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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 11/10/16

Palestinian Social Fabric Frays in Lebanon's camps as Drug Dealers target Children

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Shatila Palestinian Camp, Beirut

The past few years have witnessed an alarming increase in drug distribution in several of Lebanon's 12 Palestinian camps, as dealers reportedly target children and teenagers, becoming increasingly brazen in pushing their narcotics.

This conclusion is based on research and surveys by camp officials, residents and activists, as well as in-depth interviews with mothers of targeted Palestinian children between the ages of 11-15 by this observer and discussions with other Palestinian community caregivers.

Candy is reportedly being increasingly used to create child addicts who are then recruited into gangs of thieves and/or to work as drug deliverers. One 11-year old boy makes drug deliveries around Shatila camp's narrow fetid allies on his bicycle or sometimes on a small motor scooter according to a mother who lives next to his family.

Mothers in Lebanon's camps claim that dealers are selling drug-injected candy and chewing gum outside of primary, middle and secondary schools as well as inside schools such as ''Ramallah''. The example of drug-laced candy shown below was given to this observer by two mothers who watch dealers from their third floor balconies. Another mother who lives across the alley from a claimed drug shop and next door to two dealers, one on either side of her building, confirmed these reports. These mothers and other camp residents identified the chewing gum shown below, as being sold cheap with injected/rubbed-in narcotics, in some camp shops.

Shatila camp, Beirut 10/24/2016, narcotic-laced chewing gum costs camp kids 250 LL or approximately 25 American cents. Sometimes it is offered to children free to get them addicted according to camp residents
Shatila camp, Beirut 10/24/2016, narcotic-laced chewing gum costs camp kids 250 LL or approximately 25 American cents. Sometimes it is offered to children free to get them addicted according to camp residents
(Image by Franklin Lamb)
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One eleven-year old boy "Maher", a student at UNWRA's ''Ramallah'' school recited last week to his mother, his aunt and this observer the well-known case of 12-year old M. J. A reputedly sweet and pretty child, M.J. is reportedly a drug addict whose handlers supply her daily with personal drugs, as well as an additional supply (as shown below) to sell to other children even inside ''Ramallah'' school. M.J. has been caught selling drugs by school staff more than once, suspended for two weeks more than once, and has since transferred to the larger UNWRA ''Haifa'' preparatory school on the southern edge of Shatila camp, according to her neighbor.

UNWRA and school staffs are acutely aware of the problem of drugs in the camps, as are the camps' Political and Social Committees, camp Clerics, NGOs, Lebanese government Ministries and UN agencies etc. But to date all have been impotent to effectively challenge it. Last month one drug dealer whom this observer interviewed, had the audacity to address a public meeting following a march in Shatila by angry residents over the brazen drug selling which targets camp kids. He told the angry gathering:

"Yes, I am a drug dealer. I admit it and camp leaders can condemn me. But, excuse me please, what have they ever done for our camp and our families? Our water is salty, we have little electricity two children were electrocuted last month from bad wiring, our air is polluted , no regular garbage collection, sewage running down the streets, no playgrounds for kids, no right for their parents to even work! In Lebanon there are basically only two jobs open to young Palestinian men like me. We can accept a gun and join one of the militias run by politicians or we can sell drugs, also supplied by some politicians who in cooperation with some Lebanese police who provide people who do the job I do with political cover!"

10/12/2016 .Drugs commonly sold in Palestinian camps in Lebanon
10/12/2016 .Drugs commonly sold in Palestinian camps in Lebanon
(Image by Wael al Hajj)
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One example of what the young man was talking about occurred in Shatila camp last month, two days before an angry camp march largely ignored by the local media erupted with intense anger. It involved the arrest of 3 camp drug dealers who were being held by the camp's "security committee'" pending transfer the next morning to the Lebanese police authorities outside the camp. During the night, as the prisoners awaited transfer, a bribe of $ 2,000 was offered to the "camp policeman" assigned to guard them overnight. The guard, well-known in the camp, is a member of Fatah Intifada and like other camp police earned $ 200 per month. (The camps Political and Social Committees as well as camp "police forces" typically include the main 13 Palestinian factions two or more members from Fatah , the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine(DFLP) the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine -- General Command (PFLP-GC), Fatah Intifada, As-Sa'iqa, & Hamas among others).

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Since 2013, Professor Franklin P. Lamb has traveled extensively throughout Syria. His primary focus has been to document, photograph, research and hopefully help preserve the vast and irreplaceable archaeological sites and artifacts in (more...)

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