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.”


Iran says British-Australian academic freed for 3 Iranians

Updated 7 min 11 sec ago

Iran says British-Australian academic freed for 3 Iranians

  • It was not immediately clear when Moore-Gilbert would arrive back in Australia
  • Moore-Gilbert has gone on hunger strikes and pleaded for the Australian government to do more to free her

TEHRAN: Iran has freed Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a British-Australian academic who has been detained in Iran for more than two years, in exchange for three Iranians held abroad, state TV reported Wednesday.
The state TV report offered no further details Wednesday beyond saying that the three Iranians released in the swap had been detained for trying to bypass sanctions.
Moore-Gilbert was a Melbourne University lecturer on Middle Eastern studies when she was sent to Tehran’s Evin Prison in September 2018 and sentenced to 10 years. She is one of several Westerners held in Iran on internationally criticized espionage charges that their families and rights groups say are unfounded.
It was not immediately clear when Moore-Gilbert would arrive back in Australia. State TV aired video showing her with a gray hijab sitting at what appeared to be a greeting room at one of Tehran’s airports. She wore a blue face mask under her chin. The footage showed three men with Iranian flags over their shoulders — those freed in exchange for her being released. State TV earlier described them as “economic activists,” without elaborating.
International pressure on Iran to secure her release has escalated in recent months following reports that her health was deteriorating during long stretches of solitary confinement and that she had been transferred to the notorious Qarchak Prison, east of Tehran.
Moore-Gilbert has gone on hunger strikes and pleaded for the Australian government to do more to free her. Those pleas included writing to the prime minister that she had been subjected to “grievous violations” of her rights, including psychological torture and solitary confinement.
Her detention has further strained relations between Iran and the West, which reached a fever pitch earlier this year following the American killing of a top Iranian general in Baghdad and retaliatory Iranian strikes on a US military base.