Lebanon, shootouts and other delights
I’m trying to keep the entries shorter as the middle east is a complex area and some of my friends have said they are out of their depth. I’m returning to Lebanon on Saturday and not really looking forward to it. My understanding of Arabic is a little better, so this is my last concerted effort, at least in the Levant, to practice speaking. I plan to spend a bit of time in Balbek as usual so looked at the ‘Lebanese Daily Star’ for the latest news and saw there was a shoot out in Douris. A town only about four kilometres from Balbek, the shooting was between a Lebanese army unit and some ”fugitives”, from the ‘Jaafar’ and ‘Wehbe’ clans.
The arrestees are accused of shooting in the air, a dangerous pursuit at the best of times. When I was visited Balbek last year a pellet or bullet hit the windscreen of a parked car, while its owner was talking to his friends and children played on the street. The Lebanese army unit was across the road and didn’t even seem to notice the incident. Lebanon does remind me of my area of Bristol, where, until the police came in with sub machine guns, was notorious for drug dealing and gangsterism. We are all still here and the drug dealing goes on but the area has calmed down.
The crimes commited in Douris do appear to be drug related and connected to the murder of a Christian couple, last year. The operation is going to last for a while and a similar one took place in Tripoli last year. An operation is about to begin in Beirut, which is just as well as students studying journalism in the ‘Lebanese University’, situated in the al Fanar district, in the Lebanese mountains, are striking. They have been shot at and want more government protection. As I’ve said before the Lebanese government has dragged its feet on security issues, hopefully it hasn’t gone too far.
Meanwhile, looking on the bright side the Shia ‘Amal movement’ is removing some of its flags and literature from areas, with large Sunni populations. This is reminiscent of last year, when Hizb’allah urged people to remove their paraphernalia, during the ‘Ashura’ festival, which commemorates the death of religious icon Ali Hussein. If they don’t want another civil war these precautions make sense. Despite the myth of a once sophisticated society, the various sects have been warring for centuries.
Islamic State becomes multi-cultural
While the mainly Christian student population of al-Fanar is asking for government protection from gun fire, in true Lebanese tradition Christians, from the Northern city of Tripoli are joining the mercenaries in Syria. The ‘Lebanese Daily Star’ reported, that a man known as Charlie Haddad is the second Christian from Tripoli to have joined. Tripoli is becoming increasingly impoverished as its tourist trade collapsed, due to eight years of gun battles between Syrian supporters and opponents. The shootings began, when Syrian troops withdrew in 2006 and continued til last year, when the Lebanese army got involved, too late in the day. I can only guess, that the Christian population in parts of Lebanon need money as much as their Muslim counterparts and that being a mercenary pays something at least.