Alawites in Lebanon

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Imagine just for a couple of seconds that your everyday life is burdened with horror and violence! How is the feeling? Yes, it is incredibly unbelievable. But, we do have the same thing in today’s real world!! In Tripoli, some 60,000 Alawites survive in Jabal Mohsen, a district built on the mountain in the center of the city. It is one of the poorest and most isolated areas in the whole of Lebanon. In this district, there is no contact with the rest of the city for fear of retaliations. The Alawites of Jabal Mohsen are mostly loyal supporters of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The conflict in Syria has led to an escalation of the armed conflict between the Islamic extremists from Bab el-Tebaneh, a neighboring district, and the Alawites from Jabal Mohsen. During the battles between Jabal Mohsen and Bab el Tabaneh the area remains closed and there is no option to move in or out. In Jabal Mohsen, there are no hospitals, and during the conflict, most of the injured must wait in the small clinic of the quarter until the Red Cross take them out to a safe area with the help of the Lebanese Army. The remainders of the conflict are visible on every house in Jabal Mohsen, especially in the zone that delimits the border between the two neighbourhoods. The lives of the inhabitants of the front line are conditioned by the state of the conflict: they live in fear of losing their houses, but also their lives by Islamic extremists and Takfiris from both al-Nusra Front and ISIL. In spite of everything, the Alawites of Jabal Mohsen are still Lebanese, like their neighbors and enemies, the Islamic extremists of the Bab el-Tebaneh district; and despite everything, life still goes on in Jabal Mohsen.

TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00

Narration: In the Lebanese city of Tripoli around 60,000 Alawites live in Jabal Mohsen, a district built in the centre of the city. It is one of the poorest areas in all of Lebanon. Inhabitants of Jabal Mohsen are mostly supporters of the Syrian President Bashar Al Assad and belong to the same religious group, the Alawites. Tripoli, situated in the north of Lebanon and only 30 km far from Syria, lives immersed in a sectarian conflict which began with the Lebanese civil war in the 1970s and which has intensified since the beginning of the civil war in Syria. The wounds of the conflict between the Sunni and Alawite communities have transformed Tripoli into a smaller scale reproduction of the conflict prevailing in Syria.Ranine Diab is a young Lebanese from Jabal Mohsen. As many others young Alawites, her daily life is burdened with the problems related to the conflict between their neighbourhood and people from Bab el-Tabaneh. If the possibilities and the future for the young Lebanese are getting more difficult all around Lebanon, for the Alawites, they are even worse. Within Jabal Mohsen, there are no universities, and because of the problems with the people from the neighboring Bab el-Tabaneh, most of the younger population cannot keep studying unless they travel to Beirut, which is not affordable to most of them.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Ranine Diab, Student from Jabal Mohsen: “Sometimes during the exam period, some people used to cut the streets that lead to the university. They threw stones at the buses, and once, they even shot at them. To avoid this; some students would leave early or sleep outside Jabal Mohsen. However, some people are unable to sleep over or move to Beirut to complete their education. Some parents consider that it is best that their children stay at home instead of going to the university in order for them to stay safe. I couldn´t complete my education because the Lebanese University is in al Qobbe, a Sunni neighbourhood. Lots of people have lost their work or stopped going to the university because their life is threatened. When there is a battle, Jabal Mohsen becomes isolated, impairing all movement in or out. When this happens, we suffer from a shortage of food and medicine. If someone is mildly injured, his health deteriorates because of the lack of safe transportation.”

Narration:The wounds of the conflict between the Sunni and Alawite communities have transformed Tripoli into a smaller scale reproduction of the conflict prevailing in Syria.During the battles between Jabal Mohsen and Bab el Tabaneh the area remains closed and there is no option to move in or out. In Jabal Mohsen, there are no hospitals, and during the conflict, most of the injured must wait in the small clinic of the quarter until the Red Cross take them out to a safe area with the help of the Lebanese Army.

TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Carole Al Ghawi, Nurse: “The situation in Jabal Mohsen is getting worse. Everybody is against us, there is no support and we are losing a lot. During the war we can not attend to all injuries for example those who are shot in the chest or in the head. Here we don't have the equipment necessary for surgeries. We can attend to mild injuries. We send the injured to the Hospital with the Lebanese Red Cross or with the Lebanese Army. The Lebanese Army transports our injured in their tanks or the Red Cross evacuates them to the Riva area where the Army takes them to the Hospital, once neither the Army nor the Red Cross were able to access Jabal Mohsen because they were being shot at. They were finally able to transport the injured but arrived late. The patient suffered from a haemorrhage. He lost a lot of blood and died when he arrived at the Hospital. During the war, the national Red Cross sends us medication with the Lebanese Army. However they can't always access our area because they get fired at, so the medicine arrives late. Jabal Mohsen is surrounded by the areas of: Riva, Qobbe, Mankoubin, Badawiand Bab el Tabaneh. The small area of Jabal Mohsen finds itself in the middle of all these neighbourhoods.”

