Against racist authoritarianism, in full solidarity with its victims, Syrian refugees

We condemn murderous, racist authoritarianism, and we stand in full solidarity with its victims, the Syrian refugees.

At dawn of Friday the 30th of June, 2017, a faction of the Lebanese Army raided the two Syrian refugee camps of Nawar and Qareiah in the town of Arsal, in what was officially designated a "preventive raid" in search of "terrorists" based in the camp. 

As a result, several people were killed, amongst them a child, and several soldiers were wounded due to a suicide bombing inside the camps. This was followed by the arrest of more than 350 Syrian refugees based on their alleged, potential link to "terrorist” organizations. Soon after, photos of the detained held under inhumane conditions and subject to torture and humiliation, were circulated in the press. 

The army also announced on Tuesday, July 4, 2017, that "four Syrians who had been arrested during the raids on the camps a week earlier on Friday (June 30th) died in detention as a result of "chronic diseases and climatic conditions." 
However, the images that were circulated through social media channels clearly reveal bruises, wounds and the effects of torture on the bodies of the victims.

The Army's statement about the circumstances that led to the death of the detainees is rendered even more dubious when we consider the pressure exerted on the families of the victims to bury the bodies immediately, without the right to a coronary or forensic examination, access to lawyers, or even photographing the deceased.  

In addition, the Military Intelligence intervened on July 7 to disrupt a judicial decision issued by the Judge for Urgent Matters in Zahle, authorizing the examination of samples from the autopsies. Military intelligence personnel confiscated the evidence held at Hotel Dieu hospital from the lawyer granted power of attorney by the families of the victims, in a clear case of judicial obstruction by the military courts in order to withhold evidence related to civilians who were not definitively shown to have been involved with any terrorist associations. 

This attack on Syrian refugees is not the first of its kind. It indicates a dangerous escalation within the framework of an organized racist campaign against refugee populations by ruling class parties, who are using various state apparatuses in Lebanon to impose curfews, close the border to those fleeing the war in Syria and deprive them of their most basic rights, which are universally guaranteed under international law. Furthermore, the General Security has imposed impossible conditions for the renewal of residency permits since the beginning of 2015. These conditions are only aimed at turning refugees into illegal aliens, making them easier to exploit and increasing the precarity of their living conditions. This policy of limiting mobility has gone hand in had with raids, evictions and arbitrary arrests over the last two years, as well as the continuing threat of forcible repatriation to a country still embroiled in war.

To top off this racist campaign, various Lebanese ministries have used refugees as scapegoats in a failed attempt at hiding their shortcomings with regards to garbage collection, electricity and water provision, providing access to health and education, and managing air pollution.

This approach mirrors those of the Baath regime in Syria and the Sisi regime in Egypt. Using the pretext of the 'war on terror', these regimes evoke patriotic slogans and accelerate crackdowns on the most vulnerable groups in society, claiming that they are the main cause of economic downturns in an attempt to channel the struggle of nationals fighting for rights, services and freedoms, into a struggle against refugees. 

By prolonging the war on refugees, ruling class parties aim to strengthen their grip in Lebanon and restore populist support, which has been lost through corrupt policies, the rule of banks, and the battering of what remains of the welfare state and services.

Fundamentalist groups also play a complimentary role to the one played by the authorities in the war on refugees and the marginalized. After defeating the aspirations of the Syrian people and their hopes for freedom and dignity, these groups are now using refugees as human shields, and the camps as a platform for their reactionary religious propaganda.

The official rhetoric supporting the army is already hegemonic. Ruling class parties express their support and concern for the army, articulating hope in their speeches that the issue of the abducted soldiers in the Arsal countryside will be resolved, neglecting to mention how the Lebanese regime of 1990, peopled by the same politicians, abandoned Lebanese soldiers and the civilians who were detained and tortured by the Syrian army during its invasion of the portion of Lebanese territory that was under General Michel Aoun's control at the time.

For those who are keen on overzealously defending the army, let them first demand to know the whereabouts of those detained in the jails of the Syrian regime, just as they were keen to demand the release of those detained by Jabhat Al Nusra during the deal that was brokered by the Lebanese state and Syrian regime in December 2015. Let them demand first that the salary scale for military personnel and public employees alike be approved by the government.

All these violations are happening under the watchful eyes of United Nations organizations, especially the UNHCR, which has been at the forefront of eroding the rights of refugees, and which has enabled, intentionally or not, the deterioration of refugees’ living conditions who are increasingly deprived of protection and humanitarian support, and are falling further below the poverty line. The support meant for refugees is being looted by a wide range of individuals, NGOs and authoritarian institutions under the supposed supervision of international institutions.

In this context, and now more than ever, we need solidarity. We therefore call upon you, Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians, and those of all (or no) nationalities, to stand in solidarity with the refugees and to stand together in opposition to the police state crackdowns we are witnessing, and in opposition to oppressive, humiliating raids, arbitrary detentions, intimidations and murders. Let us unite together against terrorism, all terrorism, and especially state terrorism. We demand: 

- A transparent and independent investigation to uncover the circumstances that resulted in the death of the detainees, which deserves the harshest condemnation. 

- Firm public accountability for all those involved in torture, abuse and murder.

- The disclosure of the fate of the remaining detainees, who were arrested arbitrarily, as well as their release and compensation for their suffering.

- Protecting the refugee issue from political manipulation and exploitation, and putting an end to military solutions to the refugee crisis.

-The abolition of all racist policies against refugees, as well as all political, military and economic maneuvers aimed at forcing them to return, against their will, to the brutal killings and massacres of the Syrian regime, accompanied by a criminal and suspicious silence at both the regional and international levels.

July 13, 2017