Racism against Syrians in Lebanon

Racism against Syrians in Lebanon
Discrimination against vulnerable refugees is rife, as sectarian divisions become more entrenched.
3 min read
20 Sep, 2014
Racism is on the rise in Lebanon [Getty]

Racism is the most disgraceful word in modern society. However, in Lebanon it is being revived and renewed, not by known racists, but by sectarian mobs protected by their communities and political parties. Racism in Lebanon has now plumbed greater depths than it has in any other Middle East country - even Israel (with a few reservations).

On 8 September, one of these racist groups tied up two young Syrian men in the middle of the road at the southern entrance to the town of Baalbek, ostensibly to show other Syrians they were not welcome. Some towns have even imposed a curfew on refugees after 9:00pm. Residents of Qlaya found leaflets distributed through the southern town on 14 September, urging them to expel Syrians.

In Touline and A’aba, another two towns in south Lebanon, residents have been competing to terrorise Syrians. A young man from Jibsheet posted a recording online for fellow racists, threatening to kill three Syrian children with a knife. In the town of Rashaya, near the Syrian border, residents opened fire on a car carrying Syrians - killing one passenger. The attackers then followed the wounded to hospital and attacked them in their beds.

Beating and insulting Syrian refugees and burning their tents has become a daily activity in parts of the country. Most attacks have taken place in Akkar, Beqaa and the south, and have only happened because their perpetrators are protected by powerful groups.

Nowhere to go

There is clearly a sectarian motive behind

     Lebanese authorities have failed to protect the refugees.

the violence. Shias believe the Syrians living among them are Sunnis who support the Syrian opposition, while Sunnis believe they are supporters of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. In reality, they are just people who fled their country to Lebanon, to escape the regime’s bombs and the tyranny of groups such as the al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State group (IS, formerly known as ISIS). These people are being forced to move, but they have nowhere to go. Carrying their belongings, they roam aimlessly around the country.

Lebanese intellectuals can largely be considered as complicit in these attacks, as only a few of them have spoken out against this racism. Lebanese authorities have failed to protect the refugees. Every day, Lebanese ministers claim that the Lebanese government is unable to give the money needed to care for the Syrians.

This reminds us of the old joke about a man complaining to a friend. “My wife is giving me a hard time,” he says. “Every day she asks me for money. At the beginning of the month, she asked for 5,000 pounds. A week later she asked for 4,000, then ten days ago she asked for 7,000, and at the end of the month she wants another 1,000.” His friend asks: “How much is that in total?” The man replies: “I don’t know. I haven’t paid her anything so far.”

Lebanese officials might complain about not being able to afford all the various requests received from Syrian refugees, but any help would be better than nothing.

Racism in Lebanon does not need to be analysed sociologically, historically or culturally. Instead, we should break the racists’ hands to force them to stop what they are doing. Only when racism becomes a crime punishable by Lebanese law will we be able to say that Lebanon has started the transition from barbarity to civilisation.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Al Araby Al Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.