Glamorous Beirut falls victim to a Taliban-style crime
Beirut has long since earned a reputation as the liberal capital of the Middle East. Its laid-back attitude to dress, swanky nightclubs, and fashionable neighborhoods make it popular with scandalous celebrities and hip students alike. But this diverse Lebanese city is a divided one and the capital’s conservative types are going on the warpath against their liberal counterparts.
On Sunday, 23-year-old Ehab Al Azzi was on his way to visit relatives in the southern part of the city when he was reportedly brutally attacked by a group of religious extremists near Beirut Arab University (BAU). In scenes more reminiscent of Afghanistan under the ultra-conservative Taliban than liberal Beirut, Al Azzi said the mob cut off his fingers and chanted 'Allah ou Akbar' (God is Great).
Speaking to Lebanese newspaper 'Al Nahar', the Beirut resident explained: "I was stopped by insurgents who asked me to what sect I belonged. I answered that I was Lebanese. A bearded man approached me and raised the sword of Ali bin Abi Taleb (a blade with two ends) and tried to strike me. I raised my left arm in order to protect myself, this caused my fingers to be chopped off."
Showing no remorse, the men reportedly ran off, leaving their victim bleeding on the street.
Although Al Azzi survived the attack he says his life will never be the same again. Without the use of his hand he can no longer work, ride his motorbike, or complete even the most basic of tasks. After undergoing expensive emergency surgery, the young Beiruti says he cannot afford medication to relieve the ongoing pain.
As Lebanon's government struggles to take control of the country, this is just the latest example of militant groups taking the law into their own hands. Earlier this year the Al Meqdad family kidnapped twenty Syrian opposition fighters and one Turkish national in Lebanon as revenge for one of their relatives being taken in Damascus.
Spokesman for the clan, Maher al Meqdad, told reporters at the time: “We don’t consider ourselves above the law, but when there is no state, like now, then we need to act to protect ourselves.”
The people of Beirut are all-too familiar with this problem but powerless to do anything about. According to Al Azzi, his attackers were well known to hospital staff, but fearful of reprisal they refused to offer up any names.
While many may point the finger at sectarian divides between Shia and Sunni areas of the city, for Al Azzi, the situation is more personal. As he struggles to come to terms with his injuries, Al Azzi plans to return to the scene of the crime and avenge his attackers. He says: "I will not forgive them."
Do you think crimes by militant groups are on the rise in Beirut? How can the Lebanese government unite this divided city? Share your thoughts with us below!