An Update on the Land Sold in Keserwan to a Saudi Prince

Remember the land in Dlebta, Keserwan that was sold to a Saudi Prince and caused a frenzy among a decent portion of the Lebanese people a few months ago?

Well that Saudi Prince has decided to sell back the land to the Lebanese with the potential buyer being preferably Christian.
He didn’t specify how much he’d ask for the land so he might want to make a profit off of it. And that’s without even addressing the many loopholes that a shrewd business man can use in this case.

Crisis averted? Not quite.

The problem isn’t with the Saudi Prince himself, although some wanted to sell that point to make political gains, but it was with the simple idea that foreigners can apparently get the government to bend real estate laws at will in order for them to make transactions which many Lebanese can never dream to afford.

The problem isn’t solved with the Saudi prince selling the land back to a Lebanese with an advantage to someone Christian. The problem is solved when future deals such as things, regardless of where the land is situated or who the buyer is, cannot be fulfilled simply because they are illegal.

Some Christian political parties will somehow twist the Saudi Prince’s change of heart into a triumph for them. Anything can work before the 2013 elections. And people will forget such a thing happened – until it happens again.

A la prochaine.

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Huge Land Sold In Sabbah, Jezzine to a Khaliji Princess

The saga of selling land to foreigners in Lebanon keeps escalating. After a 7000 sqm land was sold to a Saudi Prince near the Harissa Valley in Keserwan, and another land in Lassa, Jbeil was taken out of Maronite Church property to be given to the nearby Shia mosque, it’s the turn of a town in Jezzine called Sabbah to have one of its hills sold to a Khaliji woman.

The hill’s area is 40,000 sqm. It’s owned by the heirs of Habib Bassil, who owned hundreds of thousands of squared meters of land in Sabbah. His estate is run by Mona Bassil, a lawyer and one of the current members in Sabbah’s municipality. People are worried some sort of deal will also be struck regarding the remainder of his properties, which would have catastrophic consequences on their hometown.

The land itself was shown to the princess’s manager by a very renowned Maronite broker who took him on a trip around Jezzine in order to sell him some land. Of all the places that she showed him, the manager liked the hill in question because of its strategic location: it spreads from the St. Elias church near Sabbah’s center, to the edges of the Our Lady of Machmouche convent which is a very important religious place for the Maronites of the region, to the resting place of “Nabiyye Mikha” in the Northern parts of Sabbah.

The municipality is even accused of selling other properties to different people without double checking their identity, which the mayor didn’t deny although he downplayed the severity of it.

This is not the only land currently being offered in the area. Another land in a nearby town (Bteddine el Laqsh), of an area totaling 10,000 sqm, is being sold to Salafists from Saida, even though a Christian buyer is interested and has made an offer.
In another Jezzine town called Zaarour, a huge land owned by the El Helou family is in negotiations to be sold to Shia contractors who will turn the pine forest into a buildings compound. (source)

None of Jezzine’s MPs decided to intervene. Church facilities also didn’t care enough to help stop these transactions.
I guess all the people in power who are worried about Christian influence waning in Lebanon only know to preach but when it comes down to actually doing something, they are as useless as the brokers making sure the land is going to non-Lebanese or Lebanese who will change the identity of the land forever.

I reiterate – I do not raise this issue out of a sectarian agenda, but when I can’t own land in the khalij, why should they be allowed to own land in my country? And when there’s even a tendency among your fellow Lebanese to own as much land as possible for their own hidden agendas, being vigilant is of utmost importance.

It is here that I invite you to re-read (or read if you haven’t done so already) the points I raised when it came to the sale of the land in Dlebta, Keserwan.

Maronite Church Land Forcibly Taken By Mayor of Lassa, Jbeil to be Given to Shia Mosque

The tensions in the Jbeil town of Lassa continue to surface. After an episode involving Hezbollah communication and whatnot, it has transpired that the town’s mayor, Issam Al Meqdad, started taking 5000 sqm of land owned by the Maronite Church to give them to the nearby Mosque, considering the land as belonging to the Shia “Waqf” of the town.

