It’s Up to Lebanon’s Wealthy Industrialists To Take The Trash Out

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Lebanon is a Failed State

Lebanon, by all means, is a failed state. Never has this been clearer than the past few months. Barbaric murders every other week, garbage drowning city streets and spaces, a cabinet too caught up in its in-fighting to do anything, an empty presidential seat, a parliament that’s only good for extending for itself illegally, and the list goes on and on.

We cannot forget the police state aspect of the country either. Vicious criminals and repeat-offenders roam the streets unabated, armed to the teeth, while defenseless university students are arrested unlawfully for writing a Facebook status, being gay or smoking a joint just so the police, lawyers and judges involved in these cases can cash in on the bribes.

But perhaps, the most obvious problem that needs immediate solutions is the garbage one. Lebanon’s inept consecutive governments have kicked the solution for waste management in the country much like a kid kicks around an empty soda can on the sidewalk: it’s not going anywhere, you’re gonna have to kick it again.

The main reason, apart from the ministers being unqualified, is of course the ungodly amounts of money that waste collection and “treatment” generates in Lebanon to a select few, while the overwhelming majority are left at the mercy of the giant extortionists like Sukleen and its partners and political godfathers.

But, it seems Sukleen has branched its tentacles to other countries, and is fed up with us (praise the trash collection lords!), but instead of the government doing the right thing, they’re still figuring out which method will make them the most money, and how to divide it amongst themselves (much like the food safety scare, which it turns out was only to shift hands of lucrative businesses like slaughterhouses, from one politician’s hands to the other’s).

Successful “Illegal Initiatives”

Because Lebanon is a failed state, many things that needed to happen, happened without the government playing any role in them. Of course, technically, it was illegal, but it did bring about a better outcome for everyone, and forced the government to catch up and “allow” them to continue. I will demonstrate a few below which I am familiar with, but forgive me for not providing enough links and sources, I am currently not in Beirut and the data available online is minimal.

Electricte de Zahle’s 24/7 Power

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It’s the 15th year into the 21st century, and Lebanon still doesn’t have 24 hour electricity. This issue is so absurd, that many of us often forget how blatantly unacceptable it is, given how much money and time has been sunk into it.

The reason the electricity sector is so bad, is that only Electricite du Liban (EDL) has the “exclusive right” to generate electricity in Lebanon. This extreme penchant for monopolies and exclusive rights is what plagues most sectors in Lebanon, and makes the average taxpayer dread “privatization”, since in Lebanon, that usually means Hariri or Berri or Junblatt taking over a public industry and driving it into the ground, while reaping the massive rewards themselves for themselves and their constituents.

Electricite De Zahle was fed up with pleas to let it produce electricity for its region, 24/7, for cheaper, which was refused time and again by the government. Finally, earlier last year, they made that dream come true, and despite the government not daring to stop them, it sat idly by and watched the “generator” mafias shoot transformers and issue threats, in a both exceptionally rude and extravagantly illegal move.

Bottom line though, the mafias eventually gave up, and the government has remained silent, but the residents of greater Zahle are the lucky ones who have 24h power, and pay only one, affordable electrical bill.

Dhour Chweir Municipality

I met minister of education, Elias Bousaab, in Washington DC when he was still the advisor to foreign minister Gebran Bassil in 2012. I remember back then being highly impressed with his pragmatic approach, and ability to find solutions when the usual political class in Lebanon is too busy making fools out of themselves.

Bousaab was the municipality chief of Dhour Chweir, and under his watch, the municipal authorities bought out all the illegal generators “moteur el 7ay”. They centralized them and put a fixed price for every kWh. This meant that the streets were illuminated 24/7, and other infrastructure that needs power, like water management, also ran non-stop. This also meant that even if the price of diesel fuel went up, the citizens of Dhour Chweir still paid the same bill (unlike the 80-150$ some of us pay to the moteurs), and when the price of oil went back down, the municipality was making up for its loss in previous years and the investment it put into buying the generators.

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So, all in all, Dhour has 24/7 power. However, everything about the solution is technically illegal, just like the moteurs. Instead though, the problem was handled pragmatically, and ultimately to the benefit of the tapayers in the jurisdiction of Dhour. The government stayed out of it.

Credit Cards

The dawn of plastic payment took a while to get to Lebanon. Governments couldn’t agree on putting down laws that would regulate the use of credit cards in Lebanon. This is of course catastrophic in a country that relies heavily on its banking sector. The banks though, didn’t wait for the laws to come out, and they started issuing credit cards to their customers. Soon enough, a series of memos from the Central Bank sought to regulate this banking service, before more permanent and comprehensive legislation was passed (I think).

Live Love Lebanon

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Live Love Beirut is the perfect example of how normal people can do something the right way, then collaborate with the government to push it. The old ads for tourism in Lebanon used to make me cringe, and I never felt they truly represented Lebanon. Live Love Lebanon however, does that marvellously with hundreds of thousands of photos from all over Lebanon by tens of thousands of Lebanese.

Eventually, the Tourism Ministry adopted it, and gave it the extra push us normal people can’t easily obtain, like airtime on major satellite TV stations and a website and infrastructure to go with it.

