Professor returns, reflects on Lebanon

Heather Scarlett

Kent State French and Arabic professor and Lebanon native Fetna Mikati shows the pages of Beirut’s Memory, showing what the streets of Lebanon looked like before the recent bombings. DAVID RANUCCI | SUMMER KENT STATER

Credit: Steve Schirra

As bombs fall on Israel and Lebanon, American citizens continue to return home. One of these is Fetna Mikati, a professor of French and Arabic at Kent State and a teacher of mathematics at Theodore Roosevelt High School.

Mikati was born and raised in Tripoli, Lebanon. She and her ten-year-old daughter, Sarah, left America on June 13 to visit family in northern Lebanon, Mikati said.

It wasn’t until Mikati had arrived in Lebanon that she found out by watching the news what was happening in her country.

“No one expected this kind of response, but because of the Israeli attacks, the support for Hezbollah went up everywhere,” Mikati said.

While in Lebanon, Mikati and her daughter stayed in apartments, she said. When they heard military planes flying overhead, Mikati rushed to the ninth floor from her room on the eighth to rouse her 80-year-old father, Mikati said. She knew that the ninth floor – the top floor of the apartment building – would be the first to go if bombs fell on it.

“The sound of the planes overhead was scary,” she said of when the attacks first started.

“My aunt told me it was fireworks,” Sarah said.

As of July 15, Mikati had received several e-mails from the United States Department of State.

“The Department of State reminds American citizens that the U.S. government does not provide no-cost transportation, but does have the authority to provide repatriation loans to those in financial need,” one e-mail stated.

Mikati said American citizens in Lebanon were told to register at the United States Embassy. When the Embassy had a plan for evacuation, they would be informed.

“I kept calling them daily. They said, ‘Don’t call us – we’ll call you,'” she said. “We were told if we want to leave on our own to be cautious.”

Like many other people in her situation, Mikati was found her own way out of Lebanon.

Unfortunately, Lebanese airports had been shut down and flights out of Syria were booked until August, she said.

Mikati was able to find a plane out of Jordan on July 19. To get its capital, Amman, she and her daughter travelled 19 hours by car to avoid trucks and buses, which were being targeted for attacks, she said.

On July 25, after spending five nights in Jordan and two in Paris, Mikati received another e-mail from the Department of State.

“The U.S. Embassy advises American citizens in Lebanon that the last scheduled ship departure from Lebanon will be on Wednesday, July 26,” the e-mail stated.

“Some people had been called, but I was not,” Mikati said. “We lost hope and decided to leave on our own.”

Mikati, who came to the United States in the 1980s, lived through this kind of situation before.

“It brought back memories of what has happened in the past,” she said. “It is really devastating for the people of Lebanon to see this again.”

“Such retaliation has never been done – they were expecting a war,” Mikati said of Israeli attacks. “This sort of thing isn’t just planned overnight.”

While she was in Lebanon, Mikati saw citizens’ varied responses to Hezbollah – some very supportive.

This conflict is not a war because there is no balance and because Israel has weapons superiority over Hezbollah, Mikati said.

“I see Hezbollah as a resistance organization, and I’m against the killing of all civilians,” she said.

Mikati saw the destruction of Lebanon take place with her own eyes.

“There are areas in southern Lebanon that are completely leveled to the ground,” Mikati said.

“We need a cease fire to get food and supplies into villages because the villagers say they can smell the dead,” she said.

“(It is) a collective punishment against the civilians of Lebanon,” Mikati said. “It is basically what happened to the Jews by the Nazis.”

Mikati’s husband Fadel said 30 percent of the population of Lebanon is being displaced. Mikati knows about the number of deaths in Lebanon as well as those in Israel.

“Doctors are saying the bombs being used are illegal,” she said. “Over 600 civilians in Lebanon have been killed, as opposed to the 20 (civilians) in Israel.”

“(It is) frustrating because it is unhuman; not just because it is your country or because your family is there,” Mikati said.

Now that she is back in the United States, Mikati hopes to see the American government do a better job of helping out with the conflict between Israel and Lebanon. “We are proud to be Americans and want to see the values (of America) carried out overseas,” Mikati said.

Contact general assignment reporter Heather Scarlett at [email protected].