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Lebanon: It's Back to Kidnapping Time

This post is part of our special coverage Syria Protests 2011/12.

22 May 2012: 11 Shiite Lebanese were kidnapped on their way back to their homeland from a pilgrimage in Iran. The abductors are said to belong to the Free Syrian Army (FSA). There are many rumors about the victims’ fate or even their location. Their relatives have been protesting in front of the various embassies (Turkish, Qatari) and burning tyres in protest since.

August 13: Hassan Salim el Mekdad, another Shiite, was kidnapped in Syria, allegedly by the FSA too.

These actions might be explained by the fact that Hassan Nassrallah, the general secretary of the shiite Hezbollah Party, has been supporting Syria's president Bashar Al Assad.

In response, the Al Mekdad Family or clan started kidnapping Syrians, who are thought to belong to the FSA, as well as two Turkish citizens. It has even threatened to target other nationalities such as Saudis and Arab Gulf nationals, prompting various embassies to ask their citizens to leave the country immediately.

In brief, the situation is quite gloomy and nothing is clear yet.

Netizens in Lebanon have commented on all these events. Dutch journalist Fernande van Tetsbased, who is based in Lebanon, provided some figures about the structure of clans in Lebanon:

If we’re talking figures, I was told the Zaitar clan is 30000 strong, the Moqdad family has  15 0000 member and the Shamas clan 8000. All these clans operate beyond the reaches of the law and the Lebanese Armed Forces do not dare to enter their territory. Neither do the Internal Security Forces usually, as the 30 000 outstanding warrants mentioned in the article testify.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese are angry and are blaming everyone. Zak, from Lebanon Spring, believes that Hezbollah is responsible for all that is happening in the country. He writes:

Hezbollah is responsible because they set a precedent in May 7 which got everyone to think that the only effective way to fulfill their demands and solve their problems is by violence. Other results of this jungle-law-thinking are obviously discarding the presence of the government and inciting sectarianism. So, as a result of that, we got local militias to surface like the Sunni ones in the north (& other places) and Al-Mokdad family militia (as if they didn’t exist before like many other Bekaa tribes), and road blockers like Sheikh Ahmad Al-Assir. And all of them practise pure chaos.

But the FSA is as guilty as the party:

Free Syrian Army is also responsible by inviting Hezbollah or Shiite community to the fighting field by starting that kidnapping spree. First with the 11 kidnapped Shia pilgrims months ago, and with Hassan Al-Mokdad last week. FSA (non-officially) claims the kidnapped individuals to be Hezbollah fighters, but the evidence or scene don’t suggest that.

United States-based Lebanese As'ad AbuKhalil, or Angry Arab, writes for Al Akhbar newspaper's blog, blaming the Lebanese government for the loss of control:

What is clear though is that innocent Syrian workers in Lebanon were subjected to more abuse and more attacks. Just as the FSA gangs claimed that their hostages are members of Hezbollah, the Mokdads claimed that their hostages were fighters with the Free Syrian Army. Neither side bothered with providing us with evidence.

He continues:

The Western and the Saudi/Qatari-funded Arab press ignored the plight of the Lebanese hostages in Syria, just as the failed Lebanese government ignored them. But there is something dangerous looking over Lebanon and Syria. The spate of sectarian kidnappings reminded people of my generation of the beginning of the sectarian civil war.

Funky Ozzi recalls the old scenario where Lebanon was just a “playground for the region”:

Conclusion? It's 1990s all over again, it's stupid Lebanese politicians who only care about being rich, it's militias who want to remain in Power, it's a playground for the region. And finally Syria always drags Lebanon into shit, and this time, its own shit. وحدة المصير والمسار
Of course, there is always mis-information by the media, the 11 kidnapped in Syria have been killed, then the 11 kidnapped were not killed… so what is it?
My analysis might not go in depth because 10 years ago I noticed every news episode was a Deja Vu and decided to only check up on it once in a while. However, core stays the same, only the players (somehow) change and main victim remains countries like Lebanon whose leaders don't care about it.

Meanwhile, Elie, from A Lebanese State of Mind, notes that there are other Lebanese detainees in Syria, some of whom have been missing for more than 30 years but whom no one has burnt a single tyre for. He says that in Lebanon there different classes of Lebanese prisoners in Syria:

Every other Lebanese prisoner present in Syrian prisons or still missing because of the Syrian occupation of Lebanon. Their parents have been protesting for the past 5 years non-stop, asking for any news about their sons and daughters. They’ve been hearing nothing. The parents of these men and women don’t want their children to return alive anymore; they just want any news about their children for the sake of a thirty-years stretched out closure. Even that is too much to ask for.

This post is part of our special coverage Syria Protests 2011/12.

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