organization:lebanese government

  • Tension grows in Lebanon over refugees in #Beqaa

    Tension remains high on Monday in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley, following the forced displacement of hundreds of Syrian refugees at the weekend.

    Local media reported the possibility that about 400 refugees, including many women and children, may be forcibly transferred to Syria, which is where they originally fled from the armed conflict that is still underway.

    The epicentre of the refugee tension in Lebanon is in #Deir al-Ahmar in the northern Beqaa Valley.

    Since the start of the civil war in Syria in 2011, over a million Syrians have taken refuge in Lebanon, a country whose own population is less than four million.

    Lebanese authorities have recently intensified the dismantling of refugee camps and increased pressure on the refugee community.

    Lebanon did not sign the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention, and since 2011 the country has considered the presence of “foreign guests” in its territory as a temporary situation.

    http://www.ansamed.info/ansamed/en/news/sections/generalnews/2019/06/10/tension-grows-in-lebanon-over-refugees-in-beqaa_132742bf-f2d4-48a3-ad21-4b
    #réfugiés #réfugiés_syriens #Liban #asile #migrations #expulsions #renvois #retour_au_pays #camps_de_réfugiés #démantèlement

    • Thousands of Syrian refugees could be sent back, says Lebanese minister

      Gebran Bassil claims many refugees are not living in political fear, but stay for economic reasons.

      As many as three quarters of Syrian refugees in Lebanon could return to Syria because they face no fear of political persecution or threat to their security, Lebanon’s controversial foreign minister has said.

      Gebran Bassil also urged the UK to rethink how it was spending aid money on keeping 1.5 million refugees in Lebanon, where he said they were taking the jobs from the Lebanese, and undercutting wages.

      The UK has supplied as much as £500m to help house, feed and educate Syrian refugees in Lebanon since the start of the ciivl war in 2011.

      Bassil is the son in law of the president, Michel Aoun, and the leader of the Lebanese Free Patriotic Movement, the largest political party in the country’s parliament. Last week he faced allegations of racism that he denies after it was alleged he had implied that some refugees might be corrupt.

      In an interview with the Guardian, he said: “Most of the Syrians – much more than 75% – are no more in security and political fear, but are staying for economic reasons. We know more than 500,000 Syrians working in Lebanon. They are working every where in breach of our labour laws, and yet even though they break the law they are not being repatriated.

      “They are working in Lebanon, taking jobs from the Lebanese because they paid at cheaper rate because they have no taxes to pay and they are being assisted on top of the wages they are paid.”

      Aid agencies working with refugees have cited concerns over loss of property and conscription into the Syrian army and fear of reprisals as major reasons why they did not want to return home. The agencies have resisted Lebanese government efforts to tear down any semi-permanent structure put up by refugees.

      Bassil insisted it was not his government’s policy to try to force Syrians to return to their homeland.

      He added: “The British taxpayers are paying money for an unlimited period of time that is not being spent in the right direction. They should be paid to return to their country. As President Trump said, money spent on a refugee to go back to his country is much much less than to keep him out of his country.”

      He defended his country’s record of welcoming Syrian refugees. He said: “No one country did what Lebanon did. No one country is able to host 200 refugees per square kilometre, more than 40% of its population. Imagine here in Britain you are receiving 50 million people. That is the comparison.

      “Despite all that we have endured we never thought of forcing anyone to return. We are talking of a dignified and safe gradual return for people who are willing. That now applies to the majority of Syrians in Lebanon because now most of Syria is safe and most of those in Lebanon do not face any political or security obstacles for their return. They are staying because they are assisted to stay in the Lebanon, and if they go back to Syria they will lose that assistance. This is the main reason.”

      Bassil added: “They are receiving aid for every aspect of their lives they are receiving free education, shelter and healthcare. They are better covered on health than the Lebanese. They are afraid that once they leave, they will lose the assistance”.

      He said the number of movements across the border is 700,000 to 800,000 a month, and people who hold refugee cards go regularly to Syria and come back to Lebanon.

      “The tension is mounting internally. Our economy is really collapsing. How can you put your own economy on your feet when you carry this burden.”

      Bassil also denied that any of his remarks could be construed as racist, arguing every country puts its citizens first.

      https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jun/15/thousands-of-syrian-refugees-could-be-sent-back-says-lebanese-minister

  • Lebanon looks to hardline eastern Europe approach for Syrian refugees

    Lebanon said on Wednesday it wanted to follow the example of eastern EU states that have largely rejected refugees as a way of resolving its own refugee crisis.
    Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil sympathized with the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia’s refusal to accept refugee distribution quotas proposed by the EU after the 2015-16 migrant crisis, when more than a million people streamed into Europe, mostly from Syria.
    Populist eastern EU leaders including Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Poland’s powerbroker Jaroslaw Kaczynski and Czech President Milos Zeman, among others, blasted German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “open door” policy on accepting migrants during that period.
    These countries “were acting in their national interest and decided that the redistribution of refugees among European countries is not in their national interest, although they faced EU sanctions for that,” Bassil told reporters in Prague.
    “I would like this attitude to be an inspiration for Lebanon, because every state must make national interests its top priority and at this moment Lebanon’s key national interest is the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland,” he added.
    Lebanon says it is hosting 1.5 million Syrians — around a quarter of its own population. Less than one million of them are registered with UN refugee agency the UNHCR.
    Most of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in insecurity and depend on international aid.
    The International Monetary Fund has said their presence has led to increased unemployment and a rise in poverty due to greater competition for jobs.
    The influx has also put strain on Lebanese water and electrical infrastructure.
    Lebanese government officials and politicians have ramped up calls for Syrians to return home, but the United Nations has consistently warned that conditions in the war-ravaged country are not suitable for such returns.
    “I would like Prague or Beirut to host a meeting, an initiative of countries seeking to plan and ensure the return of Syrian refugees to their country,” said Bassil.
    “This would be immensely useful for both Lebanon and Syria and in general it would be the best solution to the human, humanitarian and political crisis we have right now and which could get worse in the future,” he said.


    http://www.arabnews.com/node/1473496/middle-east
    #Liban #it_has_begun #modèle_hongrois #asile #migrations #réfugiés #réfugiés_syriens #intérêt_national #populisme #modèle_Visegrad #retour_au_pays

  • UAE: Eight Lebanese Face Unfair Trial | Human Rights Watch
    https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/03/25/uae-eight-lebanese-face-unfair-trial

    (Beirut) – Emirati authorities detained eight Lebanese nationals for more than a year without charge in an unknown location, ill-treating them and denying them their due process rights, Human Rights Watch said today. Their trial, which began on February 13, 2019, continues to be marred with violations. The third session is set for March 27.

    Family members told Human Rights Watch that the defendants, who face terrorism charges, have been held in prolonged solitary confinement and denied access to their families, legal counsel, and the evidence against them. At least three detainees told family members that state security forces forced them to sign statements while blindfolded and under duress, and one said they forced him to sign a blank paper.

    “The UAE authorities reveal in their treatment of these men just how unwilling they are to reform their unjust state security apparatus,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “These men deserve, at the very least, to be treated humanely and to receive a fair trial.”

    The men – all of whom are Shia Muslims – have each lived and worked in the UAE for more than 15 years. Seven worked at Emirates Airlines as flight attendants, pursers, or senior managers. Family members said that none had any known political affiliations.

    State security forces arrested one defendant between December 2017 and January 2018, three defendants on January 15, and four others on February 18, and continue to hold them in solitary confinement without access to legal assistance, family members said. At the second session of their trial, on February 27, the prosecutor charged them with setting up a terrorist cell with links to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Hezbollah holds several key positions in the Lebanese government, yet is designated a terrorist organization in the UAE. Family members said that at least seven of the men still have not been able to meet with their lawyers and six remain in solitary confinement. All of the defendants deny the charges, family members who attended the hearings said.

    #Emirats nos amis clients et amis... #hezbollah

  • Putin’s interests in Syria and Lebanon are limiting Israel’s military options
    Playing chess with Hezbollah is one thing. Trying to figure out what Putin wants, in Syria and perhaps also in Lebanon, even as Hezbollah is trying to manufacture weapons there, is a completely different challenge
    Amos Harel - Nov 18, 2018 9:39 AM
    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-putin-s-interests-in-syria-and-lebanon-is-limiting-israel-s-milita

    One reason for Israel’s exceptional caution in dealing with Hamas in the Gaza Strip is its growing concern over the northern front. Though it may sound like a threadbare excuse, this seems to be one of the considerations driving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to decide, time after time, to try to reach a cease-fire in Gaza.

    The problem Israel faces in the north, in a nutshell, is the real danger that its operational window of opportunity is closing. In recent years, Israel has exploited the upheaval in the Arab world to expand its offensive activity, most of which is secret.

    Via hundreds of airstrikes and special operations, the army and the intelligence agencies have worked to distance the danger of another war and reduce the enemy’s operational capabilities in the event that war does break out.

    In Syria and Lebanon, the campaign initially focused on preventing Iran from smuggling advanced weaponry to Hezbollah. But over the last year or so, a new mission has been added – preventing Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria. This peaked with a flurry of incidents between the Israel Defense Forces and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards last winter and spring.

    A problem may also be developing in Lebanon. In his address to the United Nations General Assembly in September, Netanyahu warned of efforts by Iran and Hezbollah to set up missile production facilities in the Beirut area. Given the problems its smuggling operations had encountered, the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds force apparently decided it had to shorten the distance between the manufacturer and the customer by moving its efforts to improve the accuracy of Hezbollah’s rockets to Lebanon.

    Netanyahu’s speech did its job. In the three days between that speech and the tour of Beirut the Lebanese government conducted for diplomats to rebut it, someone worked hard to get rid of the evidence. But over the long run, Iran seems unlikely to abandon this effort.

    What’s even more worrying is that Putin has recently displayed increased interest in events in Lebanon. In the worst-case scenario, the defensive umbrella — both real and symbolic — that Russia has spread over northwest Syria would be expanded to Lebanon, further complicating Israel’s calculus.

    Even now, at least according to Arab media reports, Israel hasn’t conducted an airstrike in Lebanon since February 2014, when the IAF, apparently pursuing an arms convoy that had crossed the border from Syria, bombed a target in Janta, a few hundred meters to the Lebanese side of the Lebanon-Syria border.

    Hezbollah, which was willing to pretend the spit was rain as long as its convoys were being bombed on the Syrian side, immediately responded with a series of attacks by Druze residents of the Syrian Golan Heights.

    The cell’s commander, Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar, and his successor, Hezbollah’s Jihad Mughniyeh, were both subsequently killed in attacks attributed to Israel. Since then, Israel has confined its attacks to Syria.

    But playing chess with Hezbollah is one thing. Trying to figure out what Putin wants, in Syria and perhaps also in Lebanon, even as Hezbollah is trying to manufacture weapons there, is a challenge of a completely different order of magnitude.

    Netanyahu was presumably hinting at this problem, among others, when he spoke about security considerations that he can’t share with the public, at the memorial for Paula Ben-Gurion earlier this week.

    #IsraelRussie

  • Is Israel headed towards an initiated war in Lebanon ?
    https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-5078233,00.html

    The series of public messages conveyed by Israel in the past few days, particularly to the Lebanese government, and Monday’s meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, leave no room for doubt: Israel is moving quickly towards a “war by choice” or, in other words, an initiated war in Lebanon.

