The two operations were carried out almost simultaneously on Sunday evening by two groups of soldiers, both in the Geitawi neighborhood. The first operation took place at around 8:30 p.m., and the second around 9:30 p.m. The presence of foreign workers in this neighborhood is no secret. There are old buildings in this area, with studios rented for reasonable prices. Since immigrants have limited means, they tend to share the rent three ways — sometimes even splitting it between up to ten people — for about 20 square metres. Most of them work in construction or as delivery men. They are all legally residing in Lebanon; some have lived here for the last 14 years. There are also Lebanese natives living in these buildings.
The soldiers went into the two buildings and forced their way into the studios. They ordered everyone to get on their knees, put their hands behind their heads, and proceeded to insult and beat them. They sometimes referred to the political situation when addressing the Syrians, for instance by asking them if they were for or against President Bashar al-Assad. Some of the insults also had to do with religion, like when the soldiers asked the Syrians whether they were Sunni, Alawite or Christian. But they were not expecting answers and continued to beat them. Some of the workers were even trampled on.
“In Lebanon, a multi-denominational country, the army is perceived as the only respected and impartial institution”
The soldiers then grouped together the 40-odd men found in each of the two buildings, and put them on the roof and in one of the studios. Some Lebanese neighbors tried to help the workers, but the soldiers told them to get back into their apartments and to mind their own business.
What’s interesting is that none of the soldiers proceeded to interrogate any of the men. They vaguely accused the workers of harassing women in the neighborhood, but without giving any specifics. Furthermore, they did not arrest anyone, which suggests that this attack was gratuitous and that the workers had not done anything wrong.
Personally, I am shocked by what happened. The army regularly intervenes when there are conflicts between the city’s residents, because the army is considered as the only respected and impartial institution in a multi-denominational country. People trust them more than the police. They occasionally resort to violence during interventions or interrogations, but what happened on Sunday seems to have been completely unprovoked and unjustified.