Responding to the Syrian crisis in Lebanon: collaboration between aid agencies and local governance structures (September 2016)

The Urban Crisis Report I co-authored with UN Habitat (Beirut) and the Issam Fares Institute (American University of Beirut) is finally out!

Here below the executive summary and the link to access the whole report.

This working paper seeks to document and analyse collaboration mechanisms between local authorities and humanitarian actors in addressing the Syrian refugee crisis in urban and peri-urban settings in Lebanon. It outlines existing mechanisms of collaboration, analyses their potential strengths and weaknesses, and derives lessons and recommendations for improving refugee responses in Lebanon, and potentially in other national settings. The report focuses on two case studies: the largely hybrid urban district of Bourj Hammoud, one of the main commercial hubs of Greater Beirut, and the peri-urban coastal region of Sahel El Zahrani, located between Saida and Tyre in South Lebanon. The response to the Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon,which broke out in 2011, faced many challenges initially; namely the lack of a solid national response strategy
and weak local governance capacities, which were needed to respond to a large-scale crisis. International non-governmental organisations (INGOs) and United Nations (UN) agencies took the initial lead in responding to the crisis. Local authorities, who were at the forefront of the response, lacked the adequate capacities to respond and thus were involved in a less organised manner. The humanitarian response suffered overall from weak coordination between international actors, the central government, and (in)formal local authorities, resulting in unequal and scattered aid distribution. As the crisis prolonged, the government of Lebanon (GoL) became increasingly involved and eventually, in 2015, led the development of the Lebanon Crisis
Response Plan (LCRP) jointly with UN agencies.
Various ministries took a more proactive role in the response, in particular the Ministry of Social Affairs (MoSA), which was designated by the Council of Ministers to take on an official role in the response. At the local level, municipalities and unions of
municipalities, despite lacking an official responsibility, made serious efforts to respond to the refugees due to increasing pressures in their localities and based on moral imperatives. International and UN agencies initially targeted Syrian refugees on the basis of the humanitarian principle of immediate alleviation of suffering following displacement. Local host communities, who were impacted by the crisis due
to the increase in the local population and a higher demand on limited basic services, were initially less involved and addressed in the response. This working paper explores the various formal and informal levels of collaboration, or lack thereof, between international and local organisations, UN agencies and local authorities. In Lebanon, establishing successful coordination mechanisms between national and local authorities and aid agencies is politically and logistically challenging. Due to funding constraints and limited programme timeframes, humanitarian organisations find it difficult to maintain a continuous long-term relationship with local municipalities and unions of municipalities.
Moreover, aid agencies often opt to bypass local authorities in project implementation in order to avoid local bureaucracy. Internal politics also create another challenge for coordination with local authorities, as this can interfere with the orientation of aid.
UN agencies and INGOs are now mostly turning short-term relief programmes into longer- term projects for development, and have shown serious efforts to adapt their responses to address local contexts more adequately. However, clearly defining roles among international and local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and UN agencies and establishing solid coordination mechanisms remains a challenge and is important to enhancing overall public management in urban crisis contexts.
The research concludes that complementing sectoral approaches by adopting area-based approaches to respond to emergency crises allows humanitarian and development programmes to address the needs of different vulnerable groups, including refugees and local communities, in a more efficient and sustainable manner.
This allows the implementation of more inclusive needs-based responses, whilst also preventing unequal aid distribution and the ‘compartmentalisation’ of society.
Moreover, this working paper highlights the weakness in focusing and adapting responses to respond to urban settings which host the majority of refugees. As such, it is important to raise awareness and develop the necessary tools and coordination mechanisms to optimally address refugees in urban contexts, especially with more refugees settling in urban areas worldwide. Finally, coordination efforts and mutual aid agreements for emergency service provision can provide a solid ground for local actors to know: first, how to turn international aid into an opportunity rather than financial and political dependency or reason for domestic marginalisation, and, second, to learn the advantages of domestic coordination, internal agreement, and develop the capacities to manage foreign aid. Overall, reinforcing the role of local authorities and actors has
proven to be more efficient and manageable in the short-term; however, over time, it also faces political limitations thus challenging the ability to reach a broader consensus on the management of domestic issues. This paper proposes a multi-scalar coordination
approach to respond to crises and address diverse
social vulnerabilities.

The report can be fully accessed here: http://pubs.iied.org/10799IIED/

Categories: Syria, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Politics of Care and Social Responses in the July 2006 War: a Special Focus on Local Faith-Based Organisations (August, 2016)

Author(s): Estella Carpi
Abstract:
This paper examines the politics of care of international and local humanitarian actors, as well as the social responses to their intervention in the southern suburbs of Beirut (Dahiye) during the Israeli shelling in the summer of 2006. Several faith-based and secular international NGOs and UN agencies rushed to assist individuals displaced by the Israeli air force’s heavy shelling; once the large-scale violence ended, some of the international organisations that had operated in Dahiye during the war gradually turned ad hoc short-term relief into long-term development programs. This paper, through in-depth interviews and ethnographic participant observation methods (2011-2013), will illustrate how short-term foreign provision of aid differs from the continuous efforts of some local providers to support their communities on a daily basis, unearth different approaches to states of emergency and responses to crisis and demonstrate how the international-local dyad plays out in a very complex way on the ground.
While it aims to show such complexity, this paper does not get deep into the diverse ethical approaches of FBOs to immediate help and sustainable care in the context of historical continuums of crisis and violence – which has instead already been object of extensive literature on faith-based humanitarianism in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Keywords: Lebanon, Beirut’s Southern Suburb, International Development, humanitarian aid, Aid Distribution, faith based NGOs

To cite this paper: Estella Carpi, “Politics of Care and Social Responses in the July 2006 War: a Special Focus on Local Faith-Based Organisations*”, Civil Society Knowledge Center, Lebanon Support, 2016-08-01 00:00:00.
[ONLINE]: http://cskc.daleel-madani.org/paper/politics-care-and-social-responses-july-2006-war-special-focus-local-faith-based-organisations

Full text:

Politics of Care and Social Responses in the July 2006 War: a Special Focus on Local Faith-Based Organisations

Introduction

The present paper will examine the politics of care of international and local humanitarian actors, as well as the social responses to their intervention in the southern suburbs of Beirut (Dahiye) during the Israeli shelling in the summer of 2006.

Several faith-based and secular international NGOs and UN agencies rushed to assist individuals displaced by the Israeli air force’s heavy shelling in areas known for having a strong Hezbollah presence. Once the large-scale violence ended, some of the international organisations who had operated in Dahiye at the time of the war gradually turnedad hoc short-term relief into long-term development programs: some of them funded new municipality services by training local staff to employ them in new education programs and health care, while others conducted their own programmes.

This paper, through in-depth interviews and ethnographic participant observation methods (2011-2013), will illustrate how, on the one hand, short-term foreign provision of aid differs from the continuous efforts of some local providers to support their communities on a daily basis. This contrast will unearth different approaches to states of emergency and responses to crisis. On the other hand, it will demonstrate how the international-local dyad plays out in a very complex way on the ground. The interviewed (secular and faith-based) local NGOs claim primacy in addressing domestic needs and tend to largely perceive international humanitarians as “emergency tourists”. Nonetheless, people’s responses, in an overall climate of disaffection towards domestic politics, reveal popular mistrust and resentment towards all aid actors indiscriminately.

In order to provide further grounds for the discussion of international and domestic programmes and Dahiye’s social responses to them, this paper will assess the different politics of care, which I personally classify as Geneva-born humanitarianism[1] on the one hand, and manifold Shi‘a humanitarianisms on the other. The latter falls under a diversified local humanitarianism more connected to a longstanding civilian resistance.

This paper will particularly focus on local faith-based organisations (FBOs), in relation to international and local secular aid providers. I personally interpret their service and aid provision as new forms of humanitarianism, underpinned by different philanthropic ideologies and politics of care.

Although contemporary researchers contribute to examining humanitarianism and development as increasingly interconnected and overlapping[2], there is still a line between development and humanitarian assistance, no matter how blurred. Development – occasionally called long-term humanitarianism[3] in literature – tends to eradicate deep-seated problems such as inequality and poverty, and tends to cooperate with governments. Conversely, humanitarianism aims to intervene, rescue lives, and alleviate suffering. The Lebanese case proves the inappropriateness of such a distinction, not only pointing to chronic cycles of resources alternatively allocated to development and humanitarian assistance in times of emergency crisis, but also to development and humanitarian aid happening simultaneously.

The controversial relationship between local and international aid providers in the aftermath of the July 2006 war

The aid providers who worked during and after the 2006 war are international (Save the Children, CARE, Oxfam, UNICEF, Caritas, Christian Aid, Islamic Relief, USAID, Norwegian Refugee Council, Danish Refugee Council, among many others) and local NGOs (such as the secular Amel Association, Najdeh, and Samidoun Association, Hezbollah’s NGOs[4], and many other local and regional FBOs).

I primarily conducted interviews with the NGOs that worked during the July War (harb tammuz) and maintained a branch or headquarter in Dahiye in the aftermath of the war. These aid providers were all intervening in the war-stricken Beqaa Valley and in the South to a similar extent, managing shelter spaces and providing medical kits, food, mattresses, blankets, and drinkable water. The provision of aid was described by war-affected individuals as visibly sponsored with logos, posters, and signs hung outside of their structures. Programmes were communicated by word of mouth among the local residents. The local and international practitioners described the aid recipients’ selection in 2006 as “haphazard” but “never discriminatory”.

As international practitioners specified in the interviews, the previous presence of international NGOs in Lebanon was mainly due to past states of emergency. A UNDP technical advisor called NGOs operating in Lebanon “anti-governmental” organisms rather than “non-governmental”, considering their minimal effort in rehabilitating the central state[5] and rather focusing on extending their own programmes and rebuilding their own structures after emergency crises.

During this ethnographic study, it was extremely difficult to collect valuable information from the several NGOs interviewed. Their staff, mostly new, seemed to be unprepared with regard to funding sources and past projects. In other cases, the interviewees working for larger NGOs used to fear that their comments would be published to the detriment of their reputation. The fact that some NGOs deemed the topic irrelevant also pointed to a lack of interest in discussing a past emergency. Moreover, some NGO workers interpreted the research questions as an aprioristic form of judgment[6].

The old development industry’s strategy of implementing standardised projects, often regardless of local specificities, has nuanced characteristics. On the one hand, international development and humanitarian agencies increasingly rely on local providers to ensure in-depth knowledge of the addressed areas, and adopt inner perspectives to properly manage a territory of intervention. On the other, local NGOs are said to trade their own local knowledge and the access to it for financial resources and generally greater public visibility[7]. In particular, for small NGOs with restricted resources, large funding allows for project evaluation – a stage that is often ruled out due to financial shortfalls[8].

In compliance with the humanitarian cornerstone of immediate alleviation of suffering, international agencies tend to prioritise emergency relief provision, which they then often transform into post-conflict development programmes. However, these longer-term projects are quickly abandoned whenever new emergencies call for urgent action and also attract funds[9]. In the Middle Eastern region, it is crucial to recall the cyclic humanitarian crises that followed the several Israeli invasions of Lebanon, most notably 1978, 1982, 1996, the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, the 2006 Israeli War on Lebanon here discussed, the 2008-2009 Israeli “Cast Lead Operation”, the Syrian crisis from 2011 onwards, and the August 2014 “Operation Protective Edge” in the Gaza Strip. Needless to say that additionally, the re-occurrence of armed conflict and humanitarian need in the region has not allowed for NGOs to focus on one crisis for too long, consequently harming sustainable development.

This emergency-driven logic prompted local people to think of international aid providers – mainly from Western countries – as the sole humanitarian actors in harb tammuz. Many local residents interviewed attributed this sentiment to their perception of international aid providers as groups that capitalise on emergencies to raise funds, and that monitor Hezbollah’s political movements, while not leaving any lasting impact on their beneficiaries. International humanitarian intervention has, however, been able to strengthen pre-existing channels of services for the local population, and has given rise to a new philanthropic labour market for foreign workers in Dahiye.

The international aid industry’s increased reliance on local actors was easily observable in Dahiye, and already associated with a recent tendency of “reifying and romanticising the grassroots”[10]. While the international development expertise is believed to enhance local expertise, local NGOs can still utilise their networks to negotiate the implementation of projects and serve as an accessible channel for people’s complaints[11].