    Comme si les #agressions_criminelles précédentes n’avaient pas toutes été des « guerres par choix. »

    #Israel #Liban

  • Stop Burning Waste in Lebanon

    Lebanon’s ongoing waste management crisis poses serious health risks for the country’s residents.

    Despite protests calling for an end to the garbage crisis, more than 150 dumps across Lebanon are openly burning trash at least once a week. Older people and children are most at risk. Doctors say the burning leads to respiratory illnesses and could increase the risk of developing cancer as a result of sustained inhalation of smoke. The government of Lebanon can and should stop the burning and manage the waste in a way that respects health and meets environmental standards.

    Parliament is finally considering a national solid waste management law that would ban the open dumping and burning of waste. Take action today and tell the government to #StopTheBurning!

    https://www.hrw.org/stoptheburning

    #Liban #déchets
    cc @daphne @albertocampiphoto @marty

  • The 5m² Maid’s Room: Lebanon’s Racist, Gendered Architecture
    https://www.failedarchitecture.com/the-5m2-maids-room-lebanons-racist-gendered-architecture

    Pick any mid- to upper-class residential project in Lebanon and you will more often than not find the floor plan featuring a small room with the label of “maid’s room.” Through ubiquity, this label and the architecture it signifies have long passed the stage of normalization not only in Lebanon but also in other parts of the Arab world such as Qatar, UAE, and Saudi Arabia where middle and upper class families rely on cheap manual labor in the form of predominantly female foreign workers to maintain households. The Lebanese case, however, serves as one where a) land per capita is one of the lowest in the world and b) a neoliberal construction law that is deliberately relaxed in order to favor the monetary profit of the developer at the expense of the quality of the built environment. Private apartment blocks and bourgeois villas are primary sites where a veritable combination of local taste and maximum land exploitation, with a backdrop of racist law, results in workers’ spaces that are at best substandard and often gravely oppressive. In light of recent and ongoing demonstrations by domestic workers in Lebanon and of their growing struggle to push the Lebanese government to ratify the International Labor Organization Convention 189 and abolish the Kafala system, it is imperative to call out certain laws and practices in contemporary Lebanese architecture as concrete manifestations of institutional racism against foreign domestic workers, in both the public and private sectors. Within Foucault’s more general and elusive concept of heterotopia, I will argue that the maid’s room qualifies as a subgroup, the ‘heterotopia of deviation.’

  • À quel moment faire démarrer le rappel d’une série d’événements ? Dans le cas de la démission de Hariri, la plupart des articles démarrent, sans trop se fouler, au samedi 4 novembre, jour de sa démission « surprise » à la télévision. Cette date permet de maintenir le doute sur les raisons de sa démission (pas forcément forcée, le gars pas forcément retenu contre gré, sa vie peut-être menacée…).

    L’article de France Info (message précédent) démarre la séquence au coup de film convoquant Saad en Arabie le jeudi 2 novembre :
    http://www.francetvinfo.fr/monde/proche-orient/liban/saad-hariri-de-son-atterrissage-a-ryad-a-son-accueil-a-paris-retour-sur

    Pourtant, on devrait au moins faire démarrer la séquence au lundi précédent (30 octobre), lorsque Thamer al-Sabhan, ministre séoudien des affaires du Golfe, annonce une « surprise » prochaine (« développements absolument étonnants ») sur le dossier du Hezbollah :
    http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/237517

    Referring to his Sunday tweet about the Lebanese government, the minister said: “I addressed my tweet to the government because the Party of Satan (Hizbullah) is represented in it and it is a terrorist party. The issue is not about toppling the government but rather that Hizbullah should be toppled.”

    “The coming developments will definitely be astonishing,” al-Sabhan added.

    ou même au dimanche 29, avec sa série tweets mettant en cause le gouvernement libanais (c’est-à-dire le gouvernement de Saad Hariri) :

    Al-Sabhan had on Sunday voiced surprise over what he called the “silence of the government and people” of Lebanon over Hizbullah’s actions.

    “It is not strange for the terrorist militia party to declare and take part in the war against the kingdom at the instructions of the masters of global terrorism,” the minister tweeted, referring to Hizbullah and its regional backer Iran.

    “But what’s strange is the silence of the government and people over this!,” al-Sabhan added.

    Faire débuter la séquence à ce moment lève un certain nombre de (pseudo-)doutes :
    – cela signifie que les saoudiens avaient décidé, dès le lundi au moins, de renverser le gouvernement libanais, i.e. de démissionner Saad Hariri ; pas le jeudi quand ils l’ont convoqué, ni le vendredi après l’avoir rencontré, mais le week-end précédent ;
    – que la thèse des menaces contre Saad est évidemment une invention : pourquoi ne pas l’avoir prévenu illico pour qu’il évite de se faire zigouiller à Beyrouth entre lundi et jeudi soir ?

  • Le premier ministre libanais, Saad Hariri, annonce sa démission
    http://www.lemonde.fr/proche-orient/article/2017/11/04/le-premier-ministre-libanais-saad-hariri-annonce-sa-demission_5210238_3218.h

    Le premier ministre libanais, Saad Hariri, a annoncé sa démission, samedi 4 novembre, à la surprise générale. Il a accusé le Hezbollah chiite et son allié iranien de « mainmise » sur le Liban et a affirmé avoir peur d’être assassiné.

    « J’annonce ma démission du poste de premier ministre », a ainsi déclaré M. Hariri, qui se trouve actuellement en Arabie saoudite, dans un discours retransmis par la chaîne satellitaire Al-Arabiya. Selon les informations du Monde, un des conseillers de M. Hariri lui avait déjà suggéré de démissionner il y a quelques semaines, mais l’idée avait alors été écartée.

    « L’Iran a une mainmise sur le destin des pays de la région (…). Le Hezbollah est le bras de l’Iran non seulement au Liban mais également dans les autres pays arabes », a dénoncé le premier ministre démissionnaire. Et « ces dernières décennies, le Hezbollah a imposé une situation de fait accompli par la force de ses armes », a-t-il ajouté.

    Bien entendu, le Monde-avec-AFP (ainsi que l’ensemble des médias francophones) qualifie la démission de Hariri de « totalement inattendue »… Si ces gens faisaient un tout petit peu leurs devoirs, ils sauraient que le renversement du gouvernement et la mise en accusation du Hezbollah ont été très clairement annoncés lundi par les Séoudiens :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/641376
    que Hariri s’était déjà rendu en Arabie séoudite ce même lundi, et y et retourné hier :
    https://www.lorientlejour.com/article/1081985/hariri-se-rend-a-nouveau-en-arabie-saoudite.html

    Le chef du gouvernement libanais se rend à Riyad pour une visite de travail. Lors de son dernier déplacement, il avait été reçu par le prince héritier saoudien, Mohammad Ben Salmane. M. Hariri avait affirmé être totalement en phase avec Riyad pour ce qui a trait à la stabilité du Liban.

    • L’aspect évidemment ridicule de l’événement, c’est que Saad se rend deux fois en Arabie séoudite en quelques jours, applique ce qui a été annoncé par un ministre séoudien en début de semaine, rencontre le nouveau Séoud-en-chef ben Salmane et dans la foulée annonce sa démission depuis l’Arabie séoudite, tout ça paraît-il pour dénoncer la « mainmise » de l’Iran sur le Liban.

    • Malgré cet aspect ridicule, on peut être particulièrement inquiet. Que l’Arabie séoudite décide de porter (à nouveau) son affrontement régional sur la scène libanaise ne présage d’absolument rien de bon pour le pays (tu as vu l’état des pays où l’Arabie a prétendu « contrer » l’influence iranienne ?).

    • http://www.raialyoum.com/?p=772730
      Commentaire des Iraniens : "La démission de Hariri a été arrangée par Trump et Muhammad ben Salmane, en fionction d’une décision manifeste des Saoudiens de s’en prendre au Hezbollah."
      طهران : استقالة الحريري جاءت بترتيب من ترامب ومحمد بن سلمان وبقرار سعودي واضح لمواجهة “حزب الله”

    • November 2, 2017
      Targeting Lebanon Again
      Edito d’ABA. Cela date du 2 novembre mais, comme c’est en anglais, je suppose que cela a dû être publié un peu avant.
      http://www.raialyoum.com/?p=771836

      We do not know what instructions Hariri was given when he met Saudi strongman Crown Prince Muhammad bin-Salman. But it would not come as a surprise to learn that he was told either to withdraw from the government or sack its Hezbollah ministers in order to create another government crisis in Lebanon. Hariri would have no option but to comply. That would mean the collapse of the hard-won political accommodation that enabled him to return to office and Gen. Michel Aoun to be elected president.

    • Angry Arab: Hariri resignation in Beirut
      http://angryarab.blogspot.fr/2017/11/hariri-assassination-in-beirut.html

      It is funny: people of the Saudi and Israeli lobbies on social media are jubilant about Saad Hariri’s resignation (from Riyadh, no less and through Saudi regime media) and treating the matter as if it was a purely Lebanese matter. The resignation was days in the making. Saudi minister (for Gulf affairs but he also seems to be in charge of Lebanese affairs as well) has been threatening the Lebanese people and government for many days and warning of an impending action. In fact, he threatened hours before Hariri resignation that Saudi Arabia will “cut off” the hands of Iran—which was the same expression used by Hariri in the speech which was prepared for him. Hariri was sitting with Hizbullah ministers and defending the political arrangement in which all parties were represented against critics in his quarters. He also met with a senior Iranian delegation HOURS before his resignation (above) (the delegated was headed by Ali Akbar Welayeti, who said after the meeting that it was “constructive”). Just after the meeting, Hariri was summoned to Riyadh and he took a selfti with Minister Sabhan (the latter posted it on Twitter (above) and said it was after a long meeting), and then the speech of resignation was aired on Saudi media. Its text was counter to all the speeches that Hariri has been giving for many months. The best part is that Saudi regime media announced that there was an assassination attempt on Hariri’s life just before he departed for Saudi Arabia. The pro-Saudi branch of the Lebanese security services promptly told Lebanese media that they never heard of any of that and that they were not sources for this fable.

    • Au sujet de la prétendue tentative d’assassinat contre Hariri, le démenti des FSI (généralement pro-séoudienne et proches du camp Hariri) :
      http://nna-leb.gov.lb/fr/show-news/83957/Les-FSI-mentent-les-rumeurs-sur-la-tentative-39-assassinat-jou-contre-Sa

      La direction générale des FSI a démenti, ce samedi dans un communiqué, les informations qui circulent dans les médias, réseaux sociaux et sites électroniques, selon lesquelles son service de renseignements aurait déjoué une tentative d’assassinat contre le Premier ministre démissionnaire Saad Hariri.

      « La direction des FSI précise que ces informations sont erronées, qu’elle n’a fourni aucun détail et qu’elle ne dispose d’aucune donnée à cet égard », précise le communiqué.

    • Saad Hariri Quits as Lebanon Prime Minister, Blaming Iran - The New York Times
      https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/04/world/middleeast/saad-hariri-lebanon-iran.html

      On en est là, il faut lire un article du NYT pour se rendre compte combien les articles des MSM français et les reportages de France 24 sur le sujet sont lamentables.

      The surprise announcement — which shocked even his own staff — was an ominous sign of the escalating regional rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, analysts said, indicating the growing dominance of Iran and Hezbollah as well as the Saudis’ increasingly assertive response.

