Martyrs' Square, Beirut
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In the 19th century, the square was known as Place des Canons. During World War I, Lebanon was under Ottoman rule. In 1915, Lebanon suffered from a food shortage due to Ottoman Turks confiscating food from the local population, swarms of locust invading the country, and western blockade by the Allies, intended to starve the Turks out. The effect was a famine, followed by plague, which killed more than a quarter of the population, mainly Christian Maronites from Mount Lebanon. A revolt against the Turks broke out which resulted in hanging of many intellectuals and nationalists on 6 May 1916 in the renamed Martyrs' Square. Among them were Said akl, note the difference between the martyr and the modern day poet, Father Joseph Hayek, Abdul Karim al-Khalil, Abed al-Wahab al-Inglizi, Joseph Bishara Hani, Mohammad and Mahmoud Mahmassani, Omar Hamad, Philip and Farid el-Khazen, and Sheikh Ahmad Tabbara.
Some remains of the old Cinema Opera building (now a Virgin Megastore) and the bronze Martyrs statue are the only features left of the Martyrs' Square. The statue, which was inaugurated on March 6, 1960, is the work of Italian sculptor Renato Marino Mazzacurati. The statue, riddled with bullet holes, has become a symbol for all that was destroyed during the Lebanese Civil War.
The Martyrs' Square is a common location for protests and demonstrations, among the more notable demonstrations were the 2005 anti-Syrian protests of the Cedar Revolution and 2007 anti-government opposition protests led by Hezbollah and The Free Patriotic Movement.