Avoidable Humanitarian Crisis at Lebanon Border Crossing Sparks Anger in Syria

Franklin Lamb

Syrian Immigration HQ, Damascus neighborhood of Marjeh

Chest high metal crowd control barriers manned by armed guards—since late September they have stood outside the Arrivals Hall on the Lebanon side of the Masnaa border crossing with Syria. For Syrian and Palestinian refugees fleeing the continuing violence next door and trying to get into Lebanon the message is clear:

Syrian refugeesDon’t come within 40 meters of the Immigration building, and don’t even dream about coming to the staffed counter with any documents. None of you is welcome. Ninety eight percent of you will not be allowed in, and those who are better leave within 24 hours and have a valid airline ticket to prove your intention to depart.

Over the past few years, this observer has crossed at the Masnaa border crossing fairly frequently. Yet never have I seen such an avoidable humanitarian disaster for families seeking to get out of war-torn Syria. And it is reportedly much the same at the Jordanian border. Many refugees have found themselves squatting here—first in the heat, and now in the cold autumnal nights that increasingly are seeing cold rainfall. No other option seems available to them than to try to enter Lebanon, this as they express the forlorn hope that God in his mercy will help them.

And so here they sit, bewildered, outside the Immigration building, exhausted, little if any money in their pockets or purses, with their children thirsty, hungry, and often crying. Nearby are the local offices of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), but the staff are overwhelmed, and the fact that Lebanon hasn’t signed the 1951 Refugee Convention doesn’t make things any easier for them. Extending humanitarian assistance to refugees has never been embraced by certain anti-Palestinian politicians in Lebanon, who apparently see no value in it for themselves, but that being said, it is a fact that the sheer numbers of refugees entering Lebanon now has added to pre-existing problems with respect to infrastructure, chronic water and electricity shortages, massive unemployment, exploding sectarian conflicts, and the like.

All of which can make for some harrowing scenes at the border checkpoint. During this observer’s most recent crossing, a Syrian gentleman sat on the roadside with his wife, five children, and one grandchild, explaining to me how the family had lost everything in Homs. No other choice had they than to try and seek safety in Lebanon, since Egypt and Jordan are refusing entry to Syrian refugees. His oldest child, a lovely girl named ‘Rasha,’ who appeared to be in her mid-20s, sat nursing her infant son as we talked. Rasha’s husband, he informed me, had been killed by a mortar last spring on a day he had gone out shopping for food near the old city of Homs. In desperation, the gentleman suggested that I purchase his daughter and her baby, because he saw no future for them and he could no longer provide a home for them. Plus the baby appeared ill.

After my long explanation of why, for several reasons, this was not possible, he stated his belief that my being an American meant that the Lebanese guards would allow me to enter with Rasha and her baby; they in turn could live with me until the crisis ended, and on second thought, I did not even have to pay him anything. Just save her and her baby. With respect to the Lebanese border guards, his idea was unrealistic. Most Americans do tend to be liked around these parts, and most of us try to be goodwill ambassadors because we love our country and her ideals. But it is not the case that Americans can bend immigration regulations, nor should it be. Before the crisis, Syrians and Lebanese could simply take a road not patrolled, avoiding border crossings and formalities altogether, but these days that is very dangerous.

I gave the gentleman my card and a little money in case his family and he were somehow able to get over the border, and promised him that if they were successful I and friends would try to help. I have heard nothing more from him. But I have learned, from a couple of NGOs, that encounters such as I experienced are not all that uncommon these days, with women and children stuck at the Syrian-Lebanese border being bought and sold—and with bribes sometimes offered, and occasionally paid. The frequency of this is difficult to assess, and the reality may be exaggerated, but certainly not exaggerated are the facts of the increasingly inhumane conditions that Syrian and Palestinian refugees face in Lebanon—a country in which they are denied some of the most basic, elementary rights by the government, and where they also run the risk of harmful brushes with various militias and hooligans.

Discussions I have had—with staff at the central Immigration office in Damascus as well as Syrian human rights associations and Syria-based Arab journalists who have researched and written about this subject—reveal not only a bleak picture of the humanitarian situation, but also a growing level of disgust in Syria over what is happening to their countrymen in Lebanon. Cases of Lebanese discrimination and harassment targeting Syrian refugees, including violations of international customary law and the 1951 Refugee Convention, have become commonplace. In addition, Syrians increasingly are falling prey to violence. Human Rights Watch said it had documented a string of attacks by Lebanese residents against Syrian refugees in August and September. Those interviewed described being stabbed, shot and beaten, and several claimed that they were either too afraid to report the crimes, or that they had and their stories had been dismissed by security forces when they did. HRW said that attacks it documented were most often carried out by private citizens, but in several cases they appeared to have “the tacit support” of authorities, and the international organization has urged security forces and local authorities to step up protection of Syrian refugees.

