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Hanin Ghaddar

The Syrian regime crossed the border; what are we going to do about it?

It is not surprising for the Lebanese that the Syrian regime has not stopped interfering in the Lebanese political scene since its troops withdrew from the country in 2005. Their allies and strategic partners, such as Hezbollah, have made sure it continues. And when the Syrian uprising started, the regime’s brutal crackdown on protesters did not stop at the borders. Syrian opposition figures are not safe in Lebanon.

Intelligence groups and institutions affiliated with the Assad regime and its allies are taking orders to threaten, kidnap and hand Syrian opposition members back to the Syrian authorities. Lebanon continues to be used as an extension of the Syrian regime’s territory.

Meanwhile, almost all Lebanese officials, from both the March 8 and March 14 coalitions, along with their media institutions, have been outrageously silent regarding the brutality of the Assad regime and its interference in Lebanon. At this historic crossroads in the region, silence and denial is akin to complicity with the dictators. The Lebanese  need to take a unified position, especially as the kidnapping of Syrians is taking place on Lebanese soil. Our fragile sovereignty is seriously at stake.

On Thursday, The Syrian Council for Human Rights reported that Shibli al-Ayssami—a leading Syrian opposition member and one of the original founders of the Syrian Baath Party, who escaped Syria when Hafez al-Assad took power in 1970—went missing from Lebanon on Tuesday.
 
Ayssami’s daughter told NOW Lebanon that he went missing after going on a walk around 4:30 p.m. in Aley. He had arrived in Lebanon on May 19 from the US, where he resides. No one knows where Ayssami is, and all authorities contacted by his family were unable to deliver any information on his whereabouts.

This is not the first time a Syrian opposition member has disappeared in Lebanon since the uprising started. In March, four Syrian citizens were reportedly kidnapped by Internal Security Forces First Lieutenant Salah Ali al-Hajj. Jassem Merhi al-Jassem was arrested by the Lebanese army on February 24, while he was distributing fliers condemning the Syrian regime and was handed to the ISF. But he was later released and reportedly kidnapped by al-Hajj the same day, along with his brothers, Syrian opposition groups claimed.

Also, last week, Lebanese authorities handed back to their Syrian counterparts three Syrian soldiers who fled to Lebanon; an act that violates both international and domestic law.

“A person who has fled into Lebanese territory has not committed a crime at the local level; he is a refugee, and as a refugee, is entitled to protection and intervention from the UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees],” said Nabil Halabi, head of the Lebanese Institute for Democracy and Human Rights.

Lebanon also ratified the Convention against Torture, Article 3 of which condemns handing over a refugee at risk of being subject to torture, he added. “By handing them back, the soldiers will be facing death, not only torture,” said Halabi.

In addition, Halabi said that the soldiers were detained without a warrant by security forces, not judicial officers, which is a violation of the Lebanese penal code. Additionally, in this case, the military intelligence did not have the authority to send the soldiers back – only the Ministry of Justice did. 

Meanwhile, Lebanese activists are being threatened and intimidated by members of the pro-Syrian Baath Party and the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party (SSNP) in Lebanon for attempting to voice support for the Syrian people.

These are just examples of the continuation of Syrian hegemony in Lebanon, which, despite the troops’ withdrawal and the exchange of embassies, still holds. The security agreements that were signed during the Syrian presence in Lebanon allow such practices to continue. 

Created in 1991 to oversee the implementation of the treaties between Syria and Lebanon, the Syrian-Lebanese Higher Council (SLHC), together with a host of so-called brotherly accords, has come to symbolize the enduring imbalance in the Lebanese-Syrian dynamic.

Since its inception, the SLHC approved several bilateral agreements in economic and financial areas and implemented the controversial 1991 Fraternity, Cooperation and Coordination Treaty (FCCT), under Article 6 of which the SLHC was formed. The FCCT formalized Syria’s role as powerbroker in Lebanon, and the SLHC’s General Secretariat acted as a virtual embassy in Beirut during Syria’s presence here.

