Prisoners to Oblivion II: the never ending tragedy of the Lebanese disappeared and arbitrarily detained in Syria

Note: this is the second and long overdue post on the Lebanese disappeared and arbitrarily detained since 1975. The first post, Prisoners to Oblivion I  – posted by Eye on the East in 2012 – can be found here. Not surprisingly, no progress in this tragic issue has happened since.

When a 10-year sit-in comes to an end without achieving its main objectives, it doesn’t mean that the sit-in has failed. It simply means that those who were supposed to deliver have failed, terribly, horribly and shamefully. On December 10, the families of Lebanese disappeared and detained since 1975 (many of which are believed to be arbitrarily detained in Syria) decided to end one of the longest, if not the longest, sit-in in Lebanese history. They decided to keep a symbolic tent in place – in Beirut Downtown’s Gebran Khalil Gebran’s garden – where they steadfastly remained for 10 long years, announcing they would continue their struggle through different means.

The families of the disappeared and detained never failed their brothers, sisters, fathers and sons. Ever. It is the Lebanese government and political leaders that failed them: for not doing near enough to uncover the fate of their loved ones, for failing to bring them home, whether in Lebanon or Syria, dead or alive, in a mass grave or buried with whatever of their bodies survived indescribable torture. The Lebanese political class failed them, some of which colluded with Syrian occupation forces (from 1976-2005) to detain Lebanese in the first place. Others are to blame for treating this tragedy as a humanitarian issue when it suited them (raising their voices in support of the cause) and a political one when it suited them (ignoring the cry of families seeking answers about their loved ones for their own selfish political purposes). Society at large has also failed these families, if nothing else, for letting this day (and the 10 years before them and the 30 years before that) pass unnoticed, without a cry against the government, for having forgotten about its children, whether dead or alive, because anyone of these could have been our own fathers, brothers, sisters and sons.

The struggle of these families is what has kept them alive, in spite of their pain, and it is also what may keep their loved ones alive, if they are still alive. Having said this, the families and the committees that were established to follow-up on this tragedy – most notably Solide run by the tireless Ghazi Aad and Wadad Halawani through the Committee of the Families of Kidnapped and Disappeared – may have wronged at some point, sometimes disagreeing on strategies, tactics and classifications (e.g. whether their loved ones were “disappeared” or “political prisoners” or “somewhere” or in “Syria”), when their energy should have been solely aimed at those who could get the answers they were literally dying to get. But then again, how can you blame them, scarred with years and decades of pain, with nothing but torn and faded pictures of their loved ones, shattered dreams of happiness, unanswered questions, so little people to trust, nobody willing to listen, being eaten alive by the indifference of the world around them and the poison of hopelessness and despair.

These families have been failed too many times. Let us not allow for them to be failed yet again, if only by helping so that their struggle isn’t forgotten…

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