Fawwaz in a photo provided to ANSA by members of his family | Photo: Private
Fawwaz in a photo provided to ANSA by members of his family | Photo: Private

The tragic story of Fawwaz as told by his relatives to ANSA bears many similarities to that of many Syrians, betrayed and cheated by human smugglers and soldiers when crossing borders.

In agonizing pain, 60-year-old Fawwaz was left injured on the cold asphalt of a road in northern Lebanon for over an hour.

He had been accompanying his son's future bride from Syria to Lebanon prior to all three trying to reach Europe.

Lacking legal alternatives, they had been forced to opt for extremely risky and very costly illegal migration.

The life of Fawwaz, originally from the war-torn region of Idlib and father of 11 children, ended however prior to undertaking the dangerous journey via sea towards Italy.

He died after being hit on the head by a rifle butt by -- according to eyewitnesses -- a Lebanese soldier in a military vehicle that was pursuing a motorcycle on which Fawwaz and his future daughter-in-law were travelling.

The motorcycle was being driven by a well-known human smuggler to whom Fawwaz had paid 200 dollars -- a very large amount in both Syria due to the ongoing war and in Lebanon due to the collapse of the economy -- to be able to cross the Syrian-Lebanese border illegally.

Collusion between human traffickers and soldiers

Fawwaz's story sheds fresh light on the close, murky links between smugglers and local authorities in contexts affected by armed conflict and prolonged social and economic crises.

Many Lebanese soldiers, who have seen the purchasing power of their salaries in the local currency plunge steeply amid continual depreciation against the US dollar, are now easier prey for those who want to buy them off.

Fawwaz's relatives told ANSA that the smuggler had paid the soldiers at one of the checkpoints in the border zone in order to be able to cross it.

He and his clients then ran into another checkpoint on the road with other soldiers that had not received any payment from the smuggler.

The latter did not stop at the checkpoint out of fear and was thus pursued in a vehicle by the soldiers manning the checkpoint. Once they reached the motorcycle, one of the soldiers hit Fawwaz violently in the face, who then fell to the ground alongside the young woman.

The smuggler managed to flee.

Fawwaz's brother said that the woman had told him that the "soldiers did nothing to capture the smuggler. They instead called their commanding officer, who told them to leave the two Syrians on the ground and go away" from the scene.

'Cardiac arrest', relatives' lawyer claims doctor 'colluded'

ANSA has seen photos of Fawaz's lifeless corpse, which show clear signs of cranial trauma.

His death certificate, signed by a doctor in the Qubayat hospital in the Lebanese region of Akkar near the Syrian border, instead states that Fawwaz died of "cardiac arrest".

ANSA has received a copy of this death certificate.

The lawyer Muhammad Sabluh, in the nearby Lebanese city of Tripoli and who is following the case on behalf of Fawwaz's family, claimed that, "the doctor who signed that death certificate is colluding with the soldiers."

Sabluh has filed a complaint on behalf of Fawwaz's relatives with the Lebanese military prosecutor's office.

He noted, however, that he has few hopes of seeing the soldiers punished in any way.


More articles