In the interviews conducted, local NGOs emphasised that their partnerships with international NGOs often expose them to the risk of being blamed for failing projects, while international actors tend to specify that their mandate is restricted in Lebanon and that their action is not meant to change the societal structure. This sort of political vulnerability for local actors has yet to be considered in the old contested model of prefixed standards of development, extending beyond the relinquishment of their autonomy and the compliance with foreign financiers and “Western” elitist agendas. The endemic resistance to such risks seeks to counter the marginalisation in one’s own territory[12], sugarcoated with an increasing number of “glocal” partnerships in Lebanon.

The informality of small local NGOs in dealing with their beneficiaries often results in their low visibility within the international humanitarian sphere, as the Palestinian Association Najdeh[13] affirmed. Such small NGOs are aware of their low visibility, and international partnerships allow local actors to gain major visibility and, consequently, funds to survive.

The increasing international reliance on local partners generally seeks to localise international organisations’ projects and services, aiming to catalyse development through the already existing social forces and structures[14]. In the official discourse of international NGOs, the alliance with local NGOs is called an “exchange of ideas, skills and information” even though local partners generally described it as a unilateral process, in which the local counterpart is simply expected to adopt the “Global North’s” language of development[15]. A UN agency and an international NGO representative[16], for instance, pointed out how local counterparts would totally ignore the need for coordination without international assistance[17]. The head of a Lebanese Shi‘a NGO[18] questioned the domestic impact of the international aid industry:

“Is the humanitarian aid coming from the UN, international, and local NGOs able to catalyse social change, dialogue, and democracy, or do they reinforce the existent relations of power?”

He also stressed how the so-called international community failed in understanding that the July War was only one of the violent events in a long line of historical continuity. Resistance against destruction and humiliation supports the moral basis of the mainstream Shi‘a view in which human suffering is seen as an opportunity for knowledge enhancement. As a result, the international aid industry, which mostly tackled local displacement in Dahiye, the Beqaa Valley, and South Lebanon, homogeneously victimised the war-stricken. Moreover, such a simplification is logistically necessary for the international humanitarian effort to uphold their summum bonum  –  as described by Plato in The Republic – which is an external and generalised perception of collective needs and a standardised “goodness” of protection and assistance[19].

Differentiating the “Shi‘a humanitarian ethics” in postwar Dahiye

In order for the suffering to end,
you can contribute to construction and giving.

(Writing on a charity alms box in a Dahiye pastry shop)[20]

Shi‘a charity organisations[21] knowingly represent the official ethos of Dahiye. Faith-based organisations (FBOs) played a major role in the 2006 humanitarian assistance because of their proximity to local people and their needs. According to the interviews conducted, FBOs in Lebanon are believed to be able to mobilise resources and funds with greater ease than their secular counterparts.

In particular, I interviewed the Musa as-Sadr Foundation headquartered in Tyre[22]; al-Mabarrat Association[23]founded by as-Saiyyd Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah – often described  as the “Spiritual guide of Hezbollah” – and its sub-branch al-Hadi in the Beirut southern suburbs; and, finally, Jihad al-Binaa, one of Hezbollah’s largest NGOs, which is the internationally acclaimed pioneer of the Dahiye postwar reconstruction.

The charity model in Shi‘a Islam has changed throughout time[24], although this is often overlooked because religious actors, unlike the secular, tend to be viewed homogeneously and separately from other civil society actors working in the communities in which they are embedded[25]. Humanitarianism and charity are both connected to people’s ideologies, reflecting theological tenets as much as social values in times of crisis and change.

In the interviews conducted with local FBOs, Islamic organisations in Lebanon represent themselves as acting on the basis of cultural and moral unity of the Muslim community – ummah – and as enhancing their autonomy by reducing dependence on Western countries’ support. In general, the Shi‘a local residents said they prefer referring to community services because their actions are compatible with Muslim values[26].

Nonetheless, although local people expressed their emotional proximity to domestic community providers, the latter were simultaneously perceived as compromised by corruption and opportunism. Politicians were majorly portrayed as acting out of self-interest and political gain as much as the international humanitarian apparatus. Each actor, however, ran its campaigns on its exclusiveness in undertaking genuine humanitarian efforts. Thereby, Dahiye’s public discourse, commonly known to be influenced by the political narratives of some parties, negatively portrays international humanitarian action, while paradoxically dealing with local mistrust of domestic political and humanitarian agencies.

According to the NGO classification system proposed by Clarke[27], Dahiye’s FBOs are commonly seen as socio-political because of the predominantly Shi‘a population of the suburbs, allegedly reflecting the interests of a particular community. However, these FBOs promote an action agenda according to which being inclusive of non-Shi‘a is a local value. The problem does not lie in their agenda being defined as confessional tout court, but rather as political. Rather, such organisations end up excluding specific local categories[28] – the chronic poor and also Lebanese Shi‘a who do not feel represented in the hegemonic civitas. This disregard has increasingly engendered disaffection towards both secular and faith-based actors.

In order to better understand local humanitarian actors, it is necessary to differentiate the ethical approach to humanitarianism at a local level. A number of Dahiye’s residents contest Hezbollah’s services and classify them as increasingly politicised and corrupt; these people, more specifically, were instead expressing melancholy when speaking of as-Saiyyd Fadlallah and his FBOs. Residents, therefore, identify themselves with the ideological principles and the politics of care of different local service providers. The variegated “Shiite way” of managing charity associations, thus, points to Fadlallah and Hezbollah as being two different spiritual and political key forces in Beirut’s southern suburbs.

Both Fadlallah – following the marja‘iyya[29] doctrine – and Hezbollah have acquired increasing legitimacy from the 1980s onwards, although the two sides were initially in great disagreement with each other[30]. Nonetheless, social change and struggle against “Western imperialism”[31] have been the cornerstones of both Hezbollah’s and Fadlallah’s thinking.

What an FBO worker[32] named “Shi‘a humanitarianism” is still shaped by the Shi‘a cosmology of martyrdom and the struggle against injustice, symbolised by the battle at Kerbala (680 AD). Charity is in fact correlated with social justice in Dahiye and is the response to immediate needs driven by benevolent action. Justice ideals, more specifically, call for the transformation of structures that foment social injustice and indignity. For the Shi‘a, Kerbala is a historically recurrent event[33]: “In every era there is an oppressor and an oppressed. And this history always repeats itself, throughout all eras […] People should always have the spirit of revolution against oppression”. This principle constitutes the bedrock of the Shi‘a mobilisation in Lebanon (taba‘iya)[34].

As such, Shi‘a humanitarianism has not merely served as a political strategy to turn public compassion into political consent[35], as Islamic philanthropy has often been reduced to “machiavellism”. Rather, it has come to form a constitutive part of social assistance. Humanitarianism does not necessarily need to be implemented only in response to the Israeli occupation, but rather in response to any injustice, including poverty and lack of education. The chronic uncertainty according to which the Shi‘a religious community has developed its own conceptions of life is inherent to the existential approach underlying Shi‘a humanitarianism, both in wartime and in peacetime[36]. Likewise, public activism and social engagement are the way religious people strive to continue to live the ‘Ashura ceremony on a daily basis.

Similarly, volunteerism and employment are seen as contributions to the development of the whole Shi‘a community. Working for a welfare organisation means to bring Zeinab[37], a holy figure in Shi‘a theology, into the present[38]. Thus, the common ethical judgment easily identifiable in academic literature[39] on Islamic organisations completely overlooks the fact that these NGOs do not merely use Islamic values and charity for political interests, but that they simply are Islamic. In fact, humanitarian intervention is locally perceived as less opportunistic when concerning local providers that have long since provided assistance to the victims of cyclic displacement in Dahiye. The aforementioned emergency-driven logic of the international aid industry has evidently not been adopted by their Shi‘a counterparts in harb tammuz or in its aftermath. Indeed, when Syrian refugees began pouring into Dahiye during the current Syrian crisis, the political agenda of these Shi‘a organisations – reflecting Iran’s ideology in Lebanon only to a certain extent – certainly does not deal with Syrians as refugees, or, in other words, as victims of political repression deserving assistance. The interviewed Shi‘a organisations in Dahiye emphasised that they would rather guarantee assistance both in wartime and in peacetime, boasting technical and infrastructural self-confidence, despite highlighting that Christian services are more developed for historical reasons[40].

Nonetheless, the local perception of local FBOs was ambivalent. On the one hand, they were seen as rarely addressing chronic poverty and local injustice, just like international organisations: “They often end up feeding the accountability of the political party that supports them and promotes them”, recounted Mohammed, a local resident of Dahiye[41]. On the other hand, while international humanitarian NGOs tend to view beneficiaries as victims of man-made crises – and therefore as morally deserving individuals and rights bearers that need to be protected – Fadlallah’s and Hezbollah’s services have been able to make people feel like political agents[42] – i.e. resistant, and, although usually laden with antipathy towards the central state, still de facto citizens rather than objects of charity. Social mindfulness and independence are seen as the key qualities needed to become complete individuals, thus demonstrating the proactive function of human life from the Shi‘a humanitarian perspective[43].

The organisations created by Fadlallah that were interviewed contended that their Shi‘a ideology is closer than other Shi‘a counterparts to the secular conception of humanitarianism, as it is conceived as a homogeneous force aimed at alleviating and comforting human suffering. These FBOs have, however, a specific project to pursue, which implies the idea of a civilian – rather than merely Islamic – resistance. For example, in the fundraising campaigns of Fadlallah’s associations, Israel is mentioned as the agent of destruction in expressions such as, “Our organisation was destroyed by Israel. We will continue, more committed to doing good”. The very reason behind human life is identified with the moral commitment to be doing good.

Moreover, in al-Mabarrat Association’s ideology, “doing good” explicitly means to guide individuals[44], and constitutes the only possible form of humanitarianism. Such explicitness is banned in the Geneva-born international aid provision, which does not officially aim to provide guidance. Similar to Fadlallah’s approach, the philanthropic heirs of Imam as-Sadr contribute to a local humanitarian language, which is close to charity. Even though some scholars[45] mention the divergences between these two key Shiite figures, Fadlallah and Sadr both represented the “emerging breed of Shiite revivalists in Lebanon”[46], the former being a good connection to the transnationalism with Iran, and the latter providing a Lebanese component of Shiite political Islam.

Unlike Fadlallah’s FBOs, however, according to Maliha as-Sadr[47], humanitarianism should trigger empowerment by making continuous efforts and equalising Lebanese society[48]. She highlighted how different the Shi‘a notion of humanitarianism is from the Geneva-born, which is depicted as caring about longer-term sustainability only in the wake of emergency crises. Also, local FBOs, in her view, cannot and should not aim to dismantle themselves, which is what some international humanitarian agencies find to be their ideal, once domestic sustainability is reached[49]. Providing and benefiting from social services within Dahiye’s local community is in fact part of their struggle against Israel, it is “not a war to kill, but a war for the right to exist”[50]. Development efforts and social assistance in this context are a way of coping with chronic uncertainty, and hope policies allow the community to have a link with the future, where hope evolves from a mere emotion into a conscious and realistic proposition. In a nutshell, social efficiency and mutual care deal positively with recurrent exposure to war.

Fadlallah-founded al-Mabarrat also highlighted their readiness to work with foreign NGOs and universities: “Such openness is not always well accepted in Dahiye […] and it is often labeled as mere commodification”[51]. In this regard, the tendency not to rely on external actors also depends on whether or not their strategies and agendas will meet local needs. In this regard, the Deputy Mayor of Haret Hreik Hajj Hatoum[52] said that, overall, international donors in harb tammuz rarely grasped what the local priorities were:

“Their main focus has been providing psychological assistance. […] That was not really the issue. We had apartments totally destroyed, damaged buildings, women needing specific help. So, the problem with cooperation with international providers is that they don’t fund and work for the things we really need. The reality is never changed by humanitarian services, but if you want to give something, help with infrastructure and provide money for housing and furniture. From outside, little money came with this purpose”.

Al-Mabarrat’s staff, by contrast, argued that they viewed themselves as a segment of the international aid structure.

