Khiam Prison is like very few around the world, a centre of torture and brutality that luckily very few have ever witnessed.
Located in the very south of Lebanon, Khiam Prison started its life as a French army barracks, built in the 1930s during the French mandate. In a strategic position on top of a large hill with beautiful views of the area it then became a Lebanese army barracks until the Lebanese Civil War.
During the Lebanese Civil War it was under control of the Israeli backed South Lebanon Army and this is where its history turns dark. Khiam Prison was used to hold captured enemy soldiers and it was here that some of the most horrific human rights abuses during the Lebanese Civil War took place, and that’s saying a lot considering how brutal and appalling the conflict was.
For years the Israelis denied that they helped operate the prison, however it has since been uncovered that they funded the entire operation and trained their local Lebanese allies in the art of extreme torture. The South Lebanon Army, originally called the Free Lebanon Army, is a primarily Christian force that was funded and armed by Israel during the Civil War and supported the Israeli occupation of Lebanon. To this day they still have a government in exile based in Jerusalem called the Free Lebanon State.
The devices and techniques used were purely medieval, with small metal cages, whipping poles, wooden devices locking captives in stress positions. Those held were often placed in pitch black cells barely large enough for a small dog let alone a human, for months on end without seeing daylight. Very few made it out alive as after the information required was coerced out of the individuals, they were then usually brutally murdered, not just in a manner of disposal, but giving their jailers great delight. It was, put simply, pure evil.
The prison and remaining prisoners were liberated finally in 2000 after 15 years as one of the most brutal torture sites on earth.
Unfortunately, in 2006 the Israelis bombed the prison to hide the atrocities they had committed. Some of the prison remains and some of the few survivors have made it their life’s goal to show their experiences and preserve what is left as a lesson to future generations.
The prison being in the deep south of Lebanon, literally a stone’s throw away from the border with Israel, you require a special permit from the Southern Intelligence Directorate in order to access it. This process can be quite difficult, but is well worth the effort in order to learn about this extremely sad part of Lebanon’s history.