Activists from the Socialist Forum in Lebanon are facing a campaign of threats and intimidation after they called for a protest in solidarity with Syrian refugees.
Lebanese armed forces raided two Syrian refugee camps near the town of Arsal on 30 June, arresting hundreds of people and killing several. The raids were officially labelled as “preventative” actions targeting “terrorists”, following armed attacks on Lebanese forces and the kidnapping of Lebanese soldiers in the area.
Lebanese activist groups involved in solidarity and anti-racist campaigns began to mobilise as news spread through the media that some of the detainees appeared to have been tortured and killed in custody.
As the Socialist Forum explained in a statement, “This attack on Syrian refugees is not the first of its kind. It indicates a dangerous escalation within the framework of an organised racist campaign against refugee populations by ruling class parties, who are using various state apparatuses in Lebanon to impose curfews, close the border to those fleeing the war in Syria, and deprive them of their most basic rights.
"Furthermore, the General Security has imposed impossible conditions for the renewal of residency permits since the beginning of 2015. These conditions are only aimed at turning refugees into illegal aliens, making them easier to exploit and increasing the precarity of their living conditions.
"This policy of limiting mobility has gone hand in had with raids, evictions and arbitrary arrests over the last two years, as well as the continuing threat of forcible repatriation to a country still embroiled in war.”
A large meeting of Lebanese activists on 13 July resolved to launch a campaign to counter the racist rhetoric against Syrian refugees from Lebanese politicians and the mainstream media, and to demand a full investigation into the deaths of the.detainees.
One of the first planned campaign actions was an anti-racist solidarity sit-in in Beirut, which activists from the Socialist Forum took on to coordinate. The protest organisers have found themselves the subject of a smear campaign and death threats, after their names and phone numbers were leaked to the press.
In a statement on 16 July, the Socialist Forum condemned the threats against its members and vowed to continue the campaign. The Forum also warned of an escalation of the military and security repression of Syrian refugees in preparation for their forced return to Syria.
“Despite the fact that the Socialist Forum has organised numerous solidarity meetings with Syrian refugees over the years, this is the first time that the call for a sit-in has received so many open threats.
"We believe that this incitement is aimed at paving the way for an all-out war in Arsal, and imposing a deal with the Syrian regime within the framework of a settlement that would require the forcible transfer of Syrian refugees to so-called “safe-zones” in Syria".