"Zuhair Shukair [a local SLA security official] said that I must collaborate and meet Israeli officers. I told him that I would never do that."
-Rasmiya Fawzi Jaber, who was given a permit to leave her village of Mhaibib in 1991, when she was twenty-six years old, on the condition that she could never return.
In this report, Human Rights Watch has documented cases of formal expulsion, instances in which men, women, or sometimes entire families have been summoned to a local SLA security office near their homes in the occupied zone, informed that they were being expelled, and then transported by security officials or soldiers to an SLA crossing point and forced to leave. This chapter of the report includes cases in which residents of the occupied zone have been denied the right to return to the zone, or have been offered an exit permit to leave with explicit instructions that they are not permitted to return to the zone and their homes villages.
Families from the occupied zone who have not been permitted to return to their homes or who have been offered a "one-way ticket" out of the zone by occupation security officials, in the form of a long-sought exit permit, consider and describe themselves as "expelled." For such families, the difference in the method by which each family member was dispossessed or excluded is meaningless because it was clear to them that the entire family was targeted and punished for actions that they themselves did not personally commit. The example of the Moussa family from the village of Sheba' is a case in point. As discussed in Chapter IV, Ghassan Moussa was expelled in May 1998 at the Zumrayya crossing immediately following his release from Khiam prison, where he had been held without charge for twelve years. One week later, his father, his sister, and his sister's infant daughter were also expelled from the village through the same crossing point, and informed at that time that no other family members could return to Sheba'. Ghassan's mother, Shihira Atweh, was in Beirut on the day that her husband, daughter, and granddaughter were expelled. Presumably, had Shihira been present in the village, she would have been expelled with her husband and daugher. The Moussa family considers Shihira to be "expelled," even though she was not ordered to leave her village and then driven to an SLA crossing point (because she happened to be outside, not inside the zone when other family members were expelled). Cases such as these, in which residents are denied the right to return to the occupied zone, constitute forcible transfers, in violation of article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and grave breaches under article 147 of the convention.
The other paradigm of dispossession - forcing residents of the occupied zone to "voluntarily" accept an exit permit to leave, with the understanding that they will not be permitted to return - should be understood in the context of the strict control that occupation security authorities exercise over the freedom of movement of all residents out of and in to the zone. As the cases presented earlier in this report make clear, entire families have been prohibited from leaving their villages, sometimes for years, as punishment for the known or suspected actions of their relatives. In several cases documented by Human Rights Watch, and noted in earlier chapters of this report, these arbitrary and punitive actions have left women and men suffering from serious medical problems without access to specialized care, and in one case led to blindness (see "1996: Houla,"above). In this context, it is obvious why some residents of the occupied zone decided to accept offers of exit permits, enabling them to leave their villages but never to return. Residents who have been forced to accept such devil's bargains from occupation security authorities also describe themselves as "expelled." Human Rights Watch believes that these measures amount to illegal forcible transfers in violation of article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
For the victims, these forcible transfers are comparable in effect to expulsions. Those who have not been permitted to reenter their villages in the zone, or those who have been forced to leave, are denied access to theirhomes and local employment, and are separated from members of their families who remain in the occupied territory. It should also be noted that the denial of reentry of one member of a family temporarily outside the territory has sometimes been accompanied by the prior formal expulsion of other family members. Those affected may have been the object of the same form of expulsion order as those physically placed over the border. The circumstances surrounding such forcible transfers are detailed in the three cases that follow from 1991, 1997, and 1998.
February 1998: Aitaroun
In February 1998 and again in April 1998, fifty-nine-year-old Zeinab Beydoun and her husband Khalil, sixty-three, were not permitted to enter their village of Aitaroun, located east of Bint Jbail, close to the Israeli border. One of their sons, Ali, who lives in Beirut, is a member of Hizballah. The couple's story began in 1997, when Khalil obtained a medical report from a doctor in Bint Jbail, recommending surgery to remove a kidney stone. He secured a permit to leave the occupation zone and had the operation at a hospital in Sidon. He told Human Rights Watch that the surgeon said to return for a checkup in three months. Khalil and his wife obtained exit permits and left the village in mid-June 1997. They said that another son, Castro, was imprisoned in Khiam one day after they left the village, either on June 18 or June 19 (they could not remember the exact date). They said that they knew from residents of the village who visited Beirut that the SLA had searched and ransacked their house after Castro's detention, and that several windows were broken. Castro was still in Khiam at the time of Khalil's interview with Human Rights Watch. Khalil and his wife said they believed that Castro was detained to put pressure on their son Ali, the Hizbollah member.
