Tag Archives: Hizbullah

In Lebanon’s Christian district, March 14 holds the cards

8 Jun

BEIRUT: Constituents in  Beirut I, a predominantly Christian district, crowded into polling stations on Sunday to elect five candidates to join the country’s next parliament. As The Daily Star went to press Sunday night, exit polls showed the March 14 coalition winning a clean sweep in the district, with voter turnout estimated at 44 percent.

Twenty candidates, ten of whom were Independents, battled for the seats covering the areas of Achrafieh, Rmeil and Saifi. The March 14 list of Nayla Tueni (Orthodox), Serge Torsarkissian (Armenian Catholic), Jean Ogassapian (Armenian Orthodox), Michel Pharaoun (Catholic) and Nadim Gemayel (Maronite), stood against Issam Abu Jamra (Orthodox), Vreij Sabounjian (Armenian Orthodox), Gregoire Kaloust (Armenian Catholic), Nicholas Sehnaoui (Catholic) and Massoud Al-Ashkar (Maronite) of the March 8 coalition. Two of the district’s seats will go to Armenian candidates, with one each going to Orthodox, Maronite and Catholic candidates.

Supporters of the Armenian Tashnag party, which is allied with March 8, took to the polls in particular force in the early morning hours, with convoys of cars bearing the party emblem and Armenian flag dropping off entire families outside polling stations. According to exit polls, 31,500 people in Beirut I voted, among them 6,700 Armenians.

Hagob Norunzayan, 42, got up early to vote for the March 8 ticket. The Armenians were coming “back from all over the world just to vote,” he said, denying allegations that they received cash to vote.

Hagob Norunzayan, 42, got up early to vote for the March 8 ticket. The Armenians were coming “back from all over the world just to vote,” he said, denying allegations that they received cash to vote.

“We want to live in a strong Lebanon. We will win,” he added optimistically.

Former US President Jimmy Carter was in Achrafieh Sunday to observe the voting.

Talking to reporters at the Zahrat al-Ihsan School polling station, Carter said he hoped Lebanon’s parties and foreign supporters would accept the election results.

“I don’t have any concerns over the conduct of the elections,” he said. “I have concerns over the acceptance of the results by all the major parties.”

Nadim Gemayel of the Christian Phalange party was seen midday touring the Rmeil II polling station in Achrafieh. “We saw a great evolution among the people,” he said of his electoral campaign. “We succeeded in making people vote against the weapons of Hizbullah. I am confident about my list: 5-0.”

Former LBC journalist May Chidiac cast her vote in Achrafieh’s Rmeil I polling station. Chidiac survived a 2005 assassination attempt that many blamed on pro-Syrian groups. She called Christian voters who support “pro-Syrian” and “pro-Iranian” candidates “misled.”

Hizbullah poster: My land is worth more than gold

Hizbullah poster: My land is worth more than gold

Constituents were “voting for their identity …We want a free, independent Lebanon,” she said. “Lebanon is a mixture of things, but we want it to be a pro-Occidental country.”

March 14 candidate Nayla Tueni later made an appearance at the same polling station, dressed casually in jeans and a t-shirt. The 26-year-old Tueni, deputy general director of Lebanon’s popular daily An-Nahar and the daughter of assassinated MP and journalist Gebran Tueni, has been called inexperienced by rivals. “It’s amazing people came so numerous,” she told The Daily Star in reference to the high turnout. “They want a change.”

At a number of polling stations, old men and women cast their ballots after being carried up several flights of stairs by relatives or able-bodied onlookers.

The Lebanese Physical Handicapped Union sent a complaint to the Interior Ministry lamenting the difficulties disabled people faced in accessing polling stations, often situated on the second or third floors.

Several March 14 and March 8 supporters interviewed at different polling stations said that they were voting to define Lebanon’s relations with the international community.

“Foreign policy is the most important element of this election,” said a 31-year-old March 14 supporter who did not wished to be identified.

“I believe in their foreign policy, they’re going to deal with how outside powers will deal with Lebanon,” he said of the rival coalitions.

Sandy T., 21, meanwhile said Aoun’s alliance with Hizbullah had prevented further sectarian violence in the country. “If he hadn’t made the alliance, there would be big problems between the different religions,” she said.

“We believe in what he and [Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan] Nasrallah say, and in what they can do to change Lebanon,” she added.

