Syrians and Lebanese brawl in Beirut as hate speech rises

Syrians and Lebanese brawl in Beirut as hate speech rises
2 min read
06 October, 2023
Local officials in the area called for all non-Lebanese owned shops to be shut after the incident.
Lebanon's Interior Minister called for a host of new regulations targeting Syrians earlier on Thursday. [Getty]

Several people were injured in a brawl between Lebanese and Syrians in Beirut on Thursday night, 5 October, amid rising anti-Syrian sentiment in Lebanon in recent weeks.

Lebanese security agencies have not yet confirmed the cause of the fight, but local media claimed that a dispute between a Syrian delivery driver and a Lebanese woman sparked the conflict.

The Lebanese had to intervene to restore calm to the area, reportedly evacuating a factory where Syrians were working.

The brawl occurred as Lebanese politicians have escalated rhetoric against Syrian refugees, with Lebanon's Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi accusing them of fueling increasing crime rates.

On Friday, local administration officials, mukhtars, in the area where the brawl occurred, issued a letter to the General Security Directorate asking it to shut down non-Lebanese-owned shops in the area.

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Malwawi also issued a host of new regulations against Syrians on Thursday.

New measures include "stopping motorcycles driven by Syrians who don't have a residence permit," claiming that Syrians use motorcycles to "steal, shoot and traffic drugs."

He also called on municipalities to stop "accepting donations … as regards to anything related to displaced Syrians," as well as security forces to crack down on begging in Beirut, "especially by non-Lebanese children."

Mawlawi also claimed the day prior that Syrians are responsible for 30 per cent of crimes in Lebanon – something disputed by human rights organisations.

"Criminality among Syrian refugees, despite that it's a very vulnerable community with a huge number of people in extreme poverty, its percentage of criminality is similar to the Lebanese community," Wadih al-Asmar, the co-founder and president of the Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) told The New Arab.

"Some Lebanese journalists were quoting a catastrophic [crime rate]. No, it's more than a normal number, and I would have expected the Minister of Interior to say, 'Hold on, stop breeding hate,'" al-Asmar said.

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There are over 1.5 million Syrians living in Lebanon, many of whom fled the Syrian civil war, which started in 2011.

Syrian refugees are excluded from vast categories of the Lebanese labour market and live in substandard living situations.

In recent weeks, the number of Syrians crossing into Lebanon has peaked, prompting the Lebanese army to ask for more resources to patrol its borders.

According to CLDH, the Lebanese Army has stepped up pushbacks of Syrians back to Syria, perpetrating 7,400 pushbacks since mid-August.