Deadly Sectarian Clash in Beirut

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

This is what remained out of a stray bullet in Beirut

By Cagil Kasapoglu

Special to The Daily Star

Relatives of Aisha Bakkar victim seeks justice

BEIRUT: “I don’t want money, I don’t want help, I just want my mother’s killer to be found and to be dead!” exclaims Nadine, Ziena al-Meeri’s 9-year-old daugther one week after her mother was shot dead on Sunday June 28, 2009, in the west Beirut neighborhood of Aisha Bakkar. The big green eyes of Nadine, a true copy of her mother Zeina, who was just 30-years old when she died, reflect the hatred she has absorbed in her mere 9 years of life as she uses such laden words with little hesitation. Her hands tightly clasp a Playstation controller, her eyes fixed on the screen, committed to win the cyber battle that she has with her imaginary antogonists, while confronting the real loss – that of her mother.

The unrest began on a quite Sunday, a holy day usually for family gatherings. The supporters of Sunni-dominated Future Movement (FM) and the followers of Shiite Amal Movemebt clashed in Aisha Bakkar on June 28, one day after  FM head Saad Hariri was designated Prime Minister of Lebanon.

The clashes left at least 11 wounded, and Lebanese Army tanks are still deployed there fore fear clashes between the Future and Amal movements renew.

Nadine is the middle of the five children: Farah, 13, Dina, 11, Siraj 6, and an 8-month-old who will never have someone to call “mother” because of last week’s secterian clashes. Nadine was chosen by the family to carry her mother’s legacy by changing her name to Zeina.

On Sunda, rocket-propelled grenades replaced the celebratory gunfire heard in Beirut for the designation of Hariri to head the new government.

After the clash in Aisha Bakkar

But for Zeina Meeri, the day started like many of her Sundays. She went to visit her sister Asiya and then back home to share a dinner with her large family. Her chidren were at their grandmother’s house getting ready to join their parents.

Zeina was in the storeroom next to the balcony, picking up her children’s favorite snack when she heard gunshots breaking the neighborhood’s silence. She looked down from the balcony and a stray bullet headed straight to her chest.

“She was standing on the balcony, just looking out to see what was happening,” Asiye, Zeina’s older sister told The Daily Star.

“They shot my sister on the balcony; she did nothing to them. After she was shot, we carried her downstairs to take out of the apartment and once they saw us, they started shooting in our direction,” she explained. “I don’t understand how they can be so violent and why?” Asiye asked with her trembling voice and questioning eyes.

Since her killing, Zeina has been used in political and secterian discussions.

“She is our martyr, our flower, our love. Her blood will bring freedom to our neighborhood,” said Zeina’s mother Muneera Naja, holding her daughter’s picture in her hands.

“They sabotaged our neighborhood, they broke the peace. We want the killer to be arrested, and we want to know who did this to my daughter,” Muneera exclaimed.

“Please write about our pain, about our anger and change something in this country. We don’t want to have black [unknown] bullets anymore; we want to know who did that,” added tear-filled Naja.

Her pain is shared with other family members visiting relatives from Germany, here to pass their condolences.

The still silence in the living room is broken only when different family members talk of their Turkish origins.

“We come from the Turkey’s city of Mardin, we are Turks,” Naja says.

Located in south-east Turkey, the town of Mardin counts a handful of residents, mostly known to be above the governmental authorities.

“We are Turks, moved in Lebanon, we are a big family and Zeina was our beloved daughter, her killer has to be found otherwise we will try to find him ourselves,” she added, determined to hunt down her daughter’s killer.

Members of Zeina’s family also urged security forces to find the gunman.

Although Beirut welcomes every new day with parties launched at posh night clubs around the city, time seems to be frozen in the crowded streets of Aisha Bakkar.

Broken glass from cars litters the town’s streets, bullet holes, security forces camped at corners and residents with fearful figures best paint the picture in Aisha Bakkar.

In the family’s flat the picture is no different than the streets of Aisha Bakkar, a big sharp bullet hole at the balcony’s window and blood patches on the floor, almost ten days after the incident, everything remains the same keeping the anger and pain alive.

Copyright (c) 2009 The Daily Star

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