-Former resident of the occupied zone describing how she, her husband, and two children were expelled from the village of Markaba after her son deserted the SLA in 1997.
The SLA practice of forced conscription of teenaged boys has been a long-standing nightmare for families that are opposed to the occupation and despise the SLA. According to Lebanese defense lawyers, since 1985 "about 12,000 people have joined the SLA freely or forcibly.82 Based on the testimony of former residents of the occupied zone, there appears to be no standard procedure for recruitment of militia members and no minimum age requirement for those who have been pressed into service. A woman from Markaba, whose son was forced to join the SLA at sixteen years old (see below), told Human Rights Watch that forced conscription of children by the SLA was not unusual: "They take them at fourteen, fifteen and sixteen years old. They took my neighbor's son at fourteen," she said. Present at her interview with Human Rights Watch was one of her nephews, who said thathe had been forced into SLA service in 1998, when he was seventeen years old. He remained in the militia for four months and then was released for medical reasons. He fled the village and is afraid to return.
A former resident who deserted the SLA in 1995 told Human Rights Watch: "They take them even at twelve years old if they are tall and strong. It depends on the village. If you collaborate with them, they don't take you. The young men who are left in the villages are either collaborators or militia." He said that militiamen have visited villages with lists of names, looking for intended conscripts at their homes.83 By the accounts of other residents, sometimes the SLA security chief in a village personally instructed fathers that their sons should "volunteer." If families were not responsive, the sons were forcibly conscripted. A former resident of Sheba, expelled in December 1998, said that teenagers between the ages of fifteen and seventeen were targeted for conscription: "They had to join the SLA voluntarily or by force. Those who did not had to leave." As noted earlier, the exercise of this option of flight from the occupied zone has contributed to the depopulation of local villages.
A twenty-one-year-old from a small village in the eastern sector of the occupied zone described how he was forcibly pressed into the SLA in 1995, when he was seventeen years old.84 During the two years before he was seized, he would hide when militiamen came to the village looking for new conscripts. In 1995, when he was in his last year of technical school studying to be an electrician, ten militiamen in uniform arrived in a truck and a jeep and surrounded the family's home, their guns drawn. "They stormed the house and took me," he said. "They told me that I had a problem and was wanted."
He said that his parents and his school principal unsuccessfully pleaded with local SLA security authorities to let him finish school. He was taken first to the security office in the village, where he was beaten and tortured because he had eluded military service for several years. Then he was moved to the SLA's Megidiyya military training camp for twenty days, where he was placed under constant surveillance. After training, he served for two months in Beit Yahoun and Brachit until he managed to escape and flee the zone. As a precaution, the family arranged the departure of his fifteen-year-old brother from the village before he fled.85
Some families moved out of the zone voluntarily to ensure that their sons would not be forced into SLA service; others stayed in their villages but sent their sons out when they reached fourteen or fifteen years old. "I left thirteen years ago because I had sons that they wanted," said sixty-five-year-old Muhamed Eissa, the father of ten children, who lived in the village of Ramieh, which is located close to the Israeli border in the western sector of the zone. He told Human Rights Watch that he left the village with six of his seven sons, and that his oldest son remained behind with his wife and three daughters. At that time, he claimed, a family could avoid conscription of a son by paying U.S. $5,000 directly to Lt. Col. `Akil Hashem, the SLA commander of the western sector.86
In a separate interview, former residents of Kfar Kila described the case of their younger brother Karim (not his real name), who was forcibly conscripted when he was fifteen or sixteen years old. They said that he served in the SLA for nine years, and was wounded three times. The family said that they obtained from Gen. Antoine Lahd, the commander of the SLA, a document ordering Karim's release on medical grounds. "My father brought it to Robin Abboud [whom he identified as the SLA military official responsible for the western sector ofthe occupied zone] and he tore the paper into pieces," an older brother testified. He said that the family then paid $5,000 to Abboud, and Karim was released, about eighteen months to two years before the interview with Human Rights Watch.87 In 1998, a resident of Mhaibib, a small village located between Meiss al-Jabal and Blida, told Human Rights Watch that he was detained for six days in the SLA security office in Aitaroun after his seventeen-year-old son fled the militia. He was said that he was released after agreeing to pay $2,000 to the SLA.88
Lebanese men, women, and children have been expelled because male relatives either deserted the SLA or fled the zone in order to avoid being conscripted into these occupation forces. There have been numerous reports about this practice but generally little or no details about the circumstances surrounding each case. The U.S. State Department, for example, noted that a family of twelve was expelled from the village of Mayss al-Jebal on September 21, 1996, because a family member had allegedly deserted the SLA.89
More recently, in 1998 and 1999, additional families have been expelled as SLA desertions mounted. For example, the Daily Star (Beirut) interviewed Hajj Rida Bou Hwaileh, an elderly man who said that he was expelled with his wife and four other family members from Sheba' on April 6, 1999, because his son Khalil, twenty-five, refused to join the militia.90 He explained that the family was summoned to the SLA headquarters in nearby Hasbaiya: "I left my work and headed for the SLA office in Hasbaiya as I was told and asked to see the person in charge but we were prevented from entering and told to wait." Then the family was informed that they were being expelled. "I asked them to take me to Khiam prison instead because I would not leave my home and property. I'm an old man and I can only work my plot of land," he told the newspaper. His appeal had no effect, and the SLA drove the family to the Zumrayya crossing point and expelled them.91
Human Rights Watch examined the cases of two families who were expelled because their sons fled service in the occupation militia.