The FCCT, which is still active, is composed of six articles that emphasize the Lebanese government’s role in protecting Syrian security. Article 2 allows the Syrian government to carry out any military or security operation in Lebanon to preserve its security without having to ask for the Lebanese government’s permission.

The 1991 Defense and Security Agreement highlights the importance of Syrian security, stressing that “both states shall prevent any activity, act or organization in all military, security, political and media fields that may cause prejudice to the other country, and shall endeavor to abrogate the laws and regulations that do not conform to this treaty.”

After the exchange of embassies between Syria and Lebanon, many March 14 politicians waged a campaign against these agreements and called for their abolition, fearing future interference by the Syrian regime.  Though this is happening today, and no one is saying anything. 

Abolishing these agreements is a must if Lebanon wants to act as a sovereign state. However, annulling the Syrian-Lebanese Higher Council would require a vote by parliament after a draft proposal is submitted by the government or a group of MPs. We do not have a government, but there must be a group of MPs out there who could draft a proposal of the sort. Getting it passed would be another matter altogether, but wouldn’t it at least be a worthy attempt?

Hanin Ghaddar is managing editor of NOW Lebanon

  • ali daoud

    Marco, cut it off, your dreams will never come true. Hizbullah will prevail, Bashar will prevail, down israel, down "The Free Democratic Modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia"

    June 6, 2011

  • Marco Antonio

    majd, you liberated nothing, you are an occupation collaborator. You asked syria to stay in Lebanon, so we are the ones who liberated Lebanon. Plus there will be no more bashar sooner or later and the syria you know will turn against your clan. You are going to be hurting soon, you and your occupation loving brothers and sisters. If you had half a brain the situation in syria would at least stop you from using the expression ... vive the regime. Are you blind and deaf or are you just too thick???

    June 5, 2011

  • ali daoud

    NN,take me easy bro, how is it that "regardless who invited her in'?!! that`s so important, it shows we cannot manage to rule ourselves and solve our problems without external interference . you claimed you"kicked her out", habibi, you perfectly know that the usa and allies killed Rafic Hariri in order to have a reason for world powers to demand syria`s leave, and what happened was orchestrated by Fieltman and Emme not by yur champions. habibi, syria left and u still imply that she bears responsibility for our weaknesses and incompetence, syria left, come on rise up, build a state!!! About the war, it was a decision by the USA and israel along with your M14 champs who obeyed, syria and iran have nothing to do about it. syria is already a country, a state with real authority, where is our state?! yes, we have liberty, tell me how liberty helped us in changing our country or in fighting corruption or in abiding by the law, or in having real independence,slogans r cute but not enough.

    June 5, 2011

  • NN

    One last comment majd... From 45 till 75 Lebanon was called Switzerland of the orient... Back then we had the 7th per capita income in the World:) but then came along Syria who saw that Lebanon was sook much better than them and wanted to occupy us... Regardless on who invited her in... They were going to occupy us... Unfortunately we fell into the trap. And they sent us back 200 in reverse... And when we managed to kick their asses out and wanted to build a country we saw the number of traitors they had left in Lebanon... But nonetheless Lebanon can still rise in record time if Syria just leaves us alone and the traitors shut up... And we stop having a war with Israel every 2 years because Iran or Syria want to send msgs through Lebanon. On the other hand Syria will never become a country and even lebanon in it's worst states is far better than Syria where education is 0 and liberty is 0 and corruption is triple than Lebanon And they kill people for expressing...

    June 5, 2011

  • ali daoud

    Marco, we liberated the land, and we apid dearly for it, so we deserve it like it or not. I still don`t believe you`re a Lebanese. Vive Al Moqawama, Vive Bashar, down israel

    June 4, 2011

  • Marco Antonio

    majd I am sure you have no interest in talking to me first of all; because if there was any justice in our country all occupation collaborators like yourself would go on trial for grand treason ... Secondly because you are just a an occupation collaborator who like a parrot only has a few set of lines to use in his comments that cannot make a dent in any logical argument I might make. therefore you resort to trying telling me who I am when you still haven't figured out that you are the lowest form of an occupation collaborator. You don't havea country do you? It is only the hard work of our forefathers that gives you the freedom to insult and work against your country and to do that without risking persecution. You have a country that you don't deserve.

