Kidnappings expose Lebanon weakness

The reprisal kidnappings of over 20 Syrians and a Turkish national in Lebanon by one of the country’s biggest clans have demonstrated the weakness of Lebanon’s government in the face of escalating tensions.

The Meqdads, a clan claiming to consist of over 10,000 eligible voters, took matters into their own hands a few days ago after one of their family members, Hassan al Meqdad, was kidnapped by Syrian rebels, who displayed him, bruised and beaten on a video, claiming him to be a sniper for the Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah.

Immediately dismissing any links to Hezbollah, the family vowed to respond to Hassan’s kidnapping with their own operation if he was not released immediately. True to their word, the clan’s self-declared “military wing” announced on Thursday the abduction of over 20 Syrians, allegedly members of the Free Syrian Army, as well as one Turkish national.

By Friday, they had released 21 Syrians who they said were not involved with the FSA, refusing to disclose how many they still held, but insisting those who remained were important members of the FSA.

“We don’t consider ourselves above the law, but when there is no state, like now, then we need to act to protect ourselves,” Maher al Meqdad told Al Jazeera, sitting outside the family home on a street which bares their name in the heart of Dahyeh, Beirut’s southern suburbs.

“We waited for the government to do something and they didn’t. Therefore, we were forced to do something to bring back our son.”

 

The reprisal kidnappings of over 20 Syrians and a Turkish national in Lebanon by one of the country’s biggest clans have demonstrated the weakness of Lebanon’s government in the face of escalating tensions.

The Meqdads, a clan claiming to consist of over 10,000 eligible voters, took matters into their own hands a few days ago after one of their family members, Hassan al Meqdad, was kidnapped by Syrian rebels, who displayed him, bruised and beaten on a video, claiming him to be a sniper for the Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah.

Immediately dismissing any links to Hezbollah, the family vowed to respond to Hassan’s kidnapping with their own operation if he was not released immediately. True to their word,  the can’s  self-declared “military wing” announced on Thursday the abduction of over 20 Syrians, allegedly members of the Free Syrian Army, as well as one Turkish national.

By Friday, they had released 21 Syrians who they said were not involved with the FSA, refusing to disclose how many they still held, but insisting those who remained were important members of the FSA.

“We don’t consider ourselves above the law, but when there is no state, like now, then we need to act to protect ourselves,” Maher al Meqdad told Al Jazeera, sitting outside the family home on a street which bares their name in the heart of Dahyeh, Beirut’s southern suburbs.

“We waited for the government to do something and they didn’t. Therefore, we were forced to do something to bring back our son.”

“The Free Syrian Army kidnapped 11 Shia Lebanese four months ago, and until now, the government has done nothing to bring them back,” he said, referring to the case of 11 pilgrims who were kidnapped by an alleged affiliate of the FSA in Syria in May.

Fighting in Syria is often linked to sectarian grievances, as the government of president Bashar al-Assad is supported by Shia muslims in Iran while the opposition is predominately Sunni. Some analysts see the recent spate of kidnappings as an example of Syria’s problems stoking violence in Lebanon.

While several TV crews have since visited the pilgrims, even on one occasion bringing with them family members of the kidnapped, the Lebanese government has done little to secure their release, in what the Shia community interprets as a lack of official concern.

“We don’t want this for our family, so we believe [the kidnappings] are the only way to bring back our son,” al Meqdad said. “Let me be clear; they kill Hassan, and we will kill the Turk, inshallah.”

Tit for tat

Within hours of Thursday’s kidnappings, Lebanon’s security situation quickly deteriorated.

Other groups took advantage of the situation and through ad-hoc “military wings”, began kidnapping Syrian workers, vandalising Syrian-owned properties, and attacking Syrians residing in Lebanon.

Ali, a Syrian worker who has been living and working in Beirut for the last 15 years, told Al Jazeera that he was attacked and threatened on Friday by a group of Lebanese while waiting for work.

“This is the first time the situation has become this scary. People are mad, so there is now an expectation of violence and repercussions,” he said. “We have nothing to do with the kidnappings in Syria. The ones who did the kidnapping are inside Syria, so go and take them from inside Syria.”

The abductions are not limited to Syrian nationals. One previously unknown group kidnapped Lebanese businessman Raja Zuheiri on Thursday, demanding a ransom of $1m. Another group kidnapped a Turkish national on the same day.

To add fuel to the fire, an airstrike hit Aazaz in Syria, the area where the 11 kidnapped pilgrims were being held. Conflicting reports on casualties from the attack stoked the perception of chaos.

Internationally, members of the Meqdad clan held Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia responsible for the kidnapping of Hassan, causing all Gulf states and Turkey to call for the immediate evacuation of their nationals in Lebanon.

The tensions spread to the streets of Beirut as the families of the pilgrims as well as supporters of the Meqdads blocked roads, burnt tyres, and closed down the airport road, forcing a plane from France to be diverted (via Damascus) to Cyprus.