When the Patriarchal envoy to the region, Chamoun Aoun, found out, he contacted the Maronite Church in Jounieh and notified policemen who rushed to the town but couldn’t do anything. MP Michel Aoun was notified of what was happening. He found the affair very peculiar and notified Jbeil’s MP Simon Abi Ramia to pursue the matter further.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Lassa, with whom the policemen couldn’t do anything, still firmly believes that the land is not for the Maronite Church – even though they legally own it – but for the Mosque.

Now one cannot but wonder, what more do some entities in Lebanon need to do to prove ownership of a land? Is it not enough that they have the deed? Is it not enough that they paid for it? Is it not enough that it has been there and for years and years?

5000 sqm may sound like not much for many people but this is not the first time this happens and by the looks of it, it won’t be the last. This land was not bought or sold. In order for the Maronite Church to sell land, it needs authorization from the Vatican who most probably wouldn’t approve such a transaction. This land is being simply stolen – there’s no other word for it.

And the sadder part is we can’t do anything about this but watch. At least that’s what we did when land was being taken in the same way in other locations in Lebanon.

An Update on the Land Sold in Dlebta, Keserwan to the Saudi Prince

The view from the land sold

Following up with my post from Tuesday about the land in Dlebta that was sold to a Saudi prince, Pierre Daher, the person who had shared the original picture which went viral on Facebook, had the following to say in order correct the information I had shared in my post about the sale:

This picture is not representing the Dlebta valley Sold. This is the very nearby area of Harissa Valley! The red line represents the Harissa valley and has NOT been sold. Dlebta is just in the top right corner of the picture outside the red frame.

For reference, you can check out the post in question here and the picture here. In the meantime, these are the facts regarding the land sale, according to this article by Annahar and other sources:

  • The decree to authorize the sale of the land to the Saudi Prince was passed in the Official Gazette on April 26th, 2012 – almost a month ago. The land that was sold is not as huge as originally thought. It consists of 4 properties, numbered 76 – 157 – 160 – 1152 in the Dlebta region, a town that hadn’t seen lots of real estate movements similarly to the surroundings towns. The sale was brokered by a Lebanese man who’s not from Dlebta.
  • The total area of the land which the Saudi prince purchased is 7700 squared meters. It is part of Tallet el Salib, which neighbors another hill called Tallet Mohammad. Talks are already underway to purchase a part of that hill as well.
  • The presidential decree that was signed and passed in the gazette allowed the Saudi Prince to purchase the 7700 sqm land even though the limit for non-Lebanese is 3000 sqm.
  • The authorization to approve the sale was signed by President Michel Sleiman, prime minister Najib Mikati and minister of Finance Mohammad al Safadi.
  • None of the Christian ministers in the ministry spoke against the sale despite their previous stances against such transactions in Christian areas.
  • The owners of the land are a rich Maronite family in the region who had previously sworn not to sell any land to anyone from outside the region. I guess the Saudi Prince is not “ghrib” anymore to the Keserwanis.
  • The municipality of Dlebta was not consulted in the matter of this transaction.

A few things, however, still need to be said:

  1. The fact that the land is not as huge as originally perceived doesn’t mean selling it should be permitted. I am firmly against selling Lebanese land to foreign nationals especially those coming from countries where the people of the aforementioned areas have very limited rights.
  2. The sale of this land, especially allowing it, sets a dangerous precedence for the entirety of the Harissa Valley, which is highlighted in red in this picture. If they allow this land to be sold, then what would stop the selling of bigger properties in the valley some other time?
  3. The fauna and flora argument is irrelevant to many Lebanese – but the area in question is one of the few areas in the region that has been kept relatively untouched. In fact, half of the area highlighted in red in the above picture has been made into a reserve by the Maronite Church to prohibit commercial activities in it.
  4. The Dlebta sale is not the first and won’t be the last. In fact, much worse sales have already taken place and received much less attention. Why so? It could be because they’re not situated in an area Lebanese Maronites consider sacred. For instance, 740 acres were purchased by Hezbollah from a Christian man in the Chouf for a total cost of $240 million – one of the richest land deals in Lebanese history.
  5. According to this report, here’s how the sales of land breaks down in select areas: the towns of Ajaltoun, Rayfoun, Mayrouba & Kfardebien in Keserwein have 80% of their lands sold to non-Lebanese, as well as 85% of the town of Alma in Zgharta. The story is similar in the Chouf, Baabda, Batroun and other regions as well. This is a reality, not paranoia.

