UNHCR warns of rising tensions between Lebanese nationals and Syrian refugees

Lebanese and Syrian citizens queue for bread outside a bakery, in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, April 12, 2022. (AP)
Lebanese and Syrian citizens queue for bread outside a bakery, in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, April 12, 2022. (AP)
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Updated 31 July 2022

UNHCR warns of rising tensions between Lebanese nationals and Syrian refugees

UNHCR warns of rising tensions between Lebanese nationals and Syrian refugees
  • There are an estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees residing in Lebanon, 900,000 of whom are registered by the UNHCR as refugees living in camps

BEIRUT: In recent weeks in Lebanon there has been a series of violent assaults and other crimes committed by Lebanese people against Syrian refugees and vice versa.

The attacks have resulted in an increase in discriminatory rhetoric targeting Syrian refugees in Lebanon, while popular support for their repatriation to Syria has also gained momentum as the situation in Syria is widely perceived to have improved sufficiently to allow the refugees to return home.

Indeed, the country’s caretaker prime minister, Najib Mikati, recently threatened to “adopt an undesirable stance toward the Western countries, by illegally repatriating the refugees (if) the international community doesn’t cooperate.”

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Lebanon has strongly defended the refugees.

In a statement, the UNHCR expressed its “grave concern over the restrictive practices and discriminatory measures activated on the basis of nationality, which affects the refugees and other marginalized groups.”

HIGHLIGHT

Lebanese officials have started to claim that Syrian refugees are partially responsible for the critical shortage of bread in the country, as they have been consuming large amounts of subsidized wheat

The UNHCR spoke of “increased tensions between different groups, especially violence against refugees, which leads to escalating violent acts on the ground in many districts and neighborhoods.”

It said the economic crisis in Lebanon “is affecting everyone terribly, especially the most vulnerable,” and warned Lebanese authorities that “the ongoing support provided by the international community to Lebanon — which hosts the refugees — is a very important matter that ensures food security and other necessary needs.”

The UNHCR asked the Lebanese authorities to “ensure the rule of law and promptly stop violence and discrimination targeting those residing on Lebanese territory.”

There are an estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees residing in Lebanon, 900,000 of whom are registered by the UNHCR as refugees living in camps. The vast majority of Syrian refugees in Lebanon are facing extremely difficult living conditions, whether they are in the camps or living and working in the country.

The situation appears to be worsening too: Lebanese officials have started to claim that Syrian refugees are partially responsible for the critical shortage of bread in the country, as they have been consuming large amounts of subsidized wheat.

Some bakeries in regions with Syrian refugees have resorted to segregation, forcing refugees to show their IDs and wait in long queues separated from other customers. When they do get served, they are only allowed a single packet of bread per family, as some Syrian refugees have been accused of sending their children to bakeries to purchase bread which they were then reselling on the black market.

Maher Al-Masri, a coordinator at the Arsal camps in Lebanon’s northern Bekaa region by the Syrian border, painted a brighter picture, saying: “We share the same food with the Lebanese in the region that is hosting us and if something bad happens to the refugees, the Lebanese residents of Arsal rush to diffuse the situation.”

But one of the camps’ officials said: “We are no longer going to bakeries to buy bread. We now buy flour and bake our bread in the camp to avoid coming into contact with the Lebanese anger.”

The Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party warned that “the worrying escalation of such problems might lead to dangerous options that widen the social gaps and increase poverty and racism.”

That already seems to be happening. On Friday, a Lebanese man was stabbed to death by Syrian refugees in Jnah, Beirut, after an argument. Another Lebanese man was killed on July 19 in Mirna Chalouhi. He was stabbed 19 times. They said the victim was killed by “Syrian refugees who accused him of having physical relations with one of the Syrian refugee women.”

Social-media platforms were flooded with inflammatory comments demanding the repatriation of Syrian refugees. But it later transpired that the killer was, in fact, Lebanese and a friend of the deceased, whom he reportedly murdered because of a family dispute.

On July 21, a 13-year-old Syrian boy, Khaled Hammoud Al-Saleh, was killed after being assaulted by a Lebanese man and his sons in the southern region of Sarafand.