    June 4, 2011

  • NN

    Just a brief look at history... Ever since prehistoric age Lebanon has never ever been part of Syria... Was first called Phoenicia where parts of the Syrian coast were actually part of Lebanon;) back then Syria was palmyra .... Then during the Greek and roman invasions, Lebanon always had a different entity... This billed al sham ... is just a name the Romans called the region... Just like we now call it the middle east or north Africa... In the tawrat and bible dating to that period and before... Lebanon was mentioned alone... And not as part of Syria... And when the Turks occupied Lebanon ... Mount Lebanon formed Lebanon back then... So historically Lebanon always existed independently of Syria ... It just grew or shrunk in territory depending on the time ... So to all who want Lebanon part of Syria I say this was never the case in history;) and will never be the case in the futur ;)...

    June 4, 2011

  • ali daoud

    Marco Antonio, you`re not a Lebanese, don`t say "our country", and i have no interest in talking to you. Hassan, in politics there are always what we call balance of powers and red lines whcih will be respected as long as there`s a balnce between parties involved, and once that balance shifts to one side, or once one of the parties thinks he has no more interest in respecting those red lines, then it will be crossed. About Lebanon, since our independence, and may be long before, we were never able to govern ourselves, i`m sick of such a failing state, and what sickens me more is the fact that we always blame others for our faults. We invite the syrians and then we wine about their actions, we teach them the corruption methods, and then we blqme them for the corruption, we get involved in plots against them, and then we condemn their retaliations, habibi, let us prove that we are a true state and that we deserve our country, and untill we do that, we will remain in the same empty

    June 2, 2011

  • Marco Antonio

    "The existence of Lebanon is a historic mistake..." That is only true if you consider that we presently have so many of those so called citizens of the ilk of majd. Thank God they`re not a majority by any means. majd is a typical occupation collaborator who fancies himself an analyst of situations and country status/legitimacy. A little bit of syrian propaganda from the 60`s plus a lot of nonsense make up all his arguments.The only benefit to his comments is we get an insight into his twisted logic and his lack of patriotism. His thinking shes insight on how occupation collaborators justified syrian occupation for 30 years and then requested that they stay longer. majd should have left with his syrian masters when they withdrew from our country 6 years ago.

    June 2, 2011

  • Hassan

    Majd.. The point is, whether it is a request or not, the Syrian did it by air. And just because it is a request I shouldn’t mention it? Or am I suppose to say how nice the Syrians are they obliged and couldn’t say No for a request. Who knows? Maybe with the help and request of some Lebanese, Rafik was killed. Just because we are not talking about it much, doesn’t mean we forgot the STL. You are right, the Lebanese invited them and the birds loved the rice thrown on the Syrians. However, the Lebanese then had enough and they would have invited Iran or Israel to end the suffering. Also, FYI, and since you don’t want to cancel Israel from any struggle, Israel and the US approved that invitation, otherwise, it wouldn’t have happened. So if you want No borders, you better be accept the US interference. It will never happen without the US approval. Actually bringing this up open more eyes on why the US is doing nothing about the killing now in Syria. So double faced both.

    June 2, 2011

  • moussa

    "Qaddafi departure worst case scenario for Libya, regime spokesperson says" .. Ah brings a tear to my eye makes me think that great minds think alike, Rami Makhlouf said the same thing about Bashar and Syria. Kindred spirits Qaddafi and Assad I must say.

    June 1, 2011

  • @majd

    You're such a "Lebanese patriot" defending the Syrian Baath you failed to reply the person who said that Lebanon should be part of Syria. I guess we know who you really are so stop pretending btw how's the weather in Damascus today Mr Moukhabarat man.