Let me tell you the story of a very good friend of mine from a very small, almost irrelevant, village in the caza of Aley. There was once a man who needed money so he decided to sell the only land he owned and he knew it won’t go for much. Why so? Because the village barely had an access road to begin with and his land was nowhere near it. It was also almost unusable for agriculture. Why would anyone need a land like that?

And yet, an offer from a nearby village came in. It was much higher than what the seller had thought possible. But why would the buyer want to buy this land? Why would anyone buy this land? The town’s people rallied together and pitched in to keep the purchase from passing forward.

True, the example I gave is a matter between Lebanese but when foreigners start to desire and work on getting Lebanese land as well, then we must get very worried especially that many Lebanese can’t afford the prices of land in their current state but those foreigners can. If we keep letting foreigners, regardless of country of origin and supposed limits that they can obviously work around, buy land without any form of regulation, which is the current case, then we won’t have a country to return to.

The people of Dlebta are organizing an event to support their cause this Saturday. You can check it out on Facebook here.

Massive Land Sold in the Lebanese Keserwan Area, Near Harissa, To a Saudi Prince

Check out this post for more information about the sale.

View from the land sold

The area in question is called the Hill of the Cross (Tallet el Salib) and it was sold to Saudi prince Mokran Ben Abdel Aziz Abdul Rahman Al Saoud.

Tallet el Salib is a huge forest, rich in its flora and fauna. It contains many rare species of mammals and birds that use the millenary forest as shelter. As you can see from the above map, it overlooks the Mediterranean sea. It is in the region of Dlebta, close to Harissa.

The selling of this huge piece of land requires governmental approval to be fulfilled. MP Abi Nasr has said the Saudi embassy put pressure on the government and the Prime Minister in order to allow the transaction to proceed.

No matter how much we talk against this, when it comes to the powers at play in the matter of land purchases in Lebanon we stand powerless. Soon enough, the trees of the area will be cut down in order to make use of them. The winter of the area is especially harsh and wood for the fireplace is needed. The animal species of the forest will, therefore, disappear. And then the construction will start to turn whatever greenery that remains of the Harissa mountain into a massive concrete jungle. The people in the are won’t be able to afford housing in the newly built apartments. Those that can afford housing won’t have anything to do with the area.

Where were the other MPs of Keserwen when the deal regarding this land was being struck and tailored? They’ve already started their 2013 electoral campaign with bulletins on certain bridges in Jounieh. But when it comes to true work, instead of shouting up and down about how Christians are threatened and how they are defending “us,” there’s not much there.

I don’t see any of the Christians constantly worrying about losing foothold in Lebanon do anything when it comes to selling their land. In fact, they are more than glad to make a few millions, get out of the country, and nag about how they are losing influence. Hypocrisy much? You bet. But that’s how many Lebanese Christians have always been.

Where’s the Maronite Church which has been so worried about people selling the land in its regions of influence? Why doesn’t it help those that end up selling because they absolutely need to? Why doesn’t it stop those selling because of greed? Doesn’t it have enough money and influence to counter whatever offers and pressure the government is facing?

The situation is beyond despicable. I know this firsthand because the real estate market, even in my Batrouni hometown, has prices going through the roof and people coming from places you didn’t know existed to buy lands which you had previously thought useless. This is not paranoia. This is reality.

It’s high time those preaching stop doing so and start acting. I don’t have millions on me to help but if I were one of the billionaire Christians of Lebanon, I’d start splurging not on Maybachs and Maserattis but on the only reason we can call Lebanon home.