Lebanon's winter storm freezes refugees in flooded camps

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Strong winds and waves lash the Mediterranean Sea coastline, in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
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A Syrian refugee shovels mud in front of a makeshift shelter follwoing rain storms in Lebanon's Bekaa valley, on January 8, 2019. (AFP)
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Syrian refugee men discuss the situation as they stand in a flooded tent in Jib Jinnin, in the Bekaa Valley close to the Syrian border on January 7, 2019, as the region is endures storms and heavy rains. (AFP)
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Motorists drive on a flooded street in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
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People cross a mud-flooded street in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
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Men push a scooter that broke down on a flooded street in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
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Strong waves hit the Mediterranean Sea coastline during a storm, in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Updated 08 January 2019
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Lebanon's winter storm freezes refugees in flooded camps

  • "There is almost half a metre of water on the ground and in the tents.." a refugee said
  • Families were moving around in search of dryness and warmth

BEIRUT: Storms in Lebanon have flooded Syrian refugee camps, ruining tents, mattresses and food and compounding the misery of people enduring powerful winter winds and biting cold.
More than a million Syrians fled to neighbouring Lebanon since war broke out at home in 2011, and UN agencies say most live of them live in poverty.
"There is almost half a metre of water on the ground and in the tents ... the war in Syria forced us into this situation," said Hussein Zeidan who came to Lebanon from Homs in Syria in 2011.
He lives in a makeshift camp near a river in north Lebanon's Akkar region. He and some of its other residents said the storm had left them and their children with no clothes, furniture or food.
Families were moving around in search of dryness and warmth.
"Water flooded us in the camp: me and my children. Our situation is bad ... God bless our neighbours, they welcomed us in yesterday night. Today, water flooded them so we came here, as you can see, to this half-built house with no windows or doors," Ghazwan Zeidan, who has three children, said in Akkar.
The UN refugee agency said on Tuesday that the storm had completely flooded or collapsed 15 informal settlements out of at least 66 that were "heavily impacted".
In the Bekaa valley in east Lebanon, the cold temperatures have also brought snow.
Abu Shahid, who fled Hasaka in Syria three years ago with his family, stood in flooded water in an informal camp in Bar Elias village. He described how his tent had completely submerged, damaging all his family's belongings.
"The only solution is to leave our things and move, run away with our lives ... Water is everywhere, where do we go?," he said. The previous night, he and his wife and two children had slept in a neighbour's tent that was less damaged by the floods.
For 19-year-old Hamed Haj Abu and his relatives, the night was cold and wet.
"We did not sleep all night. Some were sleeping for an hour, others were waking up. Water was coming on us, in the tent, from everywhere," he said in Bar Elias.
"My brother and his family first came to us, they are living nearby. We all did not sleep, we left the tent all together, we can't sit, look, water is flooding, we can't sleep on water."


Warning to Turkish artists as singer is jailed for ‘insulting’ Erdogan

Updated 21 July 2019
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Warning to Turkish artists as singer is jailed for ‘insulting’ Erdogan

  • Actress and singer Zuhal Olcay was charged with insulting Erdogan using hand gestures at a concert in Istanbul in 2016
  • Turkey’s appeals court has upheld an 11-month sentence, originally imposed last year but suspended

ANKARA: Accusations of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may lead to a jail sentence — even if the “insult” is in private, analysts told Arab News on Saturday.

Turkey’s appeals court has upheld an 11-month sentence on actress and singer Zuhal Olcay, 61, after a complaint that she had changed lyrics of songs and used hand gestures to insult the president at a concert in Istanbul in 2016.

The revised lyrics said: “Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it’s all empty, it’s all a lie. Life will end one day and you’ll say ‘I had a dream’.” Olcay said she had changed the lyrics only because the president’s name fitted the rhyme.

The court confirmed a sentence originally imposed last year, which had been suspended. The singer is expected to spend up to three days in prison, before being released on probation.

“This case highlights the blurring of the public and private spheres.”

Louis Fishman Academic

“Zuhal Olcay is an artist with great stature, and this case shows that no one is out of reach of a judiciary that increasingly has little independence from the government,” Louis Fishman, an assistant professor at City University of New York, told Arab News.

“The message is clear; artists in Turkey should be silent or face legal consequences that can be drawn out for years and eventually lead to prison,” said Fishman, an expert on Turkey.

He said it was significant that the hand gesture at the center of the case had happened at a private concert, and the prosecution began only after it was reported to police by someone in the audience.

“Therefore, this case also highlights the blurring of the public and private spheres,” he said. 

“In other words, there is a growing fear in Turkey of criticizing, or ‘defaming’ Erdogan, not only in public, but also in private. In both cases, vigilant citizens can report such alleged cases to the police.”