    May 31, 2011

  • @majd

    Do you recall which parties and organizations were supporting the Palestinians when they tried to cancel Lebanon, they are mostly the same ones that are today supporting Hezbollah with the same stale rhetoric about holy ME struggle.

    May 31, 2011

  • ali daoud

    hassan,,, syria 's interference in Lebanon was at the request of Lebanese groups who felt threatened by the palestinians, and later those same lebanese switched sides and allied with israel. And for those who blame syria for corruption in lebanon, i tell them it was the lebanese who invited the syrians to the corruption party in order to control lebanon's economy, occupy solidere, telecom companies etc... As for israel, u cannot cancel israel from any struggle in ME, simply because wherever the USA interferes it means israel's interests are high priirity. As for Lebanon and syria to be one state, why not, may be then we would stop being an awckward failing state! I believe the existence of Lebanon is a historical mistake, we are not able to act as a true sovereign indeependent state, and when it happened that one group among us succeeded in liberating and defending our land which is the basic of sovereighnty, then other Lebanese minded and are trying to get us back under the will of a

    May 31, 2011

  • @majd

    Bashar been promising reforms since 2000 when he inherited Syria from his father, I guess as long as he keeps promising that's cool.

    May 31, 2011

  • Hassan

    We are talking Syria; No need to bring Israel in the subject, I agree, the Syrian’s interference should stop immediately. Yet, with or without cabinet, when we have groups who are fond of Syria, and wishing for no borders, it will be hard to accomplish. As for shedding tears, Lebanese had enough. They are tearless; and why not accept others to feel what we been through all these years. It irritates me when people mix two subjects together. They always bring Israel and the US for comparison. Likewise, we can always defend this comparison. For example, air and land; Syria attacked Lebanese by land and even attacked the presidential palace by air. How ironic, it was Aoun then. When Israel interferes, they are enemy. I don’t expect an allegedly friend to interfere in this way. Fortunately!! We have a so-called resistance to protect us from Israel. We need one to protect us from Syria. Sovereign state? Easy said than done. But things have changed and some day we will, and with borders.

    May 31, 2011

  • ali daoud

    ok,,, don't put ur words, issue is i don't believe u guys when you wine about the syrian people victims, we know each others well, you are hating racists against all syrians wether regime or opposition, so stop wining, and if u really care about syrians safety and future, then u just tell them in case they cannot pay the price of that strugglle, then just advise them to stay home and be safe. That struggle is surely a struggle between syria and allies vs israel and allies, so no compromises, no mercy with terrorists supported by the democratic modern free Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. those syrian innocents should not give terrorists the chance to hide behind just demands of reforms. Bashar promised reforms, and he, as Sayed Hassan, both are up to their promises. And to those Lebanese wishing to see Syria humiliated i say, Again, ypu are doomed to fail, M fourteen times, vive Bashar, vive Sayed, down israel, down democratic saudi arabia

    May 30, 2011

  • NN

    I have been reding some comments here under and some seem really to be outrageous!!! for example someone is calling for lebanon to be part of Syrie... well to such people I can say...if u love syria so much go live there.... and make sure you get a house in Daraa... maybe by then u will get what really suits you... Lebanon has been always different byy democaracy in the middle east... and now we see parties like baath and hezbollah and others ... well in any logical state such parties would and should be banned! they are traitors in their beleif...do you see in germany any party who refuses the existence of germany for example??? such hypocrity such bullshit.... I hope that the day the syrian regime falls and Assad is hung these people follow... and btw Syria is even worst than israel... Israel occupied part of Lebanon ...Syria occupied it all....israel killed lebanese... syria killed even more lebanese...Assad=Hypocricy!...

    May 30, 2011

  • souryya ya habibati

    sarah, least 5% of the elected members in the Lebanese parliament view Lebanon as a made up fake state and want it to be returned to it's rightful place as apart of Syria. Those MPs are part of the new majority in parliament and have the support of more than 50% of the electorates according to the last elections.

    May 29, 2011

  • sarah

    @souryya ya habibati--the Lebanese don't want to be part of Syria. End of discussion.

