Racism, Bigotry and Anarchy: How My Hometown Is Breeding ISIS

Welcome to Ebrine

The sign says: welcome to Ebrine. Huddled on a bunch of hills east of Batroun, my hometown is considered as one of the area’s largest. It is Maronite by excellence. The sign could have also said welcome to Maronistan and you’d still be within realms of accuracy.

Growing up, I never truly fit there but I liked it nonetheless. It was peaceful, serene, had amazing scenery and, at the time, I thought it provided everything that I needed. Little did I know that a whole spectrum existed beyond the realms of those 7 hills, 2000 voters and dozen Churches.

My hometown has also lately become a hub where Syrian refugees and workers have aggregated in substantial numbers, or at least as substantial a number can be to tick off the brains of townsfolk that I had thought were kind. I was wrong.

The argument went: “if those Syrians got slingshots, they’d be able to overtake us.” Yes, 500 Syrians with slingshots overtaking a town of about 4000 people. Because that made a whole lot of sense. So some people in my hometown, without a municipality due to political bickering, decided to devise an ingenious idea: set up guard duty, whereby men whose ages range from prepubescent to senile made sure those Syrians were kept in line, whatever it took.

Those guards were self appointed, related to whoever felt it was his moral duty to protect the holy Christians of Ebrine from the fictive threat of Daesh looming among those dark Arab faces coming in from that desert to the East. Their duties were also entirely dependent on whatever they felt like doing. They circulated fliers, forcing shops to put them on their storefronts, to make sure that order is kept: you have to make sure the Syrians renting at your places are registered. You are not to hire Syrians to do work around the town. You are not to let those Syrians do anything that any normal human being is supposed to be able to do, because they are not worthy.

Day X of guarding. A Syrian woman goes into labor in my hometown. It takes her husband an hour between calling this or that to be able to get his wife out of their apartment, into a car and in to the nearest hospital so she can deliver her child. One more Syrian to protect those God-fearing Christians from. What a tragedy.

Day Y of guarding. A male Syrian worker is kept up by his employer at work beyond the 8PM curfew time for Syrians that the guards of my hometown set up for them. He complains about it because of how worried he was at the impeding hell he’d have to go through at the hands of those guards, manifesting primarily by a lovely town policeman who has been around as far as I can remember, bolstered by a support from the Frangieh household, that has seen him pull through a bunch of corruption scandals and still maintain his position. When that worker reached his home, he had the phone number of his employer at the ready, as the latter had told him to do, to ask the guards to call him. Our town’s policeman looked at that Syrian for a minute and told him: say this to your employer, slapping him across the face so hard he was left with a bruise over his left eye for the following week.

Day Z of guarding. Another male Syrian arrived from Syria to join his family at the very welcoming town of Ebrine. That young Syrian, aged in the early 20s, didn’t know of the rules that some random self-appointed people at that town had set up. So at 9PM, on the second day of him being in Lebanon, he decided to leave his house and visit a shop at the town renowned for opening late in order to purchase groceries. He was spotted by our town’s policeman. Why are you here was not even asked. Are you not aware of the rules was not even thrown out in the air. The next thing you know, that policeman was hitting that young Syrian like his entire existence depended on it. A few minutes later, he was joined by 5 or 6 other young men from Ebrine, with all their built up testosterone, and they let that young man have it. It wasn’t until his father showed up, and saw his son being tossed around from one macho to the next that they stopped. My son isn’t aware of your rules, he told them. He’s only been here for two days, he pleaded. What a shame.

I presume a bunch of thank yous are in order:

THANK YOU to those guards who found it’s their Jesus-given right to protect the townspeople against the nonexistent dangers of Daesh at the heart of Maronistan. I’ve never felt safer, or at ease at Ebrine as I do now. 1984 is alive and well. Bravo, bravo. Applause everyone.

THANK YOU to the Qa’em Makam of Batroun for turning a blind eye to the practices of those guards and the arbitrary rules they’re setting up for everyone and the sheer immaturity with which they are governing a town that has no actual governing body. Bravo, bravo. Applause everyone.

THANK YOU to my hometown’s policeman, roaming around with that SUV on which “Baladiyyat Ebrine” is plastered across. I am eternally grateful to those muscles you used to beat up unknowing Syrians whose only fault was them being Syrians renting at the premises of someone you didn’t like. I am eternally grateful to you being the man that you are because if it hadn’t been for that, none of us would be safe and sound. None. Bravo, bravo. Applause everyone.

THANK YOU to the Frangieh household which has stuck with that policeman through thick and thin. Pistachio goes a long way round this town. Corruption? Who cares. Madness? Nobody gives a shit. Bravo, bravo. Applause everyone.

