20 Dec 2013

What happened when Lebanon introduced police lineups

The Lebanese police are always looking for ways to modernise and as part of this quest for improvement they recently introduced police lineups for the first time in the history of the country. We were invited to observe and report this unique experiment.

A man who had been robbed at gunpoint was brought into a chamber separated by one-way glass from another room in which six men that are similar in appearance stood in a classic lineup. The police officer in charge of the investigation, Colonel Karam, conducted the proceedings with the victim, Mr Adel X.

Karam: “Adel, do you recognise any of these men?”

Adel: “Can number one step closer please?”

Karam: “Number one, step forward.”

Adel: “Oh, this is Rabih! What a nice surprise. Can I go say hello to him?”

Karam: “No, this is not how it works. Is he the man that attacked you?”

Adel: “No, no. He’s an old friend of the family. We used to go to his shop in Batroun. I haven’t seen him for years. He had the best ice cream. Then our families became friends…”

Karam: “Ok, ok. No need for the full story. Do you recognise number two?”

Adel: “Let me see. Ah, yes, I know this man.”

Karam: “He’s the robber?”

Adel: “No, this man is very honest. Actually he’s the cousin of my aunt’s youngest daughter’s husband. I thought he went to Australia. I bought tyres for my BMW from him once, best set I ever got. But then he closed his shop..”

Karam: “Again, no need for the story. How about number three?”

Adel: “He looks really familiar…”

Karam: “He must be the one?”

Adel: “No, I got it. I used to buy lottery from him. He had a small shop at the corner of the university street. One time I bought a card that was one number different from the winning card! One number! I could have been a millionaire now. Built a villa in the village…”

Karam: “Ehem. We all want to win the lottery, but please this is a serious thing.”

Adel: “Can I see number four?”

Karam: “There is no number four. The fours were ma2tou3een (out of stock). They made a mistake in the order and didn’t get a number four. The next one is number five.”

Adel: “That’s the classic government efficiency.”

Karam: “What’s that?”

Adel: “Nothing, nothing. But it’s annoying. How can I go from number three to number five? I tell you this is a bad omen.”

Karam: “What does it matter? Just ignore number four.”

Adel: “It doesn’t sound right. Four is after three. And four is my favourite number.”

Karam: “Ya habibi, we don’t have all day. Look at number five.”

Adel: “Oh my God!”

Karam: “Is that him?”

Adel: “This is my old classmate Samer! You have to tell him I’m here.”

Then Adel got off and started knocking on the glass. At which point, Karam pulled him back.

Karam: “What are you doing? They can’t see you anyway.”

Adel: “That sounds so impolite. I really need to talk to him, I haven’t seen him in twenty years. Can you give me his phone number?”

Karam: “It’s against regulations.”

Adel: “Oh come on, we’re not in Europe.”

Karam: “Please, let’s move on. Number six?”

Adel: “You’re not going to believe this. I know this man also. He’s a ladies’ hairdresser, his shop is near my fiancée’s house. Everyone says he’s gay.”

Karam: “Ya habibi what’s with this gossip. I don’t have the whole day.”

Adel: “Since when did you guys work all day..”

Karam: “What was that.”

Adel: “Nothing, don’t worry. The police are the protectors of the people.”

Karam: “How about number seven?”

Adel: “Hmm, I don’t think I know this one, strange. Can you ask him to say something?”

Karam: “Number seven, speak the lines.”

Adel: “Strange accent. Is he Syrian?”

Karam: “Why, was the man who robbed you Syrian?”

Adel: “No, he sounded Lebanese.”

Karam: “So he’s not this man?”

Adel: “I can’t believe I don’t know this guy. Can you ask him where does he work?”

Karam: “Why? This is not allowed.”

Adel: “I have to find out who he is.”

Karam: “No, khallas. We’re out of time. Thank you.”

At this point, one of the six suspects started playing a new Najwa Karam song on his mobile to the others. The men linked arms and starting dancing the dabké. Because that’s what always happens in Lebanon.

This was an interesting experiment to observe, but you know what they say, everybody knows everybody in Lebanon.

Note. All the names in this story have been changed to protect the identity of people involved. Also, to make it difficult to tell which sect they are.

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  1. Love, love loved reading this

  2. I stand with a big grin and begin the slow clap. Bravo Karl, one of your best. You had me crying in a coffee shop in Jordan. Dabkay during a police line-up?!! Amazing!


Karl reMarks is a blog about Middle East politics and culture with a healthy dose of satire.

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