Driven by national security, political appeasement, and a dire need for greater foreign aid, Lebanon’s government is looking to rein in and ultimately control the Syrian refugee population through a new series of stringent visa regulations.1 On December 31, 2014, Lebanon’s General Security Directorate announced the latest rule change. Previously, a Syrian national could receive a six-month renewable visa free of charge upon entry into Lebanon. The new six visa classes—tourist, business, student, transit, short stay, or medical—represent Lebanon’s attempt to exert control over the world’s second-largest refugee population and account for unregistered Syrians.Read More
Tucked away in the rocky hills that divide Lebanon and Syria, a gunman ordered Makhoul Mrad out of his truck.
Despite his age — getting up toward 70 — and his infirm heart, Mrad was a quarry worker and regularly made the long trip with a handful of men from his village to this quarry, the farthest-flung site his employer owned. Out here, it’s remote. Exposed. That morning, he was swiping dust off his dashboard when a silhouette in his doorway startled him.
“Get out of the truck and get on the ground,” instructed a bearded man, dressed in an ankle-length thawb and pointing an automatic rifle.Read More
As the Islamic State massacred its way throughout Iraq and Syria this summer, a separate battle took place in neighboring Lebanon.
This summer, the Islamic State invaded the Lebanese border town of Arsal, beheading captured soldiers and unleashing waves of lethal car bombs, destabilizing the country.
Hezbollah, one of the world's strongest guerrilla armies, has also become involved — either defending Lebanon, or making things worse, depending on who you ask.
VICE News traveled to Lebanon to explore the battle being waged by one of the world's fiercest militant groups against one of the Middle East's smallest and most fragile nations.Read More
In the dark of night a group of around 10 armed men donning military fatigues and carrying Kalashnikovs gathered at a house near the edge of Ras Baalbek, close to where Islamist militants have tried to infiltrate the town on a few occasions.
“We have welcomed many Syrian refugees and I believe they are like our family,” said Rifaat Nasrallah, the group’s leader. “However, some are using the refugee status to enter Lebanon and in reality they are members of terrorist groups.”Read More
In early August, about two months after Khaled Mahmoud al-Hajj left his hometown of Tripoli to join ISIS, he called his brother from Iraq. It was the last time they ever spoke.
“I tried to stop him,” said Mohammad, 25, the eldest of the Hajj brothers.
But it didn’t work, and on Aug. 7, Khaled blew himself up in a suicide attack in the Kadhimiya neighborhood of Baghdad. He was just 18 years old.Read More
The morning of June 8, 5-year-old Mohammad al-Khawli picked up the LL1,500 his father had left on the table to get cigarettes for his mother and ice cream for himself. He never came home.
When his father went looking for him, he found his son’s body in a dumpster after having been raped, strangled and stabbed to death.
The murderer, a 16-year-old Lebanese with the initials N.A., was quickly apprehended by security forces after his own father turned him in. According to his family, N.A. was on drugs when he committed the crimes, but that has only added to the whirlwind of speculation over his motive.Read More
At 1 p.m. on this sunny Thursday afternoon, Tripoli fishermen Ibrahim Shehade and Ishaac Sidawi should be out at sea. Instead, they sit forlornly watching cars pass by on the Mina sea road.
There is no work for them on the water, something they blame on the recent boom of rapidly spawning and lethal puffer fish – neffaykh in Arabic – in the sea their families have trawled for generations.
“There’s a war going on in Tripoli, both at land and at sea,” says Sidawi, 27, despondently.Read More
Christian villages on the Lebanese border with Syria are increasing security, both militarily and on the civilian level, following death threats by a local municipality figure and reports of al-Qaeda-linked Islamist groups lurking in the mountains nearby.
“Civilians are forming patrols to protect the borders in places like al-Qaa and Ras Baalbek,” said a source in the Defense Ministry that chose to remain anonymous, as he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media. “What they are doing is in coordination with the local municipality and the governor of the Bekaa, so it’s half-legal, let’s say.”Read More
Hassan is only 30 years old, though like most people who have lived through war, he looks much older. Sitting next to his father, a few neighbors, and the landlord of the room he rents at a former school in Lebanon, he beams as he describes the elation he felt upon reuniting with his family last month after he fled his home in Nahriyeh, near Qusair, Syria, and the gratitude he has for his landlord's unremitting hospitality.
As Hassan's story comes to a close, he politely excuses himself to check on the children playing outside. Once outside, the diminutive man slyly looks over his right shoulder before lighting a cigarette.
"My dad doesn't know I smoke," he says in between drags. But Hassan didn't leave the room simply to get out of his father's line of sight. He left to escape the earshot of another guest.Read More
Khaled Naaman doesn't hide his disdain for the Syrian government, a widely shared sentiment in this northern Lebanese city, where many harbor dark memories of Damascus' years of military occupation.
His impoverished neighborhood, Bab Tabbaneh, stands as a bastion of support for Syrian rebels seeking to oust President Bashar Assad; their tricolor banner flutters from buildings and is spray-painted on walls. The district has also welcomed multitudes of refugees seeking to escape the Syrian conflict.
But now after almost two years of a steady influx of displaced Syrians, Naaman and other Lebanese citizens in Bab Tabbaneh are growing weary. Many blame the newcomers for shrinking wages and job opportunities and increasing rents and prices for groceries, car repairs and necessities.Read More
It’s past 1 am on a chilly night in Tripoli. Ali, a bulky man in his 30s with a well-groomed beard, shaved above his upper lip in the Salafist style, sits on a bench beneath the apartment building of a prominent Tripolitan politician, where he works as a night watchman.
“I used to take pills [for fun] but I stopped. Now I take them for my medical condition,” he says. Ali has anger issues that get him into fights.
Other people, he says, mix the pills with alcohol. “One or one and a half with some alcohol is all it takes to mess you up. Five or six will make you fall down or lose consciousness.”Read More