Therefore, We Need You Industrialists

I say industrialists because Naamat Frem comes to mind. I like that man, and vastly respect him as a successful industrialist in Lebanon. Also, because he’s trademarked National Advanced Formula for the Transformation of Trash into Eco-Electricity (NAFTTEE), which is so far, the most realistic way of solving the waste issue without destroying the environment or making us even more indebted. 

Take the initiative, work with a few municipalities and get the show running in the next 6 months. Now, everyone is whining and crying about not wanting trash in their districts, but when it transforms into energy, and money in the form of subsidies from the government (wishful thinking, I know) and the sale of recycled plastic, metal and paper, they’ll start reconsidering. Soon enough, like with everything profitable and beneficial to the Lebanese, everyone else will follow suit.

Will anyone stop them? I’d like to see Junblatt or Berri stop that because they want their extremely useless and expensive incinerators to work instead. Will the municipalities be unable to cover the costs? Well, they’ve been paying 130-180$ per ton, I’m pretty sure an industrialist can cut us a better deal than the “Jihad” company behind Sukleen. After all, if the country your companies are in is a massive landfill, that’s bad for everyone, even the richest few.

So, given that we’re one of the most billionaire-concentrated countries, I see no excuse why not. Forget the government and its bickering, let’s take things into our own hands and let them try to catch up. And it’s not only big industrialists, it’s us too. Get 3 garbage bags, and throw your waste accordingly. It’s so easy, monkeys and crows can do it. Food and organic waste in one, plastic and metal in the other, and paper in the third. Super easy, I know you can all do it. Most civilized countries’ residents already do, like here in New York.

This plan would cost us much less than the absurd ideas of exporting our garbage to northern Europe, or multi-billion dollar useless incinerators. It also takes much less time. Above all though, it’ll help decentralize this problem. No more “we don’t want other people’s garbage in our land” or “christian rights are more important than garbage”. It’ll be every district and town’s responsibility to take care of their own garbage, make use of it and preserve people’s health and our environment.

Don’t say there are no solutions, they’re right there. And till then, make sure you UberCycle with Live Love Beirut and Arc en Ciel, and read this cool post by Najib on Blogbaladi on 5 ways to reduce your waste.

Good People of Lebanon: Arm Yourselves

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Yes, you read that right. Arm yourselves, but not with guns and knives. Nor with words and human rights. Arm yourselves with non-lethal weapons. Buy tasers and pepper spray, and keep it with you at all times, and here’s why.

The Fake Lebanese Hero-Complex

I almost felt sick reading all the statuses about how outraged people where that no one at the crime scene did anything. Suggesting even that if they were there, they would have swooped in and saved the day, highlighting the issue as “people’s indifference” in this whole ordeal, and not the actual problems behind it.

It is well-documented that under similar circumstances, almost everyone would stay out of it. It might seem counter-intuitive, and you might genuinely believe you would do things differently if you were there yourself. Truth is though, that’s wrong, and that unpleasant side of who we are has gotten a fair share of research in Psychology to try and understand why and how we won’t help in situations like this, even though movies teach us that’s what we should, and that we can save a helpless person from weapon-wielding brute by just the goodness in our hearts to some nice background music.

I shan’t go into it here, but I urge you to read up on cases like Kitty Genovese, and the research that it sparked in it aftermath.

I just ask you to lay-off the fake heroism, and stop hating on the people who minded their own business instead of being attacked by the bloodthirsty criminal that killed George El Rif. Unless of course you yourself have been in a similar situation and can prove all the science wrong.

Questionable Story

I know it’s not popular to ask questions about the victim’s motives, but come on, if some wozzeh in a Picanto hits your car, how is following him to somewhere kilometers away justifiable? The official story is that they needed the license plate number, but I doubt it’d take all that time for that. So, the options are either George wanted to confront the guy, who is obviously a savage brute, or that George and his wife, who was allegedly on the phone with the cops, didn’t trust the police enough to find him and decided to do that themselves. Both unfortunate options.

If you try to out-za3ren an az3ar, you’d get upset 9 times out of 10, and it seems the killer (who is a Christian, not a Muslim by the way, for all you Christian conservatives worried about the Christianity of Ashrafieh) took him to an area where he knew he would be safe and can get his hands on George without any real resistance.

So, based on the information we have, I think the alibi of George’s wife doesn’t hold up much. He should have just let the guy pass and put some nail polish on the dent the Picanto caused, not start a high-speed car chase with a villain when you have four kids and a wife to live for. And if they truly believe in our cops, give them the number and a photo if they took one, and let it take that route. Not taking things into one’s hands.

Arm Yourselves With Non-Lethals

Everyone is armed in Lebanon, or at least all the bad people like Tarek Yatim. Bad people like him, also have powerful friends. Whether its multimillionaire bankers, or ministers in the government that are pro-ISIS, they’ll always bail their thugs out.

So, as we’ve learned, time and again, bad people in this country never pay for their crimes, in fact, they’re usually rewarded by being voted as political party chiefs and heads of government. But, that needs to stop.

The guns and knives are staying with those bad people, and if you’re like the majority of peace-loving people, you’d rather not carry a lethal weapon. That doesn’t mean we should remain pieces of meat for these people to shoot and cut up.