On September 17, 1996, four members of a farming family from the village of Houla were expelled, about one week after one of the sons deserted the SLA. At the time of the expulsion, Abdullah Abdullah was sixty-seven years old and his wife Khadija was fifty-seven; their daughters Miriam and Rima were twenty-six and twenty-three, respectively. Abdullah and Khadija were the parents of twelve children. Two of their sons, members of the Lebanese Communist Party, fought as guerrillas and were killed, one in 1982 and the other in 1993. After their son Zeid was killed in 1993, no one from the family was permitted to leave the village. Family members said that Abdullah developed an illness in one eye and was denied an exit permit to go to Beirut for medical treatment. The illness spread to his other eye, and he lost his sight. (Old, frail, and blind, Abdullah was guided into the living room by one of his sons during the family's interview with Human Rights Watch.)
Sakr Abdullah told Human Rights Watch that he was forced to leave Houla in February 1994, when he was twenty-one years old. He had been enrolled in a training school in Khaldeh since 1992, and traveled frequently to and from the occupied zone to attend classes. He said that after his brother Zeid was killed, SLA security officials refused to issue him a permit to travel outside the zone, and he missed the 1993-94 school year. His mother said that due to Sakr's persistence, and the intervention of "good people" in the village, Sakr received a permit to leave the zone but not to return.
After Zeid was killed, Khadija testified, she was questioned four times by SLA militiaman Abu Burhan in Aitaroun. She said that she was never summoned from her home, but each time was picked up and taken to Aitaroun while she was walking on the road in the village. She stated that Abu Burhan cursed her dead son, asked questions about his friends which she refused to answer, and instructed her not to inform anyone, even her children, that she had been questioned.
Khadija told Human Rights Watch about another encounter with the SLA several years later. Her son Hussam and a friend, who were fifteen and sixteen years old, had been ordered by the SLA security chief in Houla, Kamal Shreim, to inspect all the rocks along the three kilometers of road that led from the village to an SLA military position.92 Hussam himself told Human Rights Watch that from a safe distance, Shreim and his assistant, Fouad Slim, closely watch him and his friend perform the dangerous tasks, which took about four to five hours. Hussam said that Shreim ordered him to carry out the work about thirty times. When Hussam finally mentioned to his mother what he and his friend had been forced to do, she went to the security office in Houla and complained. Hussam was no longer forced to serve as a human mine-detector, but Khadija's daughter Miriam and her son Ali were then imprisoned in Khiam and held without charge. Ali was taken on May 5, 1995, and held until August 15, 1995. Miriam was taken fifteen days later and was released on the same day as her brother.
Six months later, the SLA sought to force Ali into service with the militia. In the last week of February 1996, at 10:30 at night, a force of about ten uniformed and armed SLA militiamen surrounded the family's house. Hassan Farid from Adayseh knocked at the door and said that SLA security official Robin Aboud wanted Ali, who was then nineteen years old and in the middle of his third year of technical school. "We knew that they wanted him for the militia," Miriam said. "My sister and I started arguing with him. We said that we would not wake up Ali, and that Robin Aboud should come and talk to us personally. Everyone started shouting and my mother fainted. Finally, Ali came into the room and agreed to go with them."
Ali was taken to the SLA center in Markaba, where he was told to sign up for one to three years of service with the militia. He refused and was beaten. His signature was forged on a document agreeing to three years of service. On September 10, 1996, Ali deserted the SLA and escaped the occupied zone through Wadi Slouki to Shaqra with his two younger brothers, Hussam and John. Seven days later, the remaining four immediate family members who lived in Houla were expelled.