“Lebanon’s security forces should protect everyone on Lebanese soil, not turn a blind eye to vigilante groups who are terrorizing refugees,” said HRW Deputy Middle East Director Nadim Houry.

One especially taxing problem is the financial cost exacted by Lebanon for Syrian refugees to register a baby. In Syria, anyone from Lebanon, or from any country for that matter, can register a newborn for the equivalent of 1,000 Lebanese lire (around 66 US cents). The process takes around fifteen minutes. But not so in Lebanon. According to a report by the Taanayel General Hospital in central Bekaa, the number of new babies born to Syrian refugees, since March 2011 when the crisis began, has exceeded 15,000, just in the Bekaa Valley alone. In North Lebanon, the UNHCR estimates more than 5,000 births, and the Syrian Embassy in Beirut says there are now approximately 6,000 births per year among displaced Syrians in Lebanon. But for many of these parents, the registration process is nearly impossible.

First they must obtain a certificate from the hospital or midwife indicating the date of birth—generally not a big problem, but then the baby must be registered at the office of the local Muktar. That is if they can prove legal residence, and if the local Muktar is willing to help, which is not always the case. Sometimes he wants a fee, and in some reported cases a bribe, in order to forward the paperwork to the Directorate of Personal Status. If the parents are lucky, their application might then be sent to the Exterior Ministry for another approval, and finally may reach the Syrian Embassy to complete the process of registering the newborn. But the process can be delayed or scuttled along the tortuous procedural path for any number of reasons, including escalating anti-Syrian sentiment in government offices and among certain confessions and political parties. According to one Syrian refugee, the minimal fees charged by Lebanon, plus the traveling back and forth to different offices and locations so as to follow up on the procedures, can cost close to $500, with no success guaranteed. The amount is a fortune for most refugees, but an even greater concern for Syrian parents is having no nationality for their children. Says Joelle Eid, of the UNHCR press office, the offspring risk being added to “the stateless Kurds of Syria, since 1960, whose number of births in Lebanon is currently around 840 children.”

One chilling reason that the Kafkaesque procedures violate basic humanitarian principles is that they are forcing Syrian refugees to smuggle their babies into Syria in bags, since of course the infants would not be allowed to cross the border from Lebanon without full documentation. It is estimated that over the past 24 months more than 50 Syrian newborns, passing through Masnaa, have died from suffocation or drug overdose while being hidden from immigration officials. Parents usually are not sure how much of what drug to give their babies in order to keep them quiet and sleeping as they sneak them through the border, and too many are not waking up—all so that the parents can make it back over the border, back into their perilous, war-torn homeland, so that they may register their children’s births—in Syria, since it’s practically impossible to do so in Lebanon.

It is but one of the current abuses that are causing outrage in Syria and among advocates of human rights everywhere but it is not the only one. Both the UNHCR and HRW are accusing the Lebanese Army of committing “serious” violations against refugees, including in Ersal, where more than 200 Syrian refugees, including minors, were arrested without charge. The arrests took place September 19-24. Other reports accuse the Army of evicting, without any pretense of due process, a large number of refugees living in private homes. Then on September 25, the retaliatory measures reached a peak with a crackdown in the area of Ras al-Jafar, affecting nine informal communities with a total population of around 5000. One report states that during the raids, tents were burned in one of the random communities, completely destroying 96 tents. The raids were coupled with a large campaign of arrests targeting especially males. Some 300-500 people were detained, and while most, though not all, have been released, reports have emerged of physical and verbal assault, intimidation, and humiliation—claims that are corroborated by UNHCR photographs, including of shackled Syrian refugees laying on the ground exposed to the elements.

An Army spokesperson has dismissed as “lies” another allegation about the torching of tents in Ersal last week, yet random raids are becoming commonplace at scores of these “informal tent settlements,” as UNHCR refers to the fetid, sewage-soaked camps—camps which soon will be covered in snow and ice. Often in these camps more than 20 people will live in a tent that is intended for one family. Most of the tents are covered with nothing more than nylon, and more than 50,000 Syrian refugees in the Bekaa Valley are now living in these kinds of settlements—that’s 50,000 out of a registered total 275,000 in the area.

