Thursday, June 21, 2007

Amal is heating up

The Shiite political party and erstwhile militia Amal seems to be shifting gears in Beirut, in the sense that they are painting their local offices and are putting up various wall paintings. Not a big deal, you might say, just a few paint jobs here and there. But anyone knowing the usual lack of paint in Beirut, cannot help but noticing the freshly painting Amal quarters, see pics below:

Photo 1: This is the Amal office in Ain Mreisseh, overlooking Zeitoun Street

Photo 2: A freshly painted Amal logo on a wall right behind the Sunni Ain Mreisseh mosque, or behind the McDonald's, if you're less culturally inclined. The background color should be dark green btw, but my camera isn't working too well. The two men are sayyed Musa al Sadr and ayatollah Khomeini

In addition to these paint jobs, I’ve picked up various unconfirmed stories about Amal members who become increasingly visible in typical Sunni areas, like Mazraa or Tariq Jedideh. This has already led to incidents between the Sunni residents and groups of Shiite youth. According to Nahar, one Sunni was killed during a quarrel over a parking spot. The article mentioned that in no time two large groups came together to join the fight: one group Sunni versus a group of Shiites.

Likewise, Sunnis are seeing cafes and pool halls being opened in “their” areas, which are run by Shiites. Most of the time, these places are empty because not many Sunnis would frequent a Shiite owned place if there are plenty of Sunni alternatives available.

Other stories about similar riots have popped up but didn’t make it into the newspapers. It seems that Lebanese newspapers are cautious to publish articles of riots between groups of different faiths. A few months ago, there were similar tensions with lots of shooting back and forth in certain areas such as Hadath, yet the newspapers kept silent about it. If only the nights were as calm as the editors, everybody could sleep!

Coming back to Amal. What does it mean, these paint jobs and these newly opened cafes? Without a doubt it’s a provocation: opening up a Shiite café right in the smack of a Sunni neighborhood sure is saying something. The atmosphere in the country is getting tenser every day and even a few buckets of paint or a café here and there can easily contribute to this.

For many Lebanese, it brings back memories of militias which were active during the Civil War. After the war, they became more or less hidden, almost invisible. But now, they’re back out in the open, fixing up their offices and well…getting ready for battle?


Sietske said...

Ja, die had ik ook al opgemerkt. Met name in - wat ik althans dacht - soennitsche wijken heb je een paar vers geschilderde muren met het Amal en Hezbollah logo erop. Heel netjes gedaan. Er is tot nu toe niks overheen geplakt, en ze zijn er nu al een maand of trwee. Ben benieuwd wanneer dat gebeurd. Ik houd het op het afbakenen van het territorium, net zoals bij dieren. Overal even plassen om te laten zien dat dit jouw gebied is. (of dat je graag zou willen dat het je gebied is)

Riemer Brouwer said...

To summarize and translate Sietske's e-mail. She wrote that she has also noticed various freshly painted walls with Amal/Hezbollah logos in Sunni areas and says that this is similar to what animals do to mark their territory.

Yup, i agree and that's what makes it even more confrontational in a way: peeing around the tree of your competitor is usually a sign of aggression. I wonder what would be the source of their renewed assertive behavior. Let's hope their lost&found 'pride' is not backed up by a solid weapon's cache.

BTW. the first pic is already outdated: they have added a smiling Berri on the left. It seems to be a work in progress.