Beirut (Agenzia Fides) - The possible confiscation of collectively owned land from the State near the Lebanese village of Aqoura (Jbeil district) is likely to stir up sectarian strife. The tension around the sensitive issue of land control of the various religious communities that live in Lebanon is increasing again after the Ministry of Finance, led by the Shiite Ali Hassan Khalil, expressed his intention to make a decree signed in 2015 operational which provides for the expropriation by the State of the shared use of land adjacent in Aqoura, a village inhabited mostly by Maronite Christians, and other villages and towns of the district of Jbeil.
The issue, according to some analysts, is likely to trigger yet another feud with sectarian implications regarding the control of the land. The potential conflict came to the fore on Tuesday, August 30, when the local authority was notified by the Ministry of the intentions to transform state-owned common land, until now considered as belonging to all the villagers. The inhabitants of Aqoura, represented by lawyer Gaby Germanos, yesterday submitted to the Council of State a request for the annulment of the Ministerial Decree. While Naufal Daou, a member of the general secretariat of the "March 14" political coalition, said to al-Markaziya agency that the expropriation represents "a confiscation of Christian goods by a Minister that has exceeded its prerogatives". On his behalf, Minister Ali Hassan Khalil’s press office denied that the decree in question had to do with the collectively owned land, stating that the ministerial provision is aimed only at defending lands that are already property of the State from infringements and abuse.
There have been sectarian clashes in recent times around the control of land and real estate in Lebanon. In autumn 2013, a pressing call to curb the misuse of land belonging to the Christians to build housing for the Muslims was launched by Talal al-Doueihy, leader of "the Lebanese Land, Our Land" Movement (see Fides 15/10/2013). The appeal denounced in particular the case of Al-Qaa, a Christian village near Baalbek, in whose area large plots of land had been acquired by Muslims - Shiite and Sunni - as agricultural land, only to be destined to building housing estates to be sold to Lebanese and Syrian refugees belonging to their own religious communities. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 01/09/2016)