In addition to these calamities, more than 45 municipalities have imposed curfews on Syrian nationals, a move widely seen as a racist practice and one also in violation of international humanitarian law and the 1951 Convention. HRW comments that the curfews “contribute to a climate of discriminatory and retaliatory practices against” the refugees. Curfew violators are reportedly given a warning or, in some cases, are “taken to the municipality for questioning” where they may be detained for hours.

The reports have fueled anger among lawyers in Damascus, at the Lawyers Syndicate across from the Cham Palace Hotel, where seminars have discussed the legal problems facing Syrian refugees in Lebanon. In addition, the Faculty of Law at Damascus University is considering setting up a legal defense team to help Syrians in Lebanon challenge arbitrary and discriminatory applications of Lebanese laws.

“Syria helped them (the Lebanese) many times during their 15-year civil war and during the 2006 July war!” commented a teacher at a government primary school visited by this observer last week. “We gave them everything they needed. Our government buildings, social services, free medical care, free education, schools, hygienic conditions, peace and quiet, food and sometimes cash stipends. What about us? Is this the Lebanese way of saying ‘thanks’ to the people of Syria?”

She then exclaimed, “Someone must stop these attacks on our families.”

A savvy graduate student in Damascus by the name of “Ahmad” commented to this observer and to his Palestinian friend from Yarmouk camp, who having lost her own home due to shelling, now volunteers helping Syrian refugees forced to live in some of the parks in Damascus, that ISIS (Da’ish) and al-Nusra will almost assuredly be cognizant of these problems, and poised to capitalize on them, as they prepare to extend their caliphate into Lebanon—and he probably has a point.

Among the many reasons Lebanon should immediately desist in the targeting of Syrian and Palestinian refugees is that they are pushing many toward supporting those that the Lebanese government claims to be opposing.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

Iraqi Hezbollah Warns to Target Any US Boots on the Ground

 

Iraqi Hezbollah Warns to Target Any US Boots on the Ground

TEHRAN (FNA)- Hussein al-Ramahi, the head of the political commission of Hezbollah brigades in Iraq, warned the US government to avoid deploying ground forces in Iraq.

“In case the US deploys military forces in Iraq, Hezbollah will divide its forces into two parts, the first group will be entrusted with fighting the ISIL and the second group will be given the mission to fight the US occupiers,” Ramahi told FNA on Saturday.

He said the US intends to deploy its forces in Iraq to push back the resistance forces from the scene, and added, “We will not withdraw to provide them with such an opportunity, rather our forces will continue their activities in the region.”

The politburo chief of the Iraqi Hezbollah brigades underscored that the US airstrikes are actually meant to provide an air cover for the ISIL which has sustained heavy losses and failures in recent days.

He also noted the blue-on-blue casualties inflicted by the wrong US airstrikes on Iraqi forces and the country’s infrastructures, and said given the modern fighter jets and weapons that the Americans use for bombing the so-called ISIL positions in Iraq,

“we think that such cases are no mistake, but deliberate attacks since Washington wants to prolong the war and this is something that the Americans have admitted when they stressed that fighting the ISIL would take 30 years”.

Ramahi said if the US supplied the Iraqi government and army with the necessary equipment, fighting the ISIL would take no longer than one month.

In a relevant statement in September, Iraq’s Hezbollah Battalions strongly rejected any cooperation with the US-led coalition against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorist group.

“The coalition being formed against the ISIL which is led by the US is a prelude to a new occupation plot,” part of the statement said.

The Hezbollah Battalions urged the Iraqi nation to be vigilant against the scenarios of the West, specially the US, and their mercenaries in the region, implying that the ISIL is working for the US.

“We believe that demanding help from the US means a confiscation (by the US) of the Iraqi nation and people’s resistance against terrorism and the pain and agony that they have had to suffer for protecting Iraq’s unity,” the statement said.

“We believe that the US is responsible for Iraq’s problems and challenges and we do not have any hope in the United States,” it added.

The Battalions also urged Iraq’s religious authorities and elites as well as other layers of the society from different walks of life to take straightforward stances about the current developments and the US meddling in the country before it’s too late.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

US To Syrian Kurds: You should follow our Puppet Barazani.

Syrian Kurd: US Discussing Arms Supplies in Direct Talks

Source

US officials have been holding direct talks with leaders of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) about arming its fighters in the war against the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant terrorist group.

