“I felt that he was afraid over the past two years. Today, and after what the criminals have been doing has been revealed, seeing them being tortured in silence and fear, in the same way they tortured my son, is the only thing that can cure my wrath,” expressed Fatima Subuh, the mother of the 13-year-old child, Muhammad, who was assaulted by eight young men both psychologically and sexually, in the town of Sohmor in the Beqaa Valley of Lebanon.
The case of the child’s rape enraged the Lebanese and Arab public opinion, particularly after it became clear that he had been undergoing this harassment, and being sexually assaulted for two years. Over those two years, Mohammed had been working at an olive press in the town, after he had decided to drop out of school in order to support his mother and sister, since his father had left the family behind long ago.
More than one year passed during which the crime continued, with Mohammed’s complete silence because he had been subjected to intimidation and threats. “If you tell anyone, we will dig up your grave and bury you in it…”, Fatima stated to “Daraj”, explaining that her son used to return home crying many times, sometimes with signs of torture on his body. When you’d ask him about these signs, he’d drown in his silence or justify them by explaining that he fought with his friends. Fatima confirmed that Muhammad is now in better physical and psychological health, and he feels supported by everyone, and is awaiting justice to be implemented.
It never occurred to Fatima that these young men, whom she trusted with her son, were the violators of his body, especially since there is a kinship linking them to her. “I used to feel reassured when my son was with them. Mohammed had asked me to not go to work on so many days… A few hours later, they would come to take him from the house saying “Come on Hammoudi, let’s go,” I can not forget this sentence”.
Fatima might have never known about her son’s tragedy if it were not for a dispute that occurred between the rapists, driving one of them to upload a video documenting the crime. Subsequently, this video clip went viral on social media and mass-media, turning into a matter of public record.
Partisan Coverage for Perpetrators?
The culture of vulnerability within marginalized groups in Lebanon, specifically the refugees, was not present in this case, despite the fact that Muhammad holds a Syrian nationality. Social media pressures pushed the judicial authorities, thus forcing the Prosecutor General of Al- Beqaa region, Judge Mounif Barakat, to assign a female judge, Nadia Aqel, to open up an investigation. As a result of this investigation, the security forces managed to arrest one of the accused and also handed over three others, bringing the number of detainees up to four. Fatima affirmed to “Daraj” that the security forces contacted her and helped her to file a case against the perpetrators, alongside many lawyers who volunteered to plead the case.
“I used to feel reassured when my son was with them. Mohammed had asked me to not go to work on so many days… A few hours later, they would come to take him from the house”
The security measures, which were undertaken far too late, are still unfortunately insufficient, especially since the identity of the eight perpetrators has since been completely exposed, in addition to Muhammad’s confession of the details before the judiciary. Even within these details however, there has been a slowdown in the persecution of the suspects and only one has been arrested. This matter has aroused widespread outrage, especially with the circulating news indicating that those fugitives are supported by partisan impunity.
Wholesale Violations of Syrians
This crime carries within itself many crimes, beginning with child labor, and the partisan, tribal, and cliental control that undertakes these cases, particularly those that befall the most vulnerable of the society. Regarding the case of the child Muhammad, he has a Syrian father and a Lebanese mother, which grant him neither enough legal nor social immunity in light of the failure of the Lebanese mother to pass the Lebanese nationality to her child, in addition to the underlying discrimination that amounts to racism against the Syrians in many cases.
The situation of the Syrians in Lebanon is on a downwards spiral, whether it is in terms of residency and identity documents or regarding job opportunities and raids and violations against them, even in the apparent cases of racism in daily situations that derive their strength from the systematic political and partisan discourses.
It is noteworthy that the Lebanese media forms a part of this system, where there is a sort of shying away from covering the issues related to Syrian interests. Moreover, some may hold the refugees responsible for the Lebanese crisis, despite it being cumulative, with its roots preceding the Syrian War.
This crime carries within itself many crimes, beginning with child labor, and the partisan, tribal, and cliental control that undertakes these cases, particularly those that befall the most vulnerable of the society.
All of these facts weaken the status of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon, for example, causing them to be afraid of filing complaints if they do not have the right of residence in Lebanon for instance, which would make them subject to legal liability. So, they prefer to renounce their rights, and lose their right of litigation and equality before the law.
There are many violations against Syrians, in particular children, in Lebanon. A similar offense had occurred in Beirut two years ago, not being labelled a sexual assault, but rather called “Incitement to Immorality”, during which a young Lebanese man harassed a Syrian child in one of Beirut mosques. When the administration of the mosque was informed of the incident, the perpetrator was detained according to what Diala Chehade, the child’s lawyer, told “Daraj”.
Tragic Reality and Systematic Discrimination
There are more than one million Syrian refugees registered with “The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees”, in Lebanon, while the government estimates that the actual number is 1.5 million Syrian refugees in the country.
Making residency policies harder for Syrians, increases the risk of their exposure to exploitation and violations, and limits their ability to get jobs and access to education and healthcare. 73 percent of them do not have legal residency and face the risk of arrest because of their illegal existence in the country, according to the “Human Rights Watch” 2020 world report.
The report noted that the “Supreme Defense Council” had made decisions that multiplied the pressure on the Syrian refugees, including the deportation of those who had illegally entered Lebanon, the destruction of refugees’ houses, in addition to a campaign against Syrian workers who do not have work permits.
More than 2500 refugees have recently been deported amid the risk of arbitrary detention and torture. These coercive measures are spreading amid the hate speech adopted by politicians, active parties, and media institutions that belong to them.
Today, after the identity of perpetrators has been revealed, eyes turn to the judiciary that will either grant justice to a child whose childhood has been violated, or will cover the offenders with partisan coverage. In that case, silence regarding the crime is no less than the crime itself!