The Mideastwire Blog

Excerpts from the Arab and Iranian Media & Analysis of US Policy in the Region

Oh No: Nabetiyeah may become a dry town…. like many in the US

NOW Lebanon has this “sinister” story that Hizbullah is trying to end alcohol sales in Nabetiyeah. As usual, most of it is rumor, which is why NL gets derided for unserious, info-op journalism so often. But look at the meat of the story: Nabetiyeah may go dry AND THEREFORE JOIN numerous counties in…. the USA which also prohibit alcohol sales…Sinister conservative Muslims indeed! What is also strange is that the reporter leaves out a discussion of the core issue – liquor sales cited within range of schools, mosques etc…. So are they indeed breaking that law? She has nothing to retort this specific point which, she earlier said, was the legal reason why the stores are being compensated for a sale shut down…

A half picture/half truth:

“…The man behind the counter of the minimarket in Nabatiyeh says he doesn’t want to talk much, and looks around carefully. He has a week to sell around 25 bottles of vodka, whiskey and bourbon that he discreetly keeps on two dusty shelves in the back of his store. Alcohol, he said, brings him around $2,000 a month in revenue, quite a sum for a small town like Nabatiyeh.

The man, who didn’t want his name disclosed for safety reasons, says he was told last Friday to stop selling alcohol in his shop. “They gave us a week. They’ve been trying to stop us from selling for the past three years. I don’t know how the decision has been taken, but we have to comply.  I’ll return it to the dealers,” he said.

Alcoholic beverages were never welcome in Nabatiyeh, which has a reputation as being a conservative Shia stronghold. But liquor was discreetly available in several shops and restaurants. Last Friday, a group of people stopped in front of a liquor store and asked Wissam Yaqoub, the owner, to close. “It’s immoral; it corrupts the new generation. The store is close to a public high school, and you’re encouraging the students to drink,” a pamphlet posted in the shop’s window read. All shop owners who sell alcoholic drinks received the same message. They were summoned to a meeting last Saturday night and were given a week to either close their shops or give up selling alcoholic beverages.

But who was behind the move to force shop owners to stop selling alcohol?

“It is not a municipality decision. We’re just working with the law,” Ahmad Kahil, the head of Nabatiyeh municipality told NOW Lebanon. He says that the municipality is closing the shops at the request of people who complained that their underage children consumed alcoholic beverages because they were exposed to shops selling them. “There was a protest, people asked for it. We’re just working with the law. You can’t sell alcohol in the vicinity of educational or religious institutions, as well as in crowded neighborhoods,” he said.

But according to local journalists and civil society activists, the story is not as simple as the municipality wants it to seem. They say the move is not legal, as half of the municipal council, independents and secular party members, did not agree with it. The other half of the municipal council has been controlled by Hezbollah since the municipal elections in May 2010, and the head of the municipality is a Hezbollah official. The opposition in town is accusing the Party of God of trying to take over and of silencing the secular political parties in the region.

The shop owners decided to comply, as they were promised compensation during the meeting on Saturday night. Activists and journalists say that some of them who didn’t agree to close their shops or give up selling alcohol were threatened with having their shops destroyed, though the owners NOW Lebanon spoke to refused to talk about it. However, some young Nabatiyeh residents set up a Facebook group to support the stores.

The municipal council discussed closing shops that sell alcohol last year, after the elections. “It was rejected by 11 out of 21 municipal council members,” a local journalist who says he can’t disclose his name told NOW Lebanon. “All the secular parties such as the SSNP, the Baath, the Communists, or even independents and some Amal Movement representatives, opposed it because all stores that sell alcohol have licenses from the government. The county mohafez [governor] also refused to sign the decision, saying it was against the law. This happened a few months ago and they let it sleep for a while, until last Friday,” he said..”

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Written by nickbiddlenoe

April 21, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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