KurdsPYD spokesman Nawaf Xelil told the Arabic Asharq Al-Awsat daily that arms supplies for the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the group’s military wing, were discussed at a meeting in Paris a week ago. He said that talks between the two sides continued in Duhok on Thursday.

“The issue of arming Syrian Kurds was discussed,” the newspaper quoted Xelil as saying. He added that at the Duhok meeting, a US delegation and PYD leaders had discussed Western and Arab support for the YPG.

“They spoke about sending military support to the Kurds in Kobani,” Xelil told Asharq Al-Awsat.  He said the PYD and the US had started their talks two years ago but that Washington had kept the issue under the radarin order not to upset Turkey.”

US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki confirmed Thursday that US officials had met with the PYD, but did not say where or what was discussed.

Meanwhile, Muslim arrived in the Kurdistan Region last week, where he discussed with President Massoud Barzani the situation in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava) and the ongoing war in Kobani between YPG fighters and ISIS militants.

Ibrahim Biro, secretary-general of the Union Kurdish Party in Syria told Rudaw Website last week that his and other Kurdish groups had met with the US ambassador in Ankara about potential US and international support for the Kurds in Rojava.

“They (US) mean to bring together the Syrian opposition, but they also know that Syrian Kurdistan is different,” said Biro. “So they said that in order to receive support, the Kurdish groups have to work together.”

Source: Websites

19-10-2014 – 12:17 Last updated 19-10-2014 – 12:17


RELATED

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

False story of ISIS having aircraft intended to justify no-fly zone in Syria

BELIEVE THIS AND YOU WILL BELIEVE ANYTHING

ISIS reportedly flying fighter jets captured from Syrian regime

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14731-isis-reportedly-flying-fighter-jets-captured-from-syrian-regime

Serbian Air Force MiG-21File photo of a Mig-21 fighter jet (pictured above is a jet of the Serbian Air Force)

ISIS members from the former Iraqi army have trained ISIS members how to fly three fighter jets captured from Assad’s forces, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday.

The human rights observer said that the jets were seized from Syrian military airports now under ISIS control in the northern provinces of Aleppo and Raqa.

U.S. should leave fighting terrorism to Syria before more civilians get killed

US-Led Airstrikes Kill 10 Civilians in Syria

http://news.antiwar.com/2014/10/18/us-led-airstrikes-kill-10-civilians-in-syria/

US Insists They ‘Have a Process’ to Investigate Killings

US warplanes pounding Syria killed 10 more civilians over the past few days, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Seven were killed Friday when the planes attacked a gas processing plant in Deir Ezzor Province, causing an explosion in a small town. Three more were killed in a strike further north.

Pentagon officials shrugged off the reports, insisting there was no proof their planes actually killed the people, and insisting that there is a “process” in place to investigate such killings.

US warplanes had killed other civilians late last month in Syria when destroying a series of grain silos they reportedly thought was a “militant base,” and destroyed all the food for several villages in the process.

Despite the Pentagon continuing to insist care is taken not to kill civilians, the administration made a point of formally relaxing the standards of killing civilians inside ISIS-held territory, insisting pledges not to attack places where civilians are known to be don’t apply in the new war.

Unbelievable barbarity & sadism shown by ISIL terrorists

ISIL beheading a uni. professor while her children watching

ISIL beheading a uni. professor while her children watching
ISIL beheading a uni. professor while her children watching
An Iraqi proffesor who had protested against crimes ISIL commited in Mousel-Iraq has beheaded infront of her children.

ISIL terrorists beheaded “Hanna Al-Baghdadi”, former university professor thursday morning while her family and also her children were watching this brutal crime.

She was accused of posting some notes in her facebook page against ISIL and critised this terrorist group’s activities against innocent people.

ISIL ‘crucify’ 17-year-old boy in Syria

ISIS fighters have reportedly executed a 17-year-old boy and left his body on display on a cross in Syria.

Pictures being shared online show a banner attached to the teenager’s chest saying the boy has been crucified for taking photos of ISIL terrorist group.

The message describes the ruling for the alleged crime as “apostasy” and states the teenager has been “killed and crucified for a period of three days” as the punishment.

It is not known who took the picture, which was circulated across social media by some ISIL supporters on Friday.

Why Regime Change Won’t Stop ISIS in Syria

Oct 14, 2014, New Eastern Outlook

23423423

Because it didn’t stop ISIS terrorists in Iraq or Libya. Try Washington instead. US corporate-financier funded policy think tanks have been taking turns in recent weeks floating the narrative that the next logical step to stopping so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS) terrorists in Syria is removing the Syrian government from power – this despite the fact that the only cohesive, organized force in the region capable of fighting ISIS terrorists is the Syrian government and its Syrian Arab Army.

