Bystanders look on as Tarek Yateem attacks George al-Reef in Beirut. (The Daily Star/YouTube grab)
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If news broadcasters, social media users and casual gossipers expressed shock at the brutal stabbing death of George al-Reef near Gemmayzeh last week, the inaction of multiple bystanders who witnessed the attack has been roundly decried as shameful cowardice.Nayla Nahas, an assistant professor of psychology at Balamand University, cautioned against assuming that the bystander effect was the only way to explain witness inaction in this particular incident.You have different political issues, different let me say marginality issues that people are afraid of, especially in the presence of foreigners in the country which may inhibit them from intervening in fights taking place in front of them," Nahas said.She was quick to point out that the bystander effect was defined and described primarily in a Western context, and that it may not be the most appropriate explanation of bystander passivity in other cultures.
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