Seven men have been arrested in Lebanon over the rape and abuse of a 13-year-old Syrian boy that took place over a two-year period, IranWire reports. The eighth suspect in the case is still being sought by security officials.
The case came to light at the end of June after a video, filmed by three Lebanese youths, including the son of a senior Hezbollah official, showing their rape and torture of the young Syrian boy went viral on social media.
According to a report by Aram news outlet, in the video, the three youths repeatedly captured the boy while he was trying to escape, abusing him sexually, verbally and physically.
The video appeared online after an argument broke out among the eight abusers, causing a rift in the group, IranWire reported. The film sparked the Attorney General in the eastern Lebanese town of Zahle to file a case against the perpetrators, leading to their arrest.
Lebanese and Syrians alike reacted angrily on social media, calling on local authorities to take swift punitive action against the perpetrators, who are rumoured to be members of Hezbollah.
Some users speculated the 13-year-old’s mother, Fatima Al-Salah, must have known the abuse was taking place but did little to stop it.
Speaking to IranWire, however, Al-Salah said she had not been aware of the abuse but had noticed the 13-year-old “seemed sad” when he arrived home from work. When questioned Al-Salah’s son told her he had argued with colleagues.
The young boy, whose father is Syrian and mother is Lebanese, reportedly gave up studying two years ago to work at a juice bar to help support the family. According to IranWire, this is when the abuse started.
Al-Salah told the online outlet her son has not revealed the physical, sexual and verbal harassment he was subjected to over the years because he was scared for his life.
Since the video appeared online, the 13-year-old has reportedly received support for mental health issues which have arisen as a result of the abuse but, according to Al-Salah, treatment has done little to resolve the trauma.
Protesters gathered outside of the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees in Beirut in response, calling on the UNHCR to secure asylum in a European country for the boy and his family.