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The ‘Culture’ of Assadist Punishment in Beirut

The ‘Culture’ of Assadist Punishment in Beirut

Wednesday, 22 January, 2020 - 12:15

Last Tuesday night, on the 14th of January, tens of youths were taken to the El-Helou Police Station in Beirut after the security forces experimented with the use of excessive violence on them. Once they were released, they spoke of the beatings and humiliation that they were subjected to. However, they also mentioned a few brief “political” phrases that they had heard, phrases that reflect the “culture” of the Lebanese security apparatus.

We know that jailers are “honest” when speaking to prisoners, in the sense that what they say to them accurately mirrors the jailer’s true thoughts and feelings. For there is no media or public opinion in dark rooms and halls that bring the two together, and the punishment to protect the victim and tie the perpetrator’s hands is absent. Indeed, there is also an absence of the standards of civil treatment that govern the relationship between two supposedly equal individuals. Thus, the jailer, who is by definition in a superior position, is freed from all restraints and acts under his most primitive natural disposition.

More than this, the jailer treats his prisoner like he is nobody, and he who is nobody can't hear or convey what he hears to a ’’respectable ’’ audience. All of this allows the jailer to beat what he views as a corpse. For he is not satisfied with avenging a deep-rooted feeling of inferiority that lurks inside him, he lets out the accumulation of times he felt this inferiority, the last of which stems from his tiring efforts to confront the angry protesters.

Briefly, these factors come together to bring out the sadism inside the jailer and loosen his inhibitions.

Because eavesdropping on jailers’ monologues is certainly tempting and the tales told by those released from custody satiate this curiosity, any doubts we have over the prisoners’ truthfulness are quelled. Among the things the prisoners relayed is that the jailers lamented the fact that they were “not in Syria” and their deep desire to be there. Being in the “beating heart of Arabism” would have allowed them to enact a greater degree of harm and destruction on the prisoners, degrees they are reluctant to use in Lebanon. This adoration that the jailers proclaim for “Assad’s Syria”, which they see as an ideal model, finds its culmination in their grudge against Syrian victims. For those victims, according to the same story, are subjected to a greater degree of violence and humiliation at the Helou station, and they are incarcerated for longer periods.

The combination of adoring Assad and hating Syrians summarizes a pillar of Lebanese prison cell ’’culture, ’’ a side to that ’’culture ’’ which demonstrates some of the worst aspects of Lebanese society, that bring blaming the victim together with sympathizing with the perpetrator.

This behavior was partly formed during the years of Syrian military presence in Lebanon. At the time some “intellectual” circles specialized in propagating a “theory” to the effect of: We (the Lebanese) are a great nation and Syria’s ruler Hafez el-Assad is a great leader. He suits us, while our mediocre leaders (Assad’s employees in Beirut) suit the mediocre Syrian nation.

This “theory” was based on a desire to switch roles: identifying with the victor from a position of inferiority while looking down on the vanquished, i.e. the Syrian partners of the Lebanese in their submission to Assad, in an effort to escape their humiliation.

This “theory” is foundational to the subsequent “alliance of minorities”: the great Lebanese people were biased in favor of the great ruler’s son against the mediocre Syrian people with whom the mediocre Lebanese people sympathized with. As for Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian War, it improved the terms of vassalage that link the smaller great with the bigger great. The debt was paid off with high interest.

However, deploying this combination of adoration for Assad and hatred of the Syrian people in the context of the Lebanese revolution and its repression is indicative of an unseen hand playing a role in the repression: the counter-revolution in Assad’s Syria and the region at large, something that Lebanese revolutionaries ought not forget or ignore, thinking that big brother’s eyes are not watching them.

There is a third issue mentioned by those who were released, which completes this “culture” and sheds more light on its dangers. Those detained were called “Zionists”, applying an Assadist principle that it applied in Lebanon until 2005, when Hezbollah inherited it. The purpose of the principle is to blackmail opponents and oppositionists with an automatic verbal exercise.

Behind the humiliation of those accused of being Zionists, lurks a greater humiliation for the charge itself. The fact is that this continuous exchange of verbal attacks in the bazaar of verbal conflict with Israel is as much a part of the "culture" of the big Syrian prison as it is the "culture" of the smaller prisons that spring from it in Syria and in Lebanon. The only solid result of these verbal attacks is the real enmity towards the Palestinians. For example, the Aounist OTV television station, tells us that “Palestinians masked in the kufiyas speaking the Lebanese dialect” participated in a demonstration in Hamra Street.

Now, with the government of ''one color,'' this “culture” might spread and expand. In any case, the violence of Saturday and Sunday, on the 18th and 19th of this month, was much more ferocious than it was on Tuesday night, and many more people were taken to jail cells. When they are released, they will tell us what they heard there, and they will, for the most part, confirm what we already know about the "culture" of Assadist punishment in Beirut.

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