BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Relatives of hostages bar Syrians from entering workplaces

Families of the Lebanese pilgrims shut down shops belonging to Syrians in the neighborhood of Hay al-Sellom.

BEIRUT: The families of the Lebanese pilgrims kidnapped in Syria in 2012 prevented on Monday Syrian workers from heading to their workplaces in the Mount Lebanon town of Choueifat.

“We are trying to convey a message that we can no longer bear being apart from our kin,” Hajj Hussein Ibrahim, a relative of one of the hostages who was released late last year and participates in protests in solidarity with the families of the kidnapped still being held in Syria, told The Daily Star.

“We have not heard a word from them in four months now and the Lebanese government is just doing nothing about the case,” he added.

Eleven Shiite Lebanese were abducted in Aleppo, north Syria, on their way back home from a pilgrimage in Iran 10 months ago. Two were released in August and September.

Ibrahim added that the relatives are planning further actions against Syrians in Lebanon and also threatening to target Turkish interests in the country as well.

“We will not remain silent anymore: we will keep on targeting Syrians and we will expand our action to target Turkish interests as well,” he said.

“Let the Lebanese state pressure those holding the hostages and take more serious actions in the case,” he said.

“Up until now, all we have are empty promises,” he added.

The relatives Monday prevented Syrian laborers from entering factories and shops in Choueifat’s Terro area and said they would take similar measures in Beirut's southern suburb Tuesday and later this week.

Their action against Syrians in Lebanon started over the weekend as nearly 40 of the hostages’ relatives closed down Syrian-owned shops in the neighborhood of Hay al-Sellom, leaving messages on the doors bearing their signatures.

The relatives of the pilgrims have staged various protests outside government buildings as well Turkish and Qatari missions in Lebanon.

They argue that Turkey can play a pivotal role in securing the release of the pilgrims.

Turkey, a strong supporter of the rebels fighting against Syrian President Bashar Assad, has previously claimed that it was acting as an intermediary in the release of the hostages.

However, Turkish officials have repeatedly said that they are not to blame for the kidnappings.

Last month, President Michel Sleiman held talks with Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, during a visit to Doha, over the case of the pilgrims and asked for help to secure their release.

He also met with the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on the sidelines of an Arab League summit in Doha and urged that Ankara “exert every effort within its means” to secure the release of the hostages.

Earlier this month, sources told The Daily Star negotiations for the hostages’ release were ongoing after they had been transferred to a rebel Islamist faction in Syria.

 

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