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Biography : Michel Chiha

Michel Chiha (1891–1954) was a Lebanese banker, a politician, writer and journalist. Along with Charles Corm, Petro Trad and Omar Daouk, he is considered one of the fathers of the Lebanese Constitution. His ideas and actions have had an important influence on the shaping of the modern Lebanon.
Michel Chiha was born in 1891 in a Christian family of Mekkine, in the Aley District, in the Mount Lebanon Governorate. He hails from an Assyrian family which have migrated from modern day Iraq.[1] His father, Antoine, was a banker who has founded in 1876 the Pharaon and Chiha Bank in Beirut, in modern-day Lebanon. His mother belonged to the rich Melkite family of Beirut, the Pharaons.
After completing his studies in the Université Saint-Joseph, he joined in 1907 the family business, the Banque Pharaon & Chiha in Beirut. With the outbreak of the First World War and the Ottoman occupation of the autonomous Mount Lebanon, Chiha left Beirut to settle in Cairo, Egypt in 1915. In addition to pursuing Law studies, he started there with a group of friends his political career and developed his political view about the future of Lebanon.
At the end of the war, he returned to Lebanon to lead the family bank. But soon afterwards, the French Mandate of Lebanon gave him the opportunity to put into practice his vision for his country Lebanon.
In August 1920 the state of Lebanon was created out of Ottoman Syria.
On 1 September 1920, the Greater Lebanon was proclaimed by the French High Commissioner. Michel Chiha played an important role in this proclamation, especially concerning the setting up of its borders and the establishment of its first institutions.
In 1925, Chiha was elected as the representative of Beirut in the Lebanese parliament. During his mandate that ended in 1929, he was very instrumental in the establishment of the Lebanese Constitution and the Monetary and fiscal systems.
In 1926, he married his cousin Marguerite Pharaon, the sister of Henri Pharaon. They had three daughters, Micheline (d. 1940), Madeleine and Marie-Claire.
In 1929, Michel Chiha left all his political responsibilities without, however, stopping the promotion of his vision of Lebanon.
In 1937, he acquired with a group of friends the French language newspaper Le Jour. Until his death in 1954, Michel Chiha delivered daily his editorial du Jour, exposing his political views and vision. During this period he started publishing poems, essays and lectures in French. In 1940, he participated in the foundation of the Beirut Stock Exchange and founded a newspaper in English, the Eastern Times.
In 1943, his brother-in-law, Bechara El Khoury, became the president of the newly independent Lebanese Republic. Chiha will play an important role as advisor during Khoury’s Mandate (1943–1952).
One important cause interested him until his death, the Palestinian cause especially after 1948 Arab-Israeli War. He took an active role in defending this cause.

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