Narration:The remainders of the conflict are visible on every house in Jabal Mohsen, especially in the zone that delimits the border between the two neighbourhoods. The lives of the inhabitants of the front line are conditioned by the state of the conflict: they live in fear of losing their houses, but also their lives.Leila lives with her family close to the front line between Jabal Mohsen and Bab el-Tabaneh.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Leila, Cleaning Services Worker: “Look, the bullet entered here. It entered from here and went out inside. My daughter is a new bride and 3 weeks after her marriage her house caught fire. Look at the door of the closet. Did you see it? They shot him while he was sitting here. He was talking to me on the phone and he told me: “They are shooting bring the girls and come home. While he was talking to me he said: “I got shot”. The shooting wasn’t stopping so he couldn’t leave the house.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic],Ma’el, Jabal Mohsen Resident: “I was next to the stairs to go down when the shooting started. I put my hand in my shoulder and I fell on the floor. I started crawling on the floor.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Leila, Cleaning Services Worker: “We can’t live anywhere but here because my salary is not enough; we cannot rent another house. When we hear shooting we leave the house very quickly. We can’t stay because the bullets will hit us.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic],Ma’el, Jabal Mohsen Resident: “We run away to my daughter’s house.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Leila, Cleaning Services Worker: “Things were calmer for a period of time, then they started fighting again, and we are still here. As you have seen we have nowhere to hide. We don’t have any corner to hide in.”

Narration:Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict 3 years ago the battles between booth sides are more constant, and more that 150 people have been killed and more that 1000 wounded. The Alawites, living in Lebanon since the sixteenth century, are a minority in the north of the country. Mainly they are living in Tripoli and in some villages near the border with Syria. The Alawites revere Imam Ali and the name "Alawi" means a follower of Ali. Ranine lost her father 4 months ago. Ever since, she spends most of her free time in the house garden that her father used to take care of. Here, she reveals how she received the news of the murder.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Ranine Diab, Student from Jabal Mohsen: “My father used to work in Tripoli. After repeated attacks, he decided to move his job to Beirut to protect himself. He was on his way to work like every day. He left the house at 7:00AM. At 7:30, we received the news that he was on the street of al Mina. It´s the street he used every day. Many armed men blocked his way and attacked him. They shot him with 26 bullets which led to his immediate death.”

TIME CODE: 11:00_15:00

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Ranine Diab, Student from Jabal Mohsen: “I started receiving calls from many people threatening to kill me or other members of my family. They said they could reach me at anytime. They proudly confessed that they were the ones who killed my father. They sent me images and audio recordings of the crime. We were surprised when intelligence services arrested my brother under the charge of organizing the car bombs outside Tripoli Mosque. Youssef was not even 19. We were all shocked and until now we don’t know what happened, because we were not raised with these ideas. We don't have the know-how or the technology to go and bomb a mosque or to organize a suicide bombing or terrorist act. Neither our religion nor our morals allows us to do that. Youssef was arrested on this accusation. They said, “There is a video that shows somebody who looks like him. We asked to make the investigation public but they refused. After the first investigation by the intelligence service, the second one was done by the army. They asked to check all the surveillance camera footage from the mosque that was bombed. Until now, they haven’t done anything and he is detained without going on trial, without any proof ... only by the fact that he confessed in the first interrogation, probably under torture. Around 30 armed men came to take him from here in a very ugly and aggressive way. They were stepping on his head to take him to the car. He thought he was being kidnapped because they were wearing civilian clothes. Since then, we are facing a lot of problems. People from Bab el-Tabaneh have issued a death sentence for our family. They killed my father because he was an Alawite from Jabal Mohsen, and because he was affiliated to the Arab Democratic Party after my grandfather was killed on the stairs of his house in the 80´s. The fact that my brother Youssef is accused of the Mosque blast also played a role in the killing of my father.”

Narration:Said Hassan lives with her 4 children only through the aid of neighbours and friends since losing mobility in his hand following an attack on the Bab Tabaneh. Spend most of the time even scared and lonely house. His wife is Sunni and lived with no problems up to start of the conflict in Syria. After the attack against Said she returned with her family because of the pressures of his relatives.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Said Hassan, Former Deliveryman: “I went to the city to buy things for the kids. I arrived to the entrance of the market right after the mosque. I was walking normally when 4 to 5 people stopped me. They asked for my ID. I gave it to them and they saw that I was Alawite.”