Kenneth M. Pollack a policy writer at the Brookings Institution and a signatory of the noxious 2009 “Which Path to Persia?” report Brookings produced which advocated arming and funding listed terrorist organizations to fight Iran under the cover of street protests (exactly how the US went about plunging Syria into its current crisis), has recently penned his thoughts on what should be done in Syria. Titled, “An Army to Defeat Assad: How to Turn Syria’s Opposition Into a Real Fighting Force,” Pollack claims:

…there is, in fact, a way that the United States could get what it wants in Syria — and, ultimately, in Iraq as well — without sending in U.S. forces: by building a new Syrian opposition army capable of defeating both President Bashar al-Assad and the more militant Islamists. 

Pollack correctly assesses that the real US goal, as it has been since 2011 when it triggered street mobs as cover for terrorists aligned to Al Qaeda, is to remove Syrian President Bashar al Assad from power. The US State Department would openly claim as much, using ISIS as a nebulous pretext for toppling the Syrian government. The Hill in an article titled, “State: Assad must go for ISIS to be defeated,” claims:

State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said on Friday that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) cannot be defeated as long as Syrian President Bashar Assad remains in power.

Harf would go on to say:

“The best thing that the Syrian people can have going forward is not ISIS, it’s not the Assad regime, but it’s a new transitional government that leads them to a better future and ends this horrible bloodshed we’ve seen over the last three years.”

Of course, there is no “transitional government,” and neither Pollack nor Harf ever managed to explain just why the toppling of the Syrian government would help eliminate ISIS. Comments appear to infer that by doing so, somehow Syria would see the rise of a more “inclusive government” better capable of uniting Syrian society and thus counter ISIS.

Similar disingenuous propositions were used to sell the toppling of Libya’s government in 2011 which predictably led to precisely the opposite of peace, stability, and a cohesive, inclusive government. Libya lies in ruins with the sectarian extremists NATO intentionally armed and thrust into power, ruling over a divided and broken nation.

Next door to Syria in Iraq, upon ISIS’ initial invasion into northern Iraq, the US advocated regime change which it promptly achieved. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki stepped down from power to make way for what the Western called an “inclusive government” it claimed would be better able to counter ISIS and reverse sectarian rifts in Iraqi society.

With Iraqi bases still falling to ISIS terrorists and the violence escalating, the West appears to be retrenching its rhetoric, claiming that the solution now to both Syria and Iraq’s bloodshed is – not cutting off ISIS’ funding from US allies like Saudi Arabia or Qatar, or running them out of safe havens they have maintained in Jordan and Turkey – but rather to topple the Syrian government to finally achieve their fabled “inclusive government” that has eluded them thus far in Libya and now Iraq.

Regime change has not worked in Libya or Iraq, nor will it work in Syria to eliminate ISIS. The quandary ISIS appears to pose to Western policymakers is owed to an intentional misrepresentation as to what ISIS is in the first place. It is the very “moderates” the US and its European and Middle Eastern partners have been arming and funding for years. ISIS represents the sectarian extremists veteran journalist Pulitzer Prize-winner Seymour Hersh warned the world about as early as 2007 in his New Yorker report titled, “The Redirection Is the Administration’s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism?” which stated (emphasis added):

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

ISIS is an extremist group that espouses a militant vision of Islam that appears hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda. It is a battering ram the US first used in its attempt to violently overthrow the Syrian government, and failing to achieve that, a pretext to intervene directly to achieve its goal of regime change. Though Al Qaeda has been operating under various names in Syria since US-engineered chaos unfolded in 2011, it wasn’t until recently that the Western press began vilifying sectarian extremists Washington, London, Riyadh, Doha, Ankara, and Tel Aviv have been backing and directing for years. This is simply to flip the script and allow the West’s mercenaries to now become a convenient pretext for direct military intervention.

If regime change stood any chance of stopping ISIS – it should be carried out in the capitals of the nations currently arming and funding ISIS – Washington (Wall Street), London, Riyadh, Doha, Ankara, and Tel Aviv. For good measure, nations like Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates should have their unelected, autocratic regimes toppled and their capacity to fund global terrorism uprooted. Anything less is but an insidious hegemonic act of military aggression, couched behind solving bloodshed of the West’s own making.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 436 other followers