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In a selfie, a slain Lebanese teen's last moments

By Diaa Hadid

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Dec. 30 2013 12:00 a.m. MST

"You know what sucks?" his friend Rahaf Jammal said at the memorial, speaking in English. "It's the fact that he didn't finish the book I got him for his birthday. He didn't finish Harry Potter (movies) because he kept asking me to watch it with him."

"It's the fact he had his whole future planned out and he couldn't accomplish anything, because of this stupid, cruel and crappy country."

The grief over Shaar is given greater resonance by the fears among Lebanese that they are lurching back into the abyss, still battered from their own 15-year war, which ended in 1990. That civil war was partly ignited by sectarian tensions among Lebanon's Shiite, Sunni, Christian and Druse minorities.

Sunni-Shiite tensions began growing after a powerful car bomb in 2005 killed the former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, who called for an end to neighboring Syria's domination of the country and criticized Syria's ally Hezbollah. Hariri's assassination was followed by over a dozen other assassinations of anti-Syrian figures. His allies blame Syria and Hezbollah for the killings; both deny involvement.

Although some of the assassinations and attempted assassinations over the past years also targeted Christians and Druse, Lebanon's Sunnis have felt the most threatened.

The Sunni community's leadership is fractured. Religious hardliners preach they are being targeted by a Shiite plot to crush them. Ordinary Sunnis, neither particularly political nor religious, complain they feel marginalized.

Those feelings have sharply grown since Syria's uprising against President Bashar Assad began three years ago. Rebels seeking to overthrow Assad are mostly Sunni, and the most powerful are al-Qaida extremists. Syria's minorities — including Shiites and members of the Shiite offshoot Alawite sect — mostly support Assad or stayed neutral.

Syria's sectarian splits have enflamed Lebanon's, with its Sunnis mainly lining up behind Syria's rebels and its Shiites backing Assad. Hezbollah has dispatched its fighters to shore up Assad's forces, infuriating opponents in Lebanon.

The result has been violence rooted in Syria's war. Two car bombs targeted Sunni worshippers at mosques in Lebanon's northern city of Tripoli this year; another two exploded in a Shiite neighborhood in south Beirut. Another twin-bombing targeted the Iranian embassy, apparently to punish Iran for supporting Assad.

Civilians have been the majority of the victims.

Amid the grief, the sectarian sentiments emerge.

At Shaar's funeral, hundreds of mourners chanting against Hezbollah trapped the country's top Sunni cleric in the mosque, because he is perceived as sympathetic to the group. Soldiers with assault rifles had to muscle into the mosque to protect Mufti Mohammed Qabani and hustle him into an armored vehicle to get away. Angry worshippers pelted the soldiers with rocks, eggs and shoes.

Shaar was forgotten amid the mourners' anger, something not lost on his friends.

"People are using his death as an excuse for war," said his friend Jammal. "But really all we should do is pray, pray, pray, and keep praying."

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