BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Jezzine Christians protest Syrian refugee complex

Residents of Labaa protest against the settling of Syrian refugees in a building in the area, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

SIDON, Lebanon: Residents of a Christian village in south Lebanon staged a protest Tuesday against a school which was rented for the purpose of housing Syrian refugees. During the protest in the village of Labaa, a banner was raised along the road leading to the school, which read, “The residents of the villages of Jezzine cling to their history, identity and coexistence.”

Labaa’s mayor, Joseph Raad, refuted allegations that their protests were racist, saying: “Our Syrian brethren have their own ways of life and traditions, which differ from ours.”

He added, “The state authorities should establish areas to house them. This is not our responsibility.”

The Union of Jezzine Municipalities also refused to receive Syrian refugees, “fearing the danger they might cause for public safety and by altering the region’s demography,” according to a statement.

The district of Jezzine is inhabited mostly by Christians.

The owners of the Hadara School in the Jezzine village of Labaa, Michel Saiqaly and Jamil Maamari, rented the school to the World Islamic Aid Organization for a year-and-a-half, for a total $180,000, with the purpose of turning it into a refugee complex.

The rental contract, which is renewable, was signed in August.

Saiqaly held Jezzine MP Ziad Aswad responsible for the issue, because he didn’t attempt to pressure the Education Ministry to grant the Hadara Highschool a license, and so the owners had no choice but to rent the building. He said: “The rent was legal and official and I’m not responsible for how the building is used, whether it is for sheltering Syrian, Christian or Muslim refugees.”

Security forces took measures around the school as residents tried to close off the main entrance.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 18, 2013, on page 3.

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