze, Greek Catholic and Greek Orthodox would have formed a majority in one area each. The remaining area would have been almost equally shared between the Maronites and the Greek Catholics.

Plan number 2

The Druze population of the Metn was to have been exchanged with a portion of the Christian population of the mixed districts.
- Zahleh was to have been a separate district under a mixed administration.
- It was proposed that Deir al-Qamar and a part of the Iqlim al-Mensif should form part of the Christian administration. Fouad Pasha desired to annex it under an Islamic administration to the adjoining Iqlim al-Kharub.
- As the majority of the population of the Kharub is Muslim, and as the soil is the exclusive property of Druze or Muslims, Fouad Pasha suggested that this Iqlim should be detached from the Druze Qaimaqamieh and placed under an Islamic administration, of which Deir al-Qamar was to have been the seat.
- As the population of this portion of the mountain is Christian, and the property Druze, it was proposed to give estates elsewhere to the Druze landowners, and invite a portion of the Christian population of the Druze Qaimaqamieh to occupy the vacated territory. By this and similar arrangements the Christians would have been in a great measure separated from the Druze and made proprietors, instead of tenants of the lands they occupied.
- It was proposed to connect the Southern Christian Qaimaqamieh with the Northern one by a slip of land along the coast. Fouad Pasha suggested instead the erection of the Southern District into separate Christian Qaimaqamieh and in his proposal he was supported by both the Austrian and the British Commissioners.
- Lower al-Koura does not at present form part of Lebanon. Its population is almost exclusively Greek Orthodox. It was proposed to reannex the region to Lebanon.
- Tripoli, Beirut and Sidon, with their adjoining districts, would be under the immediate jurisdiction of the Porte.

Partition Plan in 1975

A long civil war broke out on April 13, 1975. As a result, large numbers of Christians left their towns of Islamic majority and vice-versa. This was accompanied by several proposals to divide Lebanon into federates or confederates and establish confessional cantons enjoying political and administrative autonomy within the state.

It was proposed to establish four districts:
1- Northern Mount Lebanon and Beirut of Christian majority
2-Southern Mount Lebanon and West Bekaa of Druze and Christian majority
3- North Lebanon and Hermel of Sunni majority
4- South Lebanon of Shiite majority

Former Deputy Raymond Edde confirmed the existence of such a plan, which he said would bring about a "Christian State, Druze State, Sunni State and Shiite State." The proposal also included forced emigration of a number of Lebanese Christians in order to naturalize Palestinians living in the country.

The Civil War lasted for many years and those alleged plans were not achieved. With peace restored, the majority of displaced could not return home for various reasons mainly due to their starting a new life in their present community. This created a confessional division of the state which in turn set the foundations of current talks on cantonization into motion.

Partition Today

Should the current political crisis bring about two Cabinets and perhaps two presidents, cantonization might become a reality. The country's confessional and political structure (based on the 2005 parliamentary elections) per Qada is shown in Table 5.

The map to the left shows the current population distributed in Lebanese areas according to the number of registered citizens. The picture would be worse for Christians if it was based on the number of residents. The map also shows that if cantonization becomes an option the displacement of people will be inevitable.

Besides confessional repartition of areas, the formation of two governments raises many questions: what would be the financial policy of the Central Bank? What would be the fate of the Lebanese Army and security forces? Which government would they follow? Would divisions ultimately occur in these two most trusted Lebanese institutions?

This "pessimistic" vision, although possible, is demographically, politically and economically not sustainable.

It is noteworthy that Lebanon's confessional structure with its age categories does not allow Christians to have a strong presence in the future unless Christian emigrants return to Lebanon or a number of Christians are brought into the country from other Arab states.

Political considerations, regional developments, the Shiite-Sunni conflict and growth of Islamic Salafi movements, may force a large number of Lebanese, in particular Christians, to flee the region.

It is high time for the Lebanese to choose which country they want: a nonconfessional, secular and modern state or a state of confessions, which, from a statistical standpoint, prove to be self-destructive.

* The study was originally published in The Monthly issue no.62 of September 2007. The Monthly is published by Information International

From the age-sex pyramid we can deduce the following:

- The Shiite confession has the highest percentage of youth as 69.3 percent are below 40 years old. This percentage drops to 34.3 percent in the Armenian Catholic population, 33.3 percent in the Armenian Orthodox population and 32.4 percent in the Evangelical population.
- A total of 60.8 percent of the Lebanese population is below 40 years old (2,783,062 people). Out of this, 72.4 percent are Muslims and 27.6 percent are Christians.
- The Maronites formed 46.8 percent of Mutasarifia residents. Christians represented 78.7 percent while Muslims 21.1 percent. In 1932, and following the creation of Greater Lebanon the percentage of Maronites dropped to 33.5 percent, while that of Christians in general decreased to 59.3 percent against 40.4 percent of Muslims. In 2006, the percentage of Maronites decreased to 19.2 percent of the total population and that of Christians dropped to 30.2 percent.
- The percentage of the majority of Christian confessions witnessed a significant decrease between 1932 and 2006 against an increase in the percentage of Sunni, Shiite and Syriac Orthodox and Catholic (due to naturalization) and a decrease in that of Druze: Maronites (33.5 percent to 19.2 percent), Greek Orthodox (12.7 percent to 6.8 percent), Greek Catholic (7.3 percent to 4.4 percent), Armenian Orthodox (2.6 percent to 2.3 percent), Armenian Catholic (0.6 percent to 0.5 percent), Syriac Orthodox and Catholic (0.56 percent to 0.74 percent), Sunni (18.5 percent to 29.3 percent), Shiite (15.9 percent to 29.1 percent) and Druze (5.9 percent to 5.4 percent).


Mortality Table
Mortality table ELT 13 with enhancements on future mortality throughout the projection period.
Scenario 1: Initial mortality loaded to reflect the recorded number of deaths.
Scenarios 2: Changed the mortality loading to reflect current reported life expectancy reported for Lebanon.

Fertility rate
Main scenario: Used the current recorded fertility rate of 2.06 per woman
Scenario 3: Reflecting the current recorded fertility rate of 2.06 per woman but with different fertility rates across category groupings. Migration rate and other decrements not taken into consideration.

Initial data
As recorded by the Ministry of Interior for the year 2006:
distribution of the Lebanese population by age and gender for each category
total number of recorded deaths
total number of recorded births

Qualifications Questions on recorded deaths and births
If given data on the distribution on the deaths and births by category, this would allow more refinement to the results by putting category- specific mortality rates and fertility rates

We have relied on the data as recorded. The data should be audited and/or refined for further studies.

Beirut 30-08-2007
The Daily Star

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