I don’t have a problem getting pulled over and asked for my ID. Given the mess we’re in, it gives me a sense of security if there was ever such a thing in Lebanon.
However, I was forced to wonder today: what are my rights when I do get pulled over and I don’t want to entertain an abrasive, appalling and disgusting line of questioning by an army member whom I can’t but be utterly bowing to or else…?
On the way to the Beqaa today, my three friends and I got pulled over at the Dahr el Baidar checkpoint. A few ID checks later, we were on our way. It was routine and simple.
On the way back from the Beqaa, we got stopped at the same exact checkpoint. This time, however, the two minutes procedure turned into an ordeal that left everyone in the car seething.
“Hand over your IDs,” the army men said and we obliged. He glanced at them and frowned.
“This is the second time today you stop us here officer,” my friend told him.
“Is there any problem? We’ll stop you as much as we want.” That was hint #1.
“How come you’re all from different regions?” He then asked. “How do you four people know each other?” That was hint #2.
“We go to the same university.” My friend tentatively answered.
“Open the trunk and give me the car’s papers,” he ordered her around. She proceeded to do as she was told.
He then proceeded to start ransacking through her car’s trunk, going through her personal items as if they were a matter of national security.
“What were you and your friends doing in the Bekaa?”
“We were on a road trip, spending the day.”
“So you went to the Bekaa today and came back?”
“We wanted a change of scenery.”
“How odd is it for you to be friends from different regions? What do you and your friends do?”
“Well, one is an architect and the other is a doctor. The other is a biologist and I work in IT.”
“Okay. And you went to the same university?”
A few moments later, my friend asked if we were allowed to leave. He begrudgingly allowed.
I’m all for having a tight handle on security. But what’s in it for an army personnel to go through my personal business as if it pertains in any way whatsoever to the security he is trying to keep, fully knowing that I can’t but answer or he’d throw me in a military bureaucratic tangle that would have kept me stuck on that mountain all day?
How odd is it for people to be friends and happen to have been registered in Batroun, Tripoli, Aley and Saida? Is it so unheard of in Lebanon that people from different regions could hang out that it necessitates a state of utter shock and suspicion?
What protects a Lebanese citizen from an army member who felt like he wanted to mess with people on any given day? Where is the limit between an army member being thorough and being downright obtrusive and offensive?
There’s basically nothing we can do about it. Heida lebnen. If you don’t like it, tough luck.
Note to self: make sure to go with unicolor friends next time. It won’t raise eyebrows.