Home > Press Articles > Crime, not politics behind tensions in Burj Hammoud

Crime, not politics behind tensions in Burj Hammoud

The Daily Star 31/10/2011

BEIRUT: Tensions between many Lebanese Armenians and Kurdish laborers in Burj Hammoud are the result of recent crime on the streets of the Beirut district, rather than developments in Syria, political and security sources told The Daily Star Sunday.

The Tashnag Party, which enjoys support in some of Burj Hammoud’s Armenian community, urged apartment owners last week to rent only to families, a move that would make it difficult for single workers to live in the area.

Akkar MP Khaled Daher, a member of the Future Movement, told Mustaqbal newspaper over the weekend that the party’s decision is aimed at stopping anti-Syrian regime protests.

Members of the Kurdish community have participated in both anti- and pro-Syria demonstrations.

But according to security sources, the party’s move came after a security incident in Burj Hammoud last week when a Lebanese Armenian man nearly died after being stabbed by a Kurdish man over a parking dispute.

“All kinds of immoral acts are taking place in the town and there are many [people] carrying knives on the streets,” the source added.

Tashnag Metn MP Hagop Pakradounian echoed the source, saying that issue is not politics but social and security matters, adding that the party is confronting these issues after receiving complaints from residents.

“It’s not only about Kurds … or about Syrians … It’s the increasing number of foreign laborers who are residing illegally in the neighborhood and are causing [a lot of] trouble in the daily lives of the families,” Pakradounian told The Daily Star Sunday.

“Last week a young boy was attacked and stabbed and shortly before that there was an attempted rape of a girl,” said Pakradounian.

When asked whether the party’s decision had political aims, Pakradounian said that a girl’s right not to be harassed on the street every day is not related to politics.

“A girl cannot walk on the streets of Burj Hammoud at night anymore because the roads have become dangerous and filled with foreign street gangs,” Pakradounian explained.

Describing the situation in many of the town’s residential buildings, Pakradounian said that it is not acceptable for an owner to allow 10 men to live in a single apartment.

“Consider a building of five apartments … four Lebanese families live in four apartments and almost 10 foreign laborers live in the fifth apartment,” Pakradounian added.

According to Pakradounian, dozens of complaints have been made by families concerning a variety of incidents in the town, which has for several years been a shelter for the country’s increasing foreign laborers.

The Tashnag MP said that the prospect of making more money is driving the owners to rent out their apartments to almost anyone. “Instead of $300 a month, 10 foreign laborers are paying $500,” he added.

However, an influential official in the country’s Kurdish community warned of the party’s measure and said that around 7,000 Kurds would be evicted because of it.

“Dozens of Kurdish families are about to be evicted because of some gangsters on the streets, who we are also against,” Mahmoud Siyala, president of the Kurdish Charity Organization, told The Daily Star.

“All individuals who are in violation of the law should be held accountable by the state and it shouldn’t be up to the party to decide on such matters,” said Siyala.

Siyala confirmed that officials from the Tashnag Party notified Kurds in the area to leave as soon as possible but said the matter is not related to politics.

“I don’t think it’s a political matter but I don’t want to go into politics,” Siyala added.

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