On July 24, a camp in the northern Lebanese region of Akkar was set on fire by family members of 43-year-old Diab Khouweilid, a father of seven, whose body was discovered on the seashore in Qlayaat after he had been missing for two days. His family suspected that one or more of the camp’s residents had information about Khouweilid’s death.

The fire affected 85 of the camp’s 90 tents and the camp’s inhabitants were forced to leave to prevent further violence. Most of them lost their belongings.

Lebanon’s caretaker minister of the displaced, Issam Charafeddine, is set to visit Damascus to discuss the plan to repatriate Syrian refugees. Charafeddine said the plan is to repatriate 15,000 refugees every month, despite warnings from international organizations against coercive repatriation after reports of crimes against a number of repatriated refugees.

Syrian activists for refugees in Lebanon, said in a statement: “Refugees in host regions avoid tensions. Syrian refugees are suffering from the economic crisis in Lebanon, similar to the Lebanese. The issue of repatriation awaits practical solutions. We hear of calls and statements made by Lebanese officials, but we haven’t been notified of anything yet by the UNHCR.”


Turkish minister says deadly gun attack was ‘America-based’

Turkish minister says deadly gun attack was ‘America-based’
Updated 02 October 2022

Turkish minister says deadly gun attack was ‘America-based’

Turkish minister says deadly gun attack was ‘America-based’
  • Two suspected Kurdish militants opened fire on security force lodgings in the Mediterranean province of Mersin late on Monday, killing one officer and wounding a second officer and a civilian

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s interior minister on Saturday described a gun attack that killed a police officer in the country’s south as an “America-based” operation.

Two suspected Kurdish militants opened fire on security force lodgings in the Mediterranean province of Mersin late on Monday, killing one officer and wounding a second officer and a civilian. The female attackers, who Turkish authorities said were affiliated with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, later killed themselves by detonating suicide bombs.

“This action is an America-based action,” Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told ruling party officials in the Black Sea province of Giresun, according to the private Demiroren news agency and other outlets.

Soylu also said US authorities had requested the serial numbers of the firearms used in the attack from the Turkish police, without specifying which US agency made the request.

Turkish government officials have previously accused Washington of supporting the PKK by arming and training the group’s Syrian branch, known as the YPG.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the 38-year on-off conflict between the PKK and the Turkish state. The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU. The US does not recognize the YPG, which helped combat the Daesh group in Syria, as a terrorist entity.

Soylu last year alleged American involvement in a failed coup attempt in Turkey in 2016 that killed more than 250 people.


Israeli forces kill Palestinian teenager in West Bank

Israeli forces kill Palestinian teenager in West Bank
Updated 02 October 2022

Israeli forces kill Palestinian teenager in West Bank

Israeli forces kill Palestinian teenager in West Bank
  • The shooting happened in Azariyah, a village just outside of Jerusalem, and marked the latest violence in what has become the deadliest year in the West Bank since 2015

JERUSALEM: Israeli forces on Saturday shot and killed a Palestinian teenager in the occupied West Bank after a group of youths smashed a hole through the Israeli separation barrier and began throwing objects at police.

The shooting happened in Azariyah, a village just outside of Jerusalem, and marked the latest violence in what has become the deadliest year in the West Bank since 2015.

Amateur video shared on social media showed a group of masked youths gathered in front of the towering concrete barrier and chanting slogans as they forced their way through a gate.

“Walk forward our popular fans,” they chanted. “A hole in the separation wall, a patrol explodes.”

Israel’s paramilitary border police said forces shot a protester who attempted to throw a firebomb at them as they came to disperse a demonstration.

It said demonstrators threw stones and explosives at them.

The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the dead youth as 18-year-old Fayez Damdoum.

Israel built the barrier some 20 years ago in what it said was a security measure meant to prevent attackers from entering Israel.

But the barrier frequently dips into the West Bank, carving off nearly 10 percent of its territory.

The Palestinians view the structure as an illegal land grab and symbol of Israel’s 55-year military occupation of the territory.

Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war.

Some 700,000 Israeli settlers now live in the two areas, which the Palestinians claim for a future state.

Saturday’s killing came at a time of heightened tensions. Israel has been carrying out stepped-up military activity in the West Bank, mostly in the northern cities of Jenin and Nablus, following a series of deadly Palestinian attacks inside Israel last spring.