On June 29, 1997, Khalil and his wife went on an extended visit to Germany to see other sons who they said had left the zone years ago to escape serving in the SLA. They returned to Beirut on February 15, 1998. According to Khalil, they stayed in Beirut for four days and then traveled back to the occupied zone on February 19 in a bus with other travelers. Khalil and his wife were refused entry at the Beit Yahoun crossing.
The couple traveled for the pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on March 27, 1998, and returned to Lebanon on April 24, 1998. Khalil said they stayed for three days in Beirut and again traveled to the zone in a bus with other passengers. He and his wife were hoping that the SLA would not check the names properly and they would be allowed to enter. But again they were denied entry. Zeinab described her argument with SLA security official Jihad Qassem Fakih. She said that she shouted at him: "You have never seen me! How come you will not let me in? I am not going to your father's home; I'm going to my own home! Why don't you let me in?" Zeinab said he responded: "Get out of my face now." Zeinab replied: "Call the Israelis now, and if we have done anything, then let them take us to Khiam camp." She said that he responded: "I work in the Israeli intelligence."
Khalil told Human Rights Watch that he visited the Council of the South after it was clear that he and his wife would not be allowed to return to the village.117 He said that he asked the council for the compensation payment it provides to expellees but was denied this on the grounds that his case had not been published in Lebanese newspapers. He said he explained that he had registered his and his wife's expulsion at the ICRC and with the Lebanese army. "They told me that they approve the names that are published in newspapers," he said. So he provided information to al-Safir newspaper (a leading Lebanese daily) which published several lines about the case on September 12, 1998. Nevertheless, Khalil said, the Council of the South maintained that the date of his expulsion was not published. As of the date of his interview with Human Rights Watch, he said that he had not yet received his compensation.118 On June 21, 1999, Human Rights Watch wrote to Qabalan Qabalan, the head of the Council of the South, on behalf of Zeinab and Khalil Beydoun.
August 1997: Chihine
The widowed mother of seven children, who earned her living as a tobacco farmer, described the events that preceded her expulsion from the village of Chihine in the western sector of the occupied zone in August 1997. "They said that I could not enter the village any more because my son was in Hizballah," the woman testified. She explained that her son, who had lived outside the occupied zone since he was in his early teens, was a member of Hizballah but did not serve in its military wing. He was killed in an accident on July 7, 1997, and his funeral was held in Bezouriyeh, a town east of the southern port city of Tyre. The widow said that she stayed in Bezouriyeh for her son's traditional forty-day mourning period, and then traveled back to the occupied zone. She was turned away at the SLA crossing point for her village, where militiamen informed her that she had been expelled. "I cried from the crossing to here," she told Human Rights Watch during an interview at the home of another son who lives in Bezouriyeh.
In addition to her house, the woman estimated that she had forfeited LL7 million (US$4,600) in annual income from ten dunums of land planted with olive trees, tobacco, and vegetables. She said that she had a license from the Lebanese government to grow tobacco, and after her expulsion she asked a land agent to plant tobacco on her land, but the SLA told the agent that this was forbidden.119 She was also not permitted to retrieve any possessions from her home. "None of my relatives are allowed to enter the house," she said. "They warned them not to remove anything, and my father was not allowed to send me the furniture." She noted that most of the residents of the village had left, and that at the time of her expulsion there were only about thirty families living there.120 The woman expressed her desire to return to Chihine, where her parents, sisters, and the wives of her brothers still live.
