The BBC has a rather grim report on a lynching that took place recently in the Lebanese village of Ketermaya. When three generations of one family were brutally murdered, the local police hauled in Muhammed Muslem, a foreigner living in the village; after a night of interrogation he confessed to the crime. Then somehow it was decided that he should be brought back to the scene of the crime and show the policemen how he did it. On seeing the apparent assailant, however, an outraged mob of villagers dragged him from the police (who seem not to have offered much resistance) and then stabbed him to death, before stringing up his body on a meathook. In an eerie echo of 20th century lynchings in the American Deep South, the murder of the alleged assailant (who seems only to have been incriminated by his foreignness and the confession extracted from him by the police) was photographed and filmed on mobile phones, with the footage now widely circulated around Lebanon.
The shocking incident is apparently indicative of the dysfunction in Lebanon’s police and justice system. In one respect it is a micro-level counterpart to the country’s complete inability to adequately investigate the mysterious explosions that have killed so many of its leading citizens over the last decades.
I was struck by one detail in the article. It mentioned that the original murder was, until then, the most brutal crime in Ketermaya in living memory. I have never been to that village, but I have visited the Chouf region in which it lies. When I was there, in 2002, it was a beautiful and peaceful countryside region, somewhere I would love to go back to. But the Chouf is also a place of horror. In the 1980s, it was home to murderous gangs who would stop cars and slit the throats of occupants from the wrong religious community, dumping their bodies in ditches. Previous bouts of bloody intercommunal feuding took place in 1860 and 1848. Do the dark deeds of the past leave a psychic miasma that affects people in the present?