36 dead after Iran police shoot at protesters, IRGC spymaster killed 

36 dead after Iran police shoot at protesters, IRGC spymaster killed 
Updated 57 min 42 sec ago

36 dead after Iran police shoot at protesters, IRGC spymaster killed 

36 dead after Iran police shoot at protesters, IRGC spymaster killed 
  • Protests broke out in Iran's Sistan and Balochistan province after the rape of a 15-year-old Baloch girl, allegedly by a local military commander
  • Amid global outcry, students in Iranian cities protest against crackdown since Mahsa Amini’s death

QUETTA, Pakistan: Communication services were down in the southeastern Iranian city of Zahedan on Saturday after a senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander was killed in clashes.

Protests broke out in the capital of the Sistan and Balochistan province bordering Pakistan on Friday after the rape of a 15-year-old Baloch girl, allegedly by a local military commander, caused public outrage.

Ali Mousavi, IRGC intelligence chief of Sistan and Balochistan, was shot during the confrontation with protesters. The IRGC-affiliated Tasnim News Agency reported that Mousavi was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Mousavi’s killing was claimed by the Jaish Al-Adl militant group, which says it is fighting for the independence of Sistan and Balochistan and greater rights for Baloch people, who are the main ethnic group in the province.

Footage emerging from Zahedan showed people carrying dead and wounded protesters amid heavy gunfire. The provincial administration said 19 people had died in the clashes. Local news agency Haal-e Vash reported the number of deaths to be at least 36, with dozens more wounded.

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency, had a different version of the violence. It reported that armed separatists attacked a police station in Zahedan, killing 19 people, including four IRGC members.

IRNA quoted Hossein Modaresi, the provincial governor, as saying 19 people were killed. The outlet said 32 Guard members, including volunteer Basiji forces, were also wounded in the clashes.

IRNA on Saturday identified the dead as Hamidreza Hashemi, a Revolutionary Guard colonel; Mohammad Amin Azarshokr, a Guard member; Mohamad Amin Arefi, a Basiji, or volunteer force with the IRG; and Saeed Borhan Rigi, also a Basiji.

The death of the provincial IRGC intelligence chief is a major escalation in the anti-government demonstrations that began in mid-September, triggered by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while she was being held in custody by the Iranian morality police for wearing her headscarf “inappropriately.”

Thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets over the last two weeks to protest the death of Mahsa Amini. The protesters have vented their anger over the treatment of women and wider repression in the Islamic Republic. The nationwide demonstrations rapidly escalated into calls for the overthrow of the clerical establishment that has ruled Iran since its 1979 Islamic revolution.

The protests have drawn supporters from various ethnic groups, including Kurdish opposition movements in the northwest that operate along the border with neighboring Iraq. Amini was an Iranian Kurd and the protests first erupted in Kurdish areas.

Iranian state TV has reported that at least 41 protesters and police have been killed since the demonstrations began Sept. 17. An Associated Press count of official statements by authorities tallied at least 14 dead, with more than 1,500 demonstrators arrested.

Also on Friday, Iran said it had arrested nine foreigners linked to the protests, which authorities have blamed on hostile foreign entities, without providing evidence.

It has been difficult to gauge the extent of the protests, particularly outside of Tehran. Iranian media have only sporadically covered the demonstrations.

Students demonstrated in Tehran and other Iranian cities on Saturday against the ongoing crackdown. 

Iranians based abroad and their supporters gathered in cities around the world in solidarity.

“Woman, life, freedom” and “Death to the dictator”, they chanted in the streets of Amini’s hometown of Saqqez, in Kurdistan province.

Riot police massed at major road junctions across the capital, as students demonstrated in Enghelab (Revolution) Square near Tehran University in the city centre to press for the release of arrested students.

Police clashed with the protesters who were chanting slogans and arrested some of them.

Video footage shared by the Oslo-based Iran Human Rights group also showed student protests in other cities, including second city Mashhad and Karaj, west of the capital.

The protesters were seen chanting and women having removed their headscarves.