SLA security officials attempted to use the promise of a requested exit permit to force Rasmiya Fawzi Jaber, a resident of Mhaibib village, to become an informer for the militia. Rasmiya told Human Rights Watch that she had been initially pressured by the SLA in 1986, when she was twenty-one years old. She said that militiamen took her into custody one afternoon and transported her first to the security center in Kfar Kila and then to somewhere inside Israel, where an Israeli officer spoke with her in heavily accented Arabic. He asked questions about relatives, and then said that she would be paid five hundred dollars for every piece of information that she supplied, and more money if she identified individuals who were planning military operations. Rasmiya refused, and told the officer that her parents would kill her if she engaged in such activity.
In January 1990, when Rasmiya was twenty-five years old, two SLA militiamen came to her house and drove her directly to Khiam prison. She said she was tortured under interrogation:
Mahmoud Sa'ed Amar and Zuhair Shukair came to the house. They told me: "We want you to see your brother." They drove me directly to Khiam. Before we reached the prison gate, they put a sack over my head and handcuffed me. I was under investigation [the term used to describe the interrogation process] for one month and three days.
Rasmiya testified that her interrogators, who were always men, applied electricity under her fingernails, on her fingers, and on her breasts. She said that she was beaten with thin electric wires that were tied together with metal. "They would start while I was on my knees. Then I would fall, and they would kick me," she stated. During these sessions, Rasmiya said that she was blindfolded and handcuffed, and sometimes her ankles were bound. Sometimes, she said, she was also doused with hot water, followed immediately by cold water. She added that she was threatened with rape, the demolition of her family's house, and being tortured in front of her parents. She told Human Rights Watch that during this interrogation period she was held intermittently in solitary confinement. She said that she was also brought to the bathroom, handcuffed, where she was forced to kneel for long periods, "sometimes from the morning until the night." Her food was placed on the floor and she was forced to eat it by bending down while in a kneeling position. "The Israelis came on a daily basis," Rasmiya said. "They supervised what was going on. Some of the girls [the Lebanese women prisoners] who had to clean the rooms after the torture saw the Israelis." She said that an Israeli officer named Ibrahim attended the interrogation sessions, and it was her impression that the interrogators had been given free rein to do anything to obtain information.
Rasmiya said that her interrogators wanted information about her older brother, who had been imprisoned six weeks earlier, the names of residents of Mhaibib who worked with the resistance, and the location of places where weapons were hidden. Rasmiya was held in Khiam until June 28, 1991. Soon after her release, she said that she was approached by Zuhair Shuqair, the militiaman responsible for security in Mhaibib and the surrounding villages, who asked her to serve as an informer:
The first time he came to the house, he talked to me alone in a room. He was indirect. He said that my friends in Khiam missed me. I told him okay, I'll go [back to the prison]. He asked if I was afraid and I said no. He wanted me to tell him who was coming or going in the village, or to convince one of my brothers to do so. He came back again after a few days and asked about my decision. I said that I had [already] given him my opinion.
Rasmiya told Human Rights Watch that due to her treatment and the poor conditions in Khiam prison she was suffering at that time from anemia and other health problems, and sought an exit permit so that she could obtain medical care in Beirut. Shuqair said that she was not permitted to leave the occupied zone. She visited him at the security office in Meiss al-Jebel and again requested a permit. "He said that I must collaborate and meet Israeli officers. I told him that I would never do that," Rasmiya recalled. Shuqair then told her that she could leave but never come back. He gave her a small yellow paper that was signed in red ink, which she used to depart from the zone in late July 1991. "Either you can live there and not use your head, or they force you to leave," Rasmiya concluded.121
117 The Council of the South is an arm of the Lebanese government that provides monetary compensation to expelled families and individuals. See Summary for additional information.
118 Human Rights Watch interview, Beirut, Lebanon, June 1999.
119 The woman identified the two SLA security officials responsible for Chihine as Akram Alayan and Abu Eissam Alayan, neither of whom live in the village.
120 Human Rights Watch interview, Bezouriyeh, Lebanon, March 1999.
121 Human Rights Watch interview, Beirut, Lebanon, April 1999.