Monday, January 7, 2008

New phenomenon in Lebanon: youth gangs

The L’Orient-Le Jour newspaper reported Saturday about a new phenomenon in Lebanon: a youth gang. The article tells the fascinating story behind a violent youth gang that has been terrorizing the posh ski resort of Farayah, in the mountains of Lebanon since summer. They call themselves The Outlaws and the gang has some 20 members who are aged between 15 and 17.

For anybody outside the Arab world, such gangs are nothing new. Violent behavior of youth is, unfortunately, a common event. Take e.g., the Netherlands where the head of the police in The Hague described the New Year’s Eve as ‘quiet’…despite the 128 cars that were set to fire (link in Dutch). Such aggressive and vandalistic behavior is hardly worth mentioning any longer in the western world.

How different the Arab world. Despite the general impression of Arabs as being bloodthirsty, crazy belligerents, it is actually one of the safest places in the world. Lebanon, e.g. is still a place where kids walk home alone at night from parties and where the theft of purses is diligently reported in the local newspapers. Besides the occasional war and the regular assassinations of high-profile targets, it truly is perfectly safe in this country.

Therefore, the news of The Outlaws as being the first youth gang in Lebanon is simply shocking. The article describes how the gang entered the chalet in Farayah of one of their classmates, beat him and his friend up and left them behind for dead. Luckily, the boy and his friend survived and charges were filed.

Given that one of the gang’s members is the son of an ex-minister and the others are also members of good (and above all rich) families, one could expect a cover-up, but the opposite is true. The assault took place on December 20 and already the state prosecutor is handling the case.

What’s interesting is that this gang has been operating since summer 2007, but that no one before has dared filing charges. A previous incident, which only now came to light, dealt with an attack of a boy who was stripped naked, tossed in the back of a car and tied up to one of the crosses on top of a mountain. The parents of the victim settled amicably (read: were paid off handsomely) with the parents of the perpetrators are charges were never filed.

As the author correctly points out, such behavior of parents only enforces kids to misbehave even more. It’s an utter lack of accountability that makes kids realize they can get away with anything. Once, I saw a girl in an expensive four wheel drive hitting another car in the parking lot in Downtown. Without blinking twice, she called her pappy and after listening to him for a bit simply walked away, leaving her driver to work out the insurance details.

Tie another kid naked to a cross, no worries, daddy will make any consequence go away. Parking tickets, traffic accidents, failing tests in school, not getting admitted into the school of choice, teacher wants to suspend you for aggressive behavior?…nothing’s too big a problem to be solved if you happen to have the money for it.

It is exactly this permissive non-accountability that ultimately has lead to the first youth gang ever in Lebanon. No surprise either that it happened in Farayah. It is one of the most up-scale ski resorts in Lebanon and consists mostly of people who visit the place only to ski or pass the summer. It therefore hardly has a village-feel and as a result, lacks social controls. Throw in a bunch of kids left alone by their parents for the weekend, the necessary alcohol and the feeling of being untouchable…the perfect recipe for disaster.

It has an eerie similarity with the raid of Crystal. In both cases, the reason seemed to be young, rich kids believing they can do anything they damn well please. In both cases, also, charges were filed and investigations were launched. Now let’s hope both cases will end with justice being served.


JoseyWales said...

Appalling but not surprising.

--Erosion then breakage of the rule of law will be felt everywhere. From Pali weapons to civil war to amnesties to trashing the constitution to youth gangs etc (Europe beware).

--What the Lebs and Arabs have taken from the West has often been just the veneer and/or the negative practices. (This was in the old days blamed on "colonialism", wrongly in my opinion)

--If not rule of law, at least time to revive shame as a deterrent. The names of these jerks and their families should be all over (rumor mill or press).

Anonymous said...

Totally agree (boh with you and Josey)

ali said...

the Outlaws? send these bored children of privilege here to US (specifically to Detroit, Michigan) and let them run wild over here.

Anonymous said...

3 Names:

- John Tamer, the son of a rich businessman (The gang leader)
- The son of Fares Boueiz, the ex minister
- Nadim Gharrios, The son of a rich businessman and somehow related to Michel El Murr

Another thing, during the summer they beat three kids on three different occasions.

JoseyWales said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JoseyWales said...

Thx for the names Anon,

Let's hope their schools kick them out and that the law comes down hard on them.

Anonymous said...

"Nadim Gharrios"

his uncle is married to Murr's daughter.

Marillionlb said...

Doesn't that remind you of the time (Very early 80"s) when we witnessed something similar under the mak of PUNK ?
Then the response came swiftly and severe.