Monday, April 14, 2014

Hezbollah mourners clash with Syrians in east Beirut suburb

[Originally posted at NOW]

Passing on the way to work this morning through Burj Hammoud, the largely Armenian neighborhood on Beirut’s eastern outskirts, I saw an unusual new poster on the walls, departing from the more customary themes of “Never Forget April 24” and “Fuck Turkey”: a notice informing residents of the recent “martyrdom” of a Hezbollah commander, Hassan Nayif Dandash, aka Abu Ahmad, in Syria.

I say unusual because, while these things are everywhere now in Beirut’s southern suburbs, the Beqaa Valley, and the south, I’d never until today seen one in Burj Hammoud itself. Hezbollah does, however, have a visible presence in the adjacent quarter of Nabaa, and so aside from making a mental note of the poster, I thought nothing of it thereafter.

There turns out, however, to be more to it than I knew. Unreported by all but a few Arabic-language news sites, there had in fact been a clash between Abu Ahmad’s mourners and Syrian residents in Nabaa during the funeral procession on Saturday. Accounts vary on the details: one site says mourners smashed shops owned by Syrians; another says “a problem occurred” between “two Shiite youths” and “Syrian refugees;” while a third says the mourners forcibly closed shops owned by Syrians. Claims that the army and internal security forces had to intervene to restore order appear to be corroborated by photos.

Does this portend a wider communal rift, leading inevitably to an outbreak of more serious violence? Probably not. Instead, in its banality – so commonplace it didn’t even warrant coverage by mainstream Lebanese media – it opens a window on the small acts of bigotry visited every day upon a Syrian community as despised as it is downtrodden.

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