On the corniche in Beirut, the Lebanese capital’s seaside promenade, I recently witnessed the following scene: four Syrian boys who looked to be in their early teens were harmlessly partaking of some snacks on a bench when two members of Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces (ISF) descended upon them on bicycles. Identity papers were demanded, one of the boys was physically searched, and another was made to get down on his hands and knees and painstakingly collect every last sunflower seed shell that had accumulated at the group’s feet while one of the cops inexplicably took photographs of him. (They’ll surely make a great addition to any future brochure showcasing the ISF’s services.)
When my companion approached the boys afterward to ask for details, they claimed the intervention was triggered by their Syrian accents — a plausible hypothesis given the fact that the Lebanese present on the corniche continued to blissfully scatter remnants of their own snacks without meriting attention from the forces of law and order.
The boys added that the police had asked them if they also littered in their own country — to which they had appropriately responded that they could not properly dispose of the sunflower seed shells because the Lebanese government had nowhere to put Beirut’s trash. Indeed, willful incompetence on the part of the state has resulted in an ongoing rubbish crisis, which has meant that, for the past several months, sizable sectors of the capital and environs have found themselves inundated with festering garbage. Needless to say, much of this waste is far less biodegradable than sunflower seeds.
Profiling and harassment are only two of the ways the Lebanese government has complicated Syrian refugee existence. Last October, for example, it flat out stopped admitting refugees, and now requires the ones already present to pay an annual fee of US$200 to remain in the country. A host of other requirements further defy logic: refugees must provide a notarized pledge not to work in Lebanon, as well as copies of a lease agreement or property deed. For refugees who are both poor and forcibly jobless, it’s anyone’s guess where the money for housing — or the US$200 — is supposed to come from. READ MORE AT TeleSUR English.
31 October 2015
21 October 2015
19 October 2015
Middle East Eye
The view from the mental health room at the new Doctors Without Borders (MSF) clinic in the Lebanese town of Majdal Anjar showcases a scene typical of today’s Bekaa Valley. In the distance, a tented settlement housing refugees from Syria is featured against a mountainous backdrop, beyond which lies the Syrian city of Zabadani. This summer, battle sounds from the city reverberated across Majdal Anjar.
As we sit by the window, Tarek Baydoun - one of MSF’s volunteer mental health counselors - mentions an occasional fear that a stray missile will come flying over the mountain. (It wouldn’t be the first case of a direct hit on an MSF healthcare centre, that achievement having already been accomplished by the recent US airstrikes on the organisation’s hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan.)
09 October 2015
Last month, the U.S. State Department announced on its website that Samir Kuntar of Lebanon had attained the distinction of Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) under Executive Order 13224. According to the site, this means that “all property subject to U.S. jurisdiction in which Kuntar has any interest is blocked and U.S. persons are prohibited from engaging in transactions with him or to his benefit.”
Kuntar’s previous distinctions have included being Israel’s longest-held Lebanese prisoner, racking up 29 consecutive years in Israeli custody. The marathon began in April 1979, when a then 16-year-old Kuntar was apprehended in the Israeli coastal town of Nahariya during a botched operation organized by the Lebanon-based Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), a component of the PLO.
The aim of the operation, in which Kuntar and three companions sailed from Lebanon in a rubber dinghy, was to kidnap Israelis to use as bargaining chips for the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails. In the end, two members of Kuntar’s team and five Israelis died, including two policemen and three members of the Haran family. Kuntar was sentenced to 542 years in prison for allegedly shooting 32-year-old Danny Haran in front of his four-year-old daughter Einat and then smashing the girl’s skull against a rock with his rifle butt—a version of events that Kuntar denies, as the world finally learned in 2008 when Israel deigned to release the relevant court transcripts. READ MORE AT TeleSUR ENGLISH.