June 20, 2010 (KHARTOUM) — The Lebanese government moved quickly today to defuse anger caused by media reports that security forces in Beirut ruthlessly raided a cancer fundraising event hosted by Sudanese citizens.
- A member of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces (AFP)
Lebanese newspapers this week quoted some of those who attended as accusing the police of using brutality to disperse the gathering at a ballroom in Al-Awaze’y area South of Beirut, shouting racial slurs against them.
The eyewitnesses said that minutes into the party, heavily armed Lebanese police broke in and started beating them with batons calling them names such as "animals" and "niggers".
A man by the name of Alaa Al-Abdullah told Al-Nashra newspaper that despite being present legally in Lebanon he and the others were forced to lay on their stomach in the street after blocking car entry into the area. He added that police forces placed their boots on their heads and necks.
Another man by the name of Abbas said that when they were asked by the police how they speak Arabic so fluently, they responded by saying that they are Arabs from Sudan. According to him, the officers thought they were "making fun of them" and started another round of beating.
Others said that Lebanese people living in the area intervened and tried to protect the Sudanese forcing the police to call for reinforcements.
The Sudanese citizens were taken to the police station and those with legal residency were released afterwards.
But the head of the Lebanese general security director-general Wafiq Jazini denied abuse of force by the police saying that the Sudanese attempted to escape and described accounts saying otherwise as "lies". Jazini stressed that only those who were in the country illegally have been detained.
The Sudanese discussion boards started a campaign calling for boycotting Lebanese businesses in the country which range from lavish restaurants to cell phone companies across Sudan. A petition is being generated demanding an investigation and an apology.
There are around 750 Lebanese citizens living in Sudan, according to figures from the Lebanese embassy in Khartoum.
Many people in Sudan accuse Lebanese of viewing them as underdogs and being racist against them because of their color.
Sudan official news agency (SUNA) quoted the Lebanese ambassador Ahmed Ibrahim Shamat as condemning the events that took place and beating of Sudanese citizens.
Shamat who was speaking at a press conference at the embassy said that an investigation is underway to determine responsibility and that those implicated will be punished.
The diplomat said he conveyed apologies of the Lebanese foreign minister over what happened and said that it should not have any impact on bilateral relations. He criticized calls for boycotting Lebanese products and businesses saying that they are blowing things out of proportion.
In response to questions about racial remarks allegedly made by Lebanese security, Shamat said that priests wear black color as a sign of respect and that the Kaaba in Mecca is covered in black silk.
The Sudanese foreign ministry spokesperson Muawiya Khalid told reporters that the embassy in Beirut will seek to resolve statuses of those present illegally and reinstating the rights of those who were victims to police brutality if proven.
Khalid called on Sudanese living abroad to adjust their statuses and ensure they have papers entitling them to live there.