      Lebanese and regional analysts, whether supporters or opponents of Hezbollah, said it appeared that Mr. Hariri had been pressured to resign by his patrons, the Saudis , as they and the United States ratchet up efforts to counter Iranian influence. The resignation came after weeks of sharp American and Saudi condemnations of Iran, including from President Trump, and new American sanctions against Hezbollah.

      By pushing out Mr. Hariri, analysts said, Saudi Arabia could deny Hezbollah a credible Sunni governing partner — an attempt to isolate it and deny it the fig leaf of a national unity government.

      “They concluded that Hariri was serving as more of a cover for Iranian and Hezbollah influence than as a counterweight to them,” said Rob Malley, a former special Middle East adviser to President Barack Obama and the vice president of the International Crisis Group.

      Yet the resignation also shows how few options Iran’s opponents have. Without Mr. Hariri in power, the United States and Saudi Arabia lose their main partner in the Lebanese government.

      Across the political spectrum, analysts and officials said the resignation ushered in new dangers. If the next government is more pro-Hezbollah, they said, that could lead to devastating sanctions. It could even increase the chances of a new war with Israel, which would see added justification for its argument that there is little distinction between Hezbollah and the Lebanese state.

      Mr. Hariri even raised the specter of internal violence. [si jamais des attentats contre le camp du 14 mars reprennent on aura été averti] He compared the atmosphere in Lebanon now to the days before the 2005 assassination of his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, saying he believed his own life was in danger. “I sensed what’s being woven in secret to target my life,” he said.

      Mr. Hariri’s father was killed when his motorcade was bombed on Beirut’s seafront. Several Hezbollah members are being tried in absentia in a special United Nations-backed tribunal in The Hague, although the militant group has denied involvement in the assassination.

      [...]

      Mr. Hariri headed a 30-member national unity cabinet that was crafted to protect the country from any spillover from the multisided war in neighboring Syria, where Iran backed the government and Saudi Arabia backed the insurgents.

      That mission has largely been successful , even though Hezbollah has sided with the Syrian government, Lebanese Sunni militants have joined insurgents there, and well over one million refugees flooded this small Mediterranean country.

      In Lebanon’s political system, power is divided between a prime minister, who must be Sunni; a president, who must be Maronite Christian; and a speaker of Parliament, who must be Shiite.

      The exercise of real power in the country is a more complicated affair of alliances, rivalries and division of spoils between the leaders of sectarian groups, including former warlords from Lebanon’s civil war.

      Hezbollah, which rose to prominence fighting the Israeli occupation of south Lebanon, is the strongest because of its powerful militia, which can act independently of the state and in recent years has served as an expeditionary force across Syria.

      In recent years Lebanon’s rival blocs have essentially agreed to confine their fight to Syria. But tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran have only increased.

      In addition to Hezbollah’s decisive role in helping President Bashar al-Assad of Syria hold on to power, Iran has supported several militias in Iraq that have managed to defeat Islamic State forces in that country and remain a fighting force.

      Iranian leaders say their interference is needed to stop terrorism, and to create a security zone for their country. The country’s influence started to rise after the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq in 2011, leaving behind an incomplete army and a pro-Iranian government.

      Iran’s filling of the vacuum created by the departure of the United States military has been an extremely worrying development for Saudi Arabia and some other Arab states, who have seen their efforts to fight proxy wars with Iran largely fail.

      And now that the Syrian war seems to be entering a new phase, with Mr. Assad still ruling a devastated country, there are fears that tensions that had been pushed to the back burner — inside Lebanon, between Hezbollah and Israel, and elsewhere — could re-emerge.

      The United States has stepped up sanctions on Hezbollah in recent weeks after President Trump criticized Iran and the landmark nuclear deal it reached under Mr. Obama.

      “It signals a new phase of escalation,” said Ali Rizk, a pro-Hezbollah Lebanese analyst, adding that the imminent defeat of Islamic State by the United States would put new pressure on what it sees as Shiite extremists. “Lebanon is in for a hard time,” Mr. Rizk said.

      The resignation brought sharp words from Israel and Iran. Bahram Ghasemi, a spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry, said Mr. Hariri’s speech was driven by a Saudi, American and Israeli effort aimed at “creating tension in Lebanon and the region.”

      And in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the resignation “a wake-up call for the international community to take action against the Iranian aggression.”

      The pressure now is on the Lebanese president, Mr. Aoun, who will hold consultations with Parliament about appointing a caretaker government, said Imad Salamey, an analyst at the American University of Beirut.

      “If he indeed is going to bring in a pro-Hezbollah government, then he has to face the consequences,” such as new sanctions, Mr. Salamey said. “It will be a massive U.S. and Saudi response. The economy will collapse for sure.”

      In his speech, Mr. Hariri said he wanted to unite Lebanon and free it from outside influence. He pronounced himself “full of optimism and hope that Lebanon will be stronger, free, independent, with no authority over it except that of its own great people.”

      But in the streets of Tariq al-Jdeedeh, a mostly Sunni neighborhood of Beirut that is part of Mr. Hariri’s political base, anger and confusion contrasted with the posters of Mr. Hariri that festooned the buildings.

      “Hariri didn’t do this for Lebanon, he did this for Saudi against Iran,” said Nabil Idriss, who was tending his son’s fabric shop. “Now with this move, the picture is more transparent than ever. Saad Hariri was never in control.”

      #Liban #Hezbollah #Israel #Etats-Unis #Arabie_saoudite

  • France / Syrie / Lafarge : Arrestation de Firas Tlass aux Émirats Arabes Unis
    http://www.renenaba.com/france-syrie-lafarge-arrestation-de-firas-tlass-aux-emirats-arabes-unis

    L’arrestation de Firas Tlass apparaît rétrospectivement comme un dommage collatéral de la guerre médiatique que se livrent 3 pétromonarchies contre le Qatar, en ce que la révélation de son lieu d’arrestation, les Émirats Arabes Unis, viserait à contrario à désigner Abou Dhabi comme un complice du financement du terrorisme international et à dédouaner en conséquence le Qatar de cette accusation.

    […]

    Officiellement son interpellation a été présentée comme étant liée à des problèmes concernant son passeport syrien à des questions financières : Lafarge Syrie, dont Firas Tlass était membre de son conseil d’administration, lui versait près de 100.000 dollars par mois en vue d’assurer la protection du site et de ses employés, dont l’homme d’affaires syrien en reversait le quart, soit 20.000 dollars, au groupement terroriste Daech.

    Détail savoureux, c’est le même Firas Tlass qui servait à expliquer (oui, encore en janvier dernier) que c’était Bachar Assad qui « sponsorise des jihadistes » : Quand Bachar al-Assad "favorisait l’idée du jihad en Syrie" pour faire revenir l’Occident vers lui
    http://www.huffingtonpost.fr/2017/01/22/quand-bachar-al-assad-favorisait-lidee-du-jihad-en-syrie-pour_a_21659

    Dans ce reportage, le réalisateur donne la parole à Firas Tlass, ex-proche du dictateur syrien, et aujourd’hui en exil. Ce dernier rappelle une chose utile : c’est Bachar al-Assad qui a favorisé l’émergence des jihadistes en Syrie pour ensuite, s’ériger en rempart contre le péril islamiste qui tétanise les occidentaux. Mieux, il explique comment le dictateur syrien sponsorise des jihadistes depuis 2003.

    (M’enfin avec la Syrie, ça fait bien longtemps qu’on a passé toutes les bornes du n’importe quoi…)

  • How Hezbollah Came to Dominate Information Warfare | RAND
    https://www.rand.org/blog/2017/09/how-hezbollah-came-to-dominate-information-warfare.html

    Avec en filigrane le sous-titre : « Ce que nos stupides alliés libanais n’ont pas réussi à arrêter un certain 7 mai »

    #Hezbollah is constantly working to refine its technical capabilities, as evidenced by a move toward faster fiber-optic networks that can enhance the group’s data-streaming capacity and provide a more stout defense against Israeli electronic warfare capabilities. Hezbollah not only prevented Israeli units from jamming its networks south of the Litani River in the July 2006 war, it reportedly had equipment in place to jam Israeli radar and communications systems.

    For operational security reasons, Hezbollah migrated to closed telephone circuits that operate independent of Lebanese government networks. During fighting in the Syrian town of Qusair in 2013, Hezbollah again showed its penchant for operations security by devising a complex system that allowed its fighters to talk freely on open radio communications without having to be too concerned about conversations being intercepted.

  • Israeli jets break sound barrier in south Lebanon causing damage | Reuters
    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-israel/israeli-jets-break-sound-barrier-in-south-lebanon-causing-damage-idUSKCN1BL

    Comme d’habitude et en toute #impunité #Israël viole l’espace aérien libanais

    The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب: This is the #Washington_Post correspondent in Beirut
    http://angryarab.blogspot.com/2017/09/this-is-washington-post-correspondent.html

    Imagine. By 2010, the Lebanese government reported more than 7000 Israeli violations of Lebanese Airspace. 

    Liz Sly‏Verified account 
    @LizSly

    For the 1st time perhaps since 2006, Israeli warplanes buzz Lebanon. Broke the sound barrier in Sidon, windows crack

    The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب: When Liz Sly “clarifies” (see below): she is wrong again, of course
    http://angryarab.blogspot.com/2017/09/when-liz-sly-clarifies-see-below-she-is.html

    “To clarify, Israeli warplanes overfly Lebanon every day, in violation of UN resolutions. But it’s rare for them to buzz so low & fast”

  • Panique : Netanyahou, l’Iran et le Hezbollah
    http://www.dedefensa.org/article/panique-netanyahou-liran-et-le-hezbollah

    Panique : Netanyahou, l’Iran et le Hezbollah

    A la lumière de la confirmation avec les effets psychologiques et politiques à mesure de la victoire syrienne de Deir ez-Zour, le long commentaire ci-dessous d’Alastair Crooke sur la “panique Netanyahou” prend une singulière importance. Les Syriens d’Assad ont, avec l’aide des Iraniens et surtout du Hezbollah, et le soutien aérien massif de la Russie, emporté une victoire stratégique qui marque évidemment un tournant dans le conflit syrien, et sans doute un tournant décisif. Le concours du Hezbollah dans cette bataille, comme dans la majeure partie du conflit, constitue un élément majeur de ce conflit, et l’une des préoccupations fondamentales de Netanyahou.

    Crooke analyse dans toute son ampleur la très difficile situation du Premier ministre israélien qui (...)

    • Une attaque aérienne israélienne la nuit dernière, contre une position syrienne proche de la frontière libanaise avec des missiles air-sol tirés d’avions israéliens ayant pénétré prudemment l’espace aérien libanais (et pas syrien), signale cette extrême nervosité israélienne, mais sans convaincre de l’efficacité de la chose. Les Israéliens ne sont pas en position de force. Selon plusieurs sources, les Russes tiennent complètement l’espace aérien de la région, notamment avec l’arrivée de cinq avions d’alerte et de contrôle de l’espace aérien à très grandes capacités Beriev A-50 désormais basés en Syrie. D’autre part, DEBKAFiles signale que le Hezbollah devrait être conduit à changer complètement ses tactiques et sa stratégie suite aux victoires remportées en Syrie, ce qui rend complètement caduc le scénario utilisé par les forces armées israéliennes dans des manœuvres en cours pour ttester ses capacités de l’emporter sur le Hezbollah : « In the remaining seven days of the exercise, the IDF still has a chance to update its scenario », écrit ironiquement DEBKAFiles.

