A cellphone video was shared yesterday on various social media platforms of a group of Lebanese civilians harassing and beating up a Syrian refugee worker in what appeared to be some sort of racist, community vigilante group effort. They accused him of wanting to protest against the army and supporting ISIS before asking for his papers and beating him up.
The video echoes the calls of a voice message from an obscure group called "Thy Will Be Done." They sent a voice note that was spread all over WhatsApp which called on Lebanese people to organize and beat Syrians they see. There is no information on who this group supposedly is, how many people organize with them, where they're based...etc.
Below is my translation of the Arabic voice message that has been going around WhatsApp and social media platforms.
We are “Thy Will Be Done.”
We are young men of Lebanon who love Lebanon’s army, who love Lebanon.
We ask every honorable Lebanese citizen who believes in their army and nation, on Tuesday [June 18, 2017] - at work, in your neighborhood, as you’re walking on the street, listen to what I’m telling you Lebanese:
[If] you see a Syrian, you go - you hit him. This is a corrupt human, a terrorist who is going to protest against our honorable army. Against the honorable Lebanese army whose boots should be on the necks of those Syrians.
Every boot of the Lebanese army should be on their necks, because this is their honor. They are who protect them and their kids.
We demand every citizen, of every Lebanese, in your neighborhood, in your area, on your street, in your building: gather, meet amongst yourselves.
And every time you see a Syrian passing by, hit him. Don’t be afraid of anything - just remember that this person is going to protest against the Lebanese army. Don’t be afraid of anything - hit them, break them.
We don’t need to play nice about this anymore.
They are going to kick us out of our houses. They will make us leave our country. Enough is enough.
The Lebanese army is a red line. No wrong can be done against them.
Do we understand?
Everyone listening to this message should send it to their siblings, relatives, and friends. We want this to reach as many people as possible.
On Tuesday, we want every human to take footage, share it on Facebook and social media - don’t be ashamed and don’t be afraid.
God be with you, the Lebanese army has got your back, and the strong Lebanon will remain strong.
Greetings from “Thy Will Be Done” and we will stay in touch."
Earlier this morning, Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk tweeted a picture of the Syrian man, saying that the men who beat him up were arrested.
But has the damage been done?
Lebanese politicians have condemned hate speech and hate crimes against Syrians following the release of the video, including President Michel Aoun and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.
That said, if we look back at the rhetoric used over the past couple of years among the political elite. Syrian refugees have been associated with every socioeconomic and political problem in Lebanon, and have since day one been viewed as a burden.
In Brussels in April, Prime Ministere Saad Hariri said Syrian refugees has made Lebanon a "ticking time bomb."
That doesn't include talk about Syrians being an existential threat to the entire country.
When the Socialist Forum in Lebanon alongside Syrians organized a protest to condemn racism, call for strong relations between Lebanese and Syrians, and called for a transparent investigation into the deaths of four Syrians under military custody, they were smeared as an anti-Lebanese army protest. The Lebanese organizers were threatened, their personal data exposed, and are currently in hiding.
At this point, the damage has been done; can we contain this inferno before we can stop it?