Syrian citizens who have fled to our homeland, Lebanon, are subjected to a racist campaign exaggerating their numbers, restricting their movement and freedom, while spreading a horrible and frightening image of them, their “theft” and other “crimes.”
The campaign has culminated in a possible return to the regime of Bashar al-Assad, who has seized their homes and lands. If they do return in the manner some want them to, they will undoubtedly be subjected to all kinds of human rights violations.
In addition, a considerable number of people are unable to return, even on dire and haphazard terms, as their homes and neighborhoods are still occupied (by the regime).
“We, who work in the fields of literature, journalism, art, and education, disavow this campaign, which is being waged in the name of Lebanon and the interests of the Lebanese. We believe it is targeting us as well as the Syrian displaced, with the aim to silence us and suppress our freedoms.”
Based on our adherence to Lebanon’s constitutional patriotism, the values of freedom and pluralism, and the parliamentary democratic system, we believe that, the noblest of values are inverted, once they are stripped from the humanitarian values of empathy and solidarity with the oppressed and innocent, regardless of their nationality, identity, religion or race.
We do not at all underestimate the magnitude of the problem caused by the massive influx of Syrian refugees, nor are we blind to the burdens it imposes on Lebanon and its limited resources and the concerns rising regarding the delicate balance between the country’s sects and communities for which numbers and demographics take center stage.
While we insist on rational and peaceful solutions, far removed from demonization either populist or racist in nature, we also acknowledge the exceptional circumstances we face as a result of the tyranny that has been inflicted upon the Syrians, as well as the Lebanese
The successive events are what leads us to believe that the consolidation and prolongation of the tyranny is the first reason for the persistence of the dire situation experienced by both the Lebanese and Syrians in Lebanon.
The enduring tragedy has been caused by the Syrian regime’s bloody actions, as well as the role played in the displacement process by one Lebanese party that is strongly represented in government.
But instead of hearing a louder voice condemning those mentioned above, we find that the current campaign, through its politicians, media figures and other components, not only remains silent about Assad and “the party” but in fact complements their actions.
In addition, the campaigners have overlooked the fact that Syrians in Lebanon are not an armed party, that they are not making a case imploring Lebanon, threatening its sovereignty or state, nor endangering its borders.
The campaign furthermore does harm to economic realities when presenting exaggerated figures about the negative impact Syrians have on the Lebanese economy and labor market.
They ignore the fact the Syrian presence on Lebanese soil brings international funds and assistance to our looted economy. Funds and assistance that are unfortunately all too often seized upon and ensnared by the well-known circle of corruption.
Moreover, many jobs currently performed by cheap Syrian laborers in construction, agriculture and other sectors were done prior to the crisis by Syrians as well. And back then they yielded great results for the Lebanese economy.
It is truly worrisome that, while caught in a deadly economic and financial crisis, our political-financial system proves utterly incapable of addressing it. As people’s living conditions, the state and society as a whole, are deteriorating, the inherent flaws in our national experience are painfully revealed.
Meanwhile, fears among sects, groups, and individuals regarding weapon flows and prolonged impoverishment have increased. The architects of the campaign against Syrians in Lebanon avoid tackling the actual causes of the crisis and Lebanon’s real enemies. Instead they focus on made-up reasons and imaginary foes.
It is a behavior exhibiting qualities that are far from praiseworthy, which only repeats what we have seen happening in numerous other countries seeking to offer a berth to their problems by scapegoating the weak and vulnerable.
Some people try to frighten us with high Syrian birth rates and demographics, but we have seen a similar narrative in other countries trying to attribute their tragedies to innocent victims by describing them as a threat to the nation and true patriotism.
If those disregarding our failures and the responsibility to confront them believe that by scapegoating others they are somehow restoring Lebanese dignity and patriotism, then what a pitiful and arrogant patriotism it is. Adding cruelty to the cruelty that forced people to flee their homes and subjected them the most tragic conditions of life, which for any sensitive human being only triggers feelings of sadness and sympathy.
And if the campaigners believe that their behavior is to reconcile Lebanon with “civilization” or the “civilized world,” then the Western response so far shows just how mistaken they are and how their approach only adds to the official policy of isolating us from the world.
Therefore, we, the undersigned, believe that the major task lying ahead for all of us revolves around the return of the displaced to their home country, provided it is a genuinely voluntary and safe return, guaranteed and coordinated by external, international powers. This requires putting pressure on the Lebanese state to make, even if only once, a serious effort to tackle this vital issue.
We are determined to confront this unjust campaign that not only offends innocent Syrians but also offends us as Lebanese, as it undermines our patriotism, which we want to be humane, democratic, and modern.
We reiterate: not in our name, and not in the name of Lebanese patriotism.
Note: The term “displaced” has caused some confusion in the sense that the term “refugees” more accurately describes the case of Syrians. This is correct in principle. By using the term “displaced” we wanted to weaken the argument of people who link the term “refugee status” to “settlement,” based on what they call the “Palestinian settlement risk.”
Lina Mounzer – Diaa Haidar – Yusuf Bazzi – Hazem Saghieh – Hussam Itani – Mohamed Abu Samra – Hazem al-Amin – Diana Moukalled – Alia Ibrahim – Eli Al-Hajj – Hala Nouhad Nasreddine – Nour Suleiman – Hassan Abbas – Marwan Abu Samra – Shaza Sharaf Al-Din – Tarek Abu Samra – Bashar Haidar – Rasha al-Atrash – Mohannad Al-Haj Ali – Doja Daoud – Marwa Saab – Khader Hassan – Walid Hussein – Fidaa Itani – Bissan al-Sheikh – Makram Rabah – Ziad Majed – Azza Sharara Baydoun – Rabih Mroué – Rasha al-Amir – Ziad Antar – Hana Jaber – Nathalie Elmir – Bilal Khabbaz – Jad Shahrour – Omar Harkous – Khaldoun Jaber – Rana Najjar – Mohamad Chebaro – Layal Haddad – Janna Barakat – Walid Noueihed – Suhail Suleiman – Alia Karami – Ahmed Baydoun – Lina Majdalani – Fouad Elkoury – Ayman Mahanna – Lamia Joreige – Mariam Saif Al-Din – Walid Fakhreddine – Dima Sadek – Shoaib Jowhar – Bilal Yassin – Zahraa Dirani – Rehana Najm – Iman Hamidan – Ali Noureddine – Akl Awit – Elias Khoury – Batoul Yazbeck – Saud Al-mawla – Dala Al-Bazri – Eli Al-Qassaifi – Maya Ammar – Charbel Khoury – Edmond Rabbath – Ghinwa Yatim – Rita Al-Jamal – Nabil Mamlouk – Azza Hajj Hassan – Paul Tabar – Christine Tohmé – Zainab Sharaf Al-Din – Farouk Itani – Micheline Abu Salloum – Mohammad Jezzini- Hisham Aliwan – Johnny Fakhry – Caroline Akoum – Michel Hajji Georgiou – Reem Al-Jundi – Hassan Murad – Azza Taweel – Rita Shahwan – Rita Barotta – Khaled al-Ezzi.