    • L’article d’Alaistair Crooke pointé par dedefensa

      The Reasons for Netanyahu’s Panic – Consortiumnews
      https://consortiumnews.com/2017/09/01/the-reasons-for-netanyahus-panic

      The increasingly “not to be” constituency of the Middle East has a simpler word for Netanyahu’s “#ethnic_nationalism.” They call it simply #Western_colonialism. Round one of Chas Freeman’s making the Middle East “be with Israel” consisted of the shock-and-awe assault on Iraq. Iraq is now allied with Iran, and the Hashad militia (PMU) are becoming a widely mobilized fighting force. The second stage was 2006. Today, Hizbullah is a regional force, and not a just Lebanese one.

      The third strike was at Syria. Today, Syria is allied with Russia, Iran, Hizbullah and Iraq. What will comprise the next round in the “to be, or not to be” war?

    • @simplicissimus : Pour aller dans ton sens, le timing israélien est intéressant, juste après le désencerclement de Deir-Ezzor, commepour dire on est là. Et il vient appuyer, si l’on peut dire, le rapport de l’ONU accusant - same player shoots again - la Syrie d’attaque chimique.

    • “Just to be clear: if 2006 marked a key point of inflection, Syria’s “standing its ground” represents a historic turning of much greater magnitude. It should be understood that Saudi Arabia’s (and Britain’s and America’s) tool of fired-up, radical Sunnism has been routed. And with it, the Gulf States, but particularly Saudi Arabia are damaged. The latter has relied on the force of Wahabbism since the first foundation of the kingdom: but Wahabbism in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq has been roundly defeated and discredited (even for most Sunni Muslims). It may well be defeated in Yemen too. This defeat will change the face of Sunni Islam.
      Already, we see the Gulf Cooperation Council, which originally was founded in 1981 by six Gulf tribal leaders for the sole purpose of preserving their hereditary tribal rule in the Peninsula, now warring with each other, in what is likely to be a protracted and bitter internal fight. The “Arab system,” the prolongation of the old Ottoman structures by the complaisant post-World War I victors, Britain and France, seems to be out of its 2013 “remission” (bolstered by the coup in Egypt), and to have resumed its long-term decline.”

    • If Israel did strike Syrian arms facility, it may have shot itself in the foot

      www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.811226

      While Thursday’s alleged attack may have seen Israel widen its definition of what it deems a threat, it may give Iran an excuse to increase its military presence and lead Russia to declare Syrian airspace a no-fly zone

      By Zvi Bar’el | Sep. 7, 2017 | 10:20 PM

      The Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center is the code name for part of the Syrian unconventional weapons industry. The center, better known by its French acronym CERS, is commanded by a Syrian general. It is also responsible for Syria’s chemical weapons manufacturing plants, which are reportedly located in three separate sites: Two near Damascus and the third close to the city of Masyaf, northwest Syria, only about 70 kilometers (43 miles) from the Khmeimim Russian Air Force base near Latakia.

      According to official Syrian reports, Israeli planes attacked CERS from within Lebanese territory early Thursday morning. The reports do not provide details of the damage to the facility and what it made. But an official statement said the attack was meant to raise the morale of Islamic State fighters after they suffered serious casualties in the fighting around Deir ez-Zor. According to President Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, Israel not only founded ISIS, it also aided in its recent operations.

      It is not completely clear whether this facility, where they manufacture long-range missiles and artillery shells, also continues to assemble chemical weapons shells. But if Israel knows about such production at the plant, then there is no doubt the United States and Russia know about it too.

      We can assume Israel informed Washington before the attack and received the necessary nod of approval. As far as Russia is concerned, meanwhile, it seems Israel decided to attack from within Lebanese territory to avoid the need to coordinate its operation with the Russians – as is required from the understandings between the two air forces whenever Israel sends fighter jets into Syrian territory – and to prevent the information from leaking out.

      This was not the first alleged Israeli aerial attack in Syrian territory, of course. But the timing is quite interesting. It comes after Russia threatened to veto any UN Security Council resolution that describes Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, and a short time after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi – a meeting Netanyahu returned from without any Russian commitment to bring about an Iranian pullback from Syrian lands.

      As Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said, Russia has made a commitment that Israel’s security interests will not be harmed as a result of the establishment of de-escalation zones in Syria.

      But the Russian interpretation of the meaning of harming Israel’s security interests is not necessarily the same as Israel’s definition. Given that the presence of Hezbollah forces in Syria is seen as a threat to Israel, how much more so is the presence of pro-Iranian forces deployed near Israel’s eastern border on the Golan Heights, as well as in the area near Daraa in southern Syria?

      At the same time, Russia – which itself does not define Hezbollah as a terrorist organization – would find it difficult to force the group’s forces out of Lebanon. That’s mainly because of Iran’s position that sees Hezbollah as an essential foundation for preserving its influence in Lebanon and as an important tactical force in the Syrian war. Unlike in Lebanon, where Iran needs Hezbollah to force the hand of the Lebanese government when necessary, Iran’s influence on the Assad regime is direct and in no need of intermediaries.

      Russia, which has acted to limit Iran’s freedom of operation in Syria, recognizes that it must coordinate its actions with Iran if it wishes to fulfill its aspirations to stabilize Assad’s rule.

      The Aleppo lesson

      Russia has already learned its lessons from Aleppo, when it thought it could implement the cease-fire agreement that was reached at the end of last year without coordinating with Iran – and then realized that the Shi’ite militias and Hezbollah were preventing rebel soldiers from boarding the buses that were meant to take them out of the city, on Iran’s orders.

      The Iranian explanation was that because Tehran was not a partner to the agreement, it was not obligated by it. Russia has avoided Syrian negotiations since then, whether local or international, without Iranian participation.

      The attack on the weapons facility, especially one suspected of producing chemical weapons, is seemingly an act that should not cause an aggressive Russian response. Four years ago, Russia convinced then-President Barack Obama at the last minute not to attack Syria for its use of chemical weapons in Aleppo, and in return co-signed a tripartite agreement in which Syria agreed to destroy or send to Russia its entire chemical weapons inventory. Now, Russia may attempt to prove that the facility did not produce such weapons, but it is doubtful it will strain itself too much in doing so.

      By the way, that 2013 agreement included chlorine gas too, which the Syrian army still continues to use.

      Russia also understands that Israel’s alleged attack on the suspected chemical weapons plant, similar to the U.S. cruise missile strikes on Syria after the chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhun in April, is considered to be a legitimate action by the international community.

      Even Russia made it clear back in 2013 that it would not object to an attack on chemical weapons stores if the UN decided on such a step, and if it is proved Syria did use such weapons.

      The new element in the latest attack – if Israel did indeed carry out such an attack – is that Israel now defines what it sees as a threat in a much broader sense.

      The question is whether Russia will accept this definition as part of Israel’s strategic worldview – which sees Syria as a threatening enemy state. Russian agreement to expanding that definition could grant Israel approval for other attacks – such as against Syrian Air Force bases, or even against Syrian ground forces, with the argument that they are considered a threat.

      And so, if until now there was a red line between the Russian and Israeli air forces, this time the attack could lead at the very least to Russia imposing stricter “aerial discipline” on Israel. If this happens, Russia could declare that any foreign planes entering Syrian airspace would be considered a legitimate target for the Russian Air Force, except for coalition planes fighting against the Islamic State.

      Saving the United States

      From Washington’s perspective, Israel has pulled its chestnuts out of the fire. Following numerous reports on the renewed use of chlorine gas by the Syrian army, the Americans would have been forced to act. And this could have caused its relations with Russia to deteriorate even further.

      But the “service” Israel has provided to Washington just sinks it even deeper into the Syrian arena. This time, not only as an interested observer knocking on the doors of the superpowers in order to promote its own security interests, but as an active partner whose military presence adds yet another component to the array of forces (which already includes Russia, Iran, Turkey and Syria).

      But the Israeli element could threaten to spoil Russia’s plans. For example, Iran, Turkey and Russia are about to establish a security zone in the Idlib province, where most of the militia forces of the Al-Shams Front (formerly Nusra Front), which is affiliated with Al-Qaida, are concentrated. This is a region where Iran and Turkey have opposing interests, even though both are interested in a cease-fire.

      Turkey wants to use this region as a strategic base for military operations against the Syrian Kurdish regions that border Turkey. Iran sees Idlib province as a strategic outpost to serve as a base for its control of Syria. All three countries are planning a combined attack against the rebel centers, if Russia is unable to enforce a cease-fire according to the model that was built in the southern provinces.

      It would seem Israel has no real interest in the Idlib province, except for the concern about Iran’s expansion and settling in there. But the takeover of Idlib – like the military campaign in Deir ez-Zor in southeastern Syria, where ISIS continues to rack up losses – is preparing the diplomatic channels for a permanent agreement.

      Russia is striving to demonstrate control of Idlib and Deir ez-Zor by the end of next week, when the representatives of the various parties in the Syrian civil war are set to meet in the Kazakh capital of Astana. The Russians want to present such a takeover as proof of a total victory by the Syrian regime, a victory that would destroy the opposition groups’ tools for applying pressure.

      Syrian-Russian control of these two provinces would strengthen the diplomatic working assumption that Assad will continue to be Syrian president, especially since opponents of his regime in Europe, the United States and Turkey – and even Saudi Arabia – have nearly completely withdrawn their demands to remove him as a precondition to any negotiations.

      Such a result would obligate Israel to be a partner, even if only indirectly, in the process of establishing a new Syrian government; in the debate over the status of Iran and Hezbollah in Syria; and the guarantees that Russia, and not the United States, can provide in response to the possible threats resulting from such an agreement.

      Double-edged sword

      Israel may very well conclude that the greater its military involvement in Syria, whether through sporadic attacks or by tightening its military ties to rebel groups, it more it will strengthen its position when the time comes to formulate a political settlement.

      But such a view can be a double-edged sword. It will grant Iran a wonderful excuse to increase its military presence in Syria; Russia may reduce or even eliminate its aerial coordination with Israel and declare Syrian airspace a no-fly zone; and Hezbollah could turn the Golan Heights into a legitimate front against Israel as part of its balance of deterrence with it.

      There is a big difference between the ability to attack specific targets and a permanent situation of two hostile fronts, one facing Syria and the second Lebanon – especially when Israel’s most important backer, the United States, is sunk deep inside itself and does not want to intervene at all.