With the risk of sounding like a crazy NRA Republican, imagine if George’s wife had pepper spray, and while he was attacking her husband on the ground, doused Yatim in his eyes. The perpetrator would have been rendered incapacitated, or at least it would have hindered his ability to butcher George savagely like that. Difference between what I just said and an NRA rep? The weapons I’m suggesting for self-defense, are actually for that, and not “assault” rifles for “protection”, as Jim Jeffries once joked.

Get tasers, maybe the ones that shoot the electrodes out. Electrocute someone that wants to kill or rape you. Make sure you render them helpless, and then figure out if you should call the cops or just run away with your life intact.

Here of course, remains the threat of retaliation from the bad people and their godfathers. If George’s wife had tasered Tarek Yatim, would someone as steroid-injected as Yatim and his godfathers, allowed them to escape after they hurt his macho “honor”? My advice? Just leave, and be happy you have your life ahead of you. Forget Lebanon, forget whatever big titles. Nothing is more important that your lives, and if you can’t keep and protect them in Lebanon, then just say thanks very much and go somewhere with less guns, more security and actual police versus thugs in uniform that laugh at your calls.

I’m not sure how legal these non-lethal weapons are in Lebanon, given how we’ve banned vibrators and cock rings, yet allow religious extremists to form militias and run for office, and murderers and rapists to roam free, I wouldn’t be surprised if pepper spray was technically banned (after all, that would help women protect themselves from rape, and we all know how much the government doesn’t want women protected). However, they’re readily available in the market, and if you’re breaking the law by owning pepper spray because the police won’t help and bad people are plentiful and well-armed, then I wouldn’t mind breaking that specific law any day of the week.

Cut It Out With the Death Penalty

Stop it. Just stop. It’s like every time anything happens, people pull out their knives and start sharpening them, championing the death penalty as if it’s not only justifiable, but necessary. It’s 2015, and I can’t believe how many times I’ve had to say this, but torture and execution is wrong, under any circumstance, period. I don’t care if it’s Ahmad El Assir himself, no torture, no execution. Or else, what makes you better than Baghdadi? The Saudis? Iran? Cheney? Tarek Yatim? They all thought killing or torture was justified in their circumstances too.

As if the threat of being hanged like in some Medieval city would have stopped Yatim from murdering El Rif for such an incredibly stupid reason.

In Conclusion

Calm down, be careful. You live in Lebanon, remember that.

The lies that homicide and rape are very few, have an ulterior agenda. Usually, conservatives revel in how little crime we have (homicide, rape, etc.) but the truth is, it is high, we just hide it better and our police suck at uncovering the truth. How many young people do you know about who got killed in a “hunting accident”? Please. What happens there, is the killer’s parents with a priest or sheikh go and tell the dead boy’s son “Your son is dead, he isn’t coming back, he’s with god. Why not forgive and call it an accident, instead of throwing away another boy’s life?” and you end up hearing it’s an “accident”. I’ve witnessed this first-hand btw, and I know you suspect or know about similar cases too. It’s just a way for conservative religious fundamentalist to justify the oppression and backwardness with fantastical claims in a country where people still chop penises off, and lynch people for xenophobic reasons on electricity poles.

You live in a bad part of the world, full of bad people, where good people die when they try to be heroes, or go to jail because the police have no one else to put there. Don’t try to be a hero, nothing is more valuable than staying alive, as I’m sure El Rif’s loved ones agree. A stupid case of road rage should have never led to this, but, it uncovered a few problems in Lebanon, and I tried to tackle some here.

Tripoli’s Massive Peace Stairs Renovation Project

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In our fast-paced life that’s usually stuck in traffic, we often forget how vital stairs are in our urban areas. Lebanon’s cities’ topography is rarely flat, and before automobiles congested our neighborhoods, stairs were a vital connector between different areas in a city. Tripoli is no different, but the stairs there do have a different story to tell.

In Beirut, stairs are an endangered species because of irresponsible development projects that are replacing them with unaffordable skycrapers that erase the city’s heritage with massive concrete blocks. In Tripoli, stairs connecting areas like Beb El Tebbeneh and Jabal Mohsen became battlefields and eventually veritable no man’s lands, imprisoning local residents and restricting motion between different parts of Lebanon’s second city.

That’s why I had to go see what the One Voice Team hip hop group in Tripoli was up to, who you might have caught over the weekend in La Fete De La Musique in Beirut! The idea is simple: rehabilitate and beautify Tripoli’s deteriorating but essential staircases. It might sound simple, but it’s actually multi-faceted in how much it could help and impact local residents’ lives and livelihoods.

Replacing Toy RPGs with Paintbrushes

I remember once visiting the stairs in question, known locally as “Daraj El Rahbet”. The second I stepped on to it, a group of young boys threw some firecrackers in front of me while laughing as they cuddled plastic pipes with a cone at the end, fashioned to look like rocket propelled grenade (RPG) launchers the boys were sadly all-too-familiar with.

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On the day of painting the staircase though, I saw young boys and girls carrying paintbrushes to paint the stairs or learn how to paint on one of the many canvases scattered along the steps. All that as they were serenaded by the One Voice Team trio armed with poignant lyrics detailing the plight of locals in the face of insurmountable security and economic obstacles.