Local journalists were attacked by protesters as they attempted to cover the events. Assailants fired shots at one reporter while journalists covering protests near the Nasnaa border crossing between Lebanon and Syria were pelted with stones.

Masked gunmen took the streets in Dahyeh, a predominately Shia suburb south of Beirut, while other groups of gunmen  set up checkpoints in the northern city of Tripoli.

By Friday evening, Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, came out and gave a speech stating that recent events were out of “Hezbollah and Amal’s control”.

‘State without a government’

Lebanese politicians opposed to the current government called for its resignation, calling it incapable of dealing with the deteriorating security situation, and blaming the clans as acting on Hezbollah’s behest.

Boutros Harb, a politician with the pro-Syrian opposition Lebanese movement March 14, told Al Jazeera that as a result of recent developments, the current government needs to step down.

“This government is absent, as everyone has the freedom to act as he chooses and behave without order. This is putting the country in jeopardy,” he said.

“Those responsible are no longer at the level where they can control the situation, and these actions are the result of the Syrian government trying to destabilise Lebanon,” he said, adding that the opposition is considering calling for a no confidence vote. “We need to stop the outlaws….we have never reached this level of behaviour before.”

The kidnappings are seen as the latest in a series of actions which demonstrate a pre-existing notion that the government is weak and attempting to rule through negotiations with groups involved in illegal activity rather than upholding the law.

While many residents of Dahyeh are sympathetic to the Meqdad’s situation, there is an underlying concern of how far the situation will escalate.

“The Shia are targets for the Syrian opposition and the government is not doing anything. If it was any other sect, the situation would be different,” Sleiman, a resident of Hay al Sellom, told Al Jazeera. “I would’ve done the same thing as the Meqdads if a member of my family was kidnapped.”

For Jamal, also a resident of Hay al Sellom, “this is just a small detail in the bigger picture. The longer we have a state without a government, the worse things will get”.

“Those Syrians who were kidnapped by the Meqdads have nothing to do with the situation, because they were not the ones who kidnapped Hassan el Meqdad,” he said. “Innocent Syrian workers should not be targeted.”

Maher el Meqdad, who recently called for an end to military operations, has one main concern: Bringing back his relative alive from Syria. Anything else that happens in the country is not his problem, he said.

“People have been saying that the chaos over the last couple of days is because of the ‘Meqdadi’ way, but these comments don’t bother me,” he shrugged. “We are not responsible for the actions of others, and we have control over our own people.”

 

Al Jazeera

 

 

 

  • Constantin7

    This Makdad clan returned Lebanon 40 years back. The attached picture has been diffused all over the world. What a disaster is this family and all the ones backing it. There goes the economy, the tourists, the investors, and anyone who wants to come to Lebanon including Arabs and Turks. Not even Syrians are going to dare to come to Lebanon. When the Lebanese economy weakens, the most vulnerable in the society are hurt first and  the most, and the group that is the most vulnerable economically in Lebanon are the Shiaa. If the economy goes down they are the first to feel its consequences. This Makdad family also threatened to kidnap Arabs from the Gulf, if they do, all the Lebanese in the Guld who are working to nourrish their families would risk being kicked out and lose their jobs, and the first that would be kicked out would be the Shiaa, as the UAE did a year ago. So no matter how we look at it, this gangester clan of Makdad and who is leading them and supporting them are hurting Lebanon and their community first without knowing. They are a bunch of outlaws who are determining the law of the land. In my opinion, the army should encircle the southern suburbs and start a sort of clean-up and search for the kidnapped and kidnappers by force, and who ever resists to the army should be confronted by an iron fist. These people do not understand other than the language of force. 

    • bs244846

      i have been offered many jobs in those gulf tribal countries which i graciously rejected….i dont think people live decently in these countries…dubai might be an exception because it is almost considered as a british colony…i wonder if your son or brother or daughter or sister were kidnapped, would you have sang this beautiful song you are repeating after your geagea3i masters….hadnt we had this geagea no christian would have ever left Lebanon…keep on supporting him and i guarantee you if he survives you will end up in tizi ouzou

      • Constantin7

        First, the Lebanese who are in the Gulf they do not go there because they love living there, they are there because they want to make a living and have decent salaries which are much lower in Lebanon. I have never seen someone who wants to emigrate, that is for good, to any Gulf country. People emigrate to Europe, to America, Canada or Australia where living is enjoyable.
        Second, who talked about Geagea, we happen to have the same views but I do not support him for the simple reason is that he was a criminal, so are many many Lebanese politicians like Aoun, Berri, Nasrallah, Jumblatt, etc… at least Geagea paid a bit for his crimes by doing time in jail, all the others paid nothing. Actually, I do not support many of the existing politicians for either they are/were criminals or they are big time thiefs stealing public money. 
        Third, please refrain from using vulgar terms on this site as they reflect YOUR nature, mentality, and attitude and do not affect me a bit.
        Finally, so you are suggesting that if any one of my family is kidnapped in Ouagadougou/Mali, I should go to the airport road and look for any African from Mali and kidnap them so that my family member gets released ? Nice advice, what a great civilised people we are becoming !!!

