Global Solidarity With The Refugees

By Yazan Al-Saadi & Elia El Khazen


We know all the numbers that need to be known.

We are aware of all the ratios of refugees to citizens in every country, from Lebanon to the UK, Libya to Greece, Macedonia to Canada.

We have seen all of the ruling class directly blame the refugees for their own policies’ shortcomings. The “refugee crisis” they insultingly call it, as if these desperate men, women, children and elderly were but a oncoming storm or a swarm of locus, an act of nature.

We have seen them channel the legitimate anger of workers towards acts of islamophobia, racism and petty nationalism, blaming the “other” for what neoliberalism’s destruction, gleefly utilized by legions of ruling elites, have brought onto us.

We have stood firm against the attempt of many authorities, and their ilk, to smear refugees entering various countries, describing them as an “invasion”. This label in particular is especially revolting when it in fact was various forms of historical and contemporary invasions, instigated, armed and politically covered by our own countries, that are why refugees were, and to continue to be, fleeing from their homes.

We have witnessed respective governments launch grenades and tear gas, fire rubber bullets and live rounds at refugees. We have witnessed these authorities watch silently as refugees helplessly sank in their boats, or cornered the refugees in pathetic ‘reception centers’ encircled by barbwire and are checkpoints. Any parallels with concentration camps arising from these scenes are clearly excused and to be expected.

These authorities have unashamedly denied paperwork, basic rights and services, affronted human dignity by their common use of torture, detention without trial, murder by negligence, and their constant vomiting of absolute hate against vulnerable refugees.

Our own government in Lebanon has gone even further by implementing a sponsorship system in which visa is only granted if tied to a property owning Lebanese citizen. Syrian refugees registered by UNHCR are forced to sign pledges not to work and to return to Syria when their expensive permits expire or when the Lebanese government demands it. Syrian refugees, and other so-called foreigners of the lower class, are subjected to illegal curfews that pepper the most affluent quarters of the country. These classist measures will only serve to compound abuses that are already burdening refugee communities.

As the Balkan route has been shut to more than 40,000 refugees and rendered their lives similar to the wretched squalor of Calais refugee camps in France, over a million refugees in Lebanon live under equally dire conditions every day. Already, as various reports have shown, the restrictive system has caused over 70 percent of Syrian refugees to fall below the poverty line. Many of them work in dangerous conditions for mediocre pay, with little to no benefits or legal protections, and they are in constant threat of arrest. Large numbers of Syrian refugees are trapped in a cycle of debt and indentured servitude, in addition to suffering from daily emotional, sexual, and physical abuses, in a nation that does not allow them free mobility within its borders.

Ultimately, the Syrian refugees are being punished for the Syrian revolution, an uprising that has captivated the world and polarized most of the ideological Left.

The traditional and Stalinist Left, both in the Arab world and in the West, have helped carry the message of Bashar el-Assad, which demonized courageous Syrian communities who rose up against his brutal and illegitimate regime. The echo his claims of a “security threat”, while others have repeated the horrendous discourse that these refugees are a ‘weapon’ in the hands of armed groups. While there are many different groups to blame, it is the Left, especially, that have made these refugees easy pray for neighboring and Western governments to ostracize, marginalize and exploit in the most offensive and inhuman ways.

This xenophobic discourse has also encouraged distracting competition between migrant workers and local workers, who are tricked into clashes with each other over mere scraps that fall off the ruling class’s bountiful table. In such a time, when the Leftist solidarity is needed most with the refugees, many of its members have betrayed the inherent principles under the justification of pragmatism and political allegiances. They can defend themselves in whatever way they think fit, but the fact of the matter remains: they are useful idiots for power-holders of today’s status quo.

A plethora of iNGOs and local NGOs are also partners in enabling this grotesque state of affairs, in which their actions have permitted the ruling class to reap the benefits of the absence of local states when it comes to services. INGOs and NGOs mainly turn a blind eye as oppression remains supreme, and only seek to offer cold comforts and small bandages to deep, deep wounds. For these organizations, it is the donor that is the priority rather than the refugees.

In the new chapter of the War on Refugees, the Lebanese government, along with its Turkish and Greek counterparts, have signed on to be foot-soldiers at the gateway to “Fortress Europe”. These ‘minions’ of the European strongholds are guilty of crackdowns on refugees merely to appease ridiculous European notions of “the spillover effect” of the Syrian revolution that threaten their tightly-held shores.

This is essentially why governmental aid are tied to magnitude of crackdowns, the ferociousness of security batons cracking skulls, and the containment of refugees in the not Western, ‘Global South’ parts of the world. The politicization of aid is but one cog in this dark machine. It will only result in the creation and furthering of more and more informal, abusive conditions for refugees, for children, for countless men and women.

For all these reasons and so much more, this Saturday is the first time since last year, when refugees stubbornly and rightly broke through Europe’s ever-expanding walls, that mass movements across 15 European countries along with Lebanon and Australia have coordinated various demonstrations to show solidarity with refugees in all places.

Join our call for solidarity. Organize in your city against the oppression, crackdown and scapegoating of refugees by your authorities. Challenge discrimination in all its forms.

Only solidarity prevails in the face of xenophobia, islamophobia, racism, sexism and classism.