Seeing kids with paintbrushes anywhere else might have been just your average daytime activity, but in Tripoli, it meant a lot more. The ability to make a brush or microphone more fun and interesting than toy guns and RPGs was one thing I loved about the Tripoli Peace Stairs initiative.

Redrawing Smiles on Disenfranchised Faces

Living in the area where the Peace Stairs project is taking place, which includes rehabilitating and decorating 15 staircases in total, one might feel a tad bit alone and forgotten. With lax security and meagre economic prospects over decades, seeing everyone leave the safety of their homes to sing, dance and create art brings about a lot of hope in restoring the staircases’ former glory.

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Sarah, who is part of the One Voice Team, told me “at first, people just looked at us from their windows and balconies, but eventually, they started bringing down coffee and refreshments for our volunteers and offered us a place to store our paint buckets and supplies. It was great.”

Reconnecting War-Torn Parts of the City

Many amazing projects are being set up in Tripoli to help affected areas recover and reconcile from dozens of rounds of senseless fighting. The Peace Stairs project though, is one of the few initiatives that is physically reestablishing connections that have been damaged or severed because of the fighting. If we expect people from Beb El Tebbeneh and Jabal Mohsen to interact, then the first step would be making the main causeways between them walkable again, and not only that, but a pleasure to walk on and a space for events and exhibitions to take place.

How You Can Help

This was just the first staircase of a total of 15 the #TripoliPeaceStairs initiative is planning to execute in different parts of the city. Follow them on Facebook for updates about the next event, and go up and volunteer, maybe even spend a day exploring Tripoli, which I know most of you haven’t done for a very long time, but should.

Check out some photos from the day, courtesy of the One Voice Team page, and the report on LBCI by dear friend and colleague Dalal Mawad.

The Lebanese Army’s First Tweet

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Allow me to be the first to welcome our Lebanese Armed Forces to Twitter. The video below was the first tweet, in a remarkable move by the often traditional institution, one of the only institutions most Lebanese trust and have faith in.

Their handle is @LebArmyOfficial, and I am excited they finally decided to join the online community, and here’s why.

Quick Dismissal of Dangerous Rumors

The mainstream media in Lebanon is a hired one. The rumors they spread, and often create, to serve their political agendas can be toxic in a highly polarized and divided society like Lebanon’s. The Public Information office, Mudiyet El Tawjeeh, often takes some time to put rumors to rest and set the record straight, because often, it was a press release sent to the media, instead of directly to the Lebanese taxpayers.

Of course, they have their reasons and need to protect information for national security concerns. However, I believe the public should stay informed by its military, and I have hopes this account is the beginning of that dialog between us, the taxpayers, and our servicemen and servicewomen.

Successful TMC and ISF Twitter Accounts

The @LebISF and @TMCLebanon success has been undeniable. It made the inaccessible Internal Security Forces a tweet away, and created engagement and a back and forth with taxpayers that I would have never imagined would happen in Lebanon. Granted that the success in cyberspace hasn’t been duplicated in the real world, at least not as much as we expect, but it’s still something.

Good Luck and Stay True

We hope the Army account won’t do mistakes like release names or pass verdict on cases that have not gone to court yet, like the ISF account does sometimes. We also hope it doesn’t deteriorate into meaningless propaganda like most of the politicians’ accounts. We hope it will help fight the war against extremism and terrorism, and make the institution that is the last hope for many Lebanese, more transparent and closer to the average citizen.

A Few Thoughts on the Torture of Islamist Terror Suspects in Roumieh

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These inmates are the vilest of vile creatures in my honest personal opinion, or at least most of them, since I’m sure the horrible performance by our broken and corrupt judiciary and police force, have locked up innocent people with the terrorists that have wrought so much havoc in Lebanon. But, I am extremely against what has been done to them, despite the fact many of you guys I’m sure would be ok with it, especially those of you politically opposed to this brand of extremist Sunni militants. It’s wrong though, and here’s why.

The Da3esh and the anti-Da3esh

I’ve sat on many a roundtable and forum trying to discuss why Da3esh is still gaining popularity, and what to do about it. Their narrative seems to be trumping ours, and it’s a bit hard to understand. How are barbarians fresh out of the Dark Ages more popular than anyone who isn’t for some people? The answer is simple, there is no clear narrative for anti-Da3esh people.

Hezbollah and Iran are anti-Da3esh, but so is Saudi Arabia and the United States (conspiracy theories aside). So are many conservative Muslims. But, liberals are also staunchly anti-Da3esh, and so are empowered women, the LGBT community and atheists. It’d be a cold day in fictional Hell if the anti-Da3esh team includes Iran, Saudi, conservatives, liberals, atheists, women and gays. I hate Da3esh, but I also don’t particularly adore Iran and Saudi, nor conservatives with intolerance in their heart that is an obstacle to progress, yet don’t go the extra step of blowing stuff up and chopping heads off (I’m talking about the type of conservatives who were happy about things like the Charlie Hebdo massacre, even though they’d never have the guts to do it themselves)

So, there is no real anti-Da3esh narrative, and sadly, it has become just an excuse for anyone doing something unacceptable under normal circumstances, or to justify their failures. Kinda like how March 14 always blames Hezbollah’s arms for its resounding lameness, or how Hezbollah always says Israel to justify its constant breach of human rights and Lebanese sovereignty. It’s also like the Bush administration used “terrorism” to kill and torture innocent people over mistaken identities and without a fair trial.

