My uncle was shot and killed 14 years ago today, March 26th 1999.
His killer’s name was Tony Rouhana. He was from my hometown, Ebrine. He was Lebanese. He was an active wartime member of one of North Lebanon’s well-known parties. They call themselves “Marada.”
May 2008. My mom enters our house and finds a hooded-man there. She shouts and runs after him. He was going through her jewelry. He makes a quick escape through our window. A couple of weeks later, his identity is known. He is also from my hometown. A Lebanese. He was only reprimanded – never arrested. Why should they ruin his future?
March 2013. A member of our municipality has his motorcycle stolen by a gang from Tripoli. They chase the thief, are on the phone with our security forces at all times, but are unable to catch him. The theft happened in broad daylight at noon. You can check more details here.
March 2013. I’m sitting with my family as we bid farewell to my uncle who was going back to his home in the United States after a short stay. We hear the sound of a four-wheel drive rolling by. They say it’s our municipality policeman’s new car. Why was he driving around at 10:30 pm?
Because my hometown, Ebrine, is now enforcing a curfew on Syrians. I expressed outrage and was told I oppose things way too often, way too much.
No, my town is not, like other places, hiding behind the shroud of “foreigners” when they mean one thing and one thing alone. There are no fliers being posted around the place. There are no banners to welcome you with the news. It’s all under the radar, hoping it would go unnoticed: a subtle regulation that won’t affect my life because I am Lebanese, from Ebrine and there’s absolutely nothing bad that I can do.
I didn’t want to write about this issue until I made sure it wasn’t simply townspeople gossip. I went to the municipality and asked. They confirmed. Their explanation? We got an order from the ministry of interior affairs recently to organize the Syrians inside our town and to have them listed – as per orders of Lebanon’s intelligence. They didn’t say anything about a curfew but, believing I was worried about the Syrians in my town, they went on further: “you don’t have to worry. A curfew was enforced on Syrians. The policeman is also patrolling the streets from 8 pm till 12 am. The town will stay safe.”
How beautiful and reassuring is that? I should look into extra safety measures against Ethiopians, Egyptians – basically anyone whose skin color or clothing style is too inappropriately poor for my taste.
I also find it hard to believe that such an order would come from the ministry of interior and would go unnoticed everywhere, especially that Marwan Charbel, our current minister of interior affairs, said municipalities who enforce curfews are committing illegal acts (link).
So which is it? Is our government or entire Lebanese administration, now that we don’t have a government, relying on vigilante justice in Lebanese municipalities to regulate the Syrian influx in the country? Are all our municipalities and circumscriptions now limiting the movement of “foreigners” just because the situation in the country is worrying?
Last time I checked, it wasn’t Syrians who were fighting in Bab el Tebbane and Jabal Mohsen nor were the Syrians fighting in May 2008 when all hell broke loose in Beirut.
Should the Syrians in Lebanon be regulated? Sure. Is their influx worrying? I think so. But turning their forced stay here into that of people living in an emergency nation will help things how exactly?
Let’s call it a temporary fix – a plug in a collapsing dam.
Do we have a lot of Syrians in my hometown? Frankly, I don’t see any huge numbers that were not there in 2008, 1999, etc. We are not that affected. Those Syrians are renting apartments here, buying stuff from the shops that even our townspeople don’t go to anymore (going to buy groceries in Batroun is much cooler. They get to use a trolley and pay 10,000 in gas in the process). And yet, somehow, those new Syrians are now posing such a big security threat that our municipality decided to do something for the first time since it was formed in 2010.
Our municipality, which left our roads go as the below pictures show, for over 2 months, which didn’t say anything and even sent a thank you letter for Gebran Bassil (who in all fairness was later outraged and called them out on it) is acting out, protecting us, making us feel safe, as part of a developed country. What’s worse is that this could possibly be some form of national policy.