- Purchase/rental options available:
Discourse 24.1 (2002) 76-84
[Access article in PDF]
I Am the Martyr Sanâ' Yûsif Muhaydlî
In memoriam everyone and no one 1
A TV monitor hanging midway from the ceiling shows a chair behind which is a poster with photographs of assassinated members of the Lebanese Communist Party. A man clad in khaki enters frame, sits on the chair, and addresses the camera: "I am the martyr comrade Khalîl Ahmad Rahhâl." Thus starts the mixed-media Three Posters presented by Elias Khoury and Rabih Mroue on 2 September 2000 at Ayloul Festival, Beirut. The man goes on to tell us that he will very shortly undertake a martyring operation against the Israeli occupation forces in Lebanon. There follows two other takes, with variations, of his testimony. At this point, Elias Khoury walks to the door behind the TV monitor and opens it, revealing the same set we were seeing on the monitor and a video camera directed at the chair and the poster. We thus realize that what we had watched was not a taped video but a live performance (it is as if the subtracted de jure repeatability of the image when the latter is revealed to have been live was compensated by and displaced to a de facto repetition of the testimony). If I had believed the opening statement, then it is as if when I saw the same person still alive I were watching a ghost, 2 so that while at the level of the medium we move from a light image to real presence, at the level of the structure of [End Page 76] the piece, we move from a presence to an apparition. The performer removes his fatigues, takes out a piece of paper from his pocket and reads from it: "My name is Rabih Mroue. I was born in Beirut in 1966. I joined the Communist Party in 1983, and I participated in operations of the Lebanese National Resistance in 1987 in Hâsbayya and Balât and other locations." He then mentions that Rahhâl died not in the south but in one of the internecine battles in West Beirut in 1987, and offers the show in tribute to the martyrs of the national resistance. The door is closed again. Then a second video is shown. It is an unedited document showing the late communist Jamâl Sâtî relaying his last message before his planned martyrdom (an edited version of the tape was broadcast on Lebanese TV on 6 August 1985). Sâtî repeats his testimony, with variations, three times, each time starting with: "I am the martyr comrade Jamâl Sâtî."
Sanâ'Muhaydlî seems to have been the first to use such a locution. 3 Her videotaped testimony, shot by her, and broadcast on Lebanese TV on 4/9/1985 starts with: "I am the martyr Sanâ' Yûsif Muhaydlî (anâ as-shahîda Sanâ' Yûsif Muhaydlî"). 4 The morning of that same day, at 11 am, the 17-year old Muhaydlî had crashed the explosives-filled car she was driving into an Israeli military convoy at Bâtir gate, Jizzîn, killing, according to the Israeli military spokesman, two officers and wounding two soldiers. The same locution is found in the subsequent televised testimonies of a number of Lebanese resistance fighters who died in martyring operations against the Israeli army and/or the now-defunct South Lebanon Army (SLA): "I am the martyr Mâlik Wihbî . . ." 5 (Mâlik Wihbî, b. 1966, mortally crashed his truck full of explosives into an Israeli military convoy at 6:15 pm on 4/20/1985 at the Qâsmiyya Bridge checkpoint); "I am the martyr comrade Khâlid Azraq . . ." 6 (Khâlid Azraq, b. 1966, mortally crashed his pickup truck full of explosives into the joint Israeli and SLA checkpoint at Az-Zâmriyya at 4:30 pm on 7/9/1985); "I am the martyr comrade Hishâm 'Abbâs" 7 (Hishâm 'Abbâs, b. 1962, mortally crashed his car full of explosives into a SLA checkpoint at Kafr...