Thursday, July 1, 2010

Crossposting: Article in Daily Star: Sudanese protest in Khartoum against Lebanese raid

BEIRUT: Sudanese nationals demonstrated in Khartoum on Wednesday to condemn a raid by Lebanese security forces on a gathering of Sudanese refugees, as diplomats from both countries tried to cool tensions over the matter.

A group of Sudanese protested in front of the Lebanese Embassy in Khartoum, holding banners displaying anti-Lebanon slogans. They called for boycotting Lebanese banks and products and marked the Lebanese flag with a red ‘X’.

The protesters gathered after a General Security patrol raided a ballroom earlier this month, where around 150 refugees from different African nationalities were holding a cancer fundraising event in the Beirut district of Ouzai. The security members reportedly maltreated participating Sudanese nationals, a number of whom lacked legal residency papers.

Lebanese Ambassador to Sudan Ahmad Shammat met with the protesters and received a memorandum containing their demands, which include launching investigations into the assault, paying indemnities to the victims and issuing an apology to the Sudanese people. They also asked the memorandum be passed on to President Michel Sleiman and to Lebanese officials.

Nonetheless, Shammat condemned marking the Lebanese flag with a cross, saying it was an insult to Lebanon and demanded an apology. “This sort of behavior can be used against Israel, the enemy of Lebanon, Sudan and the Arab and Islamic worlds,” he added.

More than 600 Lebanese people work in Sudan in the banking, tourism and communications sectors and the Lebanese community in West Africa dates back to the 19th century. Calls to boycott Lebanese banks and products have been voiced on Sudanese websites.

Sudanese Ambassador in Lebanon Idriss Suleiman discussed the problem during a news conference he held in Beirut. He described the assault as an “isolated incident” and stressed the Sudanese diaspora in Lebanon was respected.

“Ever since I’ve come to Lebanon, I’ve heard praises about the Sudanese and about Sudanese workers. This affair is receiving more coverage in newspapers than it should,” Ambassador Suleiman said.

Newspapers reported that Lebanese security members asked the Sudanese present at the charity event to lie on their stomachs and shouted racist insults at them.

Lebanese authorities started a probe to determine whether any violations were committed during the raid and released arrested Sudanese refugees who owned legal papers.

Suleiman noted that the Lebanese government has shown solidarity with Sudan and was clear in condemning the assault. He also asked illegal Sudanese refugees to return to their country, where they would receive the necessary aid to settle their legal situation.

The Sudanese ambassador reiterated the need to keep the matter under control and urged everyone “not to blow the issue out of proportion.”

The incident is not the first time the Lebanese have been accused of racism. The crash of an Ethiopian Airlines plane earlier this year raised controversy about the way the families of Ethiopian victims were treated. Civil society organizations have also revealed cases of abuse against domestic workers, many of whom come from Sri Lanka, Ethiopia or the Philippines.

Commenting on the conditions of workers in Lebanon, Suleiman said representatives from several countries had met with Lebanese Labor Minister Boutros Harb, who had received a number of recommendations and started working according to them.

Suleiman also met with the general director of General Security Wafiq Jezzini and went over the details of the raid.

Jezzini said that the decision to raid the ballroom was taken because the event was being held without permission and because illegal refugees were present. He added that the arrests were legal and official investigations were launched to determine if any security members committed violations.

Suleiman underlined the importance of the meeting and regretted that some Sudanese were taking advantage of the situation to facilitate the acceptance of their applications at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. –The Daily Star

Link to original article

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