Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Racism in Lebanon? Where? When? Never!

SawtilNiswa, Nasawiya's media platform, on the ongoing hunger strike of Dr. AbdelMeneem.

Dr. AbdelMeneem Ibrahim is a Sudanese refugee in Lebanon from 20 years+, a community leader and one of the very few modest and down to earth activists, which I know and bow to. He is on hunger strike for day 9 today. His demands are for the Lebanese general security to release the 17 arbitrarily detained Sudanese from prison and for the Sudanese cultural center to be led by someone assigned by the consent and approval of the community not put in place by the embassy, which in any case is anything but representative of the Sudanese community and their needs in this country.

Recalling the late Ouzai incident and the reaction or lack of it there of from the Sudanese embassy and the Sudanese ambassador in specific is vital here. Dr. AbdelMeneem is expressing his rage at the situation his country-mates are subjected to by doing this strike right at the door of the Sudanese cultural center in Hamra. He has been sitting there on a mattress on the floor, food-less and water-less since last Saturday and is not planning to eat or leave before his demands are taken seriously.

There is so much to this story and everyday is a story in itself which deserves to be documented and told, but I will only look at the incident which I was present in 2 hours ago, today, at the above mentioned location. Ali, Farah and I were sitting with Dr. AbdelMeneem and a couple of Sudanese friends who were visiting him after the many others who were there for solidarity with him had left. 3 men from the general security show up because of complaints from “the guy” who is currently president of the Sudanese cultural center (up until today when his position was withdrawn from him).

I know what kind of country I live in; what kind of people it is mostly made from; I know the heart-throbbing levels of racism we drown in and all that story. I have heard so much, seen so much and read so much. But that one hour with those general security people today (which I assume my taxes pay them for that hour, day and year) were beyond anything. Just beyond. Beyond my capability of understanding. Of comprehending. Of analyzing. Of tolerating. Of engulfing. Of expressing. Of anything.

1. The officer in charge scolded and yelled at us, “Lebanese”, for being there in solidarity with the Dr. and made fun of the fact that we are sitting with him. “Are you on hunger strike too?”

2. For him, Lebanon does not and should not accept refugees and asylum seekers. We have enough shit on our own in Lebanon so they should figure their issues out somewhere else. We are too small of a country to take on more people. There is no space. Tangible and intagible. Besides, those people kill and do those kinds of things in their countries and come to seek asylum here? No they are not welcome.

3. We are harming our country and “nation” by being in solidarity with him. Nation, seriously?!

4. What good have Sudanese people ever done to Lebanon? We shouldn’t let them stay. When asked why should all the other countries that host millions of Lebanese let them stay, he answered that Lebanese people discovered coffee in Brazil.

5. He asked Dr AbdelMenmeem, who for clearer graphic representation, is 54, sleeping on the mattress on the floor, with an IV attached to his hand and with a pale body which hasn’t had any water enter it in a week+, “stand up and clean the center”. Of course, Dr. A did not take this as an insult and remained very calm, “I would definitely do; cleaning is not shameful”.

6. He said he detains at least 20 “Sudanese” every day, very proudly as if it like catching cats off the street for him. 20?

7. If you are a refugee here and you do not have residency but official UN documents, they do not count for him.

8. UNHCR he said? What does that stand for? He hasn’t heard of the terminology yet.

9. UN? Who cares about UN. Dont speak about UN and UNHCR, okay? More and more happened. They left. Dr. AbdelMeneem looked at me and told me, “This is what they said and did because three Lebanese people were around. Imagine you were not here. What would they have said even more?”

I am still trying to imagine.

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