A Syrian refugee whose fridge was stolen from his home in Homs finds it in Beirut

Al-Arab was surprised to stumble across the refrigerator that he had left behind in Bab Sabaa in a Beirut store. (File/Getty Images)
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Updated 25 October 2020

A Syrian refugee whose fridge was stolen from his home in Homs finds it in Beirut

  • I checked the fridge well. I recognized it from a distinguishing mark in one of its lower corners: Al-Arab
  • He said that when he brought the fridge home, his wife screamed and cried, and so did his daughter

BEIRUT: Mohammed Al-Arab, a Syrian refugee, was displaced from Bab Sabaa in Homs (30 kilometers northeast of the Lebanese-Syrian border) to Beirut as war raged in his country.
He left his house and shop in July 2012, after he and his family were displaced due to the bombing, deciding to seek refuge in Lebanon until the war ended.
Eight years have passed since the displacement; Al-Arab settled in Beirut, rented a home for his family in the Corniche Al-Mazraa area, and resumed his work as a plumber. Years passed, and his children grew older.
“A few weeks ago, my wife told me we needed a freezer. I went to a store that sells electrical appliances in a working-class neighborhood in Beirut.” Whilst there, he was surprised to stumble across a refrigerator — the one he and his family had left behind in Bab Sabaa.
“I froze. I was unable to speak. It was like someone I had seen someone I thought was dead,” he told Arab News. “I remembered the day I bought this fridge in Homs — it cost me 40,000 Syrian pounds, the equivalent of $800 at the time. Its brand is Al-Joud, made in Syria and manufactured in Lattakia. I checked the fridge well. I recognized it from a distinguishing mark in one of its lower corners. I asked the seller about the price and, after some bargaining, managed to buy it for 580,000 Lebanese pounds ($380).
Al-Arab said that when he brought the fridge home, his wife screamed and cried, and so did his daughter. “My wife said: ‘This fridge is a symbol of our suffering, our weariness and our lives. We bought it at a time when we were enjoying stability in our country and the roof of a home we owned protected us,’” he added.
The family home was “destroyed by bombing that demolished the ceilings and walls, and there was no trace of furniture inside the house and no goods in the shop, according to the pictures that relatives sent us after the war in the area subsided,” Al-Arab said. “That means that the stuff was stolen before the destruction. What survived the theft was my car that I parked in front of my wife’s family home, far from the area of the clashes.”
Al-Arab refused to reveal the identity of the merchant who sold him the fridge, and Arab News tried to follow the path of this fridge and how it got to Beirut.
Syrian refugees have many stories of stolen goods and their sale. Jumah, a young greengrocer from Idlib who works in Lebanon, said: “Syrians who fled from Aleppo to Idlib to escape the battles were surprised after a period of time that the contents of their homes were sold in public markets in Idlib.”
Sami, a young Lebanese from the Bekaa, said: “During the years of war in Syria, the stolen goods from nearby areas to the Lebanese borders were smuggled into Lebanon and displayed in Bekaa towns for sale. Among these stolen goods were tractors, windows, home furniture and electrical tools.”
Dr. Hadi Murad is a physician and activist in the field of combating smuggling medicine across the Lebanese-Syrian border. Murad, who lives in Brital on the border with Syria, said: “All villages and towns on the common border between Lebanon and Syria, specifically the towns of Nabi Chit, Brital, and Al-Khader, are crossings for all types of smuggling. More than 50 percent of the illegal crossings are in this region, and are protected by Hezbollah.”
Al-Arab does not care much about the thefts that occurred. For him, this matter has become of secondary importance. The priority is to know the fate of missing people instead.
“Our pain is much greater than the issue of thefts,” he said. “The Syrian people are exhausted. Our children are left without education, and no one can protect us in the countries (we have emigrated to). We are left to our destinies, without medical care nor education, nor do we know the fate of the missing in Syria. The father of my brother-in-law left his home and disappeared; my cousin left his home to buy a bundle of bread and never came back. Many tragedies have not been written yet.”


End the political deadlock, support group tells Beirut

Updated 26 November 2020

End the political deadlock, support group tells Beirut

  • UN leads calls for “urgent action” to halt downward spiral  
  • The ISG called on Hassan Diab’s caretaker government to “fully implement its immediate responsibilities”

BEIRUT: The International Support Group for Lebanon (ISG) has voiced its dismay over delays in the formation of a government in the crisis-racked country and called on Lebanese authorities to implement urgent reforms.
In a statement on Wednesday directed at Lebanon’s leaders, the group warned that as the political stalemate in the country drags on, “the social and economic crisis is getting worse.”
The ISG called on Hassan Diab’s caretaker government to “fully implement its immediate responsibilities,” adding that the “overriding need is for Lebanon’s political leaders to agree to form a government with the capacity and will to implement necessary reforms without further delay.”
Pragmatic legislative steps are needed to alleviate the “economic stress faced by Lebanese families and businesses,” it said.
The ISG was launched in 2013, and includes the UN, along with China, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Britain and the US, the EU and the Arab League.
In its statement, the group welcomed France’s plan to hold an international conference in support of the Lebanese people by the early December. The forum will be co-chaired by the UN.
However, the summit “did not detract from the urgent need for government formation and reforms,” it said.
On Wednesday, Reuters quoted “an official source” who claimed that Lebanon’s central bank is considering reducing the level of mandatory foreign exchange reserves in order to continue supporting basic imports next year, with the already low reserves dwindling.
According to the source, Riad Salameh, the central bank governor, met with ministers in the caretaker government on Tuesday to discuss cutting the mandatory reserve ratio from 15 percent to 12 percent or even 10 percent. Foreign exchange reserves are currently about $17.9 billion, leaving only $800 million to support imports of fuel, wheat and medicine until the end of the year.
Meanwhile, Lebanese political leaders are seeking to shift blame for the parliamentary deadlock in a dispute illustrated by the exchange of accusatory letters between Nabih Berri’s parliamentary bloc and President Michel Aoun.
Walid Jumblatt, leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, tweeted on Wednesday: “We are in a vicious circle under the slogan of conditions, counter-conditions, names and counter-names, electoral and presidential bids, and flimsy regional bets, amid a tremendous change in the region.”
At a meeting of the joint parliamentary committees on Wednesday to discuss a draft law for the parliamentary elections, representatives of the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces party voiced their objections, claiming the project presented by the Berri parliamentary bloc “fuels the political, sectarian and doctrinal divide because it is based on the idea that Lebanon is one electoral constituency.”
Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan said that “what is being discussed today is a change in the political system, not just an electoral law.”
The Lebanese Parliament is due to hold a plenary session on Friday to discuss a letter sent by Aoun “to enable the state to conduct a forensic accounting audit of the Bank of Lebanon’s accounts.”
Alvarez & Marsal, which was carrying out a forensic audit of the central bank’s accounts, said last week it was halting the investigation because it was not being given the information needed to carry out the task.
The company’s decision came after the central bank invoked a banking secrecy law to prevent disclosure of information.
Aoun had insisted on the forensic audit “so that Lebanon is not seen as a rogue or failed state in the eyes of the international community.”
Families of the victims of the Aug. 4 Beirut port explosion staging a sit-in near the parliament building demanded “a decree equating our martyrs with the martyrs of the army.”
Bereaved mothers, some carrying pictures of children killed in the blast, accused former and current heads of state of being responsible for the explosion.
Mohammed Choucair, head of the Lebanese Economic Organizations, said that Lebanese authorities “are dealing with this devastating event as if it were a normal accident.”
He said that “the only way to save Lebanon and rebuild Beirut is to form a capable and productive government that responds to the aspirations of the citizens.”