I Understand Your Hatred Towards Them

The people in the video being beaten on the floor in their underwear, would probably do a lot worse to anyone they deem as “the enemy”. Heck, they’d probably saw off necks and rig cars full of explosives and detonate in a heavily populated area at rush hour (populated by folks that are from a different sect of course). So, it is only natural to hate these inmates, especially with their constant acts of defiance, blackmail and rioting even behind bars, and the luxury provided to them by influential Sunni politicians to appease their conservative voters.

This hatred isn’t exclusive to us here. In the US, 49% of folks thinks torture is ok under certain circumstances, and 57% think it does help get vital information (both are not true). To compare, only 44% think the Big Bang is true (as John Oliver so astutely put it last week). Everyone wishes ill on those they deem are the enemy, or who they believe are hellbent on hurting them.

What’s the Difference Between Us and Them Then?

If we are all anti-Da3esh, we sure have no problem acting like them. If the excuse is that “they’d do that to us, and they do every day”. Teb, how is us doing it to them any different? What makes us better? The fact we shower more and have less beards? Why would I support someone who behaves the exact same way as those we deem the greatest threat to our society and existence?

What are we fighting for? The Assad Regime? Iran? The Ummah? Our Saudi bankrollers? The za3eem? The jazma (boot)? The honor of our sects? Well, I for one, couldn’t give less of a fuck about all of those. I am against Da3esh because I believe in a humane society, where freedom is the only sacred thing and rights are guaranteed. For me, it’s not a Classico match and I either root for the Shiite extremists or the Sunni ones. If we humor Hezbollah and assume they were never extremists, then their fight with the Sunni ones have made them so, and for the reasons I mentioned above. So, like everything else in this region in the past half-decade or so, we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. The Assad Regime and Nusra-Da3esh. The Muslim Brotherhood and the Military dictatorship, etc.

Be The Better Person

For folks who seem grossly preoccupied with what their religions tell them to do, they sure overlook the mercy stuff. Why would one prefer the Lebanese government and institutions over Da3esh, when they are just as evil? Why would we respect our police, when we know and are absolutely sure that torture is not just present, it is endemic in Lebanese security institutions? Why would I be ok with cops beating people senseless, when I know they’d do that to me if they had the chance to, like they do with everyone unlucky enough to be arrested and without a good and fast enough wasta? We’ve all heard the screams of agony from places like Makhfar Hbeish. Why are we not ok with those screams, but don’t bat an eye when it’s an Islamist terror suspect’s? (and vice versa if you’re an extremist)

Cut the Extremist Crap

Perhaps the one thing that really pisses me off most, is when Islamist extremists protest and shut roads and hurl threats, because the rights of their inmates were violated. The same people who regard Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein as “heroes”, and the same ones who torture, execute and humiliate their hostages and prisoners, suddenly seem to deserve the Nobel Peace Prize. But that’s ok, because they are hypocrites and emotional blackmailers, and they do have a point, two-faced as it is. We accuse them of being barbaric and inhumane, but get pissed when they call us out for doing the same to them. They’re right, even though they themselves shit on everything that is related to human rights, tolerance and freedoms, they are experts at shaming the slip-ups of non-extremists towards terror suspects.

So, fuck you for suddenly caring about human rights when it’s your evil minions at the abused end, but when you’re the abusers, it’s Allah’s will and blessed. Still doesn’t mean it’s ok for the cops to torture inmates.

Rifi-Mashnouk Cut-Throat Tit-for-Tat

It’s been interesting following the dynamics of the two hopeful Future Movement candidates trying to fill the vacuum of MIA chief Saad El Hariri busy having iftars and brokering commissions off the 3 Billion USD arms “gift” to the Lebanese Army which we have yet to see.

On the one hand, Mashnouk has taken several unpopular moves to curb the Islamist extremist dominance in Roumieh and other parts. Rifi, has always been a staunch supporter and protector of religious extremists, whether its fuelling the clashes in Tripoli or prosecuting Da3esh flag-burners or fiery speeches against Shiites, a cleans-haven version of a Da3eshi. The man who while in uniform, routinely disobeyed the orders of beloved Interior Minister Ziad Baroud, and eventually led to the resignation of who is perhaps the best minister to ever grace the putrid halls of Lebanese governments.

Mashnouk appeals to the less-extreme Sunnis, and Rifi makes sure he’ll get the votes he need form the Saddam Hussein lovers in his home district, It’s been an interesting power play, and gun to my head, I’m rooting for Mashnouk, if only he’d sign those civil marriage licenses…

We need moderate Muslims on both sides, despite the deep-rooted hatred that is radicalizing both Sunnis and Shiites using the excuse of being victims of the oppression of “the other side”.

Why Are Islamist Lives More Important than Ours?

How many people you know have been tortured in custody? For sharing an article, for writing a blogpost, for smoking a joint, for a case of mistaken identity, for being in the way of a politician’s motorcade, for being gay, for being somewhere someone thinks you shouldn’t be (murabba3at amniye) and the list goes on and on. Why can all these people be abused and tortured and no one bats an eye, but videos of terror suspects being beaten, make the entire government work like crazy to “bring those responsible to justice”?

