Friday, April 27, 2007

Two kidnapped found dead

What everybody feared became reality yesterday evening when news spread that the two people who were kidnapped on Monday, were found dead on Thursday. They were shot to death after possibly being tortured. When the police found the bodies, they had been dead for 48 hours already, meaning that they were killed on Tuesday.

The suspect is apparently the brother of one of the demonstrators who got killed during the riots at the Beirut Arab University on January 25. However, it’s unclear what the two victims have to do with this. They seem to have been randomly targeted for revenge…perhaps purely based on their religion since they were Sunni and the victim on Jan 25 was a Shiite.

As a precaution, the government has closed down all schools today. Officially for mourning but everybody realizes that the next few days will be critical. Tensions are already very high in Lebanon and the last thing this country needs is a clash between Sunnis and Shiites. The last time both sides clashed was on January 25 and it resulted in four people killed and numerous wounded.

Last night went remarkably well without any incident. Let’s hope it’s a sign of future calm. What might also help is that the funeral of the two will be held today right after morning prayers. No doubt the religious speakers in every mosque will call for peace and it’s difficult to imagine people leaving their respective services only to go on a rampage.

Still, if you were a family member of the suspected killer, you’d better fear for your life no matter how distant the relationship. People here are big on revenge and the fact that one death on Jan 25 is compensated by two deaths yesterday (one of them a 12 year old boy and thus fully innocent), will only fuel the flames.

Hezbollah has denounced the killings in the strongest terms and you can easily guess why: the party is becoming increasingly isolated and it really cannot afford any further break-ups with Lebanese society. If the suspect is indeed a Shiite, it would only go against Hezbollah’s interests. However, that didn't stop Hezbollah from putting up a huge billboard with the pictures of two other kidnapped people right on the border with Israel. Coincidence?

Even if the killings are a personal matter, which is what we all want to believe, this country is racing faster and faster to a point of no return. Yesterday’s events only contribute to people’s feelings of frustration with the diminishing dialogue options. The usual and repetitive politicians’ calls for peaceful solutions are met with increasing cynicism. Sooner or later, someone will somewhere decide that somehow things have got to change…

PS. People who read Sietske’s blog and know that I am Dutch too, might wonder why I didn’t write about the Queen’s birthday celebration yesterday that was organized by the Dutch embassy. Frankly, because in hindsight I feel they should have canceled it (and we should have left) upon hearing the news. Instead, the band played on.

As Sietske wrote on her blog, most Lebanese left very fast after the news broke. The Dutch, not known for their cultural sensitivity anyways, stayed behind to party. The last thing I saw when we left was the ambassador dancing the night away with the music band competing with the sound of police sirens. Somehow, that’s not a picture you want to see the next day on the social pages.


Gerard said...

I guess the Dutch were very Dutch in their reaction: In the Dutch papers and news bulletins I did not find any reference to the killings... News was the final stage of Dutch football competition and the fate of ABN-AMRO Bank, also well known to visitors of the Dutch embassy.