Syrians In Limbo In Lebanon

BEIRUT, (AFP) - When doctor Nada Ekhwon and her husband fled Damascus for Lebanon, they were relieved to find safety away from the bloodshed at home. But a spate of mass kidnappings of Syrians in Beirut has forced them to think again.

''You know last night we were afraid to go out. We heard the news and thought it's better to stay inside,'' Ekhwon said after the reports of the kidnappings and other attacks on Syrians in retaliation for events in Syria.

On Thursday, the smartly dressed doctor started looking for plane tickets to Cyprus, where her parents have their home.

But after a trip to the office of Lebanon's national carrier Middle East Airlines she became more anxious. ''There is no place on the plane. From today until one week from now it's full... and we don't know what will happen by then.''

The Lebanese government seemed powerless to control its own streets last week as an armed Shiite Muslim clan claimed it had kidnapped around 20 Syrians, while many more were reportedly seized as rioters went on a rampage in Beirut.

Violence has spilled over into Lebanon from neighboring Syria in recent months, with shelling by the Syrian army and cross-border shootings, as well as Syria-related clashes between Lebanese gunmen in the northern port city of Tripoli and Beirut.

But the mass kidnappings have stoked more fears among middle class Syrians in Lebanon than any other violence in the small Mediterranean country, leading some to call via Facebook on fellow Syrians in Beirut to ''stay home'' and to ''avoid areas where violence could break out.''

Several oil-rich Gulf countries have ordered their nationals; who often vacation in Lebanon, to leave the country immediately in the face of threats, particularly against Saudis and Qataris whose governments are staunch opponents of the Syrian regime. The US and Turkey have also issued travel warnings to their citizens.

The latest unrest fanned fears the 17-month Syria conflict could further destabilize Lebanon, already coping with an influx of about 47,000 refugees from across the border and itself no stranger to civil war.

The UN refugee agency in Lebanon said some Syrian refugees; with the middle class filling the hotel rooms and apartments left vacant by Gulf visitors; have expressed fears they could be targeted for their nationality.

''One family living in the Beirut suburbs said their apartment block was surrounded by armed men earlier this week and they hid on the roof. They have since moved elsewhere,'' spokeswoman Ariane Rummery told AFP.

Middle and upper class Syrians in Lebanon are far from destitute refugees, but they are also not on vacation, and are anxious to find a stable place to resume their livelihoods.

It is increasingly clear for many of them that Lebanon is not the place.

Nada and her husband are doctors, but neither has been able to secure a work permit in Lebanon.

''It's been six months that we haven't worked,'' she says. ''The time goes and we are spending our savings here just on daily life.''

As she continued her search down a cafe-lined street in central Beirut, well-heeled women passed by in summer dresses, shopping bags in hand, lending a semblance of normalcy.

''Maybe the Lebanese don't feel how we do,'' she sighs.

But after leaving behind their medical clinics amid shelling attacks in the central Syrian city of Homs, and later fleeing Damascus, any instability in Lebanon is cause for anxiety.

'Young Syrians in 'limbo'

At another Beirut travel agency, two clean-cut young Syrians waited to find out plane schedules; and visa requirements for Dubai.

''I have a British passport, but he's pure Syrian,'' Sam says, pointing to his cousin, a university student in Beirut.

Mohamed, 21, wants to visit a relative in Dubai to see what his future might hold in case the situation in Lebanon deteriorates.

''If things break loose, I'll go then. But I have to get a visa first,'' he says.

Mohamed is not alone: ''All of my friends from high school are here. They are going through the same thing.''

His father is still working in Damascus, but he hopes to join his mother in the United States, if he can manage to get a visa or asylum.

''Everyone is looking to get out of the Middle East.''

For Ahmed, another young Syrian living in Beirut, this violence only added to uncertainty over his long-term prospects in a country where daily life borders on exorbitant.

''I'm going to wait two or three days and hopefully things will be clear,'' he says.

But if the instability continues, he will leave for Turkey or Egypt, which he visited in July to scope out job prospects.

His family still lives in the upper class district of Barzeh in Damascus. Despite the fact that they have been unable to run their business, they are dragging their heels at the prospect of uprooting. ''They are refusing to be refugees,'' he says.

In a word, Lebanon is ''limbo'', says Jamal, a 26-year-old photographer who has been going back and forth between his home Damascus and the couches of old friends in Beirut since the revolt broke out in March of last year.