I’m not saying they shouldn’t, I’m saying they NEED to be brought to justice and made an example of. I’m just stressing the need to do the same for every other piece of shit cop who has ever laid a finger on a suspect, tried to sexually harass female suspects, falsified evidence and testimonies and any other abhorred law breaking by those that are supposed to be enforcing it. How can we trust a police force we’re afraid of? By showing us that the corrupt and criminal ones are put in Roumieh too. Then, maybe, we’d start to trust men in uniform. Till then, they’re just thugs with a lot of power, and we’re walking farroujs stuffed full of desperate bribe money or if the cops are unlucky, possible good wastas.

All in All

Don’t be bad people. Don’t be happy about those you hate being tortured. Remember, in this brutal, barbaric, devastatingly costly regional turmoil, it’s important we stick to what used to make Lebanon special: a certain degree of freedom and laws that are not from the Dark Ages (not all of them at least). Torture is wrong under any and every circumstance, even if the ones you’re torturing would do the same and worse to you. Otherwise, mitlak mitlon, and I don’t really see how you’re any better than the average run-of-the-mill Da3esh foot soldier.

The Weekly Leaks: Seven Sisters Opening End of July at Beirut Waterfront

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It’s been a while since I’ve leaked something. Perhaps it’s because very few new venues and events have been in the pipeline. But, when I saw the teaser campaign for something called “Seven Sisters” on Instagram, I just had to know more.

Seven Sisters is going to be Beirut’s newest nightlife venue. It’s located on the Beirut Waterfront, close to The Garten and The O1NE. The huge club and lounge will have plenty of greenery. Think of it as a large garden in Beirut’s expanding concrete complexes and skycrapers, especially in that area which is undergoing a massive infrastructure upgrade.

The focus of the club will be on the food, with an early sunset opening time and plenty of live cooking stations that’ll include a sashimi bar, steaks and several other cuisines. The music will be loungy, uplifting House music on the weekends, with plenty of local names already on board. During the week, live entertainment will happen at Seven Sisters, for those of you who enjoy that every now and then.

When I was learning about this from a source close to the project, I asked how expensive it’ll be, given the many different lounge areas and aiming for a slightly older crowd (24+), and he assured me the average bill for dinner and drinks is going to be around $50 per person, which is less than existing lounges and rooftops in Beirut that offer a good dinner alongside loud music and drinks.

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All in all, the Waterfront area is getting brand new venue that I’m excited to see become a reality. It should be ready to open right after Eid, at the end of July. It’ll be nice to have such a big, new venue in Beirut after we’ve gotten comfortable with the regulars. I’ll try to find out more over the next few weeks and will keep checking the construction progress, till then, here are a couple of renders of what it’ll look like.

Love and War on the Rooftop’s Resounding Premiere

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The idea was simple really: write and produce a play. The catch was that the actors and writers were young men and women from Tripoli’s notorious Beb El Tebbene and Jabal Mohsen districts. The minute the guns were finally silenced, we (as in MARCH) partnered up with locals and held auditions in Northern Lebanon’s capital. Soon, we had a 16 young men and women, most of them had participated in the years-long violence, on-board with us. Amateur actors, who became the best of friends, from neighborhoods divided by a street ironically called Syria street.

Under the guidance of Lucien Bourjeily, our 16 amateur actors helped write and rehearse a play that details their daily lives and struggles in a witty, comedic way. Every week over the course of several months, prominent Lebanese actors and directors, such as Nadine Labaki, George Khabbaz, Rafic Ali Ahmad and Rita Hayek and Mark Daou from AUB, held workshops that provided much-needed insight and guidance that helped the actors’ brilliant ideas come alive on the stage. [Read more on the prep phase]

Review

On Monday, the premiere was at the Madina Theater in Hamra, and it was lightyears more amazing than I had imagined. I was privy to the rehearsals, and got to observe and become familiar with the actors and actresses, so I wasn’t expecting to be that surprised. I was blown away. Dalal and I couldn’t stop laughing, and in those brief pauses, we’d let the punch line of the jokes sink in and realize how somber the reality in parts of Tripoli actually is.

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Jokes about how tough it is to be from Jabal Mohsen or Beb El Tebbene when applying for a job, and how pretending to live in. Jabs at politicians who sat idly by watching the carnage, or incited it in one way or another. Dismissals of religious extremism and a clear leaning towards progressive social and political ideas. It was beautiful: raw slapstick talent comedy, with deep meanings and symbolism that portrays and critiques the many unfortunate circumstances the actors and actresses face in their daily lives.

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The crowd, which I’d definitely classify as a tough one, roared with laughter at Khodr’s energetic outbursts. The standing ovation after the play, and the extremely touching speech by Khodr, one of the actors, and Lea our president, really hit it home, making us realize how grand what just happened was. One particular thing Khodr said was, “I never imagined I’d even watch a play, much less star in one” and that was a beautiful end to a magnificent performance by amateur volunteer actors and actresses who did all of this in a few months.

So incredibly proud of everyone involved. It’s days and achievements like this that make us proud to be MARCH supporters and lovers of Tripoli and its people. The tour will resume after Ramadan, so get ready everyone in Beirut, the North, the South, the Bekaa and Mount Lebanon… We’re coming to a theater near you soon!

