Alerts, News and Background from Lebanon
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Edited by Inga Schei and Lokman Slim
PREVIOUS ALERTS
»  The Call of the Two Sayyeds
A 413-word Intellectual and Political Landmark
On August 9, 2012, a remarkable joint statement was issued by two of Lebanon’s most respected senior Shia clerics, Sayyed Mohammad Hassan al-Amine and Sayyed Hani Fahas. The document announces their support for the uprising of the Syrian people and encourages others to do the same. At a time when the stakes are high for the Shia community and Lebanese state, this unprecedented statement denounces indirectly the Lebanese government’s official policy of “disassociation” from the ongoing events in Syria. It also censures the Shia duo, Hezbollah-Amal, for the overt support it has given the Syrian regime.
»  From Political to Field Support
Hezbollah’s Involvement in the Syrian Crisis
As the revolution in Syria rages on, Hezbollah’s support for the regime of Bashar al-Assad remains unswerving. In an effort to better understand the organization’s unequivocal support of that regime, this ShiaWatch alert attempts to map the various types of field support the organization continues to offer its Syrian benefactor. Meanwhile, the Lebanese government has continued to trumpet its policy of disassociation, an approach that has already permitted the erosion of significant portions of Lebanon’s sovereign territory.
»  The Sunni-Shia Reckoning:
Unfinished Business of “Beirut Spring” Exposed by Syrian Uprising
The Syrian crisis has helped bring to a boil many of the tensions and unresolved grievances that have been simmering in Lebanon for decades. In fact, the resurfacing of these conflicts has spawned an increasing number of skirmishes throughout the country. Such clashes have an overtly sectarian nature in which the country’s Sunni and Shia populations are typically being pitted against each other. It goes without saying that these clashes pose an imminent danger to Lebanon’s civil peace. Perhaps even more alarming, however, is that the growing conflict has further tainted the state’s already questionable security institutions, particularly the LAF, relative to their being partisan actors in this sectarian struggle.
»  The Lebanese-Syrian Border
A Dance of Death around a Political Black Hole
The Lebanese border, already a steady source of security concerns, is being breeched by both sides of the Syrian conflict with ever-greater frequency. While the Syrian army commits regular violations of Lebanese sovereignty as it pursues its opponents, Lebanese clans are running wild and refugees continue to stream into the country. Not only have Lebanon’s government and army been particularly ineffective in their attempts to protect the border, they also seem uninterested in doing so. The instability associated with the unchecked porosity of the Lebanese-Syrian border also calls into question the rationale being used by Hezbollah and its organizationally led government to defend the presence of its controversial weapons cache.
»  Dahiyeh’s transformation
From “Capital of Resistance” to Gang-Ridden Slum
Date: May 30, 2012
Despite Hezbollah’s attempts to emphasize its morality, the prevalence of crime in Beirut’s southern suburbs—Hezbollah’s “capital,” known collectively as the Dahiyeh—is undeniable. Today, crimes that involve drugs, theft, gun violence and murder are rife in Hezbollah’s own backyard, and that steadily deteriorating situation has pushed some local residents to speak out against the seemingly all-powerful organization. Many are wondering whether Hezbollah is actually “protecting” some area criminals as part of its “strategy” to retain complete control over the “resources” of the Shia community, or if the organization is simply having a tough time managing the bellicose energy being exuded by the members of its “society of Resistance”…
»  The Saga of Banin Qataya...
Shia-Christian Religious Consortium Violates Human Rights with State’s Blessing
Banin Qataya’s three-year struggle for personal and religious freedom ended in vain at the hands of some of Lebanon’s leading Christian and Shia religious figures. Unsurprisingly, Lebanon’s “official” representatives remained conspicuously absent while the incident played out, which involved the kidnapping of a local priest and his eventual release—brokered by Hezbollah. In the rural Bekaa region, the incident represents not only Hezbollah’s multifaceted control, but also the steady degradation of state authority.
»  Sheikh Hassan Mchaymech: A Prisoner of Consciousness
Update on his Sixth Trial Session
Lebanon’s Sheikh Hassan Mchaymech, an outspoken Hezbollah critic and staunch opponent of the Wilayat al-Faqih theory, “disappeared” on July 7, 2010 while crossing the Lebanese-Syrian border. As things turned out, the original incident became merely the prelude to a saga that today is languishing in Lebanon’s Military Court. The exceptional element in this case is that it represents perhaps one of the most extreme violations of freedom of expression to have occurred in Lebanon. Unfortunately, the case also exemplifies a reliance on the politicized charge of “collaboration with Israel,” which is typically used with great effectiveness to silence dissent. On August 6, 2012, the case was postponed a seventh time until September 20. In the meantime, the court continues to reject a request by the Sheikh’s lawyer that it hear additional testimony.
»  An “Istanbul Council” to Redefine Coexistence in the Middle East
From Nicaea to Karbala, and Back: Turkey’s crash course in regional sectarian relations
Beginning September 7th, the Turkish Center for Islamic Studies (ISAM) and the Marmara University Institute for Middle East Studies hosted a noteworthy, two-day conference in Istanbul which gathered around 200 attendees, including two representatives from Hayya Bina. Held under the broad, conservative title “Arab Awakening and Peace in the Middle East: Muslim and Christian Perspectives,” the conference was clearly an attempt by Turkey to assert its growing political role in the region. To give the gathering a dramatic impact, the organizers described the event as nothing less than a groundbreaking interfaith dialogue initiative that involved leading religious figures from the Middle East and beyond.
»  From Dearborn with Love
Hearts and Minds of the Lebanese (Shia) Diaspora in Michigan
Talk with U. of Michigan Professor Farah Kawtharani
 Most often, when the media addresses Hezbollah’s global reach, it focuses on highly visible areas such as the organization’s capacity for conducting military operations outside Lebanon, the business ventures (illicit and otherwise) that fuel its domestic and international sustainability and others.

In general, this “network” of involvement depends heavily on expat communities around the world, but most notably in South America, West Africa and…Dearborn, USA, Dahiyeh’s “sister city.” While not strategic in terms of financial support, this predominantly Shia community that resides in the suburbs of the “great arsenal of democracy” maintains a connection with Lebanon through family, culture and media, all of which are immersed in the great wash of Hezbollah propaganda. As the US continues to ratchet up the pressure on that organization, ShiaWatch was curious to understand more about how Lebanese-Shia Americans are navigating the complex identities and loyalties which create an emotional bond between them and the sworn enemy of their adoptive and/or native country.
»  An Eighth Postponement...
Developments in the Case of Sheikh H. Mchaymech
As if the Lebanese judiciary’s charge against Sheikh Hassan Mchaymech of having been in “collaboration with Israel” wasn’t enough of a crime by itself, that same body recently added two new charges to the list: causing a sectarian rift among the population of Roumieh Prison and possessing a cell phone! The utter ridiculousness of these accusations can be assessed only by comparing them to the confrontational rhetoric used by politicians of all persuasions on the TV talk shows or reviewing the tally of “prohibited items” found recently by Lebanese police during their search of other Roumieh Prison dormitories. Incredibly, the items confiscated ranged from heavy narcotics to electrical saws! Despite these pressures, Sheikh H. Mchaymech remains unabashed and unbowed in his intellectual production, a conspicuous mark of determination that simultaneously upsets his detractors and encourages his family and friends. 
 
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