Some local discontent with international organisations, however, is also present in the area. The manager of the Research and Development Department at the Imam as-Sadr Foundation[53], for example, questioned the paths undertaken by all NGOs in Lebanon, which, in his opinion, are very outcome-oriented. In this regard, he affirmed: “it is much easier to assess the material results of a project. The change promoted by an NGO comes from the process, more than from its material results”[54]. Projects conducted by international agencies, sometimes in partnership with local NGOs, are too often unable to grasp what sort of social processes for enhancement should be triggered within local society and, therefore, unsure how to set goals within a specific project. The continuation of such collaborations, in his opinion, is only due to matters of Realpolitik, since Lebanese NGOs need international visibility and the international providers primarily show up in times of emergency[55].

Hence, the Shiite provision of services and aid is largely hybrid. Notably, Hezbollah’s Fadlallah-founded services, and the Sadr Foundation differ in their approach to the humanitarian outside. Both promote a community-crossing vision of Dahiye, arguing for services to be provided for any Lebanese community. Nevertheless, it is generally recognised that few people from non-Shi‘a communities are able to access their services, owing to the demographic changes that occurred in Lebanon in the immediate aftermath of the civil war (1989-90). For instance, the mentioned Imam as-Sadr Foundation, created in the 1960s prior to the civil war and described[56] as associate to Fadlallah’s approach – despite the sporadic competition between each other as FBOs – “used to address anyone in the South, where Christian Maronites, Christian Orthodox, and Armenian Catholics were far more numerous”[57].

FBOs founded by Hezbollah, during and after harb tammuz, turned their programmes into compensation strategies for any community inhabiting Dahiye. Through its communication channels, the political party highlighted the domestic nature of the reconstruction, and that people’s return to their own houses was a victory achieved by local individuals and made feasible by their own hands[58]. The “victory narrative”, however, was also adopted by secular local providers[59].

Unlike Fadlallah’s approach to aid provision, a local secular NGO[60] spoke of the necessity of cultivating responsibility in Lebanon by charging the beneficiaries for the required services when feasible, with the intent of not providing charity aprioristically. It is in this sense that they argued that they are “the feet and not the head of [their] own society”. The morals of guiding individuals, typical of Fadlallah-founded associations, are lost here. Local secular NGOs generally defined their own work in terms of catalysation of an active and dynamic civic sense already existing within the country. However, in some cases, NGOs deny their political influence on society by delegating politics to the local people. From this perspective, NGOs simply accelerate and support people’s actions, and transform common people’s ideas and intentions into real changes. In this regard, the head of Amel Association, Kamel Mohanna[61]argued that his NGO’s work merely consists of promoting a “culture of rights” – thaqafat al-huquq – which, in current Lebanese society, tends to be rather community-oriented.

By reconciling the secular and the “Shi‘a” perspectives, with all due endemic diversifications, Zahir Jalul[62]emphasised the importance of a culture of humanity – thaqafat al-insan – that is still absent in Lebanon. However, the locally reformulated conception of humanitarianism, international-oriented on its surface, is still historically marked by the blood shed by martyrs[63] as well as the individual commitment in the Resistance.

Heterogeneous local aid provision: beyond the secular-religious binary

The local perspectives of humanitarian assistance at the time of harb tammuz also differed from each other. Many informal and generally small organisations were set up by local residents. For instance, some of Dahiye’s businessmen whom I met, constituting the newly emerged Shi‘a middle class, began distributing clothes, furniture accessories and money to the socially vulnerable “for the Islamic value of doing charity, as it’s written in the Holy Koran”, as Hasan, a Lebanese businessman, affirmed in Haret Hreik[64]. “Of course there are people who became homeless in the July War, but orphans are always around in Dahiye. You always have a reason to help, until the time these people will be able to empower themselves” [for the sake of precision, Hasan uses the Arabic expressionyaksab ajar al-ma’ida, meaning until the time one is able to “earn his own living”]. This phenomenon gave rise to a sort of private proliferation of services in the form of organic cultural expressions and religious obligations after harb tammuz: a war that redefined the social strata of the war-stricken areas, and that later empowered some and impoverished others. Mixed economies of laissez-faire inhabit the public space in an aiding-purchasing-selling chain[65] in which subsidies and charity services target only the very poor without a broad plan to generate long-term sustainability.

The fact that the Lebanese state ceded welfare to the local religious domain encouraged the colonisation of the public by the private in Lebanon[66]. In turn, charity and local entrepreneurship can be reconciled, although pursued by actors with different conceptions of humanitarianism and philanthropy. Hasan regarded the local Shi‘a conception of charity as a way of cleansing his own privilege of being a self-enfranchised and established large-scale seller, politically well connected with the Hezbollah party. This notion and rationale of help was shared among other Lebanese Shi‘a businessmen who I met in Dahiye.

If secular aid provision cannot really be universal, this also occurs with religious care provision, which in practice tends to address community members. The community belonging, in this case, is rhetorically marked as the core of the philanthropic act of provision and assistance. Like the secular, it also implies the risk of establishing moral hierarchies between recipients and providers. For instance, a social worker (of religion “y”) working for a local FBO and having assisted the displaced in 2006 in ash-Shiyyah, claimed how easy and quick it was to become of religion “z”, and therefore become entitled to service provision[67]:

“… ‘z’ are all used to taking, whereas, as a ‘y’, I’m used to giving. That’s so much easier to be ‘z’ […] If a ‘z’ asks for something, he doesn’t lose prestige and dignity, unlike us [‘y’]. To take and ask is the nature of their faith… I mean, the people you see in some areas to some extent want to be poor, or they wouldn’t get any help otherwise”[68].

The giving-taking binary here seems to unfold biased individual conceptions of a particular faith and points to the moral status which a confessional group holds within one’s own social pyramid. In other words, service and aid provision problematically came to constitute a fundamental tile in the “moral economy”[69] of local communities.

In times of emergency, however, a large number of social workers, who normally view service provision as a matter of community belonging and cultural inheritance, particularly tend to renew their collective sense of belonging and a greater wanting to help. According to the vast majority of the interviewees, as long as the Lebanese government does not empower anyone, “religious providers are more than welcome [to meet] people’s needs”[70]. From this perspective, it is largely due to the FBO programmes that, after 2006, Dahiye became an increasingly self-sufficient space as it also became an important commercial hub for the Greater Beirut area, where symptoms of a “damaged identity”[71], including the fears of erasure, displacement, and marginalisation disappeared. In this sense, religion-based philanthropy vests the services provided with a specific moral aura. The religious importance of guiding the vulnerable towards self-empowerment differs from the local efforts – defined as “secular” in official discourses – of limiting intervention to supporting pre-existing forms of civil action.

Conclusion

Faith-based and secular non-state providers in Dahiye provide social services to strengthen the social safety nets that the Lebanese state has been unable to weave [72]. Nevertheless, the community-oriented social provision of services, as much as the secular, proved to have power implications within the social moral hierarchy.

Dahiye is not a uniform space to be healed, as it has frequently been stereotyped from outside. In fact, the southern suburbs of the Lebanese capital nowadays constitute a special urban case, where local political power, chronic poverty, cyclical destruction and reconstruction occur simultaneously, raising the importance of a more fluid reconceptualisation of social vulnerability.

While both international and local provision of aid have revealed their complexities and diversification on the ground, the ad hoc approach of the Geneva-born humanitarian apparatus to crisis management was locally perceived as mostly touristic, and the outside interest in these war-affected areas as voyeuristic. As earlier discussed, this contrasts with the daily attempt of local organisations to cope with continuous hardships disconnected from regional political violence and from humanitarian crises, which rarely interests foreign political agendas.

Local social work and the relief provision for co-residents in times of conflict finally had the role of intensifying people’s attachment to Dahiye and their territorial ownership.

Nevertheless, this paper does not want to suggest that international and local (especially FBOs) are embedded in a sterile antagonism. Over the Syrian refugee influx in Lebanon, UN agencies – especially UNDP – promoted cooperation and coordination with local and international FBOs, pointing to the lessons learnt in the years before.[73]Thereby, international development agencies and the humanitarian afflatus attempt to find their own place as technocrats within the social fabric of domestic charity work, which, in Lebanon’s history, is mostly faith-based or community-oriented.

Thus, on the one hand, international ad hoc emergency relief increasingly turns into long-term aid provision, addressing chronic vulnerabilities. On the other hand, local charity endeavours give rise to a new form of giving to one’s own community in times of emergency, when alleviation of suffering and meeting essential needs come first. During crises, hence, such local charity organisations increasingly intertwine with international humanitarian assistance and development programmes, diversifying the way faith can be put into action. At the same time, actors of local governance accept funding from international donors to strengthen service provision.

In this framework, not only international humanitarianism, which rushes over in times of crisis, becomes an arm of mobile governance; but also some local providers considerably reformulate their philanthropic agendas by recognising international assistance as a good teacher of capacity building and fund-raising. Nonetheless, local aid organisations also reclaim technocracy and territorial ownership, feeding into ordinary people’s resentment in Dahiye towards the “touristic” approach of international (and traditionally neutral) humanitarianism. To what extent international humanitarian intervention is made conditional on the basis of local needs and domestic politics agendas remains contextual and debatable.

Aid and service providers increasingly become long-term development technocrats and life rescuers during crises, in both local and international NGOs, leaving ground for complex and flexible collaborations. Nevertheless, my ethnographic experience in Dahiye has unraveled how the Geneva-born assistance, “rescuing” and “healing” emergency-affected subjects, poorly fits the local context; in which local FBOs rather interpret emergencies as a historical continuum and as the last straw of prolonged unjust deprivation. The politics of reclaiming the agency of the suffering subjects, which is usually known as international participatory development, suggests new forms of local secular and religious humanitarianisms, detached from passive victimhood.

While the interplay of these different aid actors in harb tammuz was not within the primary scope of research at the time of the fieldwork, this paper has sought to unravel different politics of care and approaches to emergencies, especially of local charities, in addition to the ways in which heterogeneous philosophies of action influence social responses. Further analysing the ethical approach of all these different actors to help and care may take us to new and unexpected research avenues. And that will probably be the task of secularism and religion scholars.

*This paper is published in the frame of the call for papers Glocalizing humanitarian interventions in Lebanon: a reflexive look into innovative practices in times of crises developed by Lebanon Support and Amel Association.

Bibliography

Erik Abild, Hezbollah. A Contextual Study focusing on Human Freedom, BA Thesis in Development Studies, University of Oslo, 2007.

Arun Agrawal and Kalyanakrishnan Sivaramakrishnan (eds), Agrarian environments. In Social Nature: Resources, Representations, and Rule in India, New Delhi, India, Oxford University Press, 2001, p. 1-22.

Fouad Ajami, The Vanished Imam. Musa al-Sadr and the Shi‘a of Lebanon, New York, Cornell University Press, 2012.

Estella Carpi, Adhocratic Humanitarianisms and Ageing Emergencies in Lebanon: from the July 2006 War in Beirut’s Southern Suburbs to the Syrian Refugee Influx in Akkar’s Villages, PhD Thesis, University of Sydney (Australia), 2015.

Gerard Clarke and Michael Jennings, Development, Civil Society and Fatih-Based Organisations. Bridging the Sacred and the Secular, London, UK, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

Lara Deeb, “Emulating and/or embodying the ideal. The gendering of temporal frameworks and Islamic role models in Shi‘a Lebanon”, American Ethnologist, Vol. 36, No.2, 2009, p. 242-257.

Didier Fassin and Richard Rechtman, The Empire of Trauma. An Inquiry into the Condition of Victimhood,Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 2009.

Didier Fassin, “Les économies morales revisitées”, Annales HSS No. 6, 1237–1266, 2009.

Mona Fawaz, “Agency and ideology in Community Services: Islamic NGOs in the Southern Suburbs of Beirut”, in (eds.) Sarah Ben-Nefissa, Nabil ‘Abd al-Fattah, Sari Hanafi, and Carlos Milani, NGOs and Governance in the Arab World, Cairo, Egypt, AUC Press, 2005, pp. 229-256.

Nell Gabiam, “When ‘Humanitarianism’ Becomes ‘Development’: The Politics of International Aid in Syria’s Palestinian Refugee Camps”, American Anthropologist No. 114, Vol. 1, 2012, pp. 95–107.

Joshua L. Gleis and Benedetta Berti, Hezbollah and Hamas: A Comparative Study, Baltimore, MD, JHU Press, 2012.