    May 29, 2011

  • halim

    typing error, I meant of course majority. Sorry Ali.

    May 29, 2011

  • الى سالم

    So according to majd because there were syrian workers killed and brutalized (that he alone knows of) the syrian forces has the right to enter the lebanese land anytime they want!! WOW!! you really have nothing to say don't u?? btw there's no syrian opposition, there are syrian people against assad gang and thugs and as we say in lebanon: Al "thugs" 3ala ashkaliha taqa3

    May 29, 2011

  • ali daoud

    Hanin Ghaddar I quite don`t understand how many Lebanese don`t remember that Lebanon should be a "sovereign state" except when it comes to bilateral issues between Lebanon and Syria, and indeed whesn Syria is to be blamed. Al Assaymi is a syrian who is missing now, whose fault it is? where are our security forces who should be in charge? Are they busy guarding a building in Al Adlieh and forbidding the Minister of Ittisalat from entering into a building related to his Ministry??? when we know that 400 security officers are camping near that building, only then we could realize how our state is being run by our officials. The whole security in our country is being abandonned for the sake of serving the interests of specific people in the state. Hanin Ghaddar, should we be a "sovereign state" only when it comes to Syria`s effect in Lebanon?!!! i don`t recall you criticized israel`s continious violations of our borders in land, sea, and air, nor the US intervention in Lebanon.

    May 29, 2011

  • touficA

    majd from now on you need to wear a helmet to limit any further damage.

    May 28, 2011

  • Ali Hajj Hassan

    mrabba, at least we should be grateful to the US for saving the Shia of Iraq, repeat after me mrabba VIVE BRESIDENT G.W. BUSH FOR SAVING THE SHIA OF IRAQ, VIVE THE USA. BTW confiture the Shia in Bahrain are the majority you can't even get your own rhetoric straight... maybe you meant the minority of Shia in Bahrain trying to help Iran annex Bahrain, like you're helping the Syrians annex Lebanon.

    May 28, 2011

  • souryya ya habibati

    I agree with omars, mrabba and majd there should be no border between lebanon and syria it should all be called syria.

    May 28, 2011

  • Sarita

    it is true that there is not cabinet what can issue one draft to improve or cut this situation but defense minister can act in helathy way, this is, reinforcing the border with soldiers, to avoid that syrian troops enter to LEBANON, WITH THE EXCUSE OF PICK UP THE SYRIAN REFUGEE, what i see in this tale, is to find the way how to export the actual sitaution what Syria has to Lebanon, under any circunstance, like the syrian troops will be more necesarry to MAKE WHAT, in LEBANON, WE DONT KNOW, than to pick up the refugee, this tale is bad told, politicians didnt agree to meet domestic matters, it is not easy that they NOW DOWN THE HEAD to check this topic, WE CAN NOT SIT TO CRY CROSSING THE HANDS, BUT WE CAN ACT WITH WHAT HAVE ON HANDS, CARE THE BORDERS WITH LEBANESE SOLDIERS

    May 28, 2011

  • harris

    Dear Hanine, What do you expect from a president who had to get the blessing from Assad for his appointment. What do you expect from a chief of the army who could not get appointed to his post before the blessing of Assad. What do you expect from many high ranking officers in the LAF get paid by Iran and HZ. What do you expect from entire security agencies share information with so called resistance, HZ, Syria and Iran. SORRY!! Lebanon us not a nation, is not a state. As lebanese I have never been ashamed of my country as much as I am now.

    May 28, 2011

  • ali daoud

    Hanin Ghaddar why none of those Lebanese now wining about the syrian opposition didn`t shed a tear for those Syrian workers who were brutalized and killed after 2005 in Lebanon?!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 28, 2011

  • halim

    let's do like we did when foreign arab forces entered Bahrain to help against the Shia minority.

    May 28, 2011

  • OmarS

    Bravo! A headline worthy of News of the World! I propose declaring war on Syria what do you think Hanin?. BTW Israel has crossed the border for 63 years what are "we" gonna do about it?

    May 28, 2011