Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Bus bombs & the Blame (a Syrian) Game

Yesterday evening, at around 8.30pm, a bomb exploded in Sad Boushriyeh, in the eastern suburbs of Beirut. Ten people were injured. It followed a similar pattern of previous bombings-- evidently designed to scare, rather than inflict maximum casualties. I was sitting at my computer in my office, listening to music. These days, I habitually turn the volume down every few minutes to listen for ambulance sirens or dogs barking. I heard a thud from the east, followed by another smaller thud, but didn't make much of it. I often confuse the sound of shipping containers being carelessly unloaded at the nearby port with acts of violence.

A few minutes later an instant message flashed at the bottom of my computer screen. "Did you hear the bomb?" Jamal inquired. "Was it coming from the east? Thought I heard something." "Yeah. New TV says in Industrial City, Bourj Hammoud." "Oh shit." I reached for my phone to call M. but the lines were already overloaded. I signed off the Internet and walked down to my apartment, stopping at the corner store for cigarettes and water. The shopkeeper was gone; his teenage daughter sat behind the counter, holding her head in her hands.

At home I turned on the TV and repeatedly tried to call M., to no avail. The explosion must have been very close to his house, I thought. Images of police army cordoning off the area around a bombed out bus and torched cars in a poorly lit street. After a short while I found myself changing the channel, in search of mindless entertainment.

I was watching the Democratic Primary "debates", when my neighbor Tariq appeared at the door, which I had left ajar. "What are you doing?"he asked. "Nothing. Watching TV." "We're going to the bomb site. Do you wanna come? You have one minute to decide." Tariq is a conflict zone-junkie, a reporter for BBC Brazil. He recently spent twelve-hours holed up in an apartment right next to army artillery positions on the periphery of Nahr el Bared camp. At all times he sports a khaki multi-pocketed vest; his press-pass dangles from his neck for convenience's sake. "Sure...", I hesitated, and turned off the TV.

We drove around in circles in search of the bomb site, following the smell of burning tires and petrol. We stopped to ask a man for directions. He matter-of-factly pointed us in the right direction with the usual polite formalities.

The outer perimeter of the cordoned off area was guarded by plainclothes men armed with automatic rifles. Tariq flashed his press card and slipped under the police tape. Teenage boys, women, men, photographers and soldiers were standing around outside the Mar Takla church, just 30 meters from where the bomb detonated.

The blue-and-white bus in which the bomb was allegedly placed was off limits to the press. Shopkeepers were already clearing the broken glass from their storefronts; the owner of a kebab joint had swept all the glass into a neat pile and continued to make sandwiches. The facade of a six-story commercial building across from the blast was damaged; twisted shutters hung from their hinges exposing office furniture and overturned filing cabinets.

Suddenly a commotion ensued, as four plain clothes men handcuffed a young man-- perhaps twenty-years old-- and escorted him to a white civilian car with Saida license plates. They shoved him into the backseat and closed the door. He sat in the backseat, straining his neck to peer out of the rearview window, terrified. A group of 10 to 12 men stood around the car. Occasionally they opened the door of the car and said something to him. I walked over and asked one of the younger men, who was wearing a T-shirt with "Jesus Soldiers" blazoned across the back, why they arrested the young man. He declined to respond, but his friend replied, matter-of-factly, "Because he's Syrian."

A tall man with a shaved head who seemed to be in charge, overheard this exchange and bellowed, "No, he's Lebanese. Please move away!" As we retreated away from the car, I made eye contact with the young man under detention or arrest, as the car drove off. "It's going to be a rough night for him..." Tariq muttered.

We left the cordoned off area, down an alleyway padded with broken glass.

