Zawieh                            Caza - Zgharta

                                                                         Zgharta - Zawie Online Magazine

The Political History Of Zawieh

Too little is known about the political life of the Zawieh before 1850, but the history of some known families can give us a notion about politics at that time.

During the first Ottoman colonisation of Lebanon era (1517-1860) the district of Zgharta - Zawieh was patitioned into small feodal strongholds called "Okta'at" in arabic and the word really means "feodality". There was Okta'at Ehden, Okta'at Kfarsghab and Okta'at Al-Zawieh. The political history of the later two was simply the political history of three families: the Shmer and the Daher in Zawieh and the Estephane in Kfarsghab.

The Al-Shmer family

They came to the village of Bane (near Ehden)  from Aakoura in the year 1633. In 1640, the Wali of Tripoli assigned Sheikh Abou Dargham Al-Shmer at the head of his troups to fight the thieves who raided Tripoli in his abscence and in 1641 he appointed Abou Dargham as governor of the Zawieh "from Bshennine to Bhannine". The Shmer family took residence in Kfarhata near Zgharta and ruled till the year 1747.

Chronology of the rule of the Shmer family
Name date of rule ruling position historical period
Abou Dargham Al-Shmer 1641-1650 Governor of Zawieh Emir Melhem Ben Younis
Dargham Al-Shmer 1650-1664 Governor of Zawieh Emir Ahmad ben Melhem
Fares ben Dargham Al-Shmer 1664-1684 Governor of Zawieh Emir Ahmad ben Melhem
Antonios ben Fares Al-Shmer 1684-1715 Governor of Zawieh Emir Ahmad ben Melhem
Youssef ben Fares Al-Shmer 1715-1747 Governor of Zawieh Emir Haidar Mousa Shehab

The Al-Daher family

The political history of Okta'at Al-Zawieh (1519 - 1861) is the history of its feodal governors who were the Al-Daher family. According to the historian Patriarch Douayhi, the Daher family comes from the Rizzi family (from Bqoofa near Ehden) that had 3 Patriarchs in the past. They came first to Kfarhawra in the 16th century after the destruction of Bqoofa village by the people of Ehden, they played since a major role in the political life of the Zawieh and remained so till 1861 when a new law set a new administrative partition of Lebanon. The first governor of the Daher family, Sheikh Abou Chedid set a political trend to the family which happened to be antagonistic to the ruling power of the Maronite Patriach in those times. Through the years, the Dahers, unlike the Karams of Zgharta - Ehden, maintained close relations with the English.

The famous Sheikh Kanaan Al-Daher (the third of the family carrying this name) was elected three times between the years 1888 and 1902 as representative of North Lebanon in the Administrave Council of Lebanon. By the way his protagonist in the elections was Saadallah Howayek brother of Patriarch Howayek. When the later replaced Sheikh Kanaan in the Council, the Daher was then appointed as Ka'em Makam of Kesrouwan.

By the relief of Ottoman occupation of Lebanon and the beginning of the french rule at the end of World War I, the Daher family influence diminished. The Daher family ruled for nearly 200 years.

The Estephane Family

In the year 1759 the people of Kfarsghab elected Sheikh Abou Youssef Estephan Abou Elias to be the one who rules among them and so was born Okta'at Kfarsghab. In 1763 he went to war against the Hamadi backed by the Wali of Tripoli till the Hamadi were thrown out from the north in 1777. The successors of Sheikh Abou Youssef were his son Youssef then Antonios the son of Youssef.

Sheikh Antonios had two sons Youssef and Sayed. Sheikh Youssef was nominated member of Lebanese Parliament on the 24th of May 1926 for the first time, then renominated in 1927-29 and in 1929-32. He was elected in  Parliament session 1937-39 then in 1943-47 session. From march to november 1938, Youssef Estephan was nominated Minister of Interior and Minister of Defense.










       Youssef Estephan on the left with                                         Youssef Estephan (in grey) with the Cabinet

                 president Emile Edde                                                               as minister of Interior and Defense

The Estephan Family returned to political scene in 1951 with the election of Sheikh Antoine son of Sayed as a deputy member and he was nominated Minister of National Education from 11 february to 9 september 1952. The political life of that family ended in 1953, it lasted 300 years.

The Torbey family

A third family played a ro;e in the political life of Zawieh, the Torbey family of Seb'el.

The first to be known was Antoun Torbey who was the second translator in the French Consulate in Tripoli in the year 1697. By the year 1702, the French trading volume was increasing rapidly in the North because mainly of silk production. To be a translator in a Consulate is to be exempted from taxes, to have political influence and to gain more money. The Torbey family kept that post of translators till the French Mendate in the 1930ies (Wadih Torbey was the last Translator) nearly 250 years. In 1794, Boutros Torbey was exempted from all taxes including war taxes and had permission to import and export whatever he wants by land and sea and anywhere in the lands of the Ottoman Empire.

The French protection for the Torbeys' paved the way to wealthy generations of the family who were able to play a major role in the economic history of the Zawieh in the 19th century.

The members of the Lebanese Parliament from Zawieh


Wadih Bey Torbey: 1922 - 1925

                               1926 - 1927

                               1927 - 1929

Youssef Estephan: 1926 - 1927

                               1927 - 1929

                               1929 - 1932

                               1937 - 1939

                               1943 - 1947

Antoine Estephan:    1951 - 1953

Cheikh Boutros Al-Khoury: 1943 - 1947

Jean Obeid (Maronite seat in Tripoli):         

Nominated in 1991, elected 1992 and reelected in 1996 and 2000.

Two brothers originary of Tripoli came in the early 19th century to live one in Aitou and the second in Sebeel. Lebos Torbey married Hawa Boutros Karam, the sister of Youssef Bey Karam, and had two sons Amine Bey (born 1854) and Khalil (born 1850), who after the death of their father in 1880 left Sebeel and came to live in Zgharta and Ehden. Amine Bey was nominated governor of Ehden in 1893 and in 1899 he was elected member of the Administrative Council of Lebanon but he died after 15 months. His brother Khalil was appointed governor of Ehden in 1908 but died few months later. Amine Torbey played a role in the political life of Lebanon because of two reasons: he was very close to Youssef Bey Karam and a cousin to Habib Bacha Al-Saad.

Of the Torbey family came also Wadih Bey from Sebeel who was elected member of Parliament three times from 1922 to 1929, and Henry Torbey nominated minister in the early 1970ies.

1950 - 2000

When the elections law was amended in 1953 and new electoral partitions were approved, the candidates from Zawieh disappeared. The bloody political struggle between the antagonist families in the town of Zgharta ended the political life in the Zawieh. This situation incited many of the Zawieh citizens to enroll in nation wide political parties because political life in the Caza was monopolized by the town of Zgharta and its its "tribal" way.

Copyright 2003