Lebanon News

Abra residents demand Syrian workers leave town

Abra residents protest outside the town's church on May 4, 2014. (The Daily Star, Mohammed Zaatari)

SIDON, Lebanon: Residents of the Sidon suburb of Abra protested Sunday against the presence of Syrian workers after police released a Syrian accused of attempting to kill a resident.

The residents of the Christian-dominated town gathered outside the church at noon and called for keeping Syrian workers away from their town, an action that warns of possible similar future protests against Syrians in other Christian towns in east Sidon.

The police released Hasan Qasous, a 24-year-old Syrian worker, whom Emad Saif had filed a complaint against, accusing him of attempted murder.

Safi said that Qasous had attacked him after a verbal quarrel between the two.

“He cursed me, and I cursed him back, and a half hour later, he attacked me by surprise and wrapped a track railing around my neck,” he said.

Safi said Qasous confessed to investigators in the Haret Saida police station of the charges against him.

“Justice was not achieved for me, and the attacker is now outside Lebanese lands, he is in Syria,” he said. “I do not believe in the Lebanese justice, only God’s justice will do me right.”

Abra Mayor Walid Mshantaf explained that the town’s residents wanted Syrian workers out of Abra itself and were not protesting against the presence of Syrian refugees on the outskirts of the town.

“There is a camp for Syrian refugees outside Abra and we offer them help and services, but we do not accept having Syrian young men inside our houses attacking us,” he said. “We cannot keep silent over such a thing.”

Abra’s former Mayor Elias Mshantaf said the number of Syrian workers in Abra had grown from 20 to nearly 100 since the Syrian crisis began three years ago.

“The presence of over 100 workers in Abra poses an economic threat to our town,” he said.

He added that the town was facing another “ethical danger,” explaining that girls were now afraid to go out of their houses alone.

“This is a message for everyone, Hezbollah, Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya, the Future Movement, former MP Osama Saad and mayors in the region: We cannot tolerate these guys,” he said. “We do not accept having young men acting this way.”

Abra was the hub for now-fugitive Islamist Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir last summer and witnessed intensive battles between the sheikh’s supporters and Army in June.

The town has also witnessed previous tensions between the residents and Syrian workers there.

Lebanon is host to over a million Syrian refugees, with those fleeing the neighboring conflict now equaling more than quarter of the Lebanese population.





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