November 30, 2021

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90 killed in Lebanon this year from people firing guns in the air

From Middle East Eye:

Sara Sleiman was felled by the bullet as she left the restaurant. Her killer didn’t intend to shoot her.

He was angry at a traffic jam in Zahlé, central Lebanon – and started firing into the air. One bullet ricocheted off the pavement and hit the 24-year-old school teacher in the head.

It is not uncommon in Lebanon to see someone shoot their firearms into the air to express emotion, be they AK47s, hunting rifles or Magnums. Sometimes it’s at a wedding, political event or the announcement of school exam results. Or people do it to express emotions, such as anger, as in the case of Sleiman’s killer.

According to Permanent Peace Movement, a Lebanese NGO focused on conflict resolution, Sleiman is one of 90 people to die from stray bullets so far in 2017.

On Monday, Prime Minister Saad Hariri and civil groups launched a campaign against what has become a deadly tradition.

Here is part of the story that you won’t read in Western media, because it uses stereotypes of Arab men that are true – and not complimentary.

Zeina Chamoun is a journalist and founder of the Don’t Forget Us (Ma Tensouna) movement, through which bereaved families campaign for action against celebratory gunfire. He tells Middle East Eye: “It is a cultural habit. For Lebanese men, firing a gun is a demonstration of power.

Hariri said on Monday: “The real man is the one who respects the law and the lives of people. Men are the soldiers who know when to use their guns and when to shoot. Those who shoot randomly are not men.

“They think they are asserting their manhood by shooting indiscriminately, but in fact this indicates that they have a lack of manhood.”

Manliness is an important component of Arab culture – one that Hariri is directly addressing here. Not by saying that such a culture is dangerous or misogynist – but by embracing it and simply saying that those men who want to violently assert their manhood are doing it the wrong way.

Of course, manliness is a component of honor.

The practice is not limited to one group in Lebanon’s fractured society. Nor is Lebanon unique – firing guns into the air also happens in Yemen, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq and Syria, among other countries in the region.

But the shooters rarely consider what happens to their gunfire. This summer, a father accidentally killed his own son while shooting to celebrate Baccalaureate results. An 88-year-old man also died from a stray bullet during the same celebrations.

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