    • Not Without Dignity: Views of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon on Displacement, Conditions of Return, and Coexistence

      Discussions about a future return of refugees and coexistence among groups currently at war in Syria must begin now, even in the face of ongoing violence and displacement. This report, based on interviews with refugees, makes it clear that the restoration of dignity will be important to creating the necessary conditions for return and peaceful coexistence — and building a stable post-war Syria one day.


      https://www.ictj.org/publication/syria-refugees-lebanon-displacement-return-coexistence
      #rapport

    • New ICTJ Study: Syrian Refugees in Lebanon See Security, Restoration of Dignity as Key Conditions for Return

      A new report from the International Center for Transitional Justice argues that discussions about a future return of refugees and coexistence among groups currently at war in Syria must begin now, even in the face of ongoing violence and displacement. The report makes it clear that the restoration of refugees’ sense of dignity will be important to creating the necessary conditions for return and peaceful coexistence — and building a stable post-war Syria one day.

      https://www.ictj.org/news/study-syrian-refugees-lebanon-conditions-return

    • We Must Start the Conversation About Return of Syrian Refugees Now

      If millions of displaced Syrians are to go home one day, we need to understand refugees’ conditions for returning, attitudes to justice and the possibility of coexistence, say the authors of an International Center for Transitional Justice study of refugees in Lebanon.

      https://www.newsdeeply.com/refugees/community/2017/06/21/we-must-start-the-conversation-about-return-of-syrian-refugees-now

    • Nowhere Left to Run: Refugee Evictions in Lebanon in Shadow of Return

      Lebanon wants to evict 12,000 refugees who live near an air base where foreign military assistance is delivered. The evictions, which began in spring and recently resumed after a short respite, have left refugees more vulnerable amid rising demands they return to Syria.


      https://www.newsdeeply.com/refugees/articles/2017/09/28/nowhere-left-to-run-refugee-evictions-in-lebanon-in-shadow-of-return
      #Liban

    • Syrian Refugees Return From Lebanon Only to Flee War Yet Again

      Refugees who returned to Syria from Lebanon under cease-fire deals this summer have been displaced again by fighting. Those who stayed behind are pressing for international guarantees of safety on return, as Lebanese officials explore ways to get more refugees to leave.


      https://www.newsdeeply.com/refugees/articles/2017/10/11/syrian-refugees-return-from-lebanon-only-to-flee-war-yet-again

    • Dangerous Exit: Who Controls How Syrians in Lebanon Go Home

      AS HALIMA clambered into a truck leaving Lebanon in late June, she resolved that if the men driving the vehicle were arrested at the Syrian border, she would get out and walk back to her village on her own. The 66-year-old grandmother had not seen the son and daughter she left behind in Syria for five years. Wearing an embroidered black dress and a traditional headdress, her crinkled eyes shone with determination. “I’m coming back to my land,” she said.

      Having begged her not to leave, Halima’s two daughters staying in Lebanon wept on her shoulders. “We’re afraid she won’t come back,” 42-year-old Sherifa said, as her voice cracked. Sherifa cannot follow her mother to Syria; her eldest son, who has single-handedly kept the family afloat with odd jobs because of his father’s disability, would be sent to war.

      Huddled in groups at the checkpoint in northeast Lebanon, other families also said their goodbyes. A teenage girl knelt on the dirt road, refusing to let go of her 19-year-old brother’s legs. Their mother, Nawal, held her as he left for a truck to the border. “I don’t know how he will live on his own in Syria. Only God knows what will happen to him,” Nawal said. “I didn’t think he would actually leave. It all happened very fast.”

      A few months earlier, 3,000 Syrians in the Lebanese border town of Arsal had registered their names with Syrian and Lebanese intelligence agencies to return to their villages just over the mountains in Syria’s Qalamoun region. When the first group of several hundred people was approved to leave on June 28, many families were separated, as some members either decided not to register or were not approved by Syrian authorities.

      “We need a political solution for these people to go back, but the politics doesn’t start here in Lebanon,” a Lebanese intelligence agent said, as a scuffle broke out that scorching June morning. A Syrian man lunged at Khaled Abdel Aziz, a real estate businessman who had been put in charge of signing up fellow refugees to return. Abdel Aziz sweated in his suit as he dashed between television interviews, repeating that Syrians had a country of their own to go back to. “You’re protecting the army, not protecting yourself,” the man yelled, before being pulled away.

      The TV cameras rolled as dozens of trucks and tractors piled high with timber, water tanks and chicken coops were checked off a list by Lebanese intelligence agents and headed with an army escort to the Syrian border. A line of TV reporters announced to their Lebanese viewers that these refugees were going home.

      The next day, on the other side of Arsal, a small group of refugees held a sit-in, to much less fanfare. “We’re asking for return with dignity,” one banner read, “with guarantees from the international community and the U.N.”

      “We’re not against the return, but we want conditions, guarantees,” said Khaled Raad, one of the organizers. His refugee committee has been petitioning the U.N. and sympathetic Lebanese politicians for international protection for returning Syrians for a year. “I mean, this is not like taking a cup of tea or coffee to say, after seven years, go ahead and return to your houses. It’s not an easy thing.”

      “WE NEED A POLITICAL SOLUTION FOR THESE PEOPLE TO GO BACK, BUT THE POLITICS DOESN’T START HERE IN LEBANON.”

      By then, Halima had arrived back in Syria. Apart from some tractors breaking down en route, they had no problem crossing the border. Halima went to stay with her son while she waited to hear about the situation in her hometown, the mountaintop village of Fleeta. Her granddaughters had grown up quickly while she was in Lebanon, and she loved spending time with them in the neighboring town.

      But as more of their friends and relatives returned to Fleeta, with subsequent groups departing Arsal in July, word came to the family of empty homes and little power, water or work in the Syrian village. Sherifa received messages from relatives who had returned to Fleeta but now wanted to escape again. With no easy way to come back to Lebanon legally, they planned to smuggle themselves back across the border.

      Without her mother, and with bad news from Fleeta making it less likely she would ever return to Syria, Sherifa became increasingly desperate. Her husband, who is unable to work for health reasons, sunk into depression. “By God, dying is better than living,” Sherifa said. “I seek refuge in God from this return.”

      LONGING FOR HOME, AFRAID TO RETURN
      RETURNING TO SYRIA during this eighth year of conflict is both an excruciating personal decision and a political calculation: by refugees, the government in Syria, and other nations with a stake in the war. As the government recaptures more territory from opposition groups, and fighting quells in certain areas, some refugees are considering returning, while others are terrified of the increasing pressure to go back. After Lebanon began organizing small group returns this year, including from Arsal, these dilemmas became more urgent.

      To return is to take a political gamble: Refugees must weigh the risks of staying against the risks of going. They try to figure out who can be trusted to tell them the truth. They gather snippets of information from their cities, towns and villages about what happens to people who return. They struggle to decipher the intentions of the mercurial and multi-layered Syrian authorities and their foreign allies.

      Some of the broader dangers are well-known: an estimated half a million people killed in Syria’s war, including thousands dead this year; some one million people forced to leave their homes this year alone; a third of all houses and half of all schools and hospitals damaged or destroyed; in government-controlled areas, mandatory conscription into battle for men under 43, fear of arrest and torture, and the difficulties of reintegrating into a society and economy fractured by war.

      Until now, few refugees have considered this a risk worth taking. In 2017, the U.N. said 77,300 refugees went back independently to Syria, out of 5.6 million who had fled the country. The vast majority of Syrian refugees have consistently told U.N. and independent surveys they hoped to return home one day, but do not yet feel safe to do so.

      There are also risks to staying. More than 80 percent of Syrian refugees remain in three neighboring countries: Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. There, they face soaring poverty, years out of work or school, lack of official documents, risk of arrest and, above all, an increasing public clamoring for Syrians to be sent back.

      In Lebanon, where at least 1.5 million Syrians have sought refuge – increasing the country’s population by a quarter – the pressure to leave is the most intense. Few Syrians have legal status, even fewer can work. Many towns have imposed curfews or carried out mass evictions. At the U.N. General Assembly last year, Lebanon’s president Michel Aoun insisted Syrians must return, voluntarily or not. “The claim that they will not be safe should they return to their country is an unacceptable pretext,” he told world leaders.

      https://www.newsdeeply.com/refugees/articles/2018/08/08/dangerous-exit-who-controls-how-syrians-in-lebanon-go-home
      #Liban

    • Turkish minister: 255,300 Syrian refugees have returned home

      Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Sunday that 255,300 Syrian refugees have returned home over the past two years, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

      “Some 160,000 of them returned to the Euphrates Shield region after Turkey brought peace there,” added Soylu, speaking to reporters in the southern province of Hatay bordering Syria.

      Turkey carried out Operation Euphrates Shield between August 2016 and March 2017 to eliminate the terrorist threat along the border in the northern Syrian regions of Jarabulus, Al-Rai, Al-Bab and Azaz with the help of the Free Syrian Army.

      Expressing concern about a possible operation in the Idlib region of Syria by regime forces, the minister underlined that Turkey would not be responsible for a wave of migration in the event of an offensive.

      Soylu also noted that an average of 6,800 irregular migrants a day used to enter Greece from western Turkey in 2015 and that now it has been reduced to 79.

      https://www.turkishminute.com/2018/09/09/turkish-minister-255300-syrian-refugees-have-returned-home

    • The fate of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Between forced displacement and forced return

      Recent news reports have surfaced on a possible United States-Russia deal to arrange for the return of refugees to Syria—reports that coincided both with the announcement that thousands of Syrians have died in regime prisons, and with one of the worst massacres in the conflict, perpetrated by ISIS in the city of Swaida. The US-Russia deal has been welcomed by Lebanese politicians, particularly those who have been scheming to repatriate Syrians for years now. But, unsurprisingly, the absence of a clear and coherent strategy for repatriation by the Lebanese government puts Syrian refugees at grave risk.

      In June, UNHCR interviewed Syrian refugees in Arsal who had expressed their willingness to go back to Syria in order to verify that they had the documentation needed for return and to ensure they were fully aware of the conditions in their home country. In response, caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil accused the agency of impeding refugees’ free return and ordered a freeze on the renewal of agency staff residency permits.

      This tug of war raises two main questions: What are the conditions in Lebanon that are pushing refugees toward returning to Syria while the conflict is ongoing and dangers persist? And what are the obstacles preventing some Syrians from returning freely to their homes?

      Conditions for Syrians in Lebanon

      Syrians began fleeing to Lebanon as early as 2011, but the Lebanese government failed to produce a single policy response until 2014, leading to ad-hoc practices by donors and host communities.

      By the end of 2014, the government began introducing policies to “reduce the number of displaced Syrians,” including closing the borders and requiring Syrians to either register with UNHCR and pledge not to work, or to secure a Lebanese sponsor to remain legally in the country and pay a $200 residency permit fee every six months. In May 2015, the government directed UNHCR to stop registering refugees. These conditions put many Syrians in a precarious position: without documentation, vulnerable to arrest and detention, and with limited mobility. Municipalities have been impeding freedom of movement as well, by imposing curfews on Syrians and even expelling them from their towns.

      In addition to the difficulties imposed by the state, Syrians face discrimination and violence on a day-to-day basis. Refugee settlements have been set on fire, Syrians have been beaten in the streets, and camps are regularly raided by the Lebanese army. All the while, Lebanese politicians foster and fuel the hatred of Syrians, blaming them for the country’s miseries and painting them as existential and security threats.

      Despite the polarization among Lebanese politicians regarding the situation in Syria, there is a consensus that the Syrian refugees are a burden that Lebanon cannot bear. Politicians across the board have been advocating for the immediate repatriation of refugees, and state officials are beginning to take action. President Michel Aoun made a statement in May declaring that Lebanon would seek a solution regarding the refugee crisis without taking into account the preferences of the UN or the European Union. This was followed by Bassil’s move, to freeze the residency permits of UNHCR staff, the leading agency (despite its many shortcomings) providing services for, and protecting the interests of, Syrian refugees. While UNHCR maintains that there are no safe zones in Syria as of yet, Lebanon’s General Security has begun facilitating the return of hundreds of refugees from Arsal and nearby towns. This process has been monitored by UNHCR to ensure that the returns are voluntary. Hezbollah has also established centers to organize the return of Syrians to their homes in collaboration with the Syrian regime.

