Tripoli's poor are denied even a grave

Al-Akhbar is currently going through a transitional phase whereby the English website is available for Archival purposes only. All new content will be published in Arabic on the main website (

Al-Akhbar Management

Tripoli, Lebanon's second largest city, continues to suffer from state neglect, an unstable security situation, and corruption. Al-Akhbar/Marwan Tahtah

By: Abdel Kafi al-Samad

Published Monday, December 22, 2014

A destitute citizen from Bab al-Raml in Tripoli died on Tuesday after spending the past year sick in bed. As his family prepared for his burial in the neighborhood cemetery, they were confronted with the city's graveyards committee requesting a burial fee.

The committee, tasked by Tripoli's Dar al-Fatwa to oversee the process, informed the family of the deceased that they needed to pay a fee of 125,000 Lebanese Liras ($83) to cover the cost of hiring diggers and cement used in the grave. This would be in addition to expenses related to washing, shrouding, and transporting the body to the cemetery in a hearse, bringing the total cost of the burial to at least LL350,000 ($233).

Due to the difficult financial situation of the deceased, people from all around the neighborhood volunteered to cover the expenses, including the grave diggers, and provide supplies. However, one of the committee members refused and informed the family of the deceased that they would not be allowed to dig the grave before paying the fee. He went on to threaten the grave diggers that if they cooperated with the family, they would not be allowed to work again.

The confrontation between the family of the deceased and the member of the committee caused the postponement of the burial from noon until the evening, amidst a wave of anger and indignation by the residents of the neighborhood. This led to requesting the intervention of the head of Tripoli's Department of al-Awqaf Sheikh Hussam Sbat, who paid the burial fees out of his own pocket.

However, this unprecedented problem was not settled, even after the burial. The family of the deceased and people from all around Tripoli expressed their rejection of a situation that could reach the point of barring the poor from being buried in their own city.

The first action was in the form of a petition by the residents and mukhtars (municipal officials) of Bab al-Raml launched on December 16, 2014. It was addressed to the Mufti of Tripoli and the North Sheikh Malik al-Shaar and called for "cancelling the financial charge imposed by the Committee of Graveyards and Watchmen on impoverished Muslims," and indicated that the "benefactors and donors of land used for cemeteries in Tripoli had bestowed them to poor Muslims."

The petition was followed by a meeting held at Tripoli's Dar al-Fatwa on Friday, December 19, 2014, between Sheikh Sbat and the mukhtars and community leaders of Bab al-Raml to discuss the problem. The delegation presented Sbat with the petition and asked him to find a quick end to the "humiliation of the city's poor that continues even after death."

Sbat informed his guests that "the problem was old and inherited" but that "Dar al-Fatwa is working on a drastic solution." He indicated that "the current committee is temporary. It was formed to control the many excesses of the past in this regards and to stop middlemen."

"The profession is unregulated," he continued. "Those who had this task before the creation of the current committee were asking for around LL1 million ($667) from each family of the deceased." However, Sbat admitted to the "mistake" of "not including mukhtars, sheikhs, and community leaders from each neighborhood in the committees charged with these matters."

"New committees will be formed and will include all the above. This would be followed by cooperation between them and Tripoli's Awqaf Department. The family of any poor person who dies will receive a recommendation from the committee to be buried at the expense of the department, so as not to have a repeat of the Bab al-Raml situation."

Sbat explained to the delegation that "burial services are not within his mandate or responsibilities. According to the Law of Religious Endowments, they are under the authority of the municipality. But since cemeteries are religious endowments, the Awqaf Department bears this burden."

Head of Tripoli's League of Mukhtars, Rabih Murad, who was with the delegation, called on Sbat to ensure "cooperation and coordination between the Awqaf Department and the municipality [of Tripoli] to solve the situation."

"Basically, what we want is for the poor not to be demeaned if they die and that their dignity be preserved," he said.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><img><h1><h2><h3><h4><h5><h6><blockquote><span><aside>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

^ Back to Top