BEIRUT — The United Arab Emirates has expelled dozens of long-term Lebanese Shiite residents from the country over their presumed affiliation with Hezbollah, a representative said on Wednesday.
"The common factor among all those expelled in the past three months is that they are all Shiites and as such are part of a community that supports the resistance," Hassan Alayan, who heads a committee representing them, told AFP.
He was using the Lebanese term for Iranian- and Syrian-backed Hezbollah, a major political party that also has a militia that is a key force in the country's balance of power and fought a devastating war with Israel in 2006.
Alayan, 50, said he was recently ordered to leave Sharjah, one of the seven city states that make up the mainly Sunni Muslim UAE, where he had been living for 22 years.
He said UAE officials gave no explanation for their action apart from saying that the orders had been issued from high up.
"I didn't even get a chance to pack my bags or bring anything back," said the father of four who worked as a journalist.
In Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital, officials had no immediate comment on the matter.
A foreign ministry official in Beirut said the UAE ambassador had been summoned several times over the affair but had so far given no explanation.
Alayan said the expulsions began in the aftermath of the June 7 legislative election in Lebanon that saw a Saudi- and Western-backed coalition beat a Hezbollah-led alliance.
Senior Hezbollah politician Mohammed Fneish told AFP the Lebanese government must quickly address the issue, which could be expected to financially hurt the families involved.
"These people broke no laws and there is no excuse for what they have suffered," Fneish said. "It is a violation of their rights and freedom."
Leading Lebanese Shiite cleric Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah called on UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan to deal with the matter.
"We call on you to save hundreds of Lebanese families who have contributed to the development of your country," Fadlallah said in a statement. "We refuse to believe that the expulsions were motivated by politics, religion, security concern or any outside pressure.
Hussein Masood, a 39-year-old businessman who had lived in the UAE since the age of four, said he still does not understand what prompted his expulsion in July.
"I was returning from vacation and was held at the airport and told that I could not enter the country for security reasons," Masood said. "I wept at the time because my whole life is in the UAE.
"I have three companies there, five million dollars worth of contracts and 85 mainly Sunni employees who rely on me," he added. "I can't believe that this is all happening because I am Shiite."
An estimated 100,000 Lebanese work in the UAE.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »