Lebanon: The not-so-subtle evolution of racist practices

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A sign at a protest in Beirut reads "We welcome refugees in Lebanon and we are sorry for what racists are doing." Al-Akhbar

Published Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The degree to which racism has implanted itself in the minds of certain Lebanese has not been revealed fully yet. Racist actions can go far beyond physical assault and insults.

In the southern Beirut suburb of Furn al-Chebbak for example, three young men were sprayed in broad daylight with a chemical used for waterproofing, in front of onlookers who watched with a stone cold gaze. The real problem, however, is that this incident took place two months ago without anyone hearing about it.

According to an Internal Security Forces (ISF) statement regarding the incident, a brawl erupted between Lebanese and Syrian individuals on September 14, 2014 over a dispute about filling a water tank, at a building in the region of Tahwita in Furn al-Chebbak.

The statement said: “[T]he wife of one of the Syrians threw paint cans, plants, water bottles, and metallic objects from her balcony to disperse the crowds, and the paint hit some people. Two Syrians were arrested following the investigations.”

However, informed sources categorically refuted the story propagated by the ISF. According to sources, Syrian individuals argued with other residents on the street while filling the water tank at the building in Tahwita, and then racist sentiments were ignited in the hearts of the “neighborhood’s boys.”

The dispute over water soon escalated to a desire to expel all Syrians from the area, so locals attacked them and threw a bucket of waterproofing chemicals at them, a health hazard known to be pretty irritating and painful when peeled off.

Three Syrians were later taken to the Furn al-Chebbak police station where they were no longer able to tolerate the pain caused by the chemicals, so they requested to have their hair cut off because the material did not wash away with water.

But the tragedy of these young men did not end there. After their interrogation, two of them were released, while the other was referred to General Security because he did not have legal documents, and just like that, the victim became the guilty party.

Besides, it is yet not known if any of the Lebanese aggressors were ever detained, but the situation in the neighborhood does not suggest so since the majority actually justify the attack.

It seems that a culture of bullying is now prevailing while the state continues to turn a blind eye to such practices, giving the “neighborhood boys” a sense of “immunity,” so they can shamelessly say, “We always have fights with them, they should go back to their country.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

(Al-Akhbar)

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