Adam Hanieh, “Shifting Priorities or Business as Usual? Continuity and Change in the post-2011 IMF and World Bank Engagement with Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt”, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 42, No. 1, 2015, pp. 119-134.

Mona Harb, Le Hezbollah à Beirut (1985-2005): de la Banlieue à la Ville, Paris, France, IFPO-Karthala, 2010.

Rana Jawad, “Religion and Social Welfare in the Lebanon: treating the Causes or Symptoms of Poverty?”, Journal of Social Policy, No. 38, 2009, pp. 141-156.

Samir Khalaf, Heart of Beirut: reclaiming the Bourj, London, UK, Saqi Books, 2006.

Saree Makdisi, “Laying Claim to Beirut: Urban Narrative and Spatial Identity in the Age of Solidère”, Critical Inquiry, Vol. 23, No. 3, 1997, pp. 664-705.

Farah el-Jam Makkouk, Assessment of Airborne Particulate Matter Elevation in Haret Hreik (Beirut) after the Israeli Bombardment of July 2006, MA Thesis, Beirut, Lebanon, AUB, 2008.

Duncan McDuie-Ra and John A. Rees, “Religious Actors, Civil Society and the Development Agenda: the Dynamics of Inclusion and Exclusion”, Journal of International Development, No. 22, 2010, p. 20-36.

Ashis Nandy, Time Warps: The Insistent Politics of Silent and Evasive Pasts, London, UK, Hurst and Company, 2002.

Ananya Roy, “Civic Governmentality: the Politics of Inclusion in Beirut and Mumbai”, Antipode, Berkeley, California, University of California, 2008, pp. 7-10.

Amal Saad, An Analysis of the Factors conducive to the Group Cohesion and Political Mobilization of the Lebanese Shiites, MA Thesis, Beirut, Lebanon, American University of Beirut, 1996.

UNDP, Guidelines on Engaging with Faith-Based Organizations and Religious Leaders, October 2014, available at:http://www.undp.org/content/dam/undp/documents/partners/2014_UNDP_Guidelines-on-Engaging-with-FBOs-and-Religious-Leaders_EN.pdf [Last accessed July 14, 2016].

Leila Zakharia and Sonya Knox, The International Aid Community and Local Actors: Experiences and Testimonies from the Ground, the Civil Society Knowledge Centre, 2014, Lebanon Support, available at: http://cskc.daleel-madani.org/paper/international-aid-community-and-local-actors [Last accessed: June 16 2014].


[1] Emergency humanitarianism is considered to have burgeoned in Geneva, which is the city that Henry Dunant, founder of the Red Cross in the 19th century, came from. By Geneva-born humanitarianism I therefore refer to ad hoc assistance of crisis-stricken and displaced people in times of emergency crisis, and in compliance with the principles of neutrality and impartiality.

[2] Nell Gabiam, “When ‘Humanitarianism’ Becomes ‘Development’: The Politics of International Aid in Syria’s Palestinian Refugee Camps”, American Anthropologist No. 114, Vol. 1, 95–107, 2012; Estella Carpi, Adhocratic Humanitarianisms and Ageing Emergencies in Lebanon: from the July 2006 War in Beirut’s Southern Suburbs to the Syrian Refugee Influx in Akkar’s Villages, PhD Thesis, University of Sydney (Australia), 2015.

[3] Anthropologist Ilana Feldman engages with this concept in all of her work.

[4] Specifically, al-Jarih for the war wounded; ash-Shahid for the families of the war victims; al-Imdad for local development and social welfare; al-Qard al-Hasan for provision of microcredit to local families; al- Ha’iya as-Sahhiya al-Islamiyya for health assistance and protection.

[5] Interview conducted by the author with the coordination officer of UNDP, Beirut Downtown, October 25, 2011. This shows the particular task that humanitarianism seems to have in Lebanon: maintaining order and alleviating war plagues, certainly not reforming the state.

[6] Also, some NGO workers tended to adopt a critical perspective just when we used to meet outside of their office. The information I was able to collect was much more substantial in those circumstances.

[7] Leila Zakharia and Sonya Knox, The International Aid Community and Local Actors: Experiences and Testimonies from the Ground, the Civil Society Knowledge Centre, 2014, Lebanon Support, available at:http://cskc.daleel-madani.org/paper/international-aid-community-and-local-actors [Last accessed: June 16 2014].

[8] The head of an Italian NGO confirmed that the stage of project evaluation is often ruled out in small international NGOs. Interview conducted in Beirut, October 25, 2011.

[9] It is worth specifying that the differentiation of experiences contributes to the upgrading of the NGO workers’ career. Indeed, emergency complexes tend to create further spheres of professionalisation in Lebanon and elsewhere for internationals and local middle and upper classes (Adam Hanieh, “Shifting Priorities or Business as Usual? Continuity and Change in the post-2011 IMF and World Bank Engagement with Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt”,British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 42, No. 1, 2015, pp. 119-134).

[10]Arun Agrawal and Kalyanakrishnan Sivaramakrishnan (eds), Agrarian environments. In Social Nature: Resources, Representations, and Rule in India, New Delhi, India, Oxford University Press, 2001, p. 12.

[11] For instance, the UNDP approach proposed the institution of working groups with different competences, and certainly not the consideration of individual needs, “…As this would be populism, which is deleterious”. Interview with the UNDP technical advisor, Beirut Downtown, October 25, 2011.

[12] Duncan McDuie-Ra and John A. Rees, “Religious Actors, Civil Society and the Development Agenda: the Dynamics of Inclusion and Exclusion”, Journal of International Development, No. 22, 2010, p. 25.

[13] Interview conducted in Borj al-Barajneh, November 13, 2011.

[14] This is a common argument that emerged in the interviews and was voiced in the interviews with Amel Association, Oxfam Italia, and CTM-Lecce (Wata al-Mossaitbeh, Beirut, October 11, 2011; Forn ash-Shebbak, October 18, 2011; al-Jemmaiyze, Beirut, October 25, 2011). Indeed, humanitarianism, from Amel Association’s perspective, was defined as a construction of civil society networks. “The motto should be: national unity and humanitarian solidarity”, said Mr Kamel Mohanna, October 11, 2011. Also, the humanitarian was specified as transcending the political and the confessional.

[15] Leila Zakharia and Sonya Knox, The International Aid Community and Local Actors: Experiences and Testimonies from the Ground, the Civil Society Knowledge Centre, 2014, Lebanon Support, available at:http://cskc.daleel-madani.org/paper/international-aid-community-and-local-actors. [Last accessed June 16 2014].

[16] Beirut, October 2011.

[17] For some of the interviewees, high levels of coordination are impossible. “Overlaps are kind of unavoidable when you work in a very small country”, Head of an Italian NGO, Beirut, October 25, 2011. In other cases, coordination is instead seen as unadvisable: “We never coordinate with other NGOs, particularly the international, because we don’t want to adapt our projects to foreign aims, and we don’t want to be conditioned from outside” (Interview with a Lebanese humanitarian agency, Spears, Beirut, February 1, 2012).

[18] Tyre, October 8, 2012.

[19] Didier Fassin and Richard Rechtman, The Empire of Trauma. An Inquiry into the Condition of Victimhood,Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 2009.

[20] Translation from Classical Arabic conducted by the author.

[21] I will use the definition of “faith-based” to refer to NGOs inspired by specific confessional principles in laying out their implementation strategies, although faith is only one facet of a broader religious identity, which eventually belongs to a social order. Jawad decides to classify these NGOs as “religious welfare” (Rana Jawad, “Religion and Social Welfare in the Lebanon: treating the Causes or Symptoms of Poverty?”, Journal of Social Policy, No. 38, 2009, pp. 141-156). Nandy instead differentiates between religion as “ideology”, a (sub)national identifier of populations protecting socio-economic or political interests, and religion as “faith, a way of life, a tradition that is definitely non-monolithic and operationally plural” (Ashis Nandy, Time Warps: The Insistent Politics of Silent and Evasive Pasts, London, UK, Hurst and Company, 2002, pp. 61-62). Indeed, states prefer to deal with religions as faiths rather than ideologies.

[22] The Musa as-Sadr Foundation in fact had just built a new branch in Dahiye.

[23] Fadlallah founded al-Mabarrat Association in 1978 to provide a library, education services for orphans, a hospital mosque, and a dispensary. Not all of these facilities were funded by Iran as often believed (Mona Harb, Le Hezbollah à Beirut (1985-2005): de la Banlieue à la Ville, Paris, France, IFPO-Karthala, 2010, pp. 45-46); they had been set up with the purpose of enabling people to engage in social activities and actions, on the conceptual basis of employing almultazimun (“committed people”). Fadlallah, known for having issued quite modernistic fatwas at al-Hassaneiyyn Mosque in Haret Hreik, also used to hold a phone line where anonymous people could call and ask for consultancy about daily Muslim practices.

[24] Rana Jawad, “Religion and Social Welfare in the Lebanon: treating the Causes or Symptoms of Poverty?”, Journal of Social Policy, No. 38, 2009, pp. 141-156.

[25] Duncan McDuie-Ra and John A. Rees, “Religious Actors, Civil Society and the Development Agenda: the Dynamics of Inclusion and Exclusion”, Journal of International Development, No. 22, 2010, p. 21.

[26] This paves the way for reflection altogether with the words of the director of Waqf Taiba, a Saudi NGO in Akkar: “It is important to protect the village from Western ideologies”. Interview conducted in Halba, Akkar. December 14, 2012.

[27] Gerard Clarke and Michael Jennings, Development, Civil Society and Fatih-Based Organisations. Bridging the Sacred and the Secular, London, UK, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

[28] Mona Fawaz, “Agency and ideology in Community Services: Islamic NGOs in the Southern Suburbs of Beirut”, in (eds.) Sarah Ben-Nefissa, Nabil ‘Abd al-Fattah, Sari Hanafi, and Carlos Milani, NGOs and Governance in the Arab World, Cairo, Egypt, AUC Press, 2005, pp. 229-256.

[29] A marja‘iyya is a religious Shia institution: Hezbollah independently follows the Khomeini doctrine under theWilayat al-Faqih, which represents the fusion between the religious and the political, and leads the Twelver Shi‘a community till the end of all eras, when the 12th hidden Mahdi – sahib az- zaman, the “Patron of Time” – will come back to liberate the Shi‘a from oppression once and for all.

[30] Vandalistic acts against Fadlallah’s properties, in fact, occurred in the southern suburbs of Beirut, prior to the Shi‘a cleric’s good relationship with the Party of God. The latter was accused of having committed the wrongdoing. Fadlallah was considered an ideologue and the spiritual guide of Hezbollah towards the end of his life after dissolving past frictions (Mona Harb, Le Hezbollah à Beirut (1985-2005): de la Banlieue à la Ville, Paris, France, IFPO-Karthala, 2010, p. 44).

[31] Such political orientations caused an attempt of assassination of the Shi‘a cleric on March 8, 1985 in Bi’r al-‘Abed (Dahiye), conducted by the C.I.A in the framework of the American “preemption” counter-terror program. The exploded car bomb caused 80 casualties and 200 wounded.

[32] Interview conducted by the author in Bi’r Hasan, Beirut, 19 November 2013.

[33] Lara Deeb, “Emulating and/or embodying the ideal. The gendering of temporal frameworks and Islamic role models in Shi‘a Lebanon”, American Ethnologist, Vol. 36, No.2, 2009, p. 247.

[34] Amal Saad, An Analysis of the Factors conducive to the Group Cohesion and Political Mobilization of the Lebanese Shi‘a, MA Thesis, Beirut, Lebanon, American University of Beirut, 1996.

[35] Ananya Roy, “Civic Governmentality: the Politics of Inclusion in Beirut and Mumbai”, Antipode, Berkeley, CA: University of California, 2008, pp. 7-10.

[36] Anthropologist Lara Deeb (Lara Deeb, “Emulating and/or embodying the ideal. The gendering of temporal frameworks and Islamic role models in Shi‘a Lebanon”, American Ethnologist, Vol. 36, No.2, 2009, pp. 242-257) pointed out how Iranian mahdism implies a greater escatological logic than in Lebanon. The Last Day belief is less mentioned by Lebanese Shi‘a and, as a consequence, less representative of local mentality, given that, in the case of Lebanon, this theology is not a hegemonic state plan, but rather a political party’s strategy or culture. Only one among others.

