|Hanna Yussuf Atik|
|Born||February 7, 1959
Atik was born on February 7, 1959 to a non-political Maronite family in a small village in Northern Lebanon, Al Hedd-Akkar. He was raised, alongside with his seven siblings in a humble home where he pursued his studies and cultivated the land with his parents, who were farmers from many generations aback.
During his teenage hood, the Lebanese war broke out and similarly in many other parts of Lebanon, Akkar bore witness to many vicious attacks. His first experience with the brutality of the war occurred in 1976 when he was around 16 years old; after severe confrontations with the Palestinian backed forces, the Lebanese Army withdrew from Bayt Mellat. Two military men sought refuge in his small town, Al Hedd, and his grandmother and uncle trusted him to lead the two soldiers up the river from Al Hedd to Al Kubayyat (around 16 km distance). In appreciation and out of concern for his life, one of the soldiers gave him his gun; he took it and traveled down the river, reaching his town at the dusk of dawn. This was the first time his farming hands held a gun.
Displaced By War
Further attacks were carried out on Lebanese villages by armed Palestinian groups of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in conjunction with allied local Lebanese factions. After many massacres of neighboring Christian villages such as bayt Mellat, Rahbe, Tel Abbas and Deir Janeen, Hanna Atik and his family found themselves forced into a local migration and fled towards Keserwan. Penniless and without any connections, they rented a small apartment in Zouk Mkeyil. To earn a living, he started working in a marble factory and through his interactions with his co-workers, Hanna was introduced to the Phalangist Party (Kataeb), to which he found himself naturally drawn based on his recent sufferings and in order to defend his land and his people. In the initial stages, he joined the evening training sessions and kept his day job to support his family.
In 1977, at the age of seventeen (17), Hanna Atik officially joined the SKS Force of the Phalangist Party and commenced his long journey towards the Lebanese Christian Cause. Early on in his career, his devotion and attitude towards his comrades earned him the nickname “Hanoun”. He began to stand out as an excellent soldier with an incredible amount of bravery and determination. He evolved with the evolution of the Phalangist party and joined the Lebanese Forces in 1982 at its inception under the Leadership of Bachir Gemayel.
From 1980-1981 he was in charge of Adonis’ Defense Units (Ka’ed wa7adet l defe3). In 1982 he formed and trained the elite Sadem unit of the Lebanese Force, which quickly became known for its military skills and scored numerous victories during the war. Hanna was also the first leader to allow women to join the military forces and held a dedicated Sadem training session specifically for females. As the Lebanese Forces experienced several coups d’états and numerous leaderships following the assassination of its founder, Bachir Gemayel, Hanna Atik kept his promise to the land, to his comrades and to his people by continuing to serve within the ranks of the Lebanese Forces, stemming out of his strong belief in the protection and the continuation of the existence of the Christians in Lebanon. Throughout, Hanna Atik bravely led and won many battles including Billa, Achrafiye’s battle of 100 days (Harb l 100 yom), Qanet, Oyoun l Seeman, Al Masatel, Sanneen, the French Room (Ghurfe Franciye), Zahle, Mtolle, and Ain Al Hor. In addition, he planned and led many special operations including an operation ordered by Dr. Fouad Abou Nader to extract Samir Gaegae from Dair Al Amar when it was besieged by the Liberal Socialist Party (Hezb l Eshterakeyye).
In 1985, during one the uprisings within the Lebanese Forces amongst its leaders in what is known as 15 Kenoun (January), Hanna Atik lost his brother, Rezkollah Yussuf Atik, at the age of twenty three (23) to martyrdom. Shortly after, he was unjustly detained for ten (10) days under the new leadership of the Lebanese Forces. However, he agreed to continue serving within the ranks of the Lebanese Forces pending two conditions: That all other detained LF members be released unharmed and that he, personally, will never obey an order to hold a gun against any of his comrades. On the other hand, he vowed to be the first on the defense line in case of any advancement from the enemy.
As believers do, he accepted God’s will and continued the journey, honoring and always remembering the sacrificed blood of his brother and of all the Christian martyrs. Throughout his many years of commitment to the Lebanese Forces, he held various positions including District Chief of the LF Headquarters (ka’ed mantakat l makarr l aam), Head of the 1st and 2nd Task Force (lafeet takteekee lel she3ba 1 and 2), and Commander of the 1st Defense Battalion (ka’ed lewa’ al difa3). Eventually, he became the Vice Chief of Staff (Na’eb ka’ed majles al arkan) and in 1991 he held the 1 out of 12 seats in the LF Leadership Council (3adu Majles Al Kiyada) and was appointed Head of the LF Youth Organization (Ameen l shabeb).
In 1994, some time after the Taef Accord was signed, when the Lebanese Forces Party was dissolved, Hanna Atik, alongside many comrades, was again arrested unjustly, without a judicial warrant, under the hegemony of the Syrian government for nearly three (3) months, where he was threatened and otherwise brutalized. He was eventually released for the lack of condoning evidence against him and in 1995 was exiled to the United States, where he resided in San Francisco, California with his family for the following thirteen (13) years. During his exile, Hanna continued his political journey and formed the Lebanese Forces Political Council and was officially elected as its Secretary General (Ameen 3am). The council directed its efforts towards the withdrawal of the Syrian government from Lebanon, the liberation of Samir Gaegae and many innocent political prisoners, and his return and the return of his comrades to the motherland.
In 2002, after years of fueling and discontentment between several Lebanese Christian factions and political parties, and as a part of his continued political vision, Hanna Atik personally masterminded, lobbied for and led the reconciliation between the Lebanese Forces, represented by his self and: the Phalangist Party (Kataeb) represented by its leader President Ameen Gemayel, The National Liberal Party (Al Ahrar) represented by its leader Dory Shamoun, and several other Lebanese Christian parties.
Return And Recognition
He returned to Lebanon in 2007, upon the withdrawal of the Syrian forces. This history and experience in Lebanese affairs earned him an expertise in Lebanese politics and gained him a vision for a better future. In the festivity of his return, he was greeted with official celebrations, rose petals and thrown rice from the inhabitants of many towns all around Lebanon including Qubayyat, Zahle, and the Keserwan region.
Hanna has received numerous medallions of honors in appreciation for his acts of bravery and his dedication to the Cause including an Honorary sword that was presented to him by President Bachir Gemayel in 1977 when Gemayel made him Officer (dabet), Zahle’s Heroic Medallion in 1981, and Saint Elige’s highest honorary Award, which has only been given to few leaders in the community.
Today, Hanna Atik resides in Keserwan with his wife and his four children. He remains a devout Christian and a patriotic Lebanese, who dreams of the glory of Lebanon to all its daughters and sons.