His father and sister are still in Syria, debating whether to lock up the family home and join Jamal in Lebanon, or relocate to the stability of Abu Dhabi, where he grew up.

''In Lebanon the Internet is terrible, the electricity goes out all the time. Here you will never get your money's worth,'' he says.

He is considering leaving the region entirely to do his photography degree in London until the situation in Syria settles down.

''I haven't worked in a year and a half. I'm wasting my time in Lebanon and just spending money.''

It's ''not hell precisely, but as close as it gets.''


Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • PSC sports venues deteriorating – COA
    PSC sports venues deteriorating – COA

    The Commission on Audit (COA) has noted the sorry state of the country’s sports venues despite supposedly receiving sufficient funds from the government. It reported that the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) got an additional budget of P626.563 million in 2013 alone but failed to maintain and upgrade the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex (RMSC) in Malate, Manila and the Philsports Complex in Pasig City. This, according to the COA report, is already a disadvantage to the country’s athletes. …

  • Taguig bettor wins P39.2-M lotto jackpot
    Taguig bettor wins P39.2-M lotto jackpot

    A player from Taguig City won the jackpot of the 6/42 Regular Lotto’s May 2 draw, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) announced yesterday. PCSO general manager Jose Ferdinand Rojas said the still unidentified winner guessed the six-digit winning combination, 12-42-16-04-11-08, which has a jackpot of P39.2 million. At least 80 other players won P11,420 each after they guessed five digits of the winning combination. The 6/42 Regular Lotto online game is drawn every Tuesday, …

  • Tropical depression spotted off Mindanao
    Tropical depression spotted off Mindanao

    A tropical depression hovering over the Pacific Ocean is expected to enter the Philippine area of responsibility on Thursday and may bring much-needed rain to the country later this week, the state weather bureau said yesterday. As of 10 a.m. yesterday, the weather disturbance was spotted at 1,615 kilometers east of Mindanao with maximum winds of 45 kilometers per hour near the center, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said. PAGASA said …

  • Phl to seek Mary Jane’s return
    Phl to seek Mary Jane’s return

    The Philippine government is exploring options to extend the temporary reprieve granted by Indonesia to Filipina death row convict Mary Jane Veloso, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said yesterday. De Lima said they would look into the possibility of asking the Indonesian government to allow Veloso to return home to testify in the human trafficking, illegal recruitment and swindling cases filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) against her alleged illegal recruiters Ma. …

  • Mayweather picks off Pacquiao to join greats
    Mayweather picks off Pacquiao to join greats

    Floyd Mayweather's emphatic win over Manny Pacquiao sealed his status as a boxing great, but triggered an outcry in the Philippines and divided opinion amongst the sports legends. Feinting and dancing his way to a unanimous decision, Mayweather comfortably picked off Pacquiao over 12 rounds to extend his 19-year unbeaten record to 48-0. Yet the jeers could not obscure a clear win for the skilful Mayweather, with judges awarding him the decision by margins of 118-110 and 116-112. Mayweather, …

  • Sadness, disappointment in Philippines after Pacquiao defeat
    Sadness, disappointment in Philippines after Pacquiao defeat

    MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Sadness and disappointment gripped Filipinos after Manny Pacquiao's defeat in his much-anticipated fight against American Floyd Mayweather Jr. but they still considered the boxing icon a national hero. …

  • Philippine rebels kill most wanted Islamist militant in south

    The Philippines' most wanted Islamist militant, who escaped after a raid in January that killed 44 police commandos, was killed on Sunday in firefight with Muslim rebels, officials said. Protracted police operations to arrest three Islamist high-value targets had become the biggest political crisis in five years for President Benigno Aquino and put at risk his government's peace efforts with Moro Islamic Liberation Front. A proposed law creating a new autonomous government for minority …

  • Disappointed Filipinos cry foul as Pacquiao loses
    Disappointed Filipinos cry foul as Pacquiao loses

    Boxing fans in the Philippines cried foul and groaned in bitter disappointment on Sunday as national hero Manny Pacquiao lost to American rival Floyd Mayweather in the "fight of the century". Filipinos filled gymnasiums, cinemas and bars as the Southeast Asian nation of 100 million people stopped for Pacquiao's battle with Mayweather in Las Vegas, which he lost in a unanimous points decision. A devastated Pacquiao said immediately afterwards that he thought he had won, and many at home agreed …


Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Poll Choice Options