      Syrian regime obstructing refugees’ free return

      As the situation for Syrian refugees in Lebanon becomes more and more unbearable, conditions for them back home remain troubling. Since 2012, the Syrian regime has been taking deliberate measures that would effectively make the situation for returning Syrians extremely difficult and dangerous.

      Conscription

      Syrian males aged 18 to 42 must serve in the Syrian Armed Forces. While exemptions were allowed in the past, a decree issued in 2017 bans exemptions from military service. Refusing to serve in the Syrian army results in imprisonment or an $8,000 fine, which most Syrians are unable to pay, thus risking having their assets seized by the regime.

      Property as a weapon of war

      Law No. 66 (2012) allowed for the creation of development zones in specified areas across the country. Under the pretense of redeveloping areas currently hosting informal settlements or unauthorized housing, the law is actually being used to expropriate land from residents in areas identified in the decree, which are mostly former opposition strongholds such as Daraya and Ghouta.

      Law No. 10 (2018), passed in April, speeds up the above process. This law stipulates the designation of development or reconstruction zones, requiring local authorities to request a list of property owners from public real estate authorities. Those whose have property within these zones but are not registered on the list are notified by local authorities and must present proof of property within 30 days. If they are successful in providing proof, they get shares of the redevelopment project; otherwise, ownership reverts to the local authority in the province, town, or city where the property is located. Human Rights Watch has published a detailed Q&A that explains the law and its implications.

      These laws, coupled with systematic destruction of land registries by local authorities, fully equip the regime to dispossess hundreds of thousands of Syrian families. Reports indicate that the regime has already begun reconstruction in areas south of Damascus.

      Statements by Syrian officials

      Syrian officials have made several public statements that reveal their hostility toward refugees. On August 20, 2017, at the opening ceremony of a conference held by Syria’s foreign ministry, President Bashar al-Assad gave a speech in which he said: “It’s true that we lost the best of our young men as well as our infrastructure, but in return we gained a healthier, more homogeneous society.” On another occasion, Assad stated his belief that some refugees are terrorists.

      In September 2017, a video of Issam Zahreddine, a commander in the Syrian Armed Forces, went viral. In the video, Zahreddine threatens refugees against returning, saying: “To everyone who fled Syria to other countries, please do not return. If the government forgives you, we will not. I advise you not to come back.” Zahreddine later clarified that his remarks were meant for rebels and ISIS followers, but that clarification should be taken with a grain of salt given his bloody track record in the war up until his death in October 2017. Along similar lines, leaked information from a meeting of top-ranking army officers just last month reported the following statement by the head of the Syrian Air Force Intelligence administration, General Jamil Al-Hassan: “A Syria with 10 million trustworthy people obedient to the leadership is better than a Syria with 30 million vandals.”

      Unknown fate

      Considering the unwelcoming policies in Lebanon and the treacherous conditions in Syria, what is the fate of Syrian refugees, specifically those who oppose the Assad regime? Until now, the return championed by Lebanese politicians implies return to a fascist regime that has caused the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War and unapologetically committed countless war crimes. While Lebanese politicians continue to focus on repatriation, they are failing to acknowledge the major barriers preventing Syrians from returning home: the Assad regime and ongoing mass violence.

      We cannot speak of safe, dignified, and sustainable returns without demanding justice and accountability. Regime change and trials for those who committed war crimes over the span of the last seven years are a long way off, and all evidence currently points toward the Assad regime retaining power. Any strategy must therefore prioritize the safety of Syrians who are likely to be detained, tortured, and killed for their political views upon return, or simply denied entry to Syria altogether. Lebanese policy makers must take into account that Syrians residing in Lebanon are not a homogenous entity, and some may never be able to return to their homes. Those Syrians should not be forced to choose between a brutal regime that will persecute them and a country that strips away their rights and dignity. It is time for Lebanon to adopt clear policies on asylum, resettlement, and return that ensure the right of all Syrians to lead a safe and dignified life.

      http://www.executive-magazine.com/economics-policy/the-fate-of-syrian-refugees-in-lebanon

    • Le retour des réfugiés en Syrie commence à préoccuper la communauté internationale

      Lors d’une conférence sur la Syrie à Bruxelles, le retour des réfugiés syriens dans leur pays a été évoqué. Démarrée en 2011, la guerre en Syrie touche à sa fin

      La situation en Syrie est loin d’être stabilisée. Les besoins de financement, de nourriture de matériel sont même en constante augmentation. Selon un haut fonctionnaire de l’ONU, un éventuel assaut contre la dernière enclave rebelle pourrait entraîner une « catastrophe humanitaire ». Pourtant, alors que 12 millions de Syriens, soit près de la moitié de la population syrienne avant la guerre, a fui le pays ou a été déplacée à l’intérieur, la question du retour, étape indispensable à la reconstruction, commence à se poser.

      C’est le principal message ressorti de la conférence « Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region » , qui vient de se tenir à Bruxelles. Les diplomates européens ont mis l’accent sur les difficultés de l’Europe à isoler le Président Bashar al-Assad, vainqueur de la guerre, soutenu par la Russie et l’Iran, pendant que les États-Unis retirent leurs troupes.

      L’UE a rappelé qu’un soutien à la reconstruction à long terme dépendrait du processus de paix de l’ONU pour mettre fin à une guerre responsable de la mort de centaines de milliers de personnes.

      Les Européens sont toutefois divisés sur la question de la reconstruction du pays, dans la mesure où le processus de paix de l’ONU est bloqué, que l’intervention militaire russe de 2015 s’avère décisive et que les pays arabes voisins envisagent de rétablir des liens diplomatiques.

      « Les États-Unis se retirent et les Russes n’ont pas l’argent. Voilà le contexte », a expliqué un haut fonctionnaire de l’UE, cité par Reuters. L’Allemagne, la France et les Pays-Bas défendent ouvertement l’idée de libérer les fonds de reconstruction uniquement quand le pays aura démarré sa transition politique et que Bashar-al-Assad ne sera plus au pouvoir. Aucun représentant officiel de la Syrie n’a été invité à la conférence. L’Italie, l’Autriche et la Hongrie, grands détracteurs de la politique migratoire européenne, plaident en revanche pour une négociation avec les autorités syriennes pour que les millions de réfugiés puissent rentrer chez eux.

      Mogherini craint le « ni guerre ni paix »

      La cheffe de la diplomatie européenne, Federica Mogherini, a déclaré qu’il y avait un risque que le pays se retrouve coincé dans une situation de « ni guerre ni paix ». Le Haut Commissaire des Nations Unies pour les réfugiés, Filippo Grandi, a déclaré qu’il était prévisible que 2019 soit la première année depuis le début de la guerre « où il y aura plus de Syriens (réfugiés et déplacés internes) qui rentreront chez eux que de nouveaux déplacés. S’étant rendu en Syrie la semaine dernière, le Haut Commissaire a déclaré avoir été « marqué et touché » par la résilience du peuple syrien.

      « C’est dans un contexte de grandes destructions, avec des zones encore dangereuses et un manque de produits de première nécessité (nourriture, médicaments, eau) et d’emplois que de nombreux Syriens rentrent chez eux. Les agences humanitaires font ce qu’elles peuvent, mais un très grand nombre de déplacés internes et quelques réfugiés prennent la décision difficile de rentrer chez eux, et les besoins en produits de première nécessité ne font qu’augmenter », a-t-il expliqué, ajoutant que la plupart des réfugiés voyaient leur avenir dans leur pays natal et que « nous savons que 56 000 Syriens sont rentrés chez eux via des mouvements organisés l’année dernière, mais ce chiffre est certainement plus élevé ».

      Engagements financiers

      « Je suis heureux de vous annoncer que nous collaborons notamment avec le gouvernement syrien. Et j’aimerais particulièrement remercier la Fédération de Russie pour sa coopération face aux problèmes que le retour des réfugiés syriens implique pour eux », a ajouté Filippo Grandi. Dans le cadre de l’appel de l’ONU, 3,3 milliards de dollars seraient nécessaires pour venir en aide aux déplacés internes et 5,5 milliards de dollars pour les réfugiés et les communautés d’accueil dans les pays voisins.

      Le Secrétaire général adjoint aux affaires humanitaires, Marc Lowcock, a déclaré à la presse que les engagements financiers s’élevaient « au moins à 6,5 milliards de dollars » et peut-être même à près de 7 milliards de dollars. « C’est un très bon résultat, et si nous y parvenons vraiment en fin de compte, nous serons très heureux », a-t-il déclaré. Federica Mogherini a déclaré que l’UE contribuerait à hauteur de 560 millions d’euros pour venir en aide au peuple syrien durant l’année 2019 et que le même montant serait libéré les années suivantes.

      Filippo Grandi a également exprimé son inquiétude quant à la situation en déclin de la ville d’Idlib, près de la frontière turque. Près de 90 personnes y ont été tuées par des obus et des frappes aériennes, et la moitié d’entre elles étaient des enfants.

      « La pire des catastrophes humanitaires »

      « Permettez-moi de répéter ce que nous avons déjà dit à maintes reprises. Une attaque militaire d’envergure sur la ville d’Idlib occasionnerait la pire catastrophe humanitaire du 21ème siècle. Ce serait tout simplement inacceptable », a déclaré Filippo Grandi.

      Avec l’aide d’avions russes, l’armée syrienne a attaqué des villes au mains des forces rebelles dans la région d’Idlib, dernier bastion rebelle du pays. Ce bombardement a été le plus important depuis des mois. Les forces rebelles qui se sont battues depuis 8 ans pour faire tomber le Président al-Assad sont désormais confinées dans une enclave du nord est du pays, près de la frontière turque. Près de 4 millions de Syriens y vivent aujourd’hui, dont des centaines de milliers d’opposants au régime qui ont fui d’autres régions du pays.

      La Turquie, qui a commencé à patrouiller dans la zone tampon vendredi, a condamné ce qu’elle a qualifié de provocations croissantes pour mettre fin à la trêve et a averti qu’une offensive des forces russes et syriennes causerait une crise humanitaire majeure. De nombreux résidents sont exaspérés de l’incapacité des forces turques à répondre aux bombardements. L’armée syrienne a appelé au retrait des forces turques.

      L’enclave est protégée par une zone de « désescalade », un accord négocié l’an dernier par les pays qui soutiennent Bashar al-Assad, la Russie, l’Iran ainsi que la Turquie, qui avait auparavant soutenu les forces rebelles et envoyé des troupes pour surveiller la trêve. Le ministre turc des Affaires étrangères, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, a déclaré que 320 000 Syriens avaient pu rentrer chez eux grâce aux « opérations anti-terrorisme » menées par la Turquie et la Syrie.

      https://www.euractiv.fr/section/migrations/news/return-of-refugees-to-syria-timidly-comes-on-the-agenda

    • Assad asks Syrian refugees to come home — then locks them up and interrogates them

      Guarantees offered by the government as part of a ’reconciliation’ process are often hollow, with returnees harassed or extorted.

      Hundreds of Syrian refugees have been arrested after returning home as the war they fled winds down — then interrogated, forced to inform on close family members and in some cases tortured, say returnees and human rights monitors.