After voting, partisans sought refuge from Sunday’s blistering heat, eating sandwiches and chocolate bars packed in special lunchboxes bearing the logos of their preferred political party.

Although polling in Beirut I was largely peaceful, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) broke up a fight in the early afternoon at the Ali Abi Taleb High School polling station, LBC Television reported.

The high school was the only polling station for the constituency’s minority Sunni and Shiite residents.

An 85-year-old male voter reportedly died of a heart attack before casting his ballot.

According to OTV, four people were taken to hospital after fainting in the highly congested polling stations of the Zahret al-Ihsan and Tabaris schools.

Lebanese Armed Forces troops patrolled Achrafieh’s Sassine Square and detained a number of individuals after clashes broke out over party flags Sunday evening.

Despite the minor skirmishes, an election observer who wished to remain anonymous said the one-day elections had been “relatively tranquil.”

The observer nevertheless pointed to several violations, including several senior political figures and candidates campaigning inside the polling stations, defying a rule that they must stay at least 75 meters away from the polls.

“They were going around the polling station to try to rally the troops, shaking hands,” the observer said, adding that the incident was reported to the Interior Ministry.

Poor crowd control and incidences of intimidation within polling stations in Beirut I also occurred, said the observer.

Lebanon’s Elections

7 Jun
Sometimes things need no explanation

Sometimes things need no explanation

 

A building still bearing the scars of Lebanon's 1975-1990 Civil War

A building still bearing the scars of Lebanon's 1975-1990 Civil War

Armenian poster by the March 14 coalition

Armenian poster by the March 14 coalition

Outside a polling booth
Outside a polling booth
Two Armenian supporters of the Tashnag party, which is allied to the Hizbullah-led March 8 opposition

Two Armenian supporters of the Tashnag party, which is allied to the Hizbullah-led March 8 coalition

Family of Dalal Mughraby awaits return of remains

17 Jul

Family of Dalal Mughraby awaits return of remains
Mother recounts last visit with iconic Palestinian resistance fighter
By Dalila Mahdawi
Special to The Daily Star
Wednesday, July 16, 2008

 

Family of Dalal Mughraby awaits return of remains
 

Interview

 

BEIRUT: The last time Amina Hassan Ismail saw her daughter, Dalal Mughraby, she noticed something unusual about her behavior. “Dalal came and told me she was going to visit her friend at the Ghazi hospital in Sabra. She gave me a framed photograph of herself, which was odd. I said to her, ‘Why are you giving me a picture of yourself when I have the real thing?’ … I felt something was strange about the situation,” Ismail recalled, with tears welling in her eyes.

“A few days later, many people came knocking at our door. Journalists came, wanting to know what the mother of Dalal was like, what kind of house she had lived in. I didn’t know what had happened.”

The Mughraby family turned on the television to see Ehud Barak, Israel’s current defense minister, shooting bullets into Dalal’s corpse and dragging her body across the ground.

More than 30 years later, Mughraby’s body will be returned to Lebanon as part of the prisoner swap between Israel and Hizbullah expected Wednesday morning, in which the Jewish state is to hand over five Lebanese prisoners and the remains of about 200 Palestinian and Lebanese fighters killed over the last few decades.

In return, Hizbullah will give back Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, two soldiers the group captured in July 2006, and the remains of other Israeli soldiers killed in the 34-day war that followed the operation.

Three decades on, Mughraby is still reviled by Israelis as the notorious “Coastal Road killer.” But many Palestinians and Arabs regard her as an icon of the resistance and as one of Palestine’s first famous female fighters.

On March 11, 1978, Mughraby was just 19 years old when she led a unit of 11 other Lebanese and Palestinian Fedayeen fighters on an operation that killed 36 people. The unit set out for the mission by boat from South Lebanon, sailing to the coast of northern Israel, where they killed American photographer Gail Rubin and hijacked a bus on the Haifa-Tel Aviv highway. The bus was eventually cornered at a police roadblock by an Israeli Army unit led by Barak, who would later become Israel’s prime minister and then defense minister. Refusing to surrender, Mughraby declared an independent Palestinian state and after a long standoff with the Israeli Army, blew up the vehicle.

In the Mughraby family home in Tariq al-Jdideh, Mughraby’s mother and brother Ahmad sit in a living room decorated with portraits of Dalal and two large Palestinian flags.