[37] It is worth getting deeper into the Zeinab figure as a source for inspiration: women activists, however, cannot equate her. The way Lebanese Shi‘a women look at this figure is therefore induced by social circumstances, which are different from Iran. This leads to a theoretical dissent about the Weberian conviction that religion is a key factor in influencing reality. Furthermore, the preaching of Imam Mohammed Fadlallah – called marji‘ at-taqlid (the “point of reference for tradition”) – widely contributed to the empowerment of women in terms of religious roles: he used to say that women can attain the highest level of jurisprudential training and interpret religious tenets, despite the absence of such a norm in Shi‘a jurisprudence (Lara Deeb, “Emulating and/or embodying the ideal. The gendering of temporal frameworks and Islamic role models in Shi‘a Lebanon”, American Ethnologist, Vol. 36, No.2, p. 251). Even so, the normative moral womanhood was majorly represented by Fatima, a model of calm, maternalism and patience, in opposition to the westernised women in Iran in 1971, as specified by Iranian scholar ‘Ali Shari‘ati. In that frame, women were called to actively participate in political life only during moments of crisis, and this implied a changing gender role for women in daily life, with respect to the more static figure of Hussein, who epitomises the inspirational model for Shi‘a manhood.

[38] Lara Deeb, “Emulating and/or embodying the ideal. The gendering of temporal frameworks and Islamic role models in Shi‘a Lebanon”, American Ethnologist, Vol. 36, No.2, 2009, p. 250.

[39] Fouad Ajami, The Vanished Imam. Musa al-Sadr and the Shia of Lebanon, New York, Cornell University Press, 2012.

[40] Interview with Mr Faruq Rizq, al-Mabarrat headquarter, al-Ghobeiry, Beirut, October 18, 2012.

[41] Interview with Mohammed, a local shop owner, Haret Hreik, February 2, 2012.

[42] This also occurs as the provider-recipient relationship is based on a social contract or reciprocity in Dahiye. The politicisation of services, therefore, merely expresses the already existing moral and social relationships between the two parts. In particular, during Lebanon’s civil war, Fadlallah used to speak up for the necessity of creating a “human state” – dawlat al-insan – that would provide the resources for people to help themselves and one another. He was known for considering public funds as ownership of the people and for capturing this ethics when he said that he was not looking for “followers” but “partners” (Ken Silverstein, Hezbollah’s Strength derives from the Strong Social Fabric that they have woven over the years, 2007, available at:http://newsgroups.derkeiler.com/Archive/Soc/soc.culture.iranian/2007-03/msg01663.html [Last accessed October 3 2011]. It is this specific political logic which allowed the Hezbollah party to foster its politics of inclusion.

[43] Interview with Mr Faruq Rizq, al-Mabarrat headquarter, al-Ghobeiry, Beirut, October 18, 2012.

[44] Interview with al-Hadi Association (al-Mabarrat’s branch), Tariq al-Matar, Beirut, October 29, 2012.

[45] Fouad Ajami, The Vanished Imam: Musa al-Sadr and the Shi‘a in Lebanon, New York, Cornell University Press, 2012.

[46] Joshua L. Gleis and Benedetta Berti, Hezbollah and Hamas: A Comparative Study, Baltimore, MD, JHU Press, 2012.

[47] Interview with Ms Maliha as-Sadr, Imam as-Sadr Foundation, Ouzai, Beirut, December 4, 2012.

[48] Mr Mohammed Bassam, for instance, said that at the Imam as-Sadr Foundation the use of hishma at school is obligatory (the “decent” school uniform used to homologate social classes and discipline the dress code in their institutions).

[49] Conversely, some INGOs act instead on the basis of cooperation efforts, which do not imply the dismantlement of the structure in the territory of intervention, but rather aim to further mutual assistance and knowledge exchange between different countries (Interview with the head of an Italian NGO. Beirut, February, 2013).

[50] Erik Abild, Hezbollah. A Contextual Study focusing on Human Freedom, BA Thesis in Development Studies, University of Oslo, 2007.

[51] Interview with al-Hadi Association (al-Mabarrat’s branch), Tariq al-Matar, Beirut, October 29, 2012.

[52] Haret Hreik, January 18, 2012.

[53] Interview with Mohammed Bassam, Tyre, October 8, 2012.

[54] Imam as-Sadr Foundation, Tyre, October 8, 2012.

[55] It is interesting to notice that some local development projects fail for cultural reasons, according to Bassam (i.e. Lebanese Shi‘a women trained for entering the hoteling market and unlikely to follow up with the acquired skills). Or, again, foreign models are sometimes not ideal for targeting the local nuances of human vulnerability.

[56] Imam as-Sadr Foundation, Tyre, October 8, 2012.

[57] Interview with Mohammed Bassam, Tyre, October 8, 2012. In this respect, it is interesting to notice that communal tensions were discussed as more likely among aid providers than aid recipients.

[58] The return has often been criticised as too hastened by scholars and scientists, as the living conditions could not be restored in a short time. Sulphur levels, for instance, were much higher in the air than before the reconstruction process (Farah el-Jam Makkouk, Assessment of Airborne Particulate Matter Elevation in Haret Hreik (Beirut) after the Israeli Bombardment of July 2006, MA Thesis, Beirut, Lebanon, AUB, 2008, p. 72).

[59] Interview with Amel Association conducted in Wata al-Mossaitbeh, Beirut, October 11, 2011.

[60] Interview with Amel Association conducted in Wata al-Mossaitbeh, Beirut, October 11, 2011.

[61] Interview with Mr Kamel Mohanna conducted at the Amel Association headquarter: Wata el-Mossaitbe, Beirut, October 24, 2011.

[62] Leader of the Education Committee of Bourj al-Barajneh. Municipality Bulletin 2013.

[63] It is also interesting to note that the term martius in ancient Greek means “witness”, where, therefore, a sense of agency is totally maintained despite the suffering and the humiliation that war causes.

[64] October 19, 2011.

[65] In Haret Hreik, for example, I met wholesalers who used to donate part of the items they used to purchase to the local needy, rather than selling them on the retail market.

[66] Saree Makdisi, “Laying Claim to Beirut: Urban Narrative and Spatial Identity in the Age of Solidère”, Critical Inquiry, Vol. 23, No. 3, 1997, pp. 664-705.

[67] I am using here “z” and “y” to refer to two religious communities in Lebanon. I do not deem it necessary to specify which communities were involved in the event.

[68] Interview with a Lebanese social worker, Sin el-Fil, October 18, 2011.

[69] Fassin, Didier. 2009. “Les économies morales revisitées.” Annales HSS 6: 1237–1266.

[70] Interview conducted with an American NGO worker in Mar Mikhael Annahr, Beirut, February 21, 2012.

[71] Samir Khalaf, Heart of Beirut: reclaiming the Bourj, London, UK, Saqi Books, 2006, p. 120.

[72] And this is the most common opinion that faith-based and secular aid providers who had worked in harb tammuz used to have about Lebanon. Confessional provision of services is in fact seen as an unavoidable reflection of Lebanese confessional society. Interview with a UNDP officer, Beirut Downtown, November 24, 2011.

[73] UNDP, Guidelines on Engaging with Faith-Based Organizations and Religious Leaders, October 2014, available at: http://www.undp.org/content/dam/undp/documents/partners/2014_UNDP_Guidelines-on-Engaging-with-FBOs-and-Religious-Leaders_EN.pdf [Last accessed July 14, 2016].

Categories: Lebanon, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Necro-politiche della disuguaglianza nel sud del Libano (July 2016)

http://www.sirialibano.com/lebanon/23368.html

Sarafand cimitero nuovo

(di Estella Carpi, per SiriaLibano). Siamo spesso erroneamente portati a credere che un cimitero ospiti solo morti, ricordi, rimorsi, gioie mai più ripresentatasi e sentimenti di questo tipo.

A Sarafand, la cui origine fenicia è Zarephath – piccola località costiera nella regione di Sahel az Zahrani tra Sidone e Tiro, nel sud del Libano – c’è un cimitero nuovo e uno vecchio. Basta una chiacchierata con gli abitanti della cittadina per rendersi conto che la gestione degli spazi cimiteriali rivela questioni di sovranità territoriale, una diversa dignità morale degli abitanti, e i poteri formali e informali esistenti che decidono della vita come della morte di tanti.

Il cimitero è solo una delle tante forme di politica dello spazio a Sarafand. In una realtà come il Libano in cui, ogniqualvolta si ripresentino crisi politico-umanitarie, la gestione dei servizi pubblici viene condotta da attori in gran parte esterni (agenzie Onu e organizzazioni non governative), la gestione delle morti e il diritto allo spazio e al riconoscimento socio-morale che ne deriva tornano nelle mani delle municipalità locali. E di queste si rispolverano così le croniche carenze amministrative e finanziarie. Questo accade in misura ancora più evidente a Sarafand, dove l’azione umanitaria delle agenzie internazionali si focalizza molto meno frequentemente.

Sarafand è abitata da lungo tempo da lavoratori siriani, spesso impiegati in lavori manuali, nella pulizia delle strade, nel settore edile e agricolo. Alla luce della crisi politica del 2011, migliaia di questi migranti hanno portato in Libano le loro famiglie estese. Il numero dei rifugiati siriani a Sarafand – di cui troppo spesso si fa un fascio d’erba unico – si dice ora superi quello della popolazione locale. Il comune di Sarafand e il capo dell’Unione delle municipalità di Sahel az Zahrani, evidenziano entrambi le difficoltà di trovare spazi per seppellire i morti. Un problema che precede di gran lunga la crisi siriana.

Secondo alcuni cittadini locali, i rifugiati siriani che abitano a Sarafand ormai da qualche anno sarebbero stati sul punto di organizzare un sit-in di carattere politico per rivendicare spazio per seppellire i propri morti. Conversando con i rifugiati di Sarafand, si tocca con mano la frustrazione che la vita nel Paese ospitante riserva ai profughi di guerra e violenze, e la condanna alla morte sociale di queste componenti demografiche. Se in tempo di crisi cibo, medicine, materassi e servizi forniti dalle agenzie umanitarie non possono di certo compensare la graduale perdita quotidiana della precedente normalità, essere riconosciuti come abitanti con dignità al diritto di sepoltura, di ricordo e di riconoscimento sociale post mortem solleva le medesime responsabilità umane.

In seguito a queste rivendicazioni e per evitare che le richieste assumessero infine la tinta di una protesta politica, il cimitero nuovo di Sarafand è stato allargato di qualche ettaro.

Secondo alcuni abitanti libanesi, la comunità palestinese locale è stata disposta a concedere parte del proprio spazio ai nuovi arrivati siriani per la sepoltura dei loro defunti. La comunità palestinese, dal proprio canto, non si è sentita invece interpellata in tale decisione municipale. Una giovane donna palestinese commenta che “essere figli di uno Stato non riconosciuto, di nessuna amministrazione, costringe alla limitazione dei propri diritti… Ci è stato forse chiesto cosa volessimo concedere? Non vi è nessun rappresentante della comunità palestinese né tantomeno nessuno è stato interpellato a questo riguardo… e ancora la definiscono una nostra concessione”.

Molti dei rifugiati siriani di Sarafand vivono in edifici nuovi, apparentemente costruiti per ghettizzare la popolazione non locale in spazi definiti e lontani dal resto della realtà urbana. C’è chi ritiene la municipalità efficiente e disponibile, ma impossibilitata a risolvere la questione dello spazio cimiteriale perché non all’interno delle proprie capacità giuridiche. C’è chi invece accusa la municipalità di riuscire ad avviare progetti ambiziosi di riciclaggio e preziose partnerships con agenzie internazionali, senza voler risolvere la questione dello spazio cimiteriale. “Nessuna speranza per ricordare. Nessuna speranza per morire in pace! La municipalità rifiuta la concessione di spazi per i nostri morti perché spera di liberarsi di noi… Ho provato a cercare in tutto il Libano un modo per non mandare il corpo di mia madre in Siria… Non ritornerò facilmente lì dove son cresciuto… Dovrei lasciarla appassire lontana dal mio ricordo e dalla mia devozione? Non è facile neanche ottenere un’ambulanza per un siriano durante le ore del coprifuoco serale… Il maltrattamento che subiamo all’ordine del giorno non renderà la nostra permanenza temporanea”, afferma in modo significativo un uomo siriano di mezza età.

