Copies of contracts signed by Syrian students in Lebanon have gone viral on social media. The pledges were signed by notaries and stipulated that Syrian students shall not get into a relationship with or marry a Lebanese woman while pursuing their studies in Lebanon. This was apparently a condition to granting them a residence permit.This issue took social media platforms by storm; voices of condemnation were raised and the Arab and international press found this to be new material to shed light on Lebanese racism against Syrians, revealing an ugly face that keeps on emerging. As expected, after the initial escalation of anger and condemnation against this pledge — which not only goes against personal and civil rights but also violates the law — the matter was quickly disregarded.
It seems as if this is now a routine: Public opinion rises up against an event or incident but soon gets tired or, in the best case scenario, disappointment and frustration sets in and the cycle starts again.
The winners here are the authorities with their unfair decisions. It is no longer a secret that there are people within the Lebanese authorities who are trying to come up with procedures aimed at making life hard and sometimes impossible for Syrians to live in Lebanon. There are still those who are promoting that there are secure areas in Syria, urging refugees to go back to their homeland, disregarding the blood-spattered status quo that is dramatically aggravating the situation there.
However, putting restrictions on people’s feelings and forbidding them from love seems like a shocking new step. The signed contracts that have emerged remind us of a previous incident, where the Lebanese General Security commanded people declare any cases of relationships or marriage between Lebanese citizens and foreign female workers. The decision stipulated that any foreign female worker found to be in a relationship with her employer would be deported, but the decision was later abolished by the Ministry of Justice following nationwide objections by Lebanese jurists.
Unfortunately the pledges forbidding love, which emerged last week, are not likely to be revoked any time soon. In fact, these contracts are not only discriminating against Syrians, but also against Lebanese women as they are also barred from getting married to those they love.
It is no longer a secret that there are people within the Lebanese authorities who are trying to come up with procedures aimed at making life hard and sometimes impossible for Syrians to live there.
Discussing this issue cannot be done without considering the tense environment in Lebanon, as media, politicians and the people mobilize against Syrians. This is how it became acceptable to attack and burn some camps, arrest and kill some refugees, overreact in residency and sponsorship procedures, apply a curfew on Syrians in some regions, strip them of their right to do any job, and impose an endless list of restrictive procedures against Syrians on the pretext of protecting the Lebanese people.
The biased Lebanese media has contributed to this atmosphere, justifying and promoting this racism as a national matter, which politicians and public figures have expressed over and over again. In reality, the racism shown by some Lebanese, especially officials, seems worse than violence, as racists consider Syrians a danger.
Most discriminators do not dare point out the responsibility of Hezbollah, which is represented in the Lebanese parliament, for burning Syrian villages and towns, thus contributing to the tragedy of the Syrians’ displacement. They also ignore the responsibility of Bashar Assad for forcing his people to reside in Lebanon.
The restrictions imposed on Syrians in Lebanon, now even extending to attempting to control people’s feelings and human relationships, do not affect Syrians as much as they do Lebanon, which is meaningless without its freedom and openness. Openness not only to the rich, but to poor people too. Openness not only to tourists and investors, but to displaced people and refugees too. Without such an approach, Lebanon has no meaning or value. Closed-mindedness is capable of killing any country or society, especially when it uses false slogans to justify itself.
All of this just makes life in our country unbearable.
- Diana Moukalled is a veteran journalist with extensive experience in both traditional and new media. She is also a columnist and freelance documentary producer. Twitter: @dianamoukalled