|2006-02-22 00:00:00 : Lebanon > Politics|
|"Accounts from the arrest of Syrians after the Tabaris protest"|
|In the February 21 edition of An Nahar, an independent Lebanese newspaper, Mohamed Abi Samra told the story of Jamil Abdo Youssef. Abi Samra wrote: “This account conveys scenes from the lives of Syrian workers in Beirut who were apprehended after the Tabaris protest, or ‘crusade,’ that occurred on the February 5. It is not enough to simply lay blame on ‘planted people’ so as to prove other Lebanese sides innocent -- though they took part in planning the act and influencing people. This account reveals that the Lebanese security apparatuses are corrupt and unqualified and shows how primitive its investigations are. It also shows the illegal and inhumane methods used during apprehensions, and while interrogating witnesses and possible culprits. It also proves how unknowledgeable and uneducated the security apparatuses are, which influences primitive racism in the way investigations are carried out and security information is collected. |
"Such issues must be reviewed now that the Syrian army and intelligence has left Lebanon. This puts responsibility in the hands of Lebanese security and other official institutions to get rid of the residue of the civil war and the residue of the Baathist system from the Lebanese governmental institutions … or else the government will remain in the shadow of the Baathist culture, and other Lebanese or ‘Lebanized’ civil and political cultures of Arabism that are in the details of our daily lives.”
Jamil Abdo told Abi Samra that he has been living in Beirut since 1989, and that he is a Kurdish-Syrian who has a university degree in business administration from Damascus University. He said that, after having paid a rent of $200-$300 over the years he lived in Lebanon, a year and a half ago he moved to a cheap apartment building where the rent was $100 per month. He said that the building was old and that the each apartment holds more than four Syrian workers. “Sometimes, the number of residents reached up to ten workers per apartment per night. This is especially common on nights before vacations. These men are relatives or friends of the actual residents who have recently arrived in Lebanon to find work. Their lifestyle led them to make a lot of noise in the evenings, from their laughing and loud conversations to the sound of their radios or televisions.
“I am a Kurdish university graduate who works in the book distribution business and mingles with a section of the Lebanese people who are connected to writing, publishing, distribution, and journalism. It is crucial that my personality, habits, and manners are different than those of the Syrian workers I live with … It is also true that I did not mingle with them and no relations grew between them and me except for the type of acquaintances.” Abdo continued that he always thought that these people’s bad living conditions, along with their rowdiness, would lead to some horrible incident some day. “But I never thought that the incident would be of the kind that happened in our building on the afternoon of February 5, and of its size ... so far away from the vicious Tabaris protest.”
Abdo went on to explain that he did not know of the invitation to protest. “My two brothers, one of whom works with me in book distribution, and I were together that night and stayed up until 3:30 in the morning in my apartment. One of my brothers had two friends over at my apartment. Since our night was getting long, we decided that my guests would sleep over, since it was a Saturday night and the next day there was no work for any of us. At three o’clock in the afternoon on Sunday, February 5, I was still drinking my morning coffee as I woke up at 1:30 in the afternoon while my brother and his friends were preparing themselves to leave. I stood at the door to see them out when I heard a commotion one one of the upper two floors of the building. I then saw men from the Lebanese Internal Security Forces pulling men by their hair and pushing others who were handcuffed. Once my visitors saw that, they returned to my apartment. I thought that some of my neighbors were wanted for theft, or some crime of the sort. But then I looked out of my balcony and saw our building surrounded by plain-clothes security officers …
“The security officers came into my apartment and ordered my brother, his friends, and me to step aside, as we did. But as soon as we did, they grabbed a hold of my younger brother, handcuffed him and led him outside. I yelled and said that he was my brother. A security officer approached me and pushed me violently saying: ‘You seem like you want to join them in prison. Go ahead! Follow them.’ He then handcuffed my hand to my brother’s and pushed us towards the stairway. I was led to the street where I was with around 30 of the Syrian residents of my apartment building and their visitors. Some of the local police officers, whose faces I had recognized, began freeing some of the people who they knew. I still had no idea why we were being apprehended … ” At the police station, the men were ordered to put their hands behind their heads and lay on the ground. Abdo did not comply with the order. One police officer yelled at him, “put your hands behind your head you animal!”
Abdo replied hat he was not an animal but rather a normal human being. He was then attacked by around twenty security officers who kicked and punched him, making him fall to the floor, where he put his hands behind his head. One officer yelled, confirming that indeed he was not only one animal but 60 animals. More Syrian workers were brought in to the station and told to lay down and put their heads behind their heads. “They kept telling us to keep our heads down and our eyes towards the ground. Later they asked us why we had our heads down and told us to lift them as television and newspaper photographers walked into the police station and started taking pictures of us.”
The prisoners were then transported to another police station, according to Abdo’s account. Before putting the prisoners in the station’s prison, they were hit and cursed while they were being searched. Abdo went on to say that in the prison room there were around 45 men, among them an old man, and more than four underage boys. The next morning Abdo and his brother were led to the interrogation room where the interrogator blamed Abdo for burning a police car and carrying out destruction operations at the protest. “As soon as I told him that I had no knowledge of the protest and that I am against acts like those, my neck was hit twice by a security officer standing behind me, and I fell on my knees and got kicked twice on my back. When I said that I would not admit to something I had not done, and that most of those apprehended are innocent and victimized like myself, the interrogator ordered me to keep my head down and look at the ground. He then told me to admit to seeing the three men who came into my building carrying green flags that said ‘La Ilaha Illa Allah’ ('There is no God but God') and said that they had found them in the apartment next to mine.
"I said that I hadn’t seen the men or the flags, as I was asleep. A security officer kicked me so hard I rolled two or three times with my hands handcuffed. I couldn’t breathe or speak for two or three minutes. Afterwards, the security officer said that he had seen me at the protest carrying a flag. I then said that carrying such a flag wouldn’t make me proud, because the religion is a religion of forgiveness and does not call for violence and destruction.” The officer then told Abdo that he had received orders from his officers to take part in the destructive protest. Abdo then said: “Who are my officers? Are they those whose harshness led me to flee my country and resort to Lebanon for work?”
He was then asked: “And why did you flee your country? Did you kill or steal something, or what?”
I replied: “I did nothing but be a Kurdish Syrian.”
“So what? Rustum Ghazali is a Kurd,” the investigator said.
Security officers then pulled Abdo out of the interrogation room by his hair. “But truth be told, not all the men of the security forces were harsh during the four days,” he said. “Some consoled my brother and myself, and brought us food and cigarettes and some told us to call our families.” After several rounds of interrogation and blame, Abdo and his brother were sent to another police station, where they were held for two days. They were then sent to the military court for four to five hours. Abdo and his brother were then told that they were not in the films that were taken during the riots.
Abdo continued, “When I returned to my apartment building I heard that all the residents were set free, except for the three who lived in the apartment next to mine -- where it was said that the flags were found.” - An-Nahar, Lebanon
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