Secondo alcune voci locali, tuttavia, non sarebbe lo status legale e neppure la nazionalità del defunto a garantire una degna sepoltura e una degna devozione da parte dei propri familiari. È piuttosto lo status sociale a determinare la dignità del vivo come del morto. “L’unica cosa che importa” – mi dice un venditore di schede telefoniche sulla strada principale di Sarafand –  “è che tipo di siriano sei, che tipo di palestinese sei, e così via… qual è il tuo status sociale, insomma”.

Della stessa opinione è un altro residente di Sarafand che accenna al fatto che “per seppellire il corpo di una persona illustre, miracolosamente, lo spazio si trova!”. Una cittadina libanese di Sarafand in modo analogo esclama: “La municipalità aveva appena negato la possibilità di nuove sepolture nel cimitero nuovo anche per noi libanesi, quand’ecco che un imprenditore ha avuto modo addirittura di farsi spazio in quello vecchio!”.

Classe sociale, status legale, wasta locale. I fattori che danno diritto a vivere e morire sono diversi quanto le narrative locali della diseguaglianza che ho dovuto digerire in un solo pomeriggio.

Con sgomento del grande Totò, neanche la morte, a Sarafand, è ‘na livella.

Categories: Lebanon, Middle East, Syria, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Crisis & Control, (In)Formal Hybrid Security in Lebanon (July 2016)

The report I co-authored with Marie-Noelle Abi-Yaghi and Mariam Younes from Lebanon Support (Beirut) has just been published: http://cskc.daleel-madani.org/resource/crisis-control-informal-hybrid-security-lebanon. If you wish to access the resulting policy brief authored by Lebanon Support’s partner International Alert, click on the following link: http://www.international-alert.org/sites/default/files/Lebanon_LocalSecuritySyrianRefugees_PolicyBrief_EN_2016.pdf.

We have conducted 3-month field research in Aley, Shebaa, and Ebrine in Lebanon.

Here below the executive summary of our research.

This report aims to analyze how formal and informal security providers implement their respective social order agendas through a security “assemblage”. It also aims to inform the debate on refugee protection and security provision in urban settings, in the context of Lebanon’s hybrid security system. The accounts collected illustrate how state security institutions tacitly accept – or even rely on – informal security actors, managing at times to achieve their political and strategic goals through decentralized and/or illegal forms of control. In this vein, local municipalities imposed curfews and street patrols, which, far from being an institutional measure, follow a flexible and unpredictable pattern.1 Three localities have been selected for the purpose of this research – namely Aley in Mount Lebanon, Ebrine in North Lebanon, and Shebaa in South Lebanon. The choice of these localities was driven by their different political and social history, their demographic homogeneity or diversity, and their relationship with surrounding regions. The investigation of the Syrian refugees’ access to security systems constitutes an interpretative lens through which the analysis of securitization processes in Lebanon can be undertaken. The notion of security we will discuss here is polysemantic: it does not only encompass regional or domestic conflicts, but also suggests a particular social form of waiting; a climate of fear portending the worse that is yet to come. As a matter of fact, this climate of fear encourages preemptive security measures and serves as a deterrent against violent outbursts. Therefore, manifestations of insecurity or security threats are often routinized perceptions and, as such, integrated into accounts of ordinary everyday life. Security plays a multifaceted role in the three settings selected for thorough analysis. It builds the cohesiveness of the local communities, while fending off endemic societal fragmentation. This is mainly because local people tend to identify with a single homogenous entity that needs to protect itself against external threats, with these threats being represented nowadays by Syrian refugees, who may become “radicalized” and destabilize the “host” space. And since security goes beyond the exclusion of risk and jeopardy, the official discourse of local security providers entails the protection of refugees. While we draw on the classic normative distinction of security providers into formal and informal, our analysis moves beyond such a rigid differentiation. The formal/ informal dichotomy fades away when security is discussed as a hybrid assemblage of unpredictable and situational forces enforced in particular circumstances. Our findings confirm that formal security is partially implemented through informal local actors, providing a terrain of common interest in the preservation of social order. In addition, security cannot be viewed as a given “social fact”: it is rather a contextual process embedded in multiple power relations that preserve social order in a given space and reinforce social status and community identification.

Categories: Lebanon, Middle East, Syria, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Review of Diana Allan’s “Refugees of the Revolution: Experiences of Palestinian Exile” (July 2016)

I have reviewed Diana Allan’s book “Refugees of the Revolution: Experiences of Palestinian Exile” for Anthropological Quarterly (Spring 2016). You can access the PDF file at this link:

https://www.academia.edu/26990221/Review_of_Diana_Allans_Refugees_of_the_Revolution_Experiences_of_Palestinian_Exile_Anthropological_Quarterly_Spring_2016_

Categories: Lebanon, Palestine, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Call for Papers for Sixth Istanbul Human Security Conference 2016 (19-20-21 October)

image4Call for Papers for the panel—“Protecting People or Protecting Orders? Displacement in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region” to take place at the sixth Istanbul Human Security Conference, The Human Security Implications of the Refugee Crisis: Evaluating Current Policies and Discussing Potential Solutions, 19-20-21 October 2016. This panel will be under the “Responses to Refugee Crises in the World” conference theme.

Please send 200 word (max) abstracts to Estella Carpi at estella.carpi@gmail.com no later than Friday, May 27. Authors of accepted papers will be notified Monday, May 30 for final panel submission June 1.

_____________________________________________________________________

Panel proposal for: “Responses to Refugee Crises in the World”

Panel Title: “Protecting People or Protecting Orders? Displacement in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region”

Estella Carpi (New York University – Abu Dhabi) and Giulia El Dardiry (McGill University)

From domestic affairs to international politics, “human security” has been associated with a reframing of political discourse in which the “human” rather than the “state” has become the fundamental objective of political action. In emergency contexts, this has resulted in increasing humanitarian efforts to provide personal, political, economic, community, environmental, health, and food security to distressed communities.

Characterized by protracted conflicts, a precarious economy and endemic political instability, the MENA is a region where humanitarian and political action in service of “human security” continues to be urgent. However, in the long shadow cast by the defining experience of the Palestinian refugee displacements, international actors are increasingly framing the transnational mobilities of Sudanese, Somalis, Iraqis, Libyans, and Syrians as an instantiation of the global threat posed by open borders.

This panel asks how humanitarian practices deployed on the ground with the explicit aim of guaranteeing “human security” contribute instead to maintaining the Middle East geopolitical order. The selected papers will critically interrogate how the discourse of “human security”—rather than shifting political priorities from states to people—re-inscribes state power and interests, successfully vesting geopolitics with the moral aura of a people-centered approach, even as it displaces millions from their homes.

Categories: Middle East, Turkey, Uncategorized | Tags: | Leave a comment

Il discorso confessionale e il fondamentalismo annesso (by Estella, May 2016)

http://www.rsi.ch/rete-due/programmi/cultura/attualita-culturale/Le-chiavi-di-lettura-occidentali-sui-confilitti-in-medio-oriente-un-paradigma-confessionale-Ne-parliamo-con-l-antropologa-sociale-Estella-Carpi-7299122.html

Edizione del 06.05.2016

Le chiavi di lettura occidentali sui confilitti in medio oriente: un paradigma confessionale? Ne parliamo con l’ antropologa sociale Estella Carpi

Categories: Lebanon, Middle East, Syria, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Guerre al di là del Mediterraneo: ecco perché la religione non c’entra (by Estella Carpi and Enrico Bartolomei, April 2016)

Guerre in Siria, Iraq e Palestina: ecco perché la religione non c’entra

“Guerre in Siria, Iraq e Palestina: ecco perché la religione non c’entra”

Dalla Siria all’Iraq, dall’Afghanistan alla Palestina, passando per il Libano e i tumulti sull’altra sponda del Mediterraneo: il discorso confessionale ha oscurato le cause socio-economiche dei movimenti di protesta fornendo ai regimi autoritari il pretesto per presentarsi come garanti dell’unità nazionale.
MONDOULTIME NOTIZIE 29 APRILE 2016 17:16 di Davide Falcioni

Articolo a cura di Enrico Bartolomei e Estella Carpi *

Dall’inizio dei movimenti di contestazione nel mondo arabo, che hanno rovesciato regimi pluridecennali in apparenza incrollabili e rimesso in discussione gli equilibri di potere nella regione, nei principali media e nei circoli degli esperti di politica estera si è affermata la tendenza a spiegare le cause delle proteste attraverso le lenti del confessionalismo, per cui i fattori che determinano la vita politica nel mondo arabo-musulmano sarebbero le tradizioni religiose nella loro irriducibile differenza. Il discorso confessionale ha oscurato le cause socio-economiche dei movimenti di protesta, mascherando le ambizioni regionali delle potenze straniere e fornendo ai regimi autoritari il pretesto per presentarsi come garanti dell’unità nazionale.

Questa griglia di lettura della realtà ha radici profonde che vanno oltre il mondo arabo, ed è stata alimentata da una teoria molto influente delle relazioni internazionali inaugurata dal politologo americano Samuel Huntington, che ha avanzato la tesi dello “scontro di civiltà”, spiegando come alla base dei conflitti post-Guerra Fredda ci siano in primo luogo le differenze culturali e religiose tra i vari popoli. Questa visione semplicistica e fondamentalista degli eventi storici, per cui i gruppi sociali vengono definiti in base alle appartenenze etniche, religiose o comunitarie, non solo ignora la molteplicità dei fattori alla base dei conflitti contemporanei, ma anche l’uso politico che abili “manipolatori del confessionalismo” fanno di queste differenze per difendere i propri interessi.

La grande narrazione confessionale
Dopo gli attentati dell’11 settembre 2001, la guerra globale al “terrorismo islamico” – inaugurata dagli Stati Uniti con l’invasione dell’Afghanistan e dell’Iraq – è diventata la copertura usata dalle classi dirigenti di vari regimi per eliminare gruppi insorgenti, movimenti separatisti o di liberazione. All’indomani degli attentati, l’allora primo ministro israeliano Ariel Sharon paragonò il leader di al-Qaeda Osama Bin Laden al presidente palestinese Yasser Arafat, presentando l’invasione militare della Cisgiordania durante la Seconda Intifada come necessaria per “smantellare le infrastrutture del terrorismo”. Lo stesso discorso viene ora riproposto, questa volta nei confronti del partito politico palestinese Hamas, prima di ogni operazione militare nella Striscia di Gaza. Il nuovo clima politico post-11 settembre permise anche al presidente russo Vladimir Putin di ridefinire la seconda guerra cecena come guerra contro il terrorismo, giustificando agli occhi della comunità internazionale la brutale repressione della guerriglia cecena.

Recentemente, il primo ministro Benyamin Netanyahu non ha esitato a strumentalizzare l’ondata di razzismo e islamofobia seguita agli attentati di Parigi, equiparando il “terrorismo dell’ISIS” al “terrorismo palestinese” nel tentativo di convincere i dirigenti e l’opinione pubblica europea che la lotta di liberazione palestinese è mossa dallo stesso odio anti-ebraico e anti-occidentale che viene generalmente attribuito al salafismo jihadista.

I manipolatori delle identità confessionali
Lungi dall’essere entità omogenee con caratteristiche immutabili, le identità confessionali ed etniche sono costruzioni sociali, vale a dire il prodotto storico di conflitti tra vari gruppi sociali che hanno utilizzato le diversità tra le varie componenti sociali nella lotta per il controllo di risorse materiali. Le appartenenze confessionali nei conflitti sono state strumentalizzate politicamente in primis dai manipolatori delle identità, come le classi dirigenti o i gruppi in competizione per la costruzione del consenso o per il controllo delle risorse. Questi principali attori manipolatori sono a loro volta il prodotto di una complessa relazione con la costruzione della loro stessa identità e garanzia di potere politico. Pertanto, il discorso confessionale è pienamente impiegato nei rapporti di potere ed è spesso elaborato come razionalizzazione d’interessi politici e strutture di dominio.

