BEIRUT: Residents of Beirut’s Raml al-Ali neighborhood rejected Sunday media reports about a filmed episode of child-on-child abuse that went viral, as the Internal Security Forces announced the arrest of family members in connection. The ISF arrested the father and cousin of a 2-year-old for giving him orders to brutally beat up a Syrian refugee, the police said in a statement released Sunday.
The ISF said that investigations led the Cybercrime Combating Bureau to the arrest in the Beirut southern suburbs of the father of 2-year-old Abbas – of whom a video went viral Saturday showing him beating up a 9-year-old Syrian refugee identified as Khaled N.
Abbas’ father A.A. was arrested in the van he owned in Raml al-Ali.
Authorities also arrested Abbas’ 17-year-old cousin H.T. who filmed the incident.
Khaled N’s abuse at the hands of Abbas was taped and widely shared online Saturday, spreading waves of controversy across the country.
“Hit him Abbas, hit him on the head with the stick,” were the orders shouted by Abbas’ relatives, who were responsible for the footage taken on a mobile phone.
In light of the arrests, the neighborhood was rife with tension and residents refused to discuss the case.
One man sipping coffee by the alley where Khaled lives was angered by the media’s account of the incident, saying “everything they reported is wrong.” He alleged “there is no refugee, the boy Khaled is actually Abbas’ step brother,” clarifying that “they come from the same mother but had different fathers, and they are originally from Tyre.”
The ISF statement released earlier Sunday reported that Khaled was a Syrian national while Abbas was Lebanese.
The video shows Abbas swiping a thick stick back and forth toward a passive 9-year-old boy dressed in ragged pants, a shabby shirt and flapping sandals. The victim then crumpled to the floor, kneeling before Abbas who then continued beating him with the heavy rod.
The victim guarded his face with his hands saying “please not the face” after one of Abbas’ relatives ordered the child to strike in that direction.
Behind the camera an orchestra of voices issued orders to the little boy, some of them from a man and some from an unknown female observer.
“Slap him in the face. Ok now kick him on the stomach,” they yelled out, “punch him on the head, come on punch him.”
At this point, the abused child began crying out in pain, wailing at every new strike. Meanwhile the observers behind the camera laughed and giggled as Abbas double punched the child with both fists before going back for the stick.
The video concludes with a heavy cry from the victim as Hussam [another boy identified in the video] slaps the back of the child’s neck and Abbas throws one last blow at the kneeling body.
The video was first released on yassour.org news website and then quickly circulated around various social network platforms. Another man at the same coffee stand near said that “the story was blown out of proportion; the media twisted it into a sectarian issue when it was not.”
“I know the cousin who was arrested this morning. He released the video as a joke but ended up getting hit for it today,” he said, referring to the arrest of Abbas’ 17-year-old cousin H.T. who allegedly filmed the incident. When asked about Khaled’s whereabouts the man pointed down a narrow street of crumpling buildings and said “he lives down there somewhere.”
A young boy who was tending to a cage of birds in a neighborhood pet shop said that the people in the café were talking about the incident all morning. “The abuse was an incident within the family,” he said, refusing to disclose more information.
Earlier Sunday, The Daily Star was contacted by a New York resident of Lebanese origin who expressed her willingness to come to Lebanon and provide Khaled with a better life in the U.S.
“I have zero tolerance for abuse and would love to locate this young boy and bring him home with me. Too often we ignore abused children and they grow up with mental and behavioral issues,” she said, requesting anonymity.
She said she was certain Khaled would pass immigration needs, saying she plans to get clearance from immigration to bring Khaled to the U.S. if he can be found.