Lebanese singer Fairouz has in the past sung for the Lebanese army. The song starts with the lyrics: “your footsteps on the ground roar.”
It’s a line which people repeat every time war or conflict strikes Lebanon. This song was remembered a lot in Lebanon in the past week as there were many chants and slogans in support of the military.
Propaganda reigned over the media scene as some outlets used terms linked to the “military boots,” as a Lebanese artist once said on one of the channels.
Of course the aim behind this was to support the Lebanese army in the military confrontation against Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir and his armed group in Sidon.
As the rhetoric voiced admiration of the “military boot” increased, a video in which members of the army along with their officer appeared showing them gathering around a detainee from Assir’s group and interrogating him. They are seen laughing at him and mocking him before they began beating him with their military “boots” that “roared” on the man’s back.
Of course, no one in Lebanon is under the illusion that security institutions do not practice intimidating violent while detaining and interrogating people.Diana Moukalled
Following the incident, photos emerged showing the dead body of Nader al-Bayoumi, who was detained and died of torture at the ministry of defense, as his family said. Signs that he was beaten up and tortured appeared on his body.
The first thing that the emergence of the video and the photos aimed to achieve was the end of the mission the Lebanese army was carrying out in Sidon. The video and the photos aimed to abort this mission particularly with the huge confusion that accompanied this military operation and the inclusion of Hezbollah as a major factor in it.
Of course no one in Lebanon is under the illusion that security institutions do not practise intimidating violent while detaining and interrogating people.
Detainees have previously died in Lebanese prisons, and stories on violent behavior inflicted on detainees are timeworn. There are also many reports issued by international rights institutions condemning interrogation processes in Lebanon. But what happened last week, particularly the video in which the soldiers are seen interrogating and stepping over a detainee on the ground appeared like an incident that hasn’t happened before.
It’s the first time that soldiers appear in Lebanon smiling while hitting a detainee and filming him at the same time. It’s certain that whoever leaked the video is one of them. They carried out this act upon a clear satisfaction from the officer in charge.
This video pushed us to carry out a quick comparison with the beginning of the Syrian revolution and the many videos in which soldiers and officers appeared torturing and murdering people while smiling and filming in order to publish videos and spread fear. It’s a reminder that after the Lebanese civil war, the military has been rebuilt in the shadow of the Syrian regime.
Yes, violent practices have certainly existed before last week’s events. But what’s new is that we saw that they’ve been documented. This means that supervising the performance of security apparatuses has become a progressive issue that the military institution cannot avoid. But the statement issued by the army condemning broadcasting footage which condemned some of its troops in Sidon does not indicate that the military has learnt lessons about the new media.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on July 1, 2013.
Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on Twitter: @dianamoukalled.