Demonstrations of support were called in 159 cities across the globe — from Auckland to New York and Seoul to Zurich, the Iranians for Justice and Human Rights group said. In Rome, at a rally of about 1,000 people, a half dozen women cut their hair in solidarity.

Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, meanwhile, reminded Iran’s armed forces of their duty to people’s lives and rights, the foreign-based opposition Telegram channel Kaleme reported.

Mousavi’s Green Movement challenged Iran’s disputed 2009 presidential election in unrest at a level unseen since its 1979 Islamic Revolution before being crushed by authorities.

“Obviously your capability that was awarded to you is for defending people, not suppression people, defending oppressed, not serving powerful people and oppressors,” he said.

(With AP)


Iraq PM condemns Iran attacks on Kurdistan, calls on forces to maintain security

Iraq PM condemns Iran attacks on Kurdistan, calls on forces to maintain security
Updated 01 October 2022

Iraq PM condemns Iran attacks on Kurdistan, calls on forces to maintain security

Iraq PM condemns Iran attacks on Kurdistan, calls on forces to maintain security

LONDON: Iraqi ministers on Saturday condemned an Iranian drone bombing campaign targeting bases of an Iranian-Kurdish opposition group in northern Iraq on Wednesday, which killed at least nine people and wounded 32 others.

The comments came during an extraordinary ministerial council meeting for national security, which was chaired by Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, and attended by the defense and interior ministers, as well as a number of security leaders.

“The attendees affirmed their rejection of the Iranian bombing, which caused great damage, stressing their rejection of attempts to use Iraq as an arena for settling scores,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement.

“The meeting recommended that the government and the responsible authorities continue to take all necessary measures to stop these behaviors.”

The meeting also recommended that the country addresses “all that contradicts the principle of good neighborliness which Iraq believes in,” pursues relations with its neighbors, and deal with security challenges through diplomatic channels and joint security cooperation.

Al-Kadhimi called on “security committees in the governorates to bear their full responsibility for maintaining security, not to allow chaos to terrify citizens, and cause security disturbances that negatively affect the activities and daily life of the people there.”

The Iraqi leader stressed the need for all political forces to confront their national responsibility, adopt a national dialogue to resolve crises, strengthen the rule of law, address the issue of uncontrolled weapons, and eliminate armed militias that threaten people’s security and civil peace.

He also praised “the peaceful demonstrators who were keen to advance their legitimate demands for a country free of corruption and reform, and to preserve freedom of expression from any extraneous practices that harm its constitutional and human essence.”

Al-Kadhimi was referring to demonstrations in the capital, Baghdad, to mark the anniversary of anti-government unrest that erupted in 2019.


US citizen allowed to leave Iranian prison for a week -lawyer

US citizen allowed to leave Iranian prison for a week -lawyer
Updated 01 October 2022

US citizen allowed to leave Iranian prison for a week -lawyer

US citizen allowed to leave Iranian prison for a week -lawyer
  • UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said Baquer Namazi is being allowed to leave Iran for medical treatment
  • It was unclear if Siamak's furlough might be a step toward his full release

DUBAI: Siamak Namazi, an Iranian-American businessman who has been imprisoned in Iran for nearly seven years, has been allowed out of Tehran’s Evin prison on a one-week, renewable furlough, his lawyer Jared Genser told Reuters on Saturday.
United Nations spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said in a statement that Siamak’s father, Baquer Namazi, is being allowed to leave Iran for medical treatment.
Baquer Namazi was convicted in Iran of “collaboration with a hostile government” in 2016 and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Iranian authorities released him on medical grounds in 2018 and closed his case in 2020, commuting his sentence to time served but effectively barring him from leaving the country.
His son, Siamak, was convicted of the same charge and has been held in Evin prison since 2015. The US government has described the charges against both as baseless.
It was unclear if Siamak’s furlough might be a step toward his full release, nor whether it signals the possible furlough or release of other US citizens detained in Iran.
“I am thrilled for the Namazi family that for the first time in seven years Siamak Namazi is sleeping at home with his family,” Genser, who represents the family, told Reuters, saying Siamak was staying with his parents at their Tehran apartment.
“This is a critical first step but of course we will not rest until the entire family is able to return to the United States and their long nightmare is finally over,” Genser added.