I hailed a servis to go home. The cab driver-- a card-carrying member of Jumblatt's PSP party as he told me-- dropped off the other two passengers and promptly started railing against the Palestinians and Syrians. "What do they want from Lebanon? Can't they go back to their own country?" "Well, no..." I thought, as I reclined in the back seat. A young man on the side of the road signaled for us to stop. "To Ouzai," he said. The cab driver declined, drove on, and then suddenly hit the brakes. "He's Syrian!" he hissed, peering through the back window as if to reverse the car. "To Ouzai? I don't go to Ouzai..." "Please I need to get home," I interjected. For the rest of the journey he muttered to himself: Lebanon, beautiful Lebanon-- the mountains, the food, the sea-- alas! always at the mercy of others.

This morning M. finally called. His brother was in a car, ten meters in front of the bus when it exploded. I told him about the young man arrested at the scene of the bombing. "Yeah, I heard about it. They said he was trying to run away... I would run away, too, if a bomb went off."


Anonymous said...

Oh the poor Syrian who was arrested. Haram... so unhuman.

Hell no!!!!
You made it sound like a lynching. What's the big deal with an arrest? I am sure you have witnessed something as simple as a bar fight from where you come from and you surely saw police arrest drunken people for interrogation (whether involved or not). Then they get released.
but in Lebanon, the police have no right to make an arrest and those arrested will have "a difficult night", implying they will get a beating or so. says who? says EDB and co... you probably should have gone for a ride with the guy too.

I used to like your writings but in all honesty, you are trying too hard to make them witty these days. If you have nothing smart to say, don't force it.

And your blame-a-syrian or whack-a-syrian game or whatever you call it... you don't seem to get it: the syrians occupied our country. WAKE UP.
THEY OCCUPIED OUR LAND while foreign governments and journalists (or wanna-be journalists like you) sat on their asses doing nothing.
If you like the syrians so much, get your ass over to damascus and write your blog from there. You can eat your manakeesh and have your shisha (or whatever your oriental cravings are) there.

Bonzai said...

yet an other offended ramble at your posting.You must have touched a raw nerve ,with "Jesus soldier" maybe. Syrians have become expendable and usable like a tampax to flush all our crimes.First we call them in (1976)to squash the palestinians in Tell Zaatar.Then our dear leaders of our very own constitutional government and others in the opposition as well use their presence to reaffirm their (small grip)on the cake and its icing,then we asked them to die by the thousand when we are invaded(from 1982 onward)then we enter(with their help and dear mr.Hariri's presence) the paradise of savage liberalism and political sunnism,all for the money,defanging a whole community(the lebanese sunnis)and then eventually we kick them out.And now we have them by the balls,accusing them of a brutal campaign of intimidation and countless murders.Thank you Syria,for without you we would think of ourselves as venal,criminal,mafiosi.

Sarah said...

I thought this post was great. Keep it up. Stay safe.

Anonymous said...

EDB, another good post. The first response shows that there is always unwillingness by many in society to face their ugliness. The rant justifies the detention and torture of a young Syrian man because of crimes committed by others. George Bush would approve. Not a compliment.

Anonymous said...

"Thank you Syria,for without you we would think of ourselves as venal,criminal,mafiosi."
Well said, Bonzai! And anonymous the first, you're an idiot. You and the cabdriver. You're the reason this country is going down the toilet. Reflect for a moment, won't you?

to eb said...

Just thought I'd share since EDB wouldn't bother troubling everyone with this kind of news:

Today's news: "Authorities Seize Truckload of Arms Coming From Syria, Discover Explosives Depot
Lebanese authorities seized a truckload of weapons coming from Syria and discovered a depot containing explosives in house raids on Fatah al-Islam terrorists, the daily An Nahar reported Wednesday.
It said the truck driver was arrested at a Lebanese army checkpoint at Douriss near Baalbek in east Lebanon's Bekaa valley after attempting to escape the military post."

Oh look another innocent arrested by the awful Lebanese. They should have just let him run away, wasn't that the humane thing to do?

And ofcourse the truck couldn't have been coming from Syria because that would really derail the "effect" of EDB's posts.

Anonymous said...