Read about it in The National, AnnaharL’Orient le Jour, watch reports on Kalam Ennas, Al JazeeraAl Arabi TV, Al Hurra TV, Al Jadeed, MTV, OTV and Future TV and many other reviews! See you in after Ramadan!

Don’t forget to like our page on Facebook, and support the many causes we work tirelessly for!

Ollie Daze: Everything You Wanna Know

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Taken by me at the last Ollie Daze event in Laqlooq

Some 18 months ago, I was sitting with Lori and Richie in Faqra listening to them talk about a new project they were thinking of starting up. If I remember correctly, the idea was a chill place for snowboarders and skiers to rest their aching feet after a day on the slopes, have a drink, listen to some music and barbecue some burgers. The outcome, was sorta like that, but vastly more awesome.

Ollie Daze. It’s in the name, “Ollie” the skateboarding trick, and “Daze” as in how you feel after a couple of drinks in nature with friends. Together, they sorta sound like “Holidays” and thus, Ollie Daze.

Ollie Daze organizes public and private events in venues that are often public spaces high up in the mountains or on out-of-the-way beaches on the shore. Their events also always have a twist. For example, when they held a snowboarding event a few months ago, instead of hitting the slopes, they found two war-torn abandoned villas in Qanat Bekish, tied a bungee rope on their balconies and jumped off the buildings into the snow. Add food, drinks and music, and you get quite the exceptionally fun day on the snow.

unnamed-7The next event was at a beach on the Batroun shore, in a truly breathtaking spot. Just take a look:

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Another intimate beach event was held in Tabarja, and their biggest event to date was the huge blob event (Aqua Park) in Laqlooq, in a lake surrounded by trees and amazing views of the nearby mountains and valleys.

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Unpleasant weather didn’t dampen the mood, and although no blob jumps took place on Saturday, Sunday was business as usual and super fun. Check out the video on their page.

It was so good, that the Ollie Daze Aqua Park happening again this weekend, same spot, bigger awesome crowd and equally beautiful music. And if you don’t wanna jump off a crane into the blob in the pond, there are plenty of less extreme games like a slip and slide and plenty of inflatables. Or you could just chill by the pond or around your tents or the DJ booth (Wrangler).

RSVP here, and see you all thereeeeeeee

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What To Do This Weekend

Wednesday

AK Presents Chyno (Album Launch) – B018

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Chyno is an amazing rapper. His lyrics are always powerful and often from a perspective never tackled before. Audio Kultur is organizing his new album launch at B018 tomorrow, and it’s not just gonna be Chyno on the ticket. Ingrid Bawad, Poly, Tarek Khuluki (Tangaret Daghet), Carl Ferneiné (Loopstache), Imad Jawad (Lazzy Lung), Philippe Dib and Ceasar K will also be performing live at b0!

It’s gonna be epic, seeing all these amazing friends and artists, under b0’s retractable roof, for just 10 dollars a pop.

RSVP Here and see you there!

Friday

Pop-Up Hotel Opening (Factory Fridays + Cotton Candy) ft. Coolio

11393214_811184518977710_3773799630124399761_nOk, this collab is MASSIVE. Factory Fridays has steadily become the ever-present, always-packed Friday night fixture. It’s time to move for the summer though, and that location is going to be the St Georges Yacht Club in Ain El Mreisseh. This time though, they’re teaming up with Cotton Candy to get you Coolio, for a true Gangsta’s Paradise on Friday.

It’s a must this Friday night, especially if you’re one of those 90s bitches!

RSVP Here

Electric Sundown Presents AUDIOFLY

11224781_780484328739520_6702043726776309096_nI love Audiofly, and when the boys come to Electric Sundown, it’s always my favorite act at Iris Beach Club. Come early so entrance is free (5-8PM), and take a dip in the sea or the pool at 3LIAS warms up for 3 hours before Audiofly take over!

RSVP Here

Saturday

The Shoreline Sessions (Radio Beirut + Colonel Beer)

11295686_945580832139600_7246884126673132029_nThis is an awesome concept that will come to you every second Saturday of the month, through September. Radio Beirut is teaming up with Colonel Beer in Batroun, to bring you the best of Arab sounds and artists right next to the Batroun shore!

The first instalment includes Acid Arab from France (WOW!), Maurice Louca from Egypt, and Aziza from Lebanon for a unique blend of Arabic Tarab, and Pop music!

It starts early, at 6:00PM, and tickets are for 25,000LBP presale and 30,000LBP at the door.

Not to be missed, looks extremely promising. RSVP here

NOIR at The Grand Factory

11330023_649765718458319_7243020899528972656_nI love Noir, and this is one of the acts I’m looking forward to most this summer! Noir’s coming to the Grand Factory on Saturday.

RSVP Here

The Garten Presents Sonja Moonear

11412364_10153080823307961_9002610667570664834_nSonja’s set are a trip, and I’m glad she’s coming to the dome this Saturday, along with my dearest Technophile and Ali Ajami. Come early and watch a movie on the grass, and see y’all in the dome!

RSVP here

Thoughts on the Issam Maalouf Issue

I’ve been silently watching all of this unfold over the past few days, and all I could think of is how emotional everyone is being, and how everyone involved completely divorced themselves from rational thought and got married to their elitist leanings.