      Many more who weathered the conflict in rebel-held territory now retaken by government forces are meeting a similar fate as President Bashar al-Assad’s regime deepens its longtime dependence on informers and surveillance.

      For Syrian refugees, going home usually requires permission from the government and a willingness to provide a full accounting of any involvement they had with the political opposition. But in many cases the guarantees offered by the government as part of this “reconciliation” process turn out to be hollow, with returnees subjected to harassment or extortion by security agencies or detention and torture to extract information about the refugees’ activities while they were away, according to the returnees and monitoring groups.

      Almost 2,000 people have been detained after returning to Syria during the past two years, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, while hundreds more in areas once controlled by the rebels have also been arrested.

      “If I knew then what I know now, I would never have gone back,” said a young man who returned to a government-controlled area outside Damascus. He said he has been harassed for months by members of security forces who repeatedly turn up at his home and stop him at checkpoints to search his phone.

      “People are still being taken by the secret police, and communities are living between suspicion and fear,” he said. “When they come to your door, you cannot say no. You just have to go with them.”

      Returnees interviewed for this report spoke on the condition of anonymity or on the understanding that their family names would be withheld, because of security threats.

      Since the war erupted in 2011, more than 5 million people have fled Syria and 6 million others have been displaced to another part of the country, according to the United Nations – together representing slightly more than half the Syrian population.

      In the past two years, as Assad’s forces have largely routed the rebels and recaptured much of the country, refugees have begun to trickle back. The United Nations says that at least 164,000 refugees have returned to the country since 2016. But citing a lack of access, the United Nations has not been able to document whether they have come back to government- or opposition-held areas.

      Assad has called for more homecomings, encouraging returnees in a televised address in February to “carry out their national duties.” He said forgiveness would be afforded to returnees “when they are honest.”

      According to our data, you are the exception if nothing happens to you

      A recent survey of Syrians who returned to government-held areas found that about 75 percent had been harassed at checkpoints, in government registry offices or in the street, conscripted into the military despite promises they would be exempted, or arrested.

      “According to our data, you are the exception if nothing happens to you,” said Nader Othman, a trustee with the Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity, which said it had interviewed 350 returnees across Syria. “One of our most important takeaways is that most of those people who came back had thought that they were cleared by the regime. They thought their lack of opposition would protect them.”

      The Syrian government did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the treatment of returnees and other Syrians now back under government control.

      Outside Syria, many refugees say they were already apprehensive about going home, with fears over a lack of personal security only growing with reports that the government is reneging on its guarantees. Aid groups say there are few signs that a large-scale return will begin anytime soon.

      And in conversations with UN representatives, senior Syrian officials have made it clear that not all returnees are equally welcome. According to two European officials who recounted the conversations, individuals with links to opposition groups, media activism or humanitarian work will be least well received.

      But pressure on the refugees to return is rising across the Middle East, with Syria’s neighbours tightening restrictions on them in part to get them to leave.

      Homs

      Hassan, 30, left his home in the western province of Homs in 2013. Before returning at the end of last year, he secured what he believed were guarantees for his safety after paying a large bribe to a high-ranking security official.

      But officers from the state security directorate met him at the airport and took him for interrogation. “They knew everything – what I’d done abroad, which cafes I’d sat in, even the time I had sat with opposition supporters during football matches,” he recalled.

      A week later, he was arrested during a visit to a government registry office and taken to a nearby police station. In a dingy room, officers took turns beating and questioning him, he said, accusing him of ferrying ammunition for an armed opposition group inside Syria in 2014.

      “I kept telling them that they knew I wasn’t in the country then,” he said. “All they did was ask me for money and tell me that it was the way to my freedom.”

      At one point, he said, the guards dragged in a young woman he had never met. “They beat her with a water pipe until she screamed, (then) told me they would do the same if I didn’t cooperate,” Hassan said.

      He said he was released at the end of January after relatives paid another bribe, this time $7,000.

      Syrians returning from abroad, like Hassan, often have to gain security approval just to re-enter the country, in some cases signing loyalty pledges and providing extensive accounts of any political activities, according to documents listing questions to be asked and statements to be signed.

      https://nationalpost.com/news/world/assad-asks-syrian-refugees-to-come-home-then-locks-them-up-and-interro

    • Weighed down by economic woes, Syrian refugees head home from Jordan

      Rahaf* and Qassem lay out their plans to return to Syria as their five-year-old daughter plays with her toys in their small apartment in the Jordanian capital, Amman.

      It is early October, six years after they fled their home in Damascus, and the couple have decided it’s time to give up trying to make a life for themselves in Jordan.

      Last year, 51-year-old Qassem lost his job at a cleaning supplies factory when the facility shut down, and Rahaf’s home business as a beautician is slow.

      For months, the couple have resorted to borrowing money from friends to cover their 200 Jordanian dinar ($282) monthly rent. They are three months overdue. “There’s nobody else for us to borrow money from,” explains Rahaf.

      Weeks later, Qassem crossed the border and headed back to their old neighbourhood, joining an increasing tide of Syrian refugees who are going home, despite the dangers and a multitude of unknowns.

      According to the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, 34,000 registered Syrian refugees have returned from Jordan since October 2018, when a key border crossing was reopened after years of closure. It’s a fraction of the 650,000 registered Syrian refugees remaining in Jordan, but a dramatic jump from previous years, when annual returns hovered at around 7,000.

      Syrian refugees from the other main host countries – Turkey and Lebanon – are making the trip too. UNHCR has monitored more than 209,000 voluntary refugee returns to Syria since 2016, but the actual figure is likely to be significantly higher.

      Some Syrian refugees face political pressure to return and anti-refugee rhetoric, but that hasn’t taken hold in Jordan.

      Here, many refugees say they are simply fed up with years spent in a dead-end job market with a bleak economic future. The uptick appears to be driven more by the fact that Syrians who wish to go home can now – for the first time in three years – board a bus or a shared taxi from the border, which is about an hour and a half’s drive north of Amman.

      People like Rahaf and Qassem are pinning their hopes on picking up what is left of the lives they led before the war. Their Damascus house, which was damaged in the conflict, is near Qassem’s old shop, where he used to sell basic groceries and cleaning supplies.

      Qassem is staying with relatives for now. But the family had a plan: if and when he gave the green light, Rahaf and their children would join him back in Damascus.

      While she waited for his signal, Rahaf sold off what little furniture and other possessions they acquired in Jordan. “Honestly, we’ve gotten tired of this life, and we’ve lost hope,” she said.
      Money problems

      Before he lost his job, Qassem endured years of verbal abuse in the workplace, and few clients made the trip to Rahaf’s home.

      When she tried to set up a salon elsewhere, their refugee status created bureaucratic hurdles the couple couldn’t overcome. “I did go ask about paying rent for one shop, and they immediately told me no,” Qassem said. “[The owners] wanted a Jordanian renter.”

      Their story echoes those of many other refugees who say they have found peace but little opportunity in Jordan.

      Syrian refugees need a permit to work in Jordan – over 153,000 have been issued so far – but they are limited to working in a few industries in designated economic zones. Many others end up in low-paying jobs, and have long faced harsh economic conditions in Jordan.

      Thousands of urban refugees earn a meagre living either on farms or construction sites, or find informal work as day labourers.

      Abu Omran, who returned to Syria three months ago, fled Damascus with his family in 2013, and for a while was able to find occasional car mechanic jobs in Amman. Work eventually dried up, and he struggled to find ways to make money that did not require hard manual labour.

      “He spent the past three years just sitting at home, with no job,” recalled Abu Omran’s wife, Umm Omran.

      Speaking to The New Humanitarian in her Amman living room several months after her husband’s departure, she was soon joined for coffee and cigarettes by her youngest son, 19-year-old Badr. Newly married, he wore a ring on one finger.

      Times were so hard for the family that Abu Omran left Jordan before he had a chance to attend the wedding, and Badr has also been contemplating a return to Syria – the country he left as a young teenager.

      Badr works in a factory near Amman that produces cleaning products, but the pay is low. And although his older brother brings in a small salary from a pastry shop, it’s getting harder and harder for the family to pull together their rent each month.

      “I’m not returning because I think the situation in Syria is good. But you don’t enter into a difficult situation unless the one you’re currently in is even worse.”

      Entering a void

      While return may seem the best option for some, there are still more unknowns than knowns across the border in Syria.

      President Bashar al-Assad’s government forces control most of the country, but there are still airstrikes in the rebel-held northwest, and the recent Turkish invasion of the northeast has raised new questions about the country’s future.

      “I’m not returning because I think the situation in Syria is good,” said Farah, a mother of three who spoke to TNH in September – about a month before she packed up her things to leave. “But you don’t enter into a difficult situation unless the one you’re currently in is even worse.”

      In 2012, Farah and her husband left their home in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus for Jordan, where she gave birth to her three children.

      Her husband suffers from kidney stones, and the manual labour he has managed to pick up is just enough for them to pay for the rent of a shared house – crammed in with two other refugee families.

      The vast majority of Syrian refugees in Jordan – including Farah and Abu Omran’s families – live in urban areas like Amman, rather than in the country’s three refugee camps. They are still eligible for aid, but Farah had decided by October that she was “no longer able to bear” the poverty in Amman, even though UN food vouchers had covered some of her expenses.

      She took her three young children and crossed the border into Syria to stay with her mother, who lives in a southeastern suburb of Damascus. TNH has not been able to contact her since.

      Farah’s husband stayed behind in Jordan, fearing arrest or forced military conscription by Syrian government authorities.

      This has happened to other people who have gone back to Syria from Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, or other host countries. Despite promises to the contrary from the government, hundreds – and possibly thousands – of returnees have reportedly been detained.

      “There are issues with what information is made available to refugees… about what is going to happen to them on the other side, in Syria.”

      Lebanese authorities have also forcibly deported thousands of Syrian refugees, and Human Rights Watch says at least three of them were detained by Syrian authorities when they got back. It isn’t clear if any Syrians have faced the same fate returning from Jordan.

      Sara Kayyali, a researcher for Human Rights Watch based in Jordan, told TNH she has yet to verify reports of disappearance, conscription, and detainment of returnees from Jordan.

      “There are issues with what information is made available to refugees… about what is going to happen to them on the other side, in Syria,” said Kayyali. “Partially because people inside are too scared to talk about the conditions in government-held areas, and partially because the restrictions applied and the behaviour of the Syrian security forces is so arbitrary that it’s difficult to predict.”

      Kayyali pointed to the 30 Jordanian citizens detained in Syria since the border opened a year ago – Amman said they entered for tourism and were arrested without reason – as a sign of what could be to come for Syrians.

      “[If those threats] apply to Jordanians, then they’re most certainly going to be applied to Syrians, potentially on an even larger scale,” said Kayyali.

      There are other obstacles to return, or challenges for people who manage to get back, including destroyed homes and lost jobs. Healthcare and water provision is scattershot in certain parts of the country, while violence and war is ongoing in others.

      Francesco Bert, a UNHCR spokesperson in Jordan, said the agency “does not facilitate returns, but offers support to refugees if they voluntarily decide to go home”.

      Asked whether it is safe for refugees to go back to Syria, Bert said the agency “considers refugees’ decisions as the main guideposts”, but gives refugees considering or planning to return “information that might inform their decision-making”, to help ensure it is truly voluntary.
      The waiting game

      Despite the obstacles, more and more people are making the trip. But families often can’t travel back together.