Khadija, sixty years old at the time of the interview, vividly recalled what happened. She said that one militiaman came to the house at six o'clock in the morning and others surrounded the building. He asked for her husband, and instructed the family that they had to report to the SLA position in Markaba, a village just north of Houla. They were transported to Markaba in an SLA civilian car. "We stayed there for two and a half hours, and no one talked to us. I thought that they were sending us to prison," Khadija said. Then, two militiamen informedthe family that they were being expelled. Khadija asked if they could bring some possessions from the house. "No, you cannot set foot in Houla again," she said one of the militiamen told her. Khadija, her husband, and two daughters were taken in another civilian car to the Beit Yahoun crossing point and expelled. She remembered the taxi driver, who would not accept payment from the family, and drove them from the crossroads to the house of their oldest son in Sidon.
Khadija and her husband were farmers in Houla, and operated a small produce store. They grew wheat, lentils, fava beans, and vegetables, and sold milk and eggs from the three cows and sixty chickens that they owned. "We don't know what happened to the cows and chickens," Khadija said, "and a militiaman now lives in our house with his wife and children." The family received LL3 million (about U.S. $2,000) in compensation for the expulsion from the Council of the South but "this is nothing because we could bring nothing from home with us," she added.93
Less than two months after the Abdallah family was expelled, there were reports in the Beirut-based media that another family from Houla suffered a similar fate because a son had evaded service in the SLA. According to Agence France-Presse, Ali Khalil Nasrallah, his wife and six children were expelled on November 8, 1996, "because one of their sons refused to enrol in the SLA."94 A broadcast on Radio Lebanon said that the family members who were expelled numbered nine, and that the family had been dropped at the Beit Yahoun crossing.95 The international news agency Reuters also put the number of family members expelled at nine, citing an interview with Ali Nasrallah's wife, Yosra Qaansoh, in the Lebanese daily al-Anwar. "They told us: `The reason for your expulsion is because your son Hassan Ali Nasrallah fled his service in the South Lebanon Army more than two months ago,'" Qaansoh was quoted as saying. She said that the family's request to bring clothes and utensils with them was denied.96
A woman from Markaba described how her son Khalid (not his real name), who worked as a tractor driver, was forced to serve in the SLA when he was sixteen years old. She said that a militiaman came to the house and asked for Khalid, telling her: "We are taking him for a while, and then we will give him back." When her son did not return home, she visited the SLA security office in Markaba and asked about him. "They told me that he would not be coming back. We went there for twenty days to get information. After this, they told us that they had taken him to the militia."97 Her son was first held at the security office, then was moved to the SLA's Magidiyya training center near Hasbaiya. He served in the militia for seven years, living the entire time in military barracks and returning home two days a week.
Khalid deserted the SLA at the beginning of 1997 and fled the zone. His father was then summoned three times to the SLA security office in Markaba. He was questioned, and warned that if his son did not return, the family would be expelled. Fifteen days after the son's desertion, "they came to us in the afternoon and said that we had to leave in the morning," Khalid's mother told Human Rights Watch.
She was expelled the next day with her husband, a fourteen-year-old son, and a daughter in her twenties. An eighteen-year-old daughter and twelve-year-old son were not allowed to leave with the rest of the family. "They made them stay for seven months, just to harass us," she said. The family was not permitted to take any possessions with them, and left behind a car and six cows. Deprived of annual income from the land they planted in tobacco, the family was living in difficult economic circumstances in Beirut at the time of the interview with Human Rights Watch. The woman's request for anonymity was out of concern for a close relative who still lived in Markaba but was prohibited from leaving the zone.
1999: A New Pattern of SLA Defections and Expulsions
In 1999, there has been a cycle of defections from the SLA, which has been followed by expulsions of civilians from the occupied zone. It was reported that on February 11, 1999, the head of SLA intelligence in Sheba', Muhamed Naba', deserted the SLA and fled the zone on foot with his wife and six-year-old son.98 Naba' had assumed the post after his predecessor, Ghassan Daher, was killed in December 1998, an attack that provoked the expulsion from Sheba' of twenty-five relatives of the suspected killers (see "Collective Punishment," above). After his desertion, Naba' disclosed information to Lebanese army intelligence about "a terrorist and spying network created by Israel" which led to the arrest in Lebanon of "some 20 alleged operatives," Future News reported.99 On April 6, 1999, six relatives of Muhamed Naba' were expelled from Sheba': his father, Khalil Ahmed Naba', sixty-seven years old; his mother, Zubaida Mohssina, sixty-five; his son, Ihsan, sixteen; his brother Fadi's wife, Hana'Hareth Shehab, thirty-five, and her children, Maher, nine, and Abdallah, six.100
Lebanese security sources said that on March 15, 1999, SLA militiaman Khaled Mundhir from the village of Ibl al-Saqi fled the zone and turned himself in to the Lebanese army.101 His brother Naji had deserted the militia in September 1998, reportedly after killing an SLA intelligence operative, which led to the expulsion of his parents in October 1998 (see "Collective Punishment," above).