Scandal TV shows in Lebanon are very much like Televangelists: corrupt, manipulative experts on emotional blackmail that often have zero evidence to back their claims. The difference is, they usually prey on gullible, angry people and corrupt those people’s minds. They don’t decide what law enforcement, government and the judiciary does. In Lebanon though, that is the only way the police and judiciary do anything. It’s like the cops sit at home waiting for Joe Maalouf to tell them what to do, usually based on videos that could be easily classified as entrapment.

What was surprising, is that Kalam Ennas broke this story, not the usual duo of doom: Maalouf-Khalife. Kalam Ennas is perhaps one of the most respected talk shows in Lebanon, but you can’t blame them for jumping on the emotionally stimulating stories that catapulted Khalife and Maalouf to the forefront of Lebanon’s salon talks. Regardless though, the reactions on both sides were worrying.

Anti-Maalouf Camp

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It’s as if all the pent-up hatred for everyone in a labcoat exploded with this story. I even read comments demanding the government force doctors to see patients for a minimum of 30 minutes for a fixed rate price. Communist dictatorship much?

The anti-Maalouf camp have a point, many doctors are pieces of shit. Just like everyone else in this country who gives you sub-par service for jacked-up prices. Like plumbers, electricians, waiters, engineers, architects and government employees. Since when is that an excuse to burn someone at the stake though? A patient had complications? Those doctors are all money-hungry assholes, yalla, throw him in jail without enough evidence or a semblance of a fair trial based on facts and rational judgment, not sensational “awww, poor little girl!”

Pro-Maalouf Camp

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Many doctors rabba7oona jmeeleh that they kept studying for 34 years to become doctors. Last I checked, that was their choice, and if not, they must’ve been unable to stand up to their traditional Lebanese parents’ mentality. Studying for that long doesn’t exempt you from paying for making mistakes. True a carpenter won’t get in as much trouble for doing a mistake, but that’s because a crooked coffee table is a much smaller problem than 4 amputated toddler limbs.

One cannot dismiss that many doctors are guilty of severe malpractice, but go unpunished because of a wasta or the victims’ lack of faith and trust in the Lebanese judiciary (and lack of money to pay bribes and get wastas). That doesn’t make locking up a doctor because a TV show was the judge, jury and executioner, ok.

My Two Cents

Maalouf (the doctor) should be released, pending a proper investigation by people who understand the medical details and have no bias one direction or the other. If he is found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, then he and any other physician found guilty of malpractice, should suffer the consequences of the law.

From the looks of it, a viral infection exacerbated by a drug-resistant bacterial infection, doesn’t seem like a winnable case for the anti-Maalouf camp, which would explain the relentless campaign against him before anyone has enough time to try to understand and process that it probably wasn’t the guy’s fault.

Of course, that is not to say that doctors should be beyond reproach. I don’t care how elite you feel you are, and how many fellowships and rotations you do. If you ruin someone’s life or end it because of negligence or malicious intent to make money, then fuck you and maybe you should remember that Hippocratic Oath you post on your Facebook after graduating, which oddly, I didn’t see once in this whole debate.

Also, as much as I trust your teta’s opinion on medical matters while reading your fortunes in empty coffee cups, she doesn’t know squat compared to your average run-of-the-mill resident physician. This means that you should take medical opinions on the matter far more seriously than Marcel’s, or the parents of Ella. What happened to Ella was extremely sad, and I can only imagine how difficult the rest of her and her family’s life is going to be from now on. But, I cannot stand for a minute that someone pay for that when it wasn’t their fault. It feels nice to blame someone and burn them for it, heik, fashet khele2 and makes us feel righteous. Is that the kind of society we want though? The one that chops dicks off, hangs suspects on electricity poles and shreds them to pieces on TV? Or one where primitive tribal sentiments are shelved in favor of rational thinking and fair trials. I mean, come on, even Michel Samaha got something similar to a trial in something similar to a court (Martial Court). How can a doctor whose suspected of negligence, be so swiftly incarcerated in a very uncommon and novel way. I mean, can you name one other malpractice case you’ve ever heard of in Lebanon?

To sum up, for every Lebanese taxpayer who feels they have been the victims of malpractice by doctors, please, file a lawsuit and report it to the necessary authorities. I’m not a fan of immunity for professions Lebanese folks see as “superior”, like lawyers and doctors. I mean, that piece of shit lawyer who beat his wife to a pulp in the ABC parking lot, is still jacking off to BDSM porn with a cigar up his ass because “he’s immune, he’s a lawyer.” Bad people should be punished, doctors or not. But for me, I don’t see that there is much of a case against Dr Maalouf, without forgetting that many doctors deserve to be behind bars but Marcel Ghanem never shed light on them, and they remain at large, endangering more lives.

Also, one last thing. You’re not idiots. You don’t need a medical degree to know you are not healthy. Choose a doctor you like and trust. Some doctors are assholes, but many are amazing and go out of their way for their patients, many of whom are my former classmates and I’d trust them with my life and the lives of my loved ones. Heck, my life has been saved 3 times by doctors who went out of their way to make sure I was in the OR and back on my feet in no time. Don’t expect every doctor to be amazing, and that’s the beauty of having a profit-driven medical field: you can choose the one you like and let your insurance worry about paying them.