The Lebanese army intelligence arrested Ismael Shaikh Hassn, a major Palestinian Lebanese urban planner, last Wednesday 18 August around 11 a.m. at Al-Abdeh army checkpoint in Nahr el Bared camp, North Lebanon, as witnesses affirmed, while he was trying to enter the camp. It is known also, by close witnesses that were able to see Ismael S.H. from far away in jail, that he is transferred to the military police in Qubbe on Friday.
Ismael S.H. published an article in the Lebanese daily newspaper, Assafir, on 12 May 2010 criticizing the difficulties facing the reconstruction process in Nahr el Bared and the security measures by the army that has been followed since three years in Nahr el Bared. A friend of Ismael S.H. asserted that Ismael received “an indirect threat” after publishing the article. Close observers of Ismael assert that his arrest is due to the published article since three months, and after vocal criticism by Ismael S.H. for security measures since three years. After internal problems in Nahr el Bared Reconstruction Commission (NBRC), where Shaikh Hassan was a founder and acting director for more than two years, he took distance and did not visit Nahr el Bared except on last Wednesday when he was arrested.
Also, the Lebanese Al-Akbar daily newspaper published today, Friday, an article about Ismael’s arrest “because of publishing an article”. The newspaper provided also a background demonstrating that this arrest “against freedom of expression” is alarming after recent detentions by the Lebanese army to journalists criticizing the army; the last of which was the journalist from the same newspaper, Hasan Oleik, who was arrested before one week then released. Al-Akbare interviewed a lawyer who asserted that the arrest is illegal.
The arrest of Ismael S.H. is also alarming in targeting one of the most active civilian persons in Palestinian issues in Lebanon, specifically in urban aspects of refugee camps. Some consider it a clear message towards Palestinian civilian active persons in Nahr el Bared camp, of more than 30,000 civilians. The Lebanese army takes full control of the camp and declared it a “military zone” since the war in 2007. Military permits has been imposed on any person entering the camp including residents, visitors, local and international workers. The army was appointed by the government to be responsible of following up the planning process of Nahr el Bared camp. Checkpoints and barbered wires have surrounded the whole camp. The economic life, and the ex-viable market of the camp, has not been restored because of the security permits policy. Frequently, Nahr el Bared camp was referred to as “military ghetto”, “collective punishment”, and “racist enclaving”.
AlBared knew that protest activities are in preparation for Friday, including a petition and sit in before the military court, to call for Ismael’s direct release.
Ismael S.H. is perusing his PhD studies in urban planning in Leuven University (KUL), Belgium. Last Fall. He taught a Studio at the university about Nahr el Bared reconstruction, and he published an academic article in the Journal of Palestine Studies. He volunteered in Nahr el Bared reconstruction for more than two years, and volunteered previously in the post war reconstruction of a Lebanese Southern village, Ayta Chaeb, after the Israeli July 2006 war.