I must have touched a raw nerve myself.
First, about your jesus soldier comment or EDB's rant of the druze cab driver: I wouldn't care if Geagea or Joumblatt or Hariri or the rest of the bunch rotted in some prison somewhere. The fact remains that the syrians are as venal, criminal, and mafiosi as the ones who collaborated with them.
I don't understand your sick logic where the complicity of traitors clears the occupiers from any responsibility. If you have issues with Hariri or Bush, you shouldn't be idolizing Assad.
And Bonzai, your tampax Syrians didn't get involved in Tall Zaatar, check your facts before speaking with such absolute certainty. In fact, your tampax syrians didn't leave any lebanese out of their vicious circle of murder.
> So if you're a jesus soldier, they assasinated your Gemayel.
> If you're an arafat lover/ arab cause supporter, they did worse to the PLO than the israelis did, both in tripoli and in the war of the camps, not to mention that they provided cover for Hobeika who was invovled in the Sabra Chatila massacres.
> If you're a sunni-land person, they assasinated your mufti and your beloved Hariri.
> Druze? Joumblatt's daddy.
> Syrian national party follower? they put up michel el murr with absolute power and flushed you like real tampons all through the 90's. Also take a touristic walk in Dhour el Shwayr and don't miss the destroyed hotels where the syrian troops stayed. Watch out for the shit as you step, it hasn't dried yet.
> Hizbollah? syrian commandos mass executed some of your fighters... in a brotherly fashion.
> a religious fundamentalist? did your dad lose his tongue in the tripoli events in the 80's or is your uncle's skull in some pit in anjar?
> A non affiliated human rights person? in that case, you win. the syrians have an impeccable human rights record and their president wins by 97% of the votes.
> An uninformed idiot who has no f*&$en clue of what went on in Lebanon? in that case continue reading one-sided posts like EDB's and put up comments like yours or anonymous 9:59.

and again: "If you like the syrians so much, get your ass over to damascus" and live there.

law and order said...

God help us, to eb!
The man was arrested because he was driving a truckload full of explosives not just because he was Syrian (according to An Nahar) That's not comparable!!

(Although if he was Saudi he'd probably quietly be shipped off back to Saudi Arabia...)

to eb said...

law and order,

EDB's posts repeatedly insinuate that we are idiots to blame the Syrian Mafioso's when things go boom.

The thing is if you are Lebanese, whatever side you're on, deep in your heart you know they are capable of such things and more. will you at least admit this to yourself?

If someone is acting suspiciously around a bomb site, he should be taken in for questioning whatever his nationality.

PS. if EDB wasn't a foreigner, she would know that the Lebanese typically rush over to the site of a bomb "to have a look" rather than do the logical thing which is to run away from it, hence anybody running away from a bomb site in Lebanon falls immediately under suspicsion :)

law and order said...

So what you're saying is that 1 million Syrian workers (or how ever many are still left and haven't fled repeated and unreported hate crimes) are all "suspects"? Yes, that is what you're saying.

to eb said...

law and order

If you read my comment again, you will see that I did not state that all syrians are suspects, nor did I state that all syrians should be arrested.

It would be ridiculous to say that all the syrian workers are suspects, but allow me the fact that it would be equally ridiculous to ignore the fact that there are numerous Syrian agents undercover amongst them.

What I did actually say is that anybody from any nationality acting suspiciously around a bomb site should be questioned.

Blacksmith Jade said...

All insinuations aside I thought it was a well written piece, entertaining.

Man'usheh-wrapper said...

An Nahar: Author of:

"i'll burn the area from the caspian to the caribean..."

recurring "truckloads discoveries of arms smuggling and always (always)ACCORDING to "officials"

An Nahar is one hell of a piece of junk

oldboy said...

"Jesus Soldiers" !!! scary site.

euroarabe said...

why kill your blog?
it's one of the only ones worth its own bandwidth.

Skylark said...

If someone is acting suspiciously around a bomb site, he should be taken in for questioning whatever his nationality.

Yes, by uniformed police forces with due rules of habeas corpus, not by people with a "Soldiers of Jesus" (or whatever) t-shirt!