Lebanon: Blogger Farfahinne's First Arrest

Lebanese human rights activist and blogger Farfahinne shares her story[Arabic] of getting arrested by the Lebanese security forces last month (October 2010) when she tried to claim her right as a citizen to visit the Palestinian refugees camp “Nahr al-Bared” in north Lebanon.

The young blogger headed to the camp from Beirut to meet a friend and she was surprised when the officer didn't allow her to enter the camp based on her civil registration card (an official identification document other than the Lebanese ID). She said:

وأعطيته إخراج قيدي. فأخذه ليرده لي مسرعا “ما فيكي تفوتي على إخراج قيد”. قلت أنني لطالما دخلت من دون أية مشكلة بناء على إخراج القيد! فقال “معك هوية؟” قلت “لا” فقال “باسبور؟” فتساءلت لماذا سأحمل باسبورا على الأراضي اللبنانية؟ لماذا يمكن أن أدخل بموجب باسبور لا بموجب إخراج قيد؟ فهل الدخول الى المخيم هو كما تجاوز حدود بلد غير لبنان؟ على الرغم من أن اللبناني\ة مثلا ليس\ت بحاجة لأكثر من إخراج قيد للدخول الى سوريا! فكيف إذا يتعذر عليّ التنقل على “أرض لبنانية” بموجبه؟! قال “هيدا قرار جديد” قلت “هل بإمكاني الإطلاع على القرار؟” ، فرد بعصبية “ومينك إنت تطلعي على قرار؟” فرددت “أنا مواطنة أسأل عن قرار يطالني ولي الحق على ما أعتقد الإطلاع عليه” فرد “هذا قرار من القيادة العليا” فقلت “هل لي الإتصال بهذه القيادة؟”، فقام بإتصال “بالقيادة” فجاء الجواب الرفض القاطع للدخول. عندها توجهت إليه قائلة أنني سأعتصم هنا الى أن تسمحوا لي بالدخول.

..He took my registry card and gave it back to me immediately saying “You can't enter with this”. I told him that I've always entered normally with this card. He asked me “Do you have your ID?”, I said “No”. He asked “How about a Passport?”, I asked him “Why do I need to carry a Lebanese passport in the Lebanese lands? Or is the camp outside the Lebanese borders? Although the Lebanese citizen doesn't need more than the registry extract to enter Syria for example.” He said “This is a new decree!” I asked if I can view this decree, he answered nervously “And who do you think you are to view it?” I answered: “I am a citizen asking about a resolution that affects me and I think I have the right to view it.” He replied: “This is a high authority decree.” I asked him if I can contact this authority and he did but the answer was an absolute ban from entering. Then I told him I'll protest here till you let me in.”

She gave it another try at another checkpoint to be faced with the same response: “You cannot enter!” She was furious and outraged because of how the Lebanese officials treated her as “guilty until proven innocent.” She headed to a nearby library and got a cardboard which she wrote on:

“لا للتصاريح المذلة عند مدخل مخيم نهر البارد”

“No to humiliating permits at the Nahr al-Bared camp entrance”

She didn't have to wait for a long time – five minutes later, a man showed up and identified himself as an army secret intelligence agent. He threatened her and tried to rip off the sign from her hands and when he failed, he tricked her to go with him to his “boss” who could give her the permit to enter the camp.

In an army intelligence center, they started asking her about what she was doing. She asked for a lawyer and a phone call but was denied both. She managed to send a text to her friend that only said “arrested” before they found out about the phone and took it away from her.

During the interrogation:

من كانوا معك؟

-كانوا معي؟!!!!

-إيه… لكانوا معك وصوروكي؟

-لكني قلت لك أني إعتصمت لوحدي؟

-هلأ منشوف

-بس عم قلك إنوا لجايبينن مين ما كانوا، ما إلهم علاقة بالموضوع!!!

-هلأ منشوف

-طب…ممكن تعطيني أسماء تقلك إذا بعرفهم على الأقل؟

-ما بعرف أسماء

– Who are the people who were with you?
– Were with me?
– Yes, they took photos of you too.
– But I told you I protested alone
– We'll see about that
– I'm telling you whoever they are, they have nothing to do with this
– We'll see
– Can you at least tell me their names to tell you if I know them?
– I don't know no names

Farfahinne was surprised when she then saw two young men – whom she didn't know – handcuffed. Their charge was “taking photos of her while protesting.” In the afternoon, she has been taken (along with the two young men Nader and Khaled) to a military police building where they took their statements.

The blogger continued:

بعدها تم الإتصال بالنائب العام الذي أصدر قرارا بإخلاء سبيل تام لنادر وخالد. أما أنا، فصدر القرار بحجزي حتى منتصف الليل ليخلا سبيلي بعدها بموجب سند إقامة. مما يعني أنه ممكن إستدعائي الى المحكمة العسكرية لاحقا. أما التهم التي تم على أساسها إحتجازي، فهي إلى الآن غير معروفة بالنسبة لي. لم يسمح لي بمكالمة إلا بعد صدور قرار النائب العام أي حوالي الساعة الثامنة…فإتصلت لإطمئنان أمي القلقة بعد ساعات من إختفائي ولولا إني ما إستطعت إرسال الرسالة النصية لصديقي لما علم أحد بمكان تواجدي لساعات.

They then called the district attorney who ordered to release of Nader and Khaled. As for me, he issued a decree to release me at midnight based on a proof of residence document; which means I can be summoned to a military court later. As for the charges on which I have been detained, they remain unknown until now. I wasn't allowed a phone call not before the district attorney's decree (around 8:00 PM)…so I called my worried mother hours after my disappearance and if it weren't for my text I sent to my friend, no one would have known where I was for hours.

What Next?

The young activist wonders what guilt has she had committed to be treated like a criminal. She concluded saying:

ما هو القانون الذي خرقته؟ أية مادة منه؟ ما هي تهمتي؟ تهديد الأمن القومي؟!! التعرض لهيبة المؤسسة العسكرية؟!! لم أتعرض لأحد بالسب أو الإهانة أو الشتم…كل ما فعلت هو الإعتراض السلمي على تدبير أمني منعني من دخول المخيم لملاقاة أصدقائي وأحبتي…وهذه ليست بتهمة أو بجريمة يا حضرة النائب العام. أما القانون فيكفل لي الحق بالإعتصام السلمي وبما أن عدد المعتصمين كان أنا- أي شخص واحد فقط، بالتالي لست بحاجة لعلم وخبر!

وبما أنه ليس هناك من مخالفة قانونية، فإني أعتبر أن إحتجازي كان تعسفيا وهو عقاب “أو ترباية” (مثلما قال لي أحد من الشرطة العسكرية) وهذا يعد إنتهاك صارخ لحريتي في إبداء الرأي وفي التعبير.

What law have I broken? What's my charge? Threatening the national security or the military institution's prestige? I didn't swear at or insult anyone. All what I did was a peaceful protest against a security procedure that prevented me from entering the camp to meet my friends. And that's not a crime Mr General Attorney. The law gives me the right to protest peacefully and since it was only me there, I didn't need to announce it.

And since there hasn't been any violation of any law, I consider my detention arbitrary and was a punishment (as one of the military police told me) and this is a flagrant violation of freedom of opinion and expression.

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