THANK YOU to the people of Ebrine who haven’t spoken up against the guards roaming their streets, who believe their presence is absolutely normal, who think those duties are actually protecting them and who have forgotten how it is to live under duress, under an all-seeing eye monitoring your every move. What goes around comes around, indeed. Bravo, bravo. Applause everyone.

THANK YOU to the Lebanese government, in all its facets, for turning a blind eye to the rising self-governance taking place across the Lebanese republic. Extending the mandate of parliament is definitely more important. Bravo, bravo. Applause everyone.

Some people, like those guards and that policeman, deserve Daesh. So, in frank Lebanese let me tell them: tfeh.

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26 thoughts on “Racism, Bigotry and Anarchy: How My Hometown Is Breeding ISIS

  1. As a side note, the Phalangists (Kataeb) started as a volleyball team, then they were given walkie talkies and set up patrols.. And the rest is (dark) history.

    Reply
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  3. I think this is a bit one dimensional analysis.I am sorry if I am blunt but you are reading into this like a foreign spectator and please do not go into the conclusion that I concur with racism…

    Reply
    • I’m a foreign spectator? That’s my hometown. I was born and raised and grew up there. I get to have a say as to what’s happening there as much as any other person who has lived and votes and grew up there.

      Moreover, the above is not an analysis. It is me bashing a behavior in the place i come from that i do not agree with. Those are people acting on their own, without regulations, and assaulting people left and right in the process. The people that they have assaulted have not 1) committed crimes, 2) manifested inklings to join Da3esh and 3) acted like criminals.

      The people setting up guards have no right to do so, they have no right to say they are protecting me and they sure as hell don’t have the right to beat up anyone that comes on their path.

      Reply
      • You did not get what I am trying to say and “bashing” without analysis and not giving solutions are blaming who prey on peoples’ fear of the other like the media and zaims and make them do inhumane actions is not very constructive.

        Reply
        • The solution is simple: stop being xenophobic assholes assaulting people left and right and go home to your families. I daresay that’s been alluded to plenty there.

          I am here to shed light on those inhumane actions, which I believe I did out of someone who’s in the thick of it, not as a foreign observer as you said.

          Reply
          • When u refer to anyone as an asshole it does not make u any better than those u r criticizing.Plus,u cannot generalize I don’t think the whole village is like this

            Reply
              • I would never condone such actions but the name calling won’t change what those people are doing. Those are people you know as you say, so no one understands them better. I know how frigid village people can be esp when there is a mass hysteria called ISIS now but if you manage some social gathering and ,are both side get to know each other they would surely change their attitude. The fear of what is different or unknown is not something easily dismissed by simple bashing right ? 😉

                Reply
  4. I’m from Ebrine and i agree with this. It’s been horrible to go there recently ma3 medre kam wa7ad mfakkar 7alo enno houwe yaba rabba

    Reply
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  6. What a mess… No innocent civilian deserves any of this sort of treatment. Of course this statement applies to both these Syrians, and of course to the Lebanese civilians, throughout 30 years of occupation. Difference is, back then, we didn’t take shelter in their villages. Syrian civilians were just content sending their army over, while turning a blind eye to what was being done to Lebanese civilians. Or rather a semi-blind eye, since many civilians were perfectly happy going on TV and saying how we all deserved to die. I remember those shouty statements, wherein enthusiastic Syrian civilians went on camera to say how they wished we would all – men, women, children – be decapitated and have our heads hanging off poles, Game Of Thrones style. I remember those well, that civilian thirst for blood, and so do those xenophobic idiot guards, trying to retaliate with even worse treatment. Elie, you said it well: what goes around, comes around: those guards were pumped up till the penultimate exploding point, by all these memories they kept – that we all kept. So don’t expect them to show a shread of understanding, since they didn’t get any back then. Don’t expect them to calm down, since they’ve been provided with plenty of reasons to be so murderous now. I wish there were young Syrian writers back then who had the same lucid view of what was being done to us, that you have now. And I wish it weren’t so obvious that what the guards are doing now will only generate more violence from the now-victim syrian civilians. And it would be justified. What an unbelievable, vicious-cycle-esque mess…

    Reply
  7. When I first visited Ebrine from the US, I used to wave and say hi to the Syrians. I got dirty looks from the villagers and was told that I shouldn’t do that. An innocent Syrian holding a garbage bag had drugs in them. These men were violent, don’t go near them. I was confused, but because I was younger, I listened and did what I was told. I can’t believe Ebrine has rules like this now, restricting Syrians. This is just like the Civil Rights movement in the US. I can’t stand for this. I can’t say that I’m from Ebrine with pride anymore. These people are escaping war and looking for a safe place to stay. We, as Christians, should accept them into our village and help them. We all speak the same language, why have this racism and prejudice? These people are oppressing those who are already living in trash (literally!). I’m beyond mad. If I come back this summer, I plan on making a difference. This is wrong. Words can’t describe how upset I am.

    Reply
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