Long live the refugee, the 21st century’s vanguard, who challenges the tapestry of repression by simple acts, and by their very humble existence.

Refugees of the world, we are with you. Refugees of the world, unite.

#YouStink Grows To Pose Real Challenge to Lebanese State

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Lebanese activists hold up a makeshift shield as they are sprayed by riot police using water cannons during a protest against the Lebanese government and an ongoing trash crisis in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, on August 23, 2015. Photo: Hassan Ammar / AP

Over the past few weeks protesters in Lebanon have reemerged after a slumber in great numbers, talking over downtown Beirut. “You Stink” protests, which started as a result of a “garbage crisis” and government incompetence have been met with severe repression leading to one death and hundreds of injuries. Bay Area Intifada reached out to a comrade on the ground who has been engaged in the demonstrations. Lara is an anti-authoritarian media worker from Beirut. The following interview was conducted on Monday August 30th – Thursday Sept 3rd. No changes or edits have been to the text.

Beirut, Lebanon

*Q: Can you talk about what ignited the current protests taking place in Lebanon? It’s hard to believe it’s just about the garbage crisis.*

*A:* The easy answer would be to say they were ignited after July 17 when access to the Naameh landfill was forcefully sealed off and people started drowning in garbage. This landfill, which has been in use since 1997 and absorbs most of Beirut and Mount Lebanon’s trash, was successfully shut down by environmental activists and residents living near the dump. Or, you could trace them back to January when the same scenario took place but was resolved relatively quickly after promises were made to permanently shut down the Naameh landfill in July. Or, maybe to 2004 when the plan to use Naameh expired but was renewed (the 6-year arrangement has lasted 17 years turning the agreed-upon 2 million tons of trash into 15). Alternatively, you could go further back to 1995 when the Hariri-connected Averda company was awarded a secret contract to manage garbage in the two aforementioned governorates. At the time, Rafiq Hariri (the assassinated former prime minister notorious for displacing thousands of Beirutis) privatized waste management and allowed Sukleen and Sukomi to monopolize it and turn it into a profitable industry without any accountability or transparency. Averda charges taxpayers three to four times the regional average per ton while arrogantly ignoring the terms of its contract, namely when it comes to recycling and composting.

I think it’s important to trace the garbage situation back to its roots because it illustrates the level of ineptitude, corruption, and brazen incompetence of the successive Lebanese governments.

The more complex answer would be to trace them back to the foundation of the modern Lebanese nation-state, that is on political sectarianism.

But as you rightly point out, garbage is not the crisis, it is a mere symptom, a very visible and smelly one of a much larger crisis. Trash only exposed the filthy face of this regime. It was the catalyst and dealing with it was the main demand. But government repression and brewing anger toward the ruling elite led what was a mere “anti-garbage” mobilization to quickly become an anti-government movement.

Finally, bear in mind that this trash situation comes in the midst of decades-old shortages in water, electricity and all basic services and some months after learning that there is, quite literally, shit in the food we consume. Continue reading

The What, Why and How of Saturday the 22nd’s Protest

hummus for thought

We are gathering tomorrow, Saturday the 22nd at 6pm at Riad El Solh, so I decided to write this post to clear any confusion you might have concerning who ‘we’ are and what ‘we’ want. If you’re confused, this is for you. If you’re sure of yourself, read it anyway. Just in case. Needless to say, these words are my own and I’m the only one responsible for them.

First of all, who are we? We are a movement calling itself Tol3et Re7etkom, Lebanese Arabic for ‘You Stink’. We don’t have a leader, but several passionate individuals, women and men, of all walks of life. Anyone can join, anyone can leave. Ideologically? Let’s just say that we are secular, meaning that everyone is welcomed regardless of religion or lack-thereof, are deeply passionate about social justice and are seeking sustainable solutions to the waste crisis in Lebanon. Our methods…

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A Letter to North American Anarchists from Radical Beirut

Beirut, Lebanon: from Rbay intifada dont tell me shitadical Beirut

Comrades, —- The Arab uprisings and Occupy Wall Street and the rest of global uprisings since 2011 have opened more doors for us to communicate and realize more than ever how our struggles against the state and dominant power structures are interconnected and the same. Our fight against the beast is one; we are informed and inspired by your past and current struggles, as well as we know that you are informed and inspired by our struggles, yet we still have a long way to go to understand one another and scale up our common fight. —- Our collective is a small group of radicals, deep ecologists, anarchists, and feminists, and we haven’t done much compared with the great sacrifices of many of our comrades elsewhere. Yet we know we also speak the mind of many of our comrades in the Arab world from Morocco to Syria, who encountered the same dilemmas while communicating with their Western counterparts.

We know that there are a lot of good actions carried out, and honest efforts in all directions, and lives being put on the line, but we also realize that the radical non-authoritarian scene in the West, and especially in North America, is dominated by the strict boundaries of a single “politically correct” ideology. It’s fine if the ideological and tactical parameters you chose work for you, but it doesn’t work for everyone, and it definitely doesn’t work for us. So it’s unfortunate that during many exchanges with North American anarchists (and to a less extent European anarchists), some of our comrades were always trying to impose their politically correct ideology on us.

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