On April 4, 1999, four SLA militiamen from Sheba' fled the zone and turned themselves over to the Lebanese Army, Future News reported.102 The Daily Star reported the names of the militiamen as Khalil Bou Hwaileh, Safi Saab, Jamal Saab, and George Rahal.103 Two days after the four men deserted, the SLA expelled eighteen Sheba' residents, most of them women, children, and the elderly, and some of whom were relatives of the four deserters. According to the Daily Star: "They were summoned to the SLA's Hasbaya security headquarters in the eastern sector of the occupation zone for questioning and then driven to the Zimraya crossing, from where they continued on foot to the Lebanese army checkpoint."104 On April 12, the three remaining children of one of the deserters were expelled, bringing the total number of people expelled from the village between April 6 and April 12 to twenty-one.105
The expellees included six relatives of militiaman
Khalil Bou Hwaileh: his father, Radi Khalil Bou Hawaileh, sixty-seven years
old; his mother, Fatima, sixty-eight; his sister, Selma, thirty-five; and
his wife, Lamia Nasser, and their two children, Waad, seven, and Walaa,
three. Other expellees were the parents of militiaman Safi Saab: his father,
Khalil, sixty years old, and his mother, Khadija, fifty-five. The mother
of militiaman Jamal Saab, Houriya Hamdan, fifty, was also expelled. Six
relatives of militiaman George Rahal were expelled, three of them on April
6: his father, Adeeb Nicola Rahal, fifty-five years old; his mother, Hannah
Abu Rizk, forty-five; and his brother, Bassam, fourteen. On April
12, the remaining siblings of George Rahal were expelled: Johnny, twelve
years old; Michel, nine; and Farah, seven.106
82 Agence France-Presse, "Former Israeli-allied militiamen `treated correctly' - lawyers," June 11, 1999.83 Name, and name of village, withheld on request. 84 Name and village name withheld on request. Human Rights Watch interview, Beirut, Lebanon, April 1999.85 Human Rights Watch interview, Beirut, Lebanon, April 1999. 86 Human Rights Watch interview, Ras al-'Ain, Lebanon, March 1999.87 Human Rights Watch interview, Beirut, Lebanon, March 1999. Names withheld by Human Rights Watch.88 Human Rights Watch interview, Beirut, Lebanon, April 1999.89 U.S. State Department, Lebanon Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1996, January 30, 1997.90 He told the Daily Star that the other family members expelled were his wife Fatima, his daughter Salma, and his daughter-in-law Lamia and her two children.91 Mohammed Zaatari, "Deportees adjust to `life' in Sidon," Daily Star, April 8, 1999.
92 The Lebanese military resistance had been detonating roadside bombs, disguised as rocks, in attacks on Israeli forces and the SLA.
93 Human Rights Watch interviews, Ghaziyeh, Lebanon, April 1999 and June 1999.
94 Agence France-Presse, "SLA expels family of eight, Amnesty appeal for release of doctor," November 8, 1996.
95 Radio Lebanon (Beirut), November 8, 1996, as reported by FBIS, Daily Report, November 15, 1996, FBIS-NES-96-221.
96 Reuters, "Lebanon family tells of expulsion from Israeli zone," November 10, 1996.
97 Human Rights Watch interview, Beirut, Lebanon, March 1999.
98 Agence France-Presse, "SLA intelligence official defects to Lebanon," February 11, 1999.
99 Future Television, Daily Report, February 12, 1999.
100 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Yehia Ali, head of the Arqoub Citizens Committee, June 1999.
101 Agence France-Presse, "SLA militiaman deserts, SLA banishes policeman," March 15, 1999.
102 Future Telvision, Daily Report, April 5, 1999.
103 "Lahoud condemns Israeli `barbarism,'" Daily Star, April 7, 1999.
105 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Yehia Ali, head of the Arqoub Citizens Committee, June 1999.