      For Rahaf, that meant packing her things and waiting, before finally joining her husband last weekend.

      For Umm Omran, however, that means wondering if and when she will ever see her husband again.

      The family had hoped that Abu Omran could find a job repairing cars again in Damascus, and if that didn’t work out at least he could live rent-free with his sister’s family.

      But plans for his wife and sons to join him someday, once he had found his footing, now look increasingly unlikely.

      “He hasn’t said yet if he regrets going back home,” said Umm Omran, who communicates regularly via WhatsApp with her husband and other family members who never left Syria. They live in government-controlled Damascus and don’t give away much in their chats for fear of retaliation by security forces, who they worry could be monitoring their communications.

      What Umm Omran has managed to piece together isn’t promising.

      Her husband has yet to find a job in Damascus, and is beginning to feel like a burden at his sister’s home. Their own house, where he and Umm Omran raised their sons, is bombed-out and needs extensive repairs before anyone can move back in.

      For the time-being, Umm Omran has ruled out her own potential return to Syria, fearing her two sons would insist on joining her and end up being conscripted into the armed forces. So, for now, the family remains split in two.

      “When I ask him how things are going, he just says, ‘Thank God’. He says little else,” said Umm Omran, scrolling through chats on her mobile phone. “I think he’s upset about leaving us.”

      https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/news-feature/2019/11/19/Syrian-refugees-return-Jordan
      #Amman #Jordanie

  • Committee against Torture considers initial report of Lebanon
    http://reliefweb.int/report/lebanon/committee-against-torture-considers-initial-report-lebanon

    Committee Experts commended Lebanon for its strong will to maintain the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms despite the particularly tense situation in the country and the region, and for the creation in 2012 of a committee to fight torture and other inhumane practices in places of detention. They inquired about the expected date when a bill defining and criminalizing torture in line with the Convention would be passed and urged Lebanon to ensure the absolute prohibition of torture, clearly define sentences for offenders, and remove any statute of limitations for crimes of torture. The systematic nature of acts of torture was an issue of grave concern: it was reported that more than 60 per cent of detainees suffered torture during arrest, particularly those arrested for crimes against national security. Experts raised concerns about military courts which had a very wide-ranging scope and competence and could try civilians, even children in some cases; the existence of places of secret detention used both by the State and non-State actors; the ill-treatment of domestic workers and lack of their protection under the kafala system; and the problems in the enjoyment of fundamental legal guarantees such as arbitrary detention, lack of access to a lawyer, and unlimited or long-lasting detention.

  • The 5m² Maid’s Room: Lebanon’s Racist, Gendered Architecture — Failed Architecture
    https://www.failedarchitecture.com/the-5m2-maids-room-lebanons-racist-gendered-architecture

    Pick any mid- to upper-class residential project in Lebanon and you will more often than not find the floor plan featuring a small room with the label of “maid’s room.” Through ubiquity, this label and the architecture it signifies have long passed the stage of normalization not only in Lebanon but also in other parts of the Arab world such as Qatar, UAE, and Saudi Arabia where middle and upper class families rely on cheap manual labor in the form of predominantly female foreign workers to maintain households. The Lebanese case, however, serves as one where a) land per capita is one of the lowest in the world and b) a neoliberal construction law that is deliberately relaxed in order to favor the monetary profit of the developer at the expense of the quality of the built environment. Private apartment blocks and bourgeois villas are primary sites where a veritable combination of local taste and maximum land exploitation, with a backdrop of racist law, results in workers’ spaces that are at best substandard and often gravely oppressive. In light of recent and ongoing demonstrations by domestic workers in Lebanon and of their growing struggle to push the Lebanese government to ratify the International Labor Organization Convention 189 and abolish the Kafala system, it is imperative to call out certain laws and practices in contemporary Lebanese architecture as concrete manifestations of institutional racism against foreign domestic workers, in both the public and private sectors. Within Foucault’s more general and elusive concept of heterotopia, I will argue that the maid’s room qualifies as a subgroup, the ‘heterotopia of deviation.’

    #Architecture #Immobilier #Liban @rumor

  • The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب: Lebanese government (most likely at the behest of US/Israel) is building a separation wall around the Palestinian refugee camp of `Ayn Al-Hilwah
    https://angryarab.blogspot.fr/2016/11/lebanese-government-most-likely-at.html

    Camp palestinien au Liban...

  • Migrant Worker Repression and Solidarity in Lebanon
    http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/25364/migrant-worker-repression-and-solidarity-in-lebano

    In the weeks and months following the al-Qa` bombings that occurred near the Lebanese-Syrian border on 27 June 2016, the Lebanese government has intensified its repressive measures against Syrian refugees. This has taken place in the form of illegal curfews, political hate speech, and arbitrary arrests. In the week following the attacks, checkpoints were established all over the country, mainly targeting Syrian refugees, although other undocumented migrant workers were arrested as well. According to the Lebanese Army twitter account, more than six hundred Syrians were arrested in the first three days alone. In January 2015, most Syrian nationals residing in Lebanon became subject to new rules that resemble​ the ​kafala (sponsorship) system, tying their residency to a “pledge of responsibility” on the part of their employer (with minor exceptions). Ever since, the majority of Syrians present in Lebanon (those who cannot get a tourist or student visa, for instance, or those whose relatives did not obtain sponsorship) have fallen out of legal status.

    Denial of status is a tool the Lebanese government consistently uses to further control marginalized populations in the territory. Prior to these recent events, migrant workers as well as refugees across the country were already the target of a noticeable increase in police violence, albeit one that largely escaped media attention. From late April through May 2016, these communities witnessed waves of arrests and police raids at their homes, workplaces, and public gathering spaces. This targeting affected both “legal” and undocumented migrant workers and refugees, particularly migrant women who cannot live legally outside of their sponsor’s house and who are thus suspect simply for being in public space. In the words of an Ethiopian woman who has been working in Lebanon for more than fifteen years: “In all my time here, I have never seen a year like this year.”

    This article focuses on this past wave of repression against migrant domestic workers in Lebanon, and their ongoing strategies of resistance. We tackle three aspects of this state violence: the gendered nature of the arrests and their role in producing state legitimacy, the criminalization of migrant women through restrictions on status, and the networks of solidarity that have developed around the `Adliyya Detention Center in Beirut.[1]

    #répression #migrants #réfugiés #femmes

  • Juin 2008 : Hezbollah : the network and its support systems, can they be stopped ? - Philippone, Douglas S.
    http://calhoun.nps.edu/handle/10945/10346

    To defeat Hezbollah, a complex strategy of both direct and indirect means is in order. The United States should disrupt Hezbollah’s support networks by: targeting state sponsors such as Iran and Syria, monitoring international charities, supporting South American efforts to disrupt terrorist financing, and cut flows of support from Europe. The United States should reduce Hezbollah’s support from the local population by: giving intensive financial and material support to the legitimate Lebanese government; using the United Nations and other locally excepted organizations to provide social services, job training, education and infrastructure support; and effectively displacing every benefit that Hezbollah provides to the people. The United States should disrupt Hezbollah’s ability to conduct global operations by: exacerbating internal Lebanese sectarian conflict, working to establish a global coalition against Hezbollah as a designated terrorist organization, using an information campaign to portray Hezbollah as an international terror proxy for Iran, and by selectively and covertly killing or capturing Hezbollah’s military leaders.

    Un document particulièrement important cité par un article passionnant de l’ami Omar Nashabé :
    http://al-akhbar.com/node/263165

    • Une verseion anglaise qui ressemble beaucoup : Mariam and her siblings are among more than 250,000 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon who are not in school, according to a report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday.

      “The high number of refugee children out of school is an immediate crisis,” the New York-based watchdog warned.

      “Some have never stepped inside a classroom.”

      The problem is particularly acute among children aged 15-18, just three percent of whom were enrolled in Lebanon’s public schools during the 2015-2016 school year, according to HRW.

      And the crisis continues despite the efforts of the Lebanese government and international donors to increase enrolment among the more than one million Syrians who have taken refuge in the country since the war began in March 2011.

      In Qab Elias, in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa Valley, dozens of informal refugee camps are full of children who are getting no education.
      http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=77823

  • How Lebanese banks are handling US sanctions on Hezbollah - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East
    http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/01/us-sanctions-lebanon-banks-hezbollah.html#

    On Dec. 18, US President Barack Obama signed the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015, imposing sanctions on foreign financial institutions that deal with Hezbollah and its affiliated Al-Manar TV channel.

    In a Dec. 21 speech delivered on Al-Manar, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah cautioned institutions against panicking over the US measures. Nasrallah stressed that neither Hezbollah nor any of its institutions have financial accounts at any Lebanese bank. He also called on the Lebanese government to ensure that the sanctions do not harm Lebanese citizens or institutions.

    Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/01/us-sanctions-lebanon-banks-hezbollah.html#ixzz3x9LunZiQ

  • The Lebanese Government’s Incompetence Finally Paid Off | Blog Baladi
    http://blogbaladi.com/the-lebanese-governments-incompetence-finally-paid-off

    A car filled with explosives was apprehended by the Lebanese authorities after it flipped due to bad road conditions. The driver abandoned the vehicle on one of the #Arsal roads after he fell into a pot hole on and lost control of the vehicle which contained 120kg of explosives.

    Thanks Dawlé! [1]

    #Liban

  • #Délire d’#assassins,
    http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/01/israel-hezbollah-syria-golan-heights-iran-attack-convoy.html

    Maj.-Gen. (res.) #Giora_Eiland, a former national security adviser, told me Jan. 19 that the mistake made by #Israel in its prior round of fighting was that it agreed to isolate #Hezbollah from Lebanon and only fought the terrorist organization, without harming the host state. Eiland said the next time Israel will need to make it very clear that any fire or terrorist attack coming from Lebanon will constitute a declaration of war of the Lebanese government on Israel and will be dealt with accordingly. Hezbollah must know that it can no longer light the candle on both ends and that Lebanon will pay a very steep price in the next conflagration.

    “Dahiye Doctrine” co-author in Israeli military still doesn’t get it: Broad attacks on Lebanon undermined Israel in 2006 war
    https://mideastwire.wordpress.com/2015/01/21/dahiye-doctrine-co-author-in-israeli-military-still-doesnt-ge

    Of course – the great mistake Israel made early in the 2006 war was indeed widely targeting Lebanon and not just Hizbullah. In fact this approach ended up rapidly consolidating support FOR hizbullah, at a moment when the party could have been dangerously isolated!

    #doctrine_dahiya #Liban #Israël #victimes_civiles

  • Palestinian-Syrian refugees face hardship in Lebanon - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East
    http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/11/palestinian-refugees-from-syria-to-lebanon-hardships.html

    Sahli believes that the PLO is responsible for the worsening suffering of displaced Palestinians as it failed to develop a contingency plan in conjunction with UNRWA to reduce their suffering.

    Moreover, the Palestinian factions have not seriously worked with the Lebanese government regarding promoting equality between the Syrians and Palestinians upon entering the crossing from Syria to Lebanon and vice versa. It also has not discussed the expensive residency permits that the displaced have to renew every three months.

    Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/11/palestinian-refugees-from-syria-to-lebanon-hardships.html#ixzz3IVdNhGM4