La strategia coloniale del divide et impera
Il confessionalismo è servito a legittimare la spartizione coloniale europea del Medio Oriente in seguito alla prima guerra mondiale. Presentare i conflitti nel mondo arabo-musulmano come il risultato dell’eterna lotta tra sunniti e sciiti, dispensa l’occidente dalle sue responsabilità storiche di protettore o rivale di questo o quel gruppo religioso o etnico. Difatti, la Francia e la Gran Bretagna hanno cinicamente sfruttato queste diversità per assicurarsi il controllo geopolitico delle risorse energetiche e la sicurezza domestica nella regione, ridisegnando arbitrariamente i confini, creando entità statali artificiali e ostacolando l’emergere di movimenti e partiti multiconfessionali e transnazionali (come quello comunista e panarabista baathista, o nasserista) che ponevano al centro delle loro rivendicazioni l’emancipazione politica ed economica piuttosto che le appartenenze comunitarie, religiose o etniche.
in foto: Israeli security forces walk in the Jerusalem’s Old City near the al–Aqsa mosque
In altri casi, le potenze straniere hanno affidato alle “minoranze confessionali” le leve di un potere parziale rendendolo solo complementare agli interessi esteri. Ad esempio, in seguito alle lotte che i drusi del Monte Libano sotto l’egida britannica conducevano nel XIX secolo contro la componente cristiano-maronita – supportata dalla Francia – il confessionalismo fu istituzionalizzato nel sistema politico (1920) con la creazione dello stato libanese su base elitaria cristiano-maronita, contribuendo a innescare tensioni che hanno dato origine a decenni di guerra civile. In Palestina, la Gran Bretagna s’impegnò con la Dichiarazione di Balfour (1917) a sostenere il progetto sionista di creare uno Stato ebraico, favorendo l’immigrazione di coloni ebrei europei. In Siria, le truppe coloniali francesi arruolarono le minoranze, tra cui gli alawiti, per sedare la rivolta nazionalista araba. La setta alawita venne poi dichiarata ramo della corrente sciita negli anni Settanta a seguito di un avvicinamento politico tra il presidente siriano alawita Hafez al-Asad e l’Imam sciita Musa as-Sadr. A seguito dell’attuale conflitto siriano e l’escalation della violenza attuale, è significativo che un’élite di esponenti intellettuali della comunità alawita abbia dichiarato un distanziamento dal regime di Asad e quindi la propria indipendenza confessional-clericale dalla corrente sciita dell’Iran e del Hezbollah libanese, strenui difensori del regime siriano.

Il confessionalismo e l’autoritarismo delle élite arabe
L’utilizzo delle identità religiose o etniche a fini politici costituisce tuttora un capitolo importante nella strategia del divide et impera messa in atto da diversi attori politici, così come lo era al tempo della dominazione coloniale europea.

L’intervento USA in Iraq nel 2003, finalizzato all’instaurazione di un governo sciita per rispecchiare l’appartenenza confessionale di gran parte della popolazione, come anche la lotta per l’egemonia regionale tra Iran e Arabia Saudita, hanno rafforzato la retorica delle identità comunitarie, fomentando in particolare lo scontro binario tra sunniti e sciiti. I movimenti di contestazione popolare nel mondo arabo, incentrati su rivendicazioni di democratizzazione dei sistemi politici e di giustizia sociale, sono stati anch’essi deragliati sui binari del confessionalismo – se non dall’interferenza straniera – da regimi autoritari, élite al potere, o quei gruppi che vogliono ritagliarsi una fetta di legittimità, ergendosi a difensori di questa o quella comunità.
L’uso politico della religione ha inoltre permesso ai regimi autoritari di contrastare la creazione di fronti unitari, agitando lo spettro di una sanguinosa guerra civile e infondendo dunque un ampio desiderio di stabilità da raggiungere a qualsiasi costo. In Siria, la trasformazione della rivolta popolare in guerra civile a sfondo confessionale ha permesso al regime di Bashar al-Asad di giustificare la repressione militare dei manifestanti, descritti come terroristi tout court, così come alle potenze regionali come Iran da un lato, e vari Paesi del Golfo arabo dall’altro, di intervenire nel conflitto. A loro volta, le milizie sciite o sunnite si sono spesso presentate come difensori ufficiali delle rispettive comunità religiose. Formazioni jihadiste come il Fronte an-Nusra e lo “Stato Islamico” hanno proclamato di voler riscattare la comunità sunnita oppressa dal “regime eretico alawita” e dai suoi alleati sciiti.

Intimorite dinanzi alla prospettiva di un sollevamento popolare, anche le monarchie del Golfo hanno riproposto la tesi della lotta religiosa tra sunniti e sciiti per impedire il diffondersi di movimenti di contestazione interni. L’Arabia Saudita, ad esempio, ha potuto giustificare l’intervento militare in Bahrein presentando il movimento di protesta locale come una rivolta sciita orchestrata dall’Iran. Il governo del Bahrein, a sua volta, ha strumentalizzato le proprie politiche migratorie accogliendo solo rifugiati siriani sunniti – seppur in numero esiguo – pur di contrastare i sollevamenti popolari interni a maggioranza sciita. Il paradigma confessionale è stato utilizzato anche per liquidare le forze del cambiamento rivoluzionario e quindi restaurare quelle del vecchio regime. Il colpo di stato del generale Abdel Fattah as-Sisi nel luglio 2013 è stato presentato come necessario per impedire l’islamizzazione forzata dell’Egitto ad opera dei Fratelli Musulmani e i loro tentativi di provocare una guerra civile.

Dal discorso confessionale ai flussi migratori in Europa
All’interno di confini più simbolici che territoriali, le diverse componenti sociali han sentito il bisogno di definirsi come diverse l’una dall’altra e di reclamare diritti o adempiere ai doveri civili definendosi in termini identitari, piuttosto che come parte costituente di uno stato sociale che garantisce diritti e servizi di prima necessità.

Ma in che modo il discorso confessionale dello scontro di civiltà tocca le sponde europee? In nome della sicurezza contro la minaccia globale del terrorismo islamico, una serie di legislazioni anti-terrorismo limitano le libertà civili e i diritti fondamentali della persona. Anche negli stati che si definiscono democratici, lo “stato di diritto” lascia progressivamente il posto allo “stato d’emergenza”. Il discorso confessionale serve anche per giustificare la gestione militare e securitaria dei fenomeni migratori. Nella propaganda islamofobica e xenofoba, ormai non più appannaggio esclusivo dell’estrema destra, le categorie dei migranti e dei richiedenti asilo vengono sempre più associate al pericolo dell’invasione islamica, che metterebbe in discussione la purezza dei valori cristiani e occidentali, e alla minaccia del terrorismo jihadista. L’equazione clandestino-musulmano-terrorista diventa sempre più accettabile agli occhi dell’opinione pubblica europea.

L’uso di identità confessionali ed etniche per spiegare eventi storici, politici, e addirittura psicologici, è di per sé un atto fondamentalista. In questo senso, le violenze di oggi su scala globale e la convinzione che i flussi migratori siano un qualcosa da accogliere o rifiutare, fanno parte di una lotta all’affermazione di valori e principi propri che si vogliono sancire come universali.

Mentre il profugo o il migrante sono concepiti come elementi in eterna lotta, gli aiuti umanitari sono standardizzati, spesso tradendo la diversità dei bisogni dei beneficiari. La sofferenza dell’Altro, come la sua minacciosa violenza, sono rese omogenee e indivisibili. Quando episodi di violenza spezzano la normalità su cui son disegnate le nostre vite quotidiane, e quando tali episodi sono relazionabili a fenomeni transnazionali generati o facilitati da migrazioni o rivendicazioni di stampo confessionale – prevalentemente islamico – i clandestini che sbarcano, denigrati esclusivamente secondo la loro matrice identitaria confessionale, vengono meccanicamente associati al fallimento delle politiche europee e alle reti islamiche estremiste transnazionali.

In altre parole, la paura delle società occidentali di tradursi in spazi a rischio imprevedibile – cosa che finora ha prevalentemente turbato le vite umane nel “Sud globale” – è arginata tramite avanzate tecnologie di sicurezza e sorveglianza, nonché prontamente consolata da mezzi informativi e di assistenza sociale che tendono a mantenere i confini identitari del “diverso”: l’assimilazione o il riconoscimento dell’eterogeneità di quest’ultimo diluirebbero troppo la sua presenza all’interno delle società di arrivo.

Il “diverso”, da una parte, è in lotta col proprio simile nel Sud globale, in quanto parte di un mosaico identitario che va “sanato” da principi e diritti universali, propugnati dal nostro lato del Mediterraneo. Il “diverso” diventa invece uniformabile ai suoi simili quando il Sud globale si sposta verso il Nord globale, ponendo quest’ultimo al cospetto di nuove rivendicazioni. Mentre ci proponiamo di curare e arginare l’emergenza negli stati mediorientali attraverso agenzie umanitarie in loco, l’insicurezza imprevedibile alla quale siamo di fronte ora – la stessa che pone sullo stesso piano gli immaginari “Nord” e “Sud” – finisce per rafforzare questi totalitarismi identitari: i veri mali del nostro tempo.

* Enrico Bartolomei ha conseguito il dottorato di ricerca in storia dell’area euro-mediterranea all’Università di Macerata. E’ tra gli autori di Gaza e l’industria israeliana della violenza (DeriveApprodi 2015) e tra i curatori dell’edizione italiana di L’occupazione israeliana (Diabasis 2016) di Neve Gordon.

Estella Carpi ha conseguito un dottorato in antropologia sociale alla University of Sydney (Australia). Attualmente consulente di ricerca per la New York University (Abu Dhabi) e Lebanon Support (Beirut), si occupa principalmente di Levante arabo.

continua su: http://www.fanpage.it/guerre-in-siria-iraq-e-palestina-ecco-perche-la-religione-non-c-entra/
http://www.fanpage.it/

Categories: Arab Gulf, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestina, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Una panoramica sui rifugiati siriani in Libano (by Estella Carpi, April 2016)

Per ascoltare l’audio, il file originale: http://radioblackout.org/2016/04/un-punto-sulla-situazione-dei-rifugiati-siriani-in-libano/

Un punto sulla situazione dei rifugiati siriani in Libano,

Intervista con Radio Blackout, Torino.

aprile 22, 2016 in Hot News da info

CampoLibanoNell’ultimo anno e mezzo di fronte al flusso continuo ed imponente di persone che si muove verso l’Europa, diversi Stati lungo le principali rotte migratorie hanno chiuso le proprie frontiere costringendo chi viaggiava a sostare, a volte anche per settimane e mesi, lungo i confini. Sono sorti così accampamenti più o meno grossi, più o meno legali; la Jungle a Calais , a Idomeni sul confine greco-macedone, a Ventimiglia sulla frontiera franco-italiana. Situazioni temporanee supportate dalla solidarietà locale informale, associazionistica e a volte anche statale che hanno tratti in comune con altre esperienze di sopravvivenza in campi sicuramente più duraturi, come in Libano dove si sono rifugiati dall’inizio della guerra civile siriana circa un milione e centosettantamila persone; un quarto dei siriani in fuga dalla guerra.

L’80 % di coloro che sono sfollati in Libano non vive però all’interno di accampamenti, che in Libano sorgono su terreni statali oppure in zone private dove chi ci poggia tenda o baracca paga l’affitto al proprietario; la maggior parte delle persone vive e si inserisce nel tessuto urbano e fa riferimento al mercato immobiliare per soddisfare l’esigenza di un tetto. Le condizioni di vita sono altrettanto precarie e misere che nei campi e il destino per assicurarsi la sopravvivenza è legato al lavoro nero e sottopagato.

Ne abbiamo parlato con Estella che da Beirut ci ha fornito una panoramica della situazione dei rifugiati in Libano, della loro condizione abitativa e delle loro prospettive di vita.

 

 

Categories: Lebanon, Siria, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

الأقلّيات” و”الأغلبيات”: تناوب على السلطة أم تمثيل عددي؟”

الأقلّيات” و”الأغلبيات”: تناوب على السلطة أم تمثيل عددي؟”

يتّفق العلماء والمفكرون وأصحاب الرأي والجمهور العام، في كثيرٍ من الأحيان، على أن الشاغل الرئيسي والحتمي في الشرق الأوسط المعاصر هو التنوع الديني، والحاجة إلى حماية «الأقليات» الدينية، فقد أصبح تدريجياً ما يُعرفُ بالأقليات الدينية سمةً أساسية من سمات السياسة الدوَلية. وعادةً تُنَاقَش هذه «الأقليات» على أنّها كيانات غير قابلة للتغيير، وأنها متميّزة بأصول سياسية متجانسة في الشؤون الدوَلية، وأيضاً كفئات تحليلية يمكن من خلالها فهم الشرق الأوسط بشكل سريع.

