War torn Beirut and War torn kids

Here below you can find an article on Beirut’s war torn neighbourhood Tariq Al Jedidah and its local kids playing war games around.

It is quite common to bump into devastated buildings all around the town, but having some newly built flats sold with a price coming up to million dollars and in  just a few kilometers away bombed building is pretty sh0cking. In particular for the kids…

For the comments, please refer to the NOW Lebanon’s page: http://nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=143754

Reminders of violence past

Cagil M. Kasapoglu, February 4, 2010

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What remains of the Rahme Building in Tariq al-Jdeideh, still home to a few families. (NOW Lebanon/Cagil Kasapoglu)

Over the past two years, Beirut has been enjoying a period of calm that is only occasionally disrupted by the sound of celebratory fireworks. But in Tariq al-Jedideh, a Sunni neighbourhood in South Beirut, the remains of the devastating wars that have rocked the area are still plainly visible and set the perfect backdrop for the local children’s war games.

Plastic guns in one hand, artificial grenades in the other, area children run after each other pretending to take the Rahme Building by siege.

The building was one of the main targets during Israeli airstrikes in July 1981, which led to the escalation of the conflict between the Jewish State and the Palestinian Liberation Organization and soon thereafter the 1982 Israeli invasion. The massive attack on parts of Beirut targeted buildings where members of the PLO were hiding and left nearly 300 dead and hundreds more wounded. During the ensuing invasion, an estimated 18,000 died, most of whom civilians.

The Rahme Building was spared during the 2006 July War, despite Tariq al-Jdeideh’s proximity to Dahiyeh, which was targeted during the Israeli airstrikes.

Still, almost 30 years after it was hit during the civil war, Lebanon’s Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR) has not rebuilt the Rahme Building. CDR officials told NOW that the government never issued a request for them to work on it.

Though plants have taken root on the crumbling floors, satellites dot the decrepit roof and laundry hangs from exposed wires. The building is still home to a few families who have nowhere else to go.

“We are the opposite of Ras Beirut. The government and the police don’t really visit us here,” says the owner of local food store, who wished to remain anonymous because of his affiliation with the PLO.

But residents of the building say they are confident it will be reconstructed soon. They say they have faith Prime Minister Saad Hariri, whose picture hangs across the pox-marked walls of the building, will address the problem.

Meanwhile, they can only wait.

Garbage litters the streets, and local kids play with tiny explosives shaped like military tanks. Firecrackers are easily found in stores scattered among the devastated buildings in the area.

“This became a tradition for us. We equip ourselves into groups [and] hide inside the building to protect ourselves,” says 9-year-old Mohammad in broken English. “It’s fun and exciting,” he says while trotting around with his bike, which is painted a military green and decorated with a plastic knife on the back.

Though the younger generation manages to find fun in the devastated building, the older generation cannot forget the area’s bloody past.

Another resident who did not want to give his name because of his political affiliation describes what he witnessed during the Israeli attacks.

“Red! All we could see was the blood of our relatives,” he says.  “After three decades passed, we no longer see violence, but [when I] look at our kids’ war games I see the victory of the attackers.”

Turning the corner, on the same street as the Rahme Building, there is a video game store with shelves covered in pirated violent video games and DVDs of a Turkish mafia TV series, both of which, according to owner, are “best sellers.”

Violence is introduced to the children of Tariq al-Jedideh early on. Even if they haven’t witnessed the war their parents lived through, the shadow of violence is ever present in the devastated buildings they call home.

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