  • Constantin7

    This Makdad clan returned Lebanon 40 years back. The attached picture has been diffused all over the world. What a disaster is this family and all the ones backing it. There goes the economy, the tourists, the investors, and anyone who wants to come to Lebanon including Arabs and Turks. Not even Syrians are going to dare to come to Lebanon. When the Lebanese economy weakens, the most vulnerable in the society are hurt first and  the most, and the group that is the most vulnerable economically in Lebanon are the Shiaa. If the economy goes down they are the first to feel its consequences. This Makdad family also threatened to kidnap Arabs from the Gulf, if they do, all the Lebanese in the Guld who are working to nourrish their families would risk being kicked out and lose their jobs, and the first that would be kicked out would be the Shiaa, as the UAE did a year ago. So no matter how we look at it, this gangester clan of Makdad and who is leading them and supporting them are hurting Lebanon and their community first without knowing. They are a bunch of outlaws who are determining the law of the land. In my opinion, the army should encircle the southern suburbs and start a sort of clean-up and search for the kidnapped and kidnappers by force, and who ever resists to the army should be confronted by an iron fist. These people do not understand other than the language of force. 

    • 5thDrawer

      Seems like as much inbreeding as the Alawites …. 😉

      • bs244846

        for an educated person that you claim to be you should know that many minorities in middle east have a lot of inbreeding….this is part of preservation of the species….this applies to your jewish friends with plenty of thalassemia as well as  breast cancer among the ashkenazis in particular, the druze, the alais, the maronites ((to which i proudly belong) and the shiites….only sunnas dont have much inbreeding cause the saoudis breed evn with camels and mules…as well as they are notorious pedophiles…hajj awlad

        • breakthemould

           I can see now that clean language is not in your nature, Sadly. And this has nothing to do with where you come from. It is just you. Therefore, count me out. It is a waste of time replying to the like of you.

    • bs244846

      i have been offered many jobs in those gulf tribal countries which i graciously rejected….i dont think people live decently in these countries…dubai might be an exception because it is almost considered as a british colony…i wonder if your son or brother or daughter or sister were kidnapped, would you have sang this beautiful song you are repeating after your geagea3i masters….hadnt we had this geagea no christian would have ever left Lebanon…keep on supporting him and i guarantee you if he survives you will end up in tizi ouzou

      • Constantin7

        First, the Lebanese who are in the Gulf they do not go there because they love living there, they are there because they want to make a living and have decent salaries which are much lower in Lebanon. I have never seen someone who wants to emigrate, that is for good, to any Gulf country. People emigrate to Europe, to America, Canada or Australia where living is enjoyable.
        Second, who talked about Geagea, we happen to have the same views but I do not support him for the simple reason is that he was a criminal, so are many many Lebanese politicians like Aoun, Berri, Nasrallah, Jumblatt, etc… at least Geagea paid a bit for his crimes by doing time in jail, all the others paid nothing. Actually, I do not support many of the existing politicians for either they are/were criminals or they are big time thiefs stealing public money. 
        Third, please refrain from using vulgar terms on this site as they reflect YOUR nature, mentality, and attitude and do not affect me a bit.
        Finally, so you are suggesting that if any one of my family is kidnapped in Ouagadougou/Mali, I should go to the airport road and look for any African from Mali and kidnap them so that my family member gets released ? Nice advice, what a great civilised people we are becoming !!!

        • bs244846

          am  glad you are sharing views with a criminal as you called him that reflects very badly on your criminal nature and to be honest with you if i was in charge of the police i would put you on my suspicious list as potential criminal…cause to my expert point of view you are a latent criminal awaiting for the opportunistic time to jump into action…statistically speaking most criminals are first time criminals
          you are bragging the fact of going there by necessity for higher wages, i believe from your style of thinking and your propensity towards criminality that you are one of them, many of those people prefer to live in dishonour just for a bunch of money…tells me how cheap you and they are…i dont think we can build a nation with a bunch of opportunistic like these
          third vulgarity can be with words or with style…more vulgar than your style and your mentality i have never seen and you bring the level of this discussion to way below the acceptable…my use of vulgar words is very occasional and adressed to vulgar people like you who certainly come from behind the cows in Lebanon, had the smell of some camel money and believed they became important while either using their bottoms to please some saoudi riches or shining their shoes whereas we come from a culture that even refuses to mount on camels…dont misunderstand me i love camels as animals but the camel culture like yours i have no respect for

  • Mahdi Kenaani

    Lebanon isnt weak as long as it has Hizbullah to protect it from the IsraHELLis

  • Mahdi Kenaani

    Lebanon isnt weak as long as it has Hizbullah to protect it from the IsraHELLis

  • Mahdi Kenaani

    Lebanon isnt weak as long you have Hizbullah to protect you from the IsraHELLis