Anti-Syrian sentiment turns violent in Lebanon

Merged Photo

LEAVE OR DIE: Since the Islamic State (IS) announced the execution of captured Lebanese soldier Abbas Medlej September 6, and proceeded to publish pictures of his headless corpse on social media platforms, a wave of attacks against Syrian refugees has broken out across Lebanon.

Here, an anonymously distributed notice from the Ziqaq al-Balat, one of Beirut’s 12 districts, gives Syrians a choice—either leave within 48 hours, or face “slaughter and torture until death.” The picture on the left, widely circulated on social media over the weekend, purports to show Lebanese nationals beating a Syrian refugee near the airport road in Dahiya, the Shiite southern suburbs of Beirut controlled by Hezbollah.

Separately, Lebanese journalist Abbas Nasser posted on Facebook Sunday his eyewitness account of a mob attacking a Syrian, writing that after the Lebanese police arrived to break up the crowd, “a soldier slapped the Syrian and said 'enough, get out of here, they'll beat you up.'”

Minister of Social Affairs Rashid Darbas said Monday that “Lebanon no longer has room for a single displaced person,” in an interview with the pro-Assad Lebanese channel Al-Jadeed.

Lebanon currently hosts  1,140,000 registered Syrian refugees, roughly a quarter of its population.

The attacks that flared up over the weekend and early this week are not the first of their kind.

Since the Lebanese village of Arsal witnessed fighting in early August between Syrian rebel groups on one side—notably Jabhat a-Nusra and IS—and the Lebanese army and Hezbollah on the other, “the pace of attacks on Syrian refugees has increased,” Nadim Houry, Human Rights Watch's Beirut Office director, told London-based al-Araby al-Jadeed Monday.

Lebanese youth have “set fire to tents and expelled refugees” from camps in Bekaa and Akkar.

Amidst swiftly rising tensions, some voices have emerged calling for solidarity between Lebanese and Syrian.

Abbas Nasser, the journalist who witnessed the mob attack described above, wrote after relating the incident, “the battle is not between Sunni and Shia, nor between Syrians and Lebanese. The battle is against terrorism.”

 -September 9, 2014

- Photo courtesy of @MohamadAhwaze and Mohamad Hasan.

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