Ahmad told The Daily Star that the family feels conflicting emotions over the impending prisoner swap.

“Hizbullah actually asked us in 2000 whether we wanted Dalal’s body to be brought back to Lebanon but we said no. We wanted Dalal to stay in Palestine because she loved and died for her country. She went there to fight for the Palestinian people, for their rights and for Palestinian children. We are proud of what she did for her country.”

It is not clear what has changed in the last eight years, but, according to Ismail: “We are so glad she is coming back now. Dalal was both Palestinian and Lebanese – she belonged to both countries. As a mother, I will be very happy to have Dalal so near me after all this time. I think it is what Dalal would have wanted too.”

Ahmad chimed in with words of agreement. “We are happy because after 30 years, we have started to talk again about Dalal, about the Palestinians. We will have a big wedding for her when she returns. Although she was never married, Dalal had thousands of children,” he said, in a reference to the children of Palestine and to fighters who have been martyred in the name of the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance.

Over the weekend the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) representative in Lebanon, Abbas Zakki, visited the Mughraby family to congratulate them on their daughter’s anticipated return.

But like Mughraby’s family, the Palestinian leadership has had a mixed response to the prisoner exchange and has previously expressed a desire to have Dalal’s body remain in Palestine. An article in last Thursday’s Palestinian Authority-financed daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda criticized Hizbullah for allowing Mughraby’s body to be buried in Lebanon and called for her body to be buried in Ramallah alongside the late President and PLO leader Yasser Arafat.

Although her body will rest in Lebanon, Mughraby will likely remain a symbol of the national resistance in Palestine, where a girls’ school in Hebron, summer camps, soccer teams and police training courses, among other things, bear her name.

But Mughraby’s involvement in the national resistance remains a mystery to her family. “We don’t understand how she got involved in the resistance, which is mainly a male domain,” said Ahmad. “We live in a building among Lebanese people, not in the [Palestinian refugee] camps. We just don’t understand how she, who was a smart, thoughtful and helpful girl, got involved. She taught many girls that they can fight for their countries,” said Ahmad.

“Every time people come asking about Dalal, I remember something new from the past,” said Ismail.

“Right now, I can remember Dalal sitting in the garden, smoking behind her father’s back. She looked lost in thought. When I asked her what she was thinking about, she said ‘nothing.’ But I sensed she was thinking about something important,” she said.

“I know now that she was thinking about Palestine.”

No Sleep

9 May

I’ve only got 14 minutes before my electricity is cut for the daily three hours, so I must make this quick.
I didn’t get any sleep last night as the “fierce clashes” (as the media is calling them, sounds more like war) went on into the night. It’s not so easy to drift off into dreamland when you can hear rockets, gunfire and explosions, some so loud you think you are trapped in the middle of it. At about 2:30am the wind changed, and a massive thunderstorm occured. My mother and I had emerged from our bedrooms and headed for our large balcony, where we were relieved to see the rain start to pour down. We had feared the new noises represented a sharp escalation in fighting. In May, Beirut hardly ever gets rain, let alone a dramatic electrical thunderstorm like that. I don’t believe in God but it’s hard not to see the religious symbolism- nature, if not God, seemed to be sending a direct message to those brainless gunmen to stop killing each other, go home and let Beirut sleep. It worked until the thunder and lightning subsided at about 5:30am, after which the fighting picked up again seriously. It’s now 8.42am and the snap, crackle and pop of fighting is still reverberating through the city. I gave up on sleep hours ago. But it seems as though ‘God’ is still ticked off: it looks like it’s going to storm again.
Most people are at home, hostage to this ridiculous and utterly pointless violence. I am running out of milk (there wasn’t any at the supermarket yesterday, surprise surprise), so I am gonna start to get really annoyed when I can’t have my cup of Earl Grey with milk: a small indulgence when you’re inprisoned in your own home. Stupid gunmen, did they learn nothing from the suffering of their families in the fifteen years of civil war that tore this country apart? Do they really want to repeat that?
(Picture from AlJazeera article. It seems AlJazeera (Arabic/English), Hariri’s Mustaqbal and TV Hizbullah’s Al Manar TV have the best footage of what’s going on outside, but no truly good footage is yet being shown.)