Twenty Minutes with Hani at Nahr el Bared’s military checkpoint

AlBared – A month after the Lebanese army reportedly eased security to “facilitate” movement at the entrance of the Nahr el Bared refugee camp, some Lebanese are asking about the practical realities of this new move.

On one of his daily visits to the camp, Lebanese Engineer Hani, 29, parked his car on the side of the road at the Al-Abda Entrance of Nahr el Bared. The Army’s Intelligence had an office here so there were several parked cars that men could be found getting off from and waiting. Men walk from the car towards the office, where a member of the intelligence asks them for their ID cars. The intelligence officer would tell a member of the “command” the name of the man in question. This name would then go through a screening process that would inform the officers whether or not the man’s record is ‘clean’.

Hani waited for ten minutes outside his car wondering, “where are these security facilitations? Before, the screenings were faster.” Previously, holding a permit from the Intelligence wing of the Lebanese Army allowed a person to enter the camp. This applied to Palestinians, Lebanese and Foreigners. Now with the new ‘facilitation’ policy, a permit from the Army is no longer required. But, Hani points out, “Isn’t this a kind of oral permit? Why the wait? How does this facilitate our entry into the camp?”

Hani is made to enter the Intelligence office twice before he is granted permission to enter the camp. After receiving approval papers, he turned on the car’s engine and drove cautiously towards the military checkpoint. The soldier ordered him to stop. Hani stopped, and waited for one minute. The soldier gestured for him to pass and Hani drove on.

Minutes later, Hani arrived at the second checkpoint. Again the soldier there asked him to stop his car. Hani then heard the hoarse voice of another soldier from the right side of his car. “Roll down your window.” Hani turned off his engine and lowered his window completely. The soldier with the hoarse voice asks him for his name. Hani obliged. “I didn’t get your permit,” the soldier remarked “who allowed you to get this far?” Hani told him that a member of the intelligence officer informed him that he received approval. The soldier ordered Hani to park his car along the side of the road and to get out of it. Then one of them asked him to open the trunk of his car so they could search it. Hani again complied with the demands of the soldiers, and the soldiers began to aggressively rummage through Hani’s bags. Finally, without making any apologies, they told him to get going.

A soldier that he would later encounter would then tell him to park his car again to make sure that they received his name for approval. So he parked his car again and this time the operation took five minutes.

This supposedly “peaceful” process usually includes eleven questions posed by the army officers and a series of orders: stop, drive forward, open your windows completely so that your car is completely exposed, open the car’s trunk and closing it, and the list goes on.

When Hani finally entered the camp, he asked angrily, “If this is what the security ‘facilitations’ are like for a Lebanese, then what is it like for a Palestinian?” He remembers that many of the inhabitants of Nahr el Bared are all too aware that the discrimination against them persists even during the ‘facilitations’.

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