Mukhtar of al-Qaa Samir Awad shows land ownership documents, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014. (The Daily Star/Samya Kullab)
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Samir Awad laid out the documents one by one; some ordained ownership of three morsels of land in Wadi al-Khanazir, another representing nine in Bayoun and another three in Nahmet al-Fouah.Altogether the mukhtar has 40 units in the vast agricultural tract of Masharih al-Qaa, but only five are accessible to him. Part of the problem is that the 180 million square meters of land – divided into 1,440 real estate units – in the majority Christian border town of Al-Qaa is communally owned.Bashir Matar, a municipal council member in Al-Qaa and land activist, describes the Muslim presence in the agricultural areas of the town as an "occupation" and "rape," an indication that the Syrian occupation of the town, which began in 1978 when its army massacred more than 30 young men and ended in April 2005, still colors how locals perceive their Muslim neighbors in Masharih al-Qaa.While the sincerity of the legal concerns surrounding the land issue in Al-Qaa is moot, the selling of Christian lands in general is a source of disquiet.According to Talal al-Doueihy, head of the "Lebanese Land – Our Land Movement," Christians once owned 8,130 kilometers of land in Lebanon after independence. In cases like Al-Qaa, where municipal division have actually exacerbated land issues, the MP recommends involving the local governorate to temper disagreements.
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