Lebanon News

Abra residents demand Syrian workers leave town

Residents protest over the release of a Syrian who was accused of murder.

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

The residents of the predominantly Christian town gathered outside the church at noon and called for Syrian workers to be kept away, a move that could prefigure similar protests against Syrians in other Christian towns in east Sidon.

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

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

“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.”

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

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

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 young Syrian 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 the town 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. 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 the Army in June. It has also seen previous tensions between residents and Syrian workers.

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

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 05, 2014, on page 3.




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