وسيشيرُ التحليل التالي إلى تجاهل الميزات المصطنعة للأقليات الدينية، كما الأغلبيات، في السياسة الدوَلية المعاصرة. وستعتمد الأمثلة التاريخية التالية على مفاهيم تفسيرية شاملة، لشرح الامتيازات المدنية أو الحرمان الإجتماعي، وسيتم تسليط الضوء على الصداقة أو العداوة التي تشكّل العلاقات بين «الأقليات» الدينية المختلفة.

في محاولة استقراء ظهور مصطلح «الأقليات» في الإنتاج العِلمي، يربط المؤرّخ بينجامين وايت في 2011 تاريخَ الأقليات بتكوين الدول القومية في الشرق الأوسط. وكتب وايت أن مصطلح «الأقليات» كان قد ظهر في الثلاثينات من القرن الماضي فقط بسبب البيروقراطية الفرنسية، التي كانت لا تزال تهيمن على البلاد في ذلك الوقت، وبسبب تدخّل الدولة في حياة الناس اليومية. وفعلاً ازداد استخدام مصطلح «الأقلية» خصوصاً في الفترة الّتي أعقبت الانتداب الفرنسي لسوريا في الأربعينات. ومن ثم بدأت الدولة في الشرق الأوسط الحديث تُمثّلُ الناس بشكلٍ جماعي، كما بدأ كل عنصرٍ في المجتمع ينظر إلى نفسه بوصفه قابلاً للتصنيف، إمّا بناءاً على استياء الأقليات من حرمان أفرادها من الخدمات المجتمعية، أو على إشباع الأغلبيات نتيجةً للإشراك المجتمعي. وفي الواقع، يشيرُ تمثيل هذه الفئات الاجتماعية بذاته إلى التماسك والتجانس.

وبناءاً على ما كان يصفه العالم الاجتماعي بيير بورديو بـ «الرأسمال الإعلامي والمعرفي»، تُعزى المسميات الطائفية إلى إرادات شعبية متنوعة في جميع أنحاء الشرق الأوسط. وهكذا فإنه على سبيل المثال، يبدو من الطبيعي أن يُحكَم العراق بهيمنة نظام شيعي بعد عهد صدام حسّين، فقط لأنّ أغلبية السكان شيعة. وعلى نحو مماثل بعد أن بدأت في عام 2011 أزمة سياسية غير مسبوقة  في سوريا، فإنه لا يمكن الحكم دون اعتراض لدى الأغلبية السنية السورية كون النظام الحاكم من الأقلية العلوية. وكذلك بما أنه من السائد لدى الخبراء أنّ أكثرية الناس في البحرين شيعة، لذا فإنهم يحتاجون إلى نظام شيعي لإنهاء السخط المحلّي وتلبية المطالب بالحرّية. وأيضاً من السائد التفكيرُ أن السلطة الحاكمة في إيران مستقرّة، فقط بفضل ائتلاف شيعي حاكم على الأغلبية الشيعة الساحقة.

يستطيعُ الإنسان عن طريق فهم ماضيه أن يشعر بواجب المحافظة على الوعي الجماعي, إذ إنّ الارتباط المباشر بين الأغلبيات وفكرة الهيمنة، وبين الأقليات وفكرة التبعية، يُلقي بظلّه على مواقع السلطة المتغيرة التي تُكوّن أساس العلاقات المجتمعية. وفي هذا الصدد, تقدم الثورة السورية حالةً مثاليةً من خلال تصويرها على وسائل الإعلام الدوَلية، وبشكلٍ سابقٍ لأوانه، كحربٍ أهلية، أو عبارة عن مجموعة مطالب طائفية ومتحيزة للأغلبية السنية. ومن المضلّل القول إنّ تحرير الأغلبية السنية يؤدي إلى اضطهاد الأقليات، وبالإضافة إلى ذلك يحجب هذا الاعتقاد توزيع السلطة الواقعي في المجتمع السوري. ومع ذلك, فقد قلّل هذا التفسير للحقائق الاجتماعية في سوريا من التضامن الدوَلي مع المتظاهرين السوريين، على خلاف الثورتين المصرية والتونسية.

وفي الواقع، تتراوح درجة تعاطف المجتمع الدوَلي مع قضايا سياسية معينة, حيث يقوم بالتدخل العسكري في الشرق الأوسط على أساس الاحتياج المضلّل إلى حماية الأقليات الأساسية المقيمة في الإقليم. وفي هذا السياق، يتم التلميح لازدواجية المعرفة بالأغلبيات والأقليات. على سبيل المثال، إنّ وصف الأكراد بالأقلّية في العراق وإيران وسوريا وتركيا كونهم «مظلومين» اجتماعياً، هو وصفٌ مخادعٌ إذا أردنا تفسير سبب سوء أوضاعهم المعيشية، أو التركيز على الجوهر السياسي لمفهوم «الأقلية».

وفعلاً، «الأقلّية» الكردية تتألّف من حوالي 30 مليون شخص، ولكن إلى اليوم لا يزال فكر الدولة القومية يسبّب وصفهم بالأقلية. وبالمثل، اعتمد تدخّل الدولة في الحياة اليومية في الشرق الأوسط، وعموماً الكيانات «اللوثيانية»، على إستراتيجية «فرّق تسُد» الّتي شجّعت الحركات الانفصالية والاستقلال السياسي للمجتمعات المختلفة، كوسيلةٍ وحيدة لقبول هويتها.

وكانت أعمال العنف التي يرتكبها «تنظيم الدولة» ضدّ عناصر المجتمع الموجودة في بلاد ما بين النهرين، تعزّز الاقتناع بأهمية «حماية الأقليات الدينية»، وبالتالي تكرّس استخدام الدين كأداة لإنتاج المعرفة الحصريّة.

أمّا حالياً، يقوم التنظيم بالاعتداء يومياً على المسلمين والمسيحيين بنحو مماثل، وغالباً يقتل الأشخاص الذين يرفضون سلطته بشكل مباشر، أو يعارضون «الخلافة» بأشكالٍ عديدة, ولكن فقط بفضل أعدادهم نصفهم بالمظلومين، لكي نعبّر عن مخاوفنا ونوايانا السياسية.

ومفهومُ التحليل العلمي «للدين» على أنّه خانةٌ فارغة، نستطيع ملأها بأي معنى، هو مفهومٌ مغلوط، ولكنّه لا يزال قادراً على صياغة الأحداث، وعلى رفع المشاعر الجماعية على نطاقٍ واسع. وفي الأمثلة التي قدّمتها سابقاً، في فهم تاريخ الشرق الأوسط، يعتمدُ فكر الهويات المتجانسة على أساليب معرفية مضلّلة، كما لو أنّها كيانات موضوعية ومعبّرة عن مبادئ سياسية ثابتة. وبعبارة أخرى، يتم اعتبار عناصر المجتمع الدينية والعرقية في حال طمحت إلى وطن مستقلّ وانتِماء فطري إلى أراضيها، على أساس هويتها فقط. ومثلاً لماذا لا يُعدّ المسيحيون الخاضعون لسلطة «تنظيم الدولة»، ولا الأكراد أيضاً، معارضين لسلطة الدولة المطلقة أو لأي كيانٍ أخر؟

يلجأ المجتمع الدولي، وليس السياسيون فقط، إلى لغة «حماية الأقليات» واستراتيجيتها على نحوٍ متزايد، فالحماية الاستعمارية للأقليات في الشرق الأوسط حوّلت المجموعات المتدينة غير المتجانسة، إلى كيانات متماسكة منفصلة. وعلى ضوء ذلك تتعرّض «الأقلّيات» أيضاً لخطر المجازر، أو التمييز بالحقوق المدنية، كلما تطلّبت ذلك المصالح السياسية أو ظروفٌ مادية معينة، ومن المفارقات أن يأتي حُرّاس الأقلّيات الأجانب لإنقاذها في السياق التاريخي الذي ترعرعت فيه.

وعلاوةً على ذلك, حسب الرأي السائد في الخارج وفي الشرق الأوسط، تتصادم هذه المقومات الدينية بشكلٍ دائم. وإذا نظرنا إلى الجذور التاريخية للعداوات الإقليمية المزمنة، فقد خدمت حماية الأقليات عبر التاريخ نفوذ السلطات الغربية في المنطقة, مثل الحماية الفرنسية للمسيحيين في سوريا، والحماية الفرنسية للموارنة في جبل لبنان، وخصوصاً أثناء الاقتتال مع الدروز، الذين كانوا تحت رعاية البريطانيين في القرن التاسع عشر.

وبالتالي، التلاعبُ السياسي في مفاهيم الأقليات والأغلبيات في إنتاج معرفة الشرق الأوسط، هو غالباً عملٌ أيديولوجي لا يزال يُصبَغ بمواريث استعمارية، وبالتأكيد ليس سيناريو الشرق الأوسط استثنائياً في هذا الإطار، لأنّ بعض المجموعات الاجتماعية أصغر من ما يسمّى «الأغلبيات» العرقية أو الدينية التي تعيش في الدولة القومية نفسها، ولكنّها لم تطور الإحساس الذاتي بأنّها «أقليات». على سبيل المثال، تُمثَّل الجاليات الآسيوية في تشيلي كمجتمعاتِ مهاجرين في الأخبار وفي الأدب المتعلق بهم، وعلى النقيض من ذلك، يُسمّى المغتربون من بوليفيا وبيرو في تشيلي «بالأقليات»، لأنهم هاجروا من دوَل جارة حاربت تشيلي في حرب إقليمية في القرن التاسع عشر، وذلك يؤكد استخدام الاستقطاب الثنائي السياسي لمفاهيم الأغلبية والأقلية.

ينتهجُ الحُكّام والجمهور والعلماء التصنيف الديني كإشارةٍ إلى قُربٍ أو بُعدٍ سياسي، وعلى نحو مماثل كان المسيحيون الأرثوذكسيون اليونانيون أكثر استعداداً لقبول الأمة العربية السورية في الثلاثينات من المذاهب المسيحية الأخرى، وكان يسمّى هذا المجموع «بقرابة الإسلام» في ظلّ وجود أغلبية مسلمة في الحركة القومية السورية، وعامّةً تحُثّ القضايا السياسية المشتركة المسلمين على البحث عن تسميات معبّرة عن قُربٍ ديني من المسيحيين الأرثوذكسيين. وطبعاً العامل السياسي هو مكوِّنٌ واحدٌ لمفهوم الدين القديم والمتعدّد، الذي يُستعمل إلى حدّ كبير في العلوم السياسية والاجتماعية. والنظرة التحليلية لمفهوم الدين، هي وسيلة مصطنعة تحتوي على عادات ومبادئ وعقائد وأخلاق معنوية، وسلوكيات بشرية متناقضة.

تؤدّي فرضية «استثنائية الشرق الأوسط»، إلى تصوّر انقسام الإقليم بشكل فطريٍ ومُبرَم، إلى أقليات دينية وعرقية متجانسة ومطواعة لسياسات الهوية, ومن مسؤوليتنا مواجهةُ سوء الفهم والقصور الفكري الأهلي والدوَلي، والعمل على تحسين أساليب معرفية وإدراكية في النقاش حول الشرق الأوسط.

Categories: Middle East, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.

Exiled Razaniyyat

Personal observations of myself, others, states and exile.

Diario di Siria

Blog di Asmae Dachan "Scrivere per riscoprire il valore della vita umana"

YALLA SOURIYA

Update on Syria revolution -The other side of the coin ignored by the main stream news

ZANZANAGLOB

Sguardi Globali da una Finestra di Cucina al Ticinese

Salim Salamah's Blog

Stories & Tales about Syria and Tomorrow

invisiblearabs

Views on anthropological, social and political affairs in the Middle East

tabsir.net

Views on anthropological, social and political affairs in the Middle East

SiriaLibano

"... chi parte per Beirut e ha in tasca un miliardo..."

Tutto in 30 secondi

appunti e note sul mondo islamico contemporaneo

Anna Vanzan

Views on anthropological, social and political affairs in the Middle East

letturearabe di Jolanda Guardi

Ho sempre immaginato che il Paradiso fosse una sorta di biblioteca (J. L. Borges)