Tensions in Lebanon are at an all-time high as political rhetoric against the refugees seems to have found its way to a union the like of which we haven’t seen before, bolstered by public support that’s near-unanimous, fueled by pro-Army rhetoric that’s become so intense it’s bordering on worrying.
The Lebanese Army has been engaged in a courageous fight against ISIS militants who have embedded themselves in refugee camps in the Beqaai border town of Arsal. The details of the fight, which is still ongoing, have become known for most. The gist of which, however, is that despite Lebanon’s army advancing against the militants, some transgressions against civilian refugees have taken place, with some of them dying during captivity prompting questions of torture.
As it is in Lebanon, of course, even mildly thinking about criticizing our army’s practices, or wanting an investigation to take place in the death of those civilians, is equal to high treason. It seems that everyone is supposed to accept that the army does what the army wants, without any repercussions. Except that that is how dictatorships are made, and last time I checked the country was not as such.
The moment we start compromising on basic human rights, regardless to whom those rights belong, we are beginning to give a blank check to authorities to extend the same treatment to us at a later point in time. What’s to stop Lebanon’s armed forces, army or otherwise, from – eventually – doing the same to Lebanese citizens who may or may not be suspects in something that people are unanimous in opposing?
The army is not to be above reproach or criticism. The more we put our army or our security forces on pedestals, the more we’re giving them way to break our necks, and whatever they want, just because we’ve let them. It’s a slippery slope between being thankful to being blindly adoring and, consequently, approving of anything and everything someone with a military title does.
Yes, it’s beautiful to be thankful for their efforts and sacrifices in fighting for our safety. But that doesn’t make them holy. And it doesn’t make the mere possibility of civilians, regardless of nationality, being killed under torture or suspicious conditions okay.
Naturally, and because trolls on Facebook are quite rare to find, a pro-Syrian refugee and anti-Lebanese army page sprung up on Facebook. It was started by a 24 year old Syrian residing in Ain El Helwe who was just arrested for enticing violence and hatred against the Lebanese Army. That Facebook page soon became the medium through which many Syrians, and some Lebanese I dare say, expressed their undying hate to Lebanon, its people and its army.
The reply to that was in a surge of anti-refugee rhetoric, with a political discourse that’s unanimous in wanting to send all the refugees to Syria’s safe spaces. The culmination of the social media wars translated through calls for two protests: one pro-refugees, organized by a Lebanese socialist club, which was later branded as anti-Army, prompting hundreds of Lebanese to change their Facebook pictures ones with army support frames, and calling for a protest to oppose the previous one.
Naturally, our Ministry of Interior affairs banned all protests as a result. Keep in mind that parliament is planning a tax hike coming later in the week, and banning all protests in the country under the guise of “security” is a mere ploy to silence people against such governmental steps in taking away more of our money, stripping us of our constitutionally given right of expression and making sure they create the illusion that the country is in turmoil.
It seems odd that, after more than 6 years of the Syrian War, today is the time that all of our politicians seem united in the way they want to deal with the Syrian refugees. Add that to the list of massive short-sightedness that’s become synonymous with the way they handle things.
We’re a tiny country, that’s 1/10 the size of Syria with about 1/5 of the population. And yet, over the course of the past 6 years, we’ve received about two million refugees, the impact of which over the country could not be brushed under the rug. We have no functioning infrastructure, no social structure to support them and – simply – no decent means to support them. Our borders, however, remained open. We had next to no regulation of the influx, near non-existent regulation of the border. The problems at hand could have been prevented had we been slightly more aware of the impact of suddenly adding two million people to your population, which feels like quite the normal realization to get to. Unless you’re a Lebanese politician of course.
Not all refugees are bad people, however, and using some of them to put the entirety of them in the same box in non-sensical. The majority of Syrian refugees in the country don’t agree with the posts of Facebook page that’s causing all the outrage against them. The majority just want to live and let live, make ends meet, provide for their families and count the days until they can return home – their actual home, not safe spaces inside what was once their country. And yes, many are thankful for being given homes in our country, the same way you’ve been demanding them to be grateful as if our government has provided anything for them other than allowing them to build tents in fields no one uses.
What’s mind numbing is the hypocrisy of it all. Picture this: you, as a Lebanese, being labeled as a terrorist because one Lebanese was involved in the 9/11 attacks. Or you as a Lebanese being targeted systematically by police in countries you’re an immigrant in because some segments of your country’s nationals are drug dealers or criminals. Imagine Lebanese Australians or Lebanese in Dearborn, Michigan being cracked down on by authorities in the United States or Australia for reasons as silly as them being “guilty” by virtue of them having Lebanese in ethnicity. Wouldn’t you be outraged? Wouldn’t you be up in a fit, cry racism and xenophobia?
Today you’re left with a country where manifestations of free speech are banned, where people do not allow you to even think about criticizing the army, where sympathizing with refugees is beginning to get closer to becoming treason, where our politicians are literally using those refugees to fuel hate and fear in order for them to pass all of the agendas they want, under the radar, in plain sight of everyone.
The safety of Lebanese and the dignity of Syrian refugees are not two mutually exclusive entities. We have been led to believe they are by politicians who are using us in order for them to be allowed to do whatever they want, whenever they want, and put it under the guise of the country’s best interest.
A banana republic? It’s time to find a new fruit. Everyone needs to sit back, take a deep breath, stop jumping to conclusions every thirty two seconds and realize that this path is exactly where they want you to be.