TIME CODE: 15:00_23:00

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Said Hassan, Former Deliveryman: They asked me if I was Alawite from Jabal Mohsen. I said yes. They told me they were from Jabhat al Nusra. They took me to their headquarters where they blindfolded me and tied my hands up. There, they started hitting me with the back of their guns and with stones. I asked them why they were hitting me. They said because I'm Alawite. I said: "So what? Where is the problem? Am I not Muslim like you? They said: "No, you shouldn't exist". I asked them what they wanted from me. They said: "nothing". They tortured me a lot. They broke my leg and paralyzed my hand. They also used knives. They let me go because they thought I was dead. They left me on the bank of the Abu Ali River. The military found me 15 min later. used to deliver sweets in a van. I was still working when they attacked me. Afterwards I was unable to drive the car. My hand is not functional anymore. When this happened, the situation was quiet. I'm a citizen who was publicly assaulted. There is no security. I am not affiliated to any political party. I don't carry weapons and I don't make trouble. What do they want from me?”

Narration:The aggressions against the Alawites in Tripoli are increasing. This year alone, around 80 people were gravely injured, sometimes from assaults in minibuses, others in various locations in Tripoli outside Jabal Mohsen. The consequences of these attacks left its toll on the victims: many are unable to work and suffer from permanent disabilities. As a result, the majority of the inhabitants of Jabal Mohsen limit their mobility outside their neighbourhood, which transforms Jabal Mohsen into an isolated zone. The security forces in Tripoli have failed until now to provide Alawites with adequate protection and didn’t arrest those responsible for attacks even though the identities of many of the attackers are known.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Ali Assi, Former Taxi Driver: “They knew I was Alawite. That's why they made me step down from my car and put me in a car boot for an hour an a half. They took me inside Bab el Tabaneh and shot my legs 14 times. I ran away from them and fell on the street. I stayed there for half an hour. People started to step on me. Whenever someone tried to save me, people would tell them: "He is an Alawite let him die". I was shot 14 times. When they kidnapped me they They are affiliated to ISIS. Both Jabhat Al Nusra and ISIS are here in Bab el Tabaneh. Disabled for the rest of my life, I have 6 kids and I can not do any type of work. They killed my wife and one of my sons. My family and I will fight against them our whole life.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Anonymous Name: “They kidnapped us and shot us. We were on our way back from work. They did that because we are Alawites. I was attacked by 10 people, they shot me five times in both legs and my hand. I’ve been suffering from my injuries for the past year.”

Narration:In an isolated neighbourhood the youth witnesses how the lack of work and expectations make more difficult the future of this community in Lebanon. Those with businesses outside Jabal Mohsen have been forced to close, and those with businesses inside Jabal Mohsen are struggling to survive every day. The Mohammad Ali family show photographs of their house in the 80´s. little have changed since then for these people.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Joumana Ahmad, Jabon Mohsen Resident: Our neighbour had a lot of bombs landing on his roof. Thanks God, we didn’t have any.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Ali Mohammad, Jabon Mohsen Resident: “It is the same house. As you can see in the pictures the balcony was completely destroyed. This room was totally burned, and that room as well. A little more there”

Narration:The husband´s parents decided to come back to Lebanon after living in Brazil for nearly 30 years. Ali was 16 at the time. He and his wife still live in the family house, one of the buildings closest to the combat areas.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Joumana Ahmad, Jabon Mohsen Resident: “My husband was sleeping here. Big stones fell on the bed. They extracted him from the rubble full of white dust. He didn´t talk to anyone for three days.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Ali Mohammad, Jabon Mohsen Resident: “The conflict can last for a day, two days, three days or a week”.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Joumana Ahmad, Jabon Mohsen Resident: “It is difficult to go the market in Bab el Tabaneh when there is conflict. I wear the veil to go by unnoticed. I sometimes hear insults but I ignore them. It´s been a while that people come around here cruising at night with Jabhat al Nousra flags. They don´t harm us but it still frightens us.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Ali Mohammad, Jabon Mohsen Resident: “There were two guys with motorcycles next to the gas station of Zahiriyeh. They called me and asked if I live in Jabal Mohsen. They asked where in Bab el Tabaneh. I live in the street of Omari that is at the outskirts of Bab el Tabaneh, but they knew I was Alawite. Those who live here are Alawite.Then they shoot me 2 times, first in my leg. Then they turned back and shoot me again here. I lost my balance and fell on the floor. People came to my rescue when the two guys left, then the militaries came and took me to the hospital.”

Narration:After April 2014, a new in Tripoli aimsto stop the fights between the Takfiris and Alawites. This new security plan should include measures to protect Alawite residents and their properties and also a plan to stop attacks to this community, while respecting the rights of all and maintaining an active security presence in the entire city

   

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