Lebanon Discontinues Child Beating Law, Religious Leaders Reinstate It

Watching all this from 12 thousand kilometers away should be easier, but it’s not. I think we broke the norm, proving that a shit parliament convening is a million times worse than it staying at home. The amount of crimes against humanity and the Lebanese people the past few days alone are incredible, and one particularly outrageous one that has me fuming, is the child physical abuse article in the Lebanese penal code.

To put it simply:

Wednesday April 9, 2014

After national outrage at video footage showing teachers with issues letting them all out viciously on their pre-pubescent students at schools, the thieving dinosaurs in Parliament voted to abolish this scary, draconian, mortifying law. Wow, am I right? They actually passed a good law after the disgusting double-crossing of popular will with the women’s protection law, the old renter/landlord law and the proposed funding for the long overdue wage hike…

BUT

Thursday April 10, 2014

Less than 24 hours after a historical piece of legislation makes it through Lebanon’s parliament (which is a very rare occurrence in Lebanon), speaker of parliament-for-life Nabih Berri succumbed to pressure by unnamed Muslim religious leaders, citing excuses such as “…a misinterpretation of the text, [...] and due to the objection voiced by a number of religious figures over the elimination of the article.” reports LBC.

So, the law was voted upon again after overturning the abolishment, and now permits and sanctifies by law these barbaric disciplinary measures “on condition that they do not leave traces.”

Take-Home Messages?

Sure horrible parents, you can beat the shit out of your toddler, just make sure you don’t make them bleed or severely need hospital. No on will ever know! And if they do, nothing will happen to you because your local child-abuse-friendly sheikh will come to your rescue!

How disgusting is it, that piece of shit religious institutions had the ultimate power, and in less than a day, put the legislative body on its knees, and forced it to back pedal on what is perhaps the only good bill passed in decades…

Blocs against the law (for protecting kids)

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Blocs that want to legalize beating kids and child abuse (the most evil and lowest there is)

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So, congratulations evil religious institutions and illegitimate parliament, you’ve successfully guarded your rights to beat innocent children up! Proud moment indeed! Ma fi a7la min Lebnen!

If you support children’s rights, and think that the horror inflicted by the religious establishment on minors needs to stop, whether its child rape or child physical abuse, these needs to stop. These are our kids. So, check out Himaya and see how you can help in a cause I believe in and support deeply.

Lebanese “President” Equates Atheists to Terrorists

The million dollar quote is: “Peace will defeat war. Faith will defeat fundamentalism and atheism.” [0:30-0:34]

Wow… Just wow… The so-called President of the most “open and free” country in the Arab World just equated filthy religious extremist terrorists who kill our soldiers, to me, and people like me: those who don’t believe in his or any god, or any other regressive, counterproductive fantasy that makes people violent, oppressed and uninformed.

Before we begin, allow me to remind our soon-to-be-retired president of the constitution he swore to protect when we was OK-ed as a weak enough president to not upset any of the warring Lebanese factions.

There is only one absolute clause in our constitution, one that cannot be corrupted by bad ministers and failed parliaments. Just one, and that one clause is in the opening of the legal document we’re all supposed to conform to. Belief, faith, is every person’s absolute right that cannot be robbed from them by tyrants or politicians.

In the preamble, article c, the Lebanese constitution states:

c. Lebanon is a parliamentary democratic republic based on respect for public liberties, especially the freedom of opinion and belief, and respect for social justice and equality of rights and duties among all citizens without discrimination.

If that wasn’t clear enough for our dear leader, here’s Article 9 of the Lebanese Constitution

Article 9

There shall be absolute freedom of conscience.  The state in rendering homage to the Most High shall respect all religions and creeds and guarantees, under its protection, the free exercise of all religious rites provided that public order is not disturbed.  It also guarantees that the personal status and religious interests of the population, to whatever religious sect they belong, is respected.

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Now, if we look past the fact our constitution refers to the “Most High” (which is embarrassing for a modern country that should rely on logical reasoning and fairness to create laws, not a deity), we see that the constitution is pretty serious on the absolute right of people to believe, and of course, lack-thereof. It doesn’t matter if you’re a minister, a judge, an MP or the president, you have absolutely no right to interfere with my faith.

The sheer disgust this speech invoked in me has rarely ever reared its ugly head, but, for good reason. How could the president suggest that our soldiers knew they were gonna be fighting and risking their lives against “terrorists” and “atheists” yes… I had to rewind several times.

In a country spiraling into the abyss thanks to people being too religious, fighting each other over who has the best god, killing each other in their god’s name, fighting in other countries for the glory of their gods, decapitating and blowing their disgusting selves up to honor their gods, the president has the nerve to call us a threat? Law-abiding, peaceful citizens who happen to not believe in a deity?

And if it’s not the wars and conflicts for gods, it’s god’s men fucking up our lives, with their desperate clinging on to power to prevent women from being protected from rape and murder, their greed in blocking the law to a proper civil marriage and personal status laws, their abhorred protection of child molesters, and the list goes on and on and on and on, and you dare Mr President, tell us that soldiers are supposed to “win” against us? What the flying fuck. These soldiers are dead because men of faith have been allowed to run this country for far too long. In a properly educated, fair secular country, we wouldn’t have terrorists to begin with.

Now, I’m not calling on Lebanon to become atheist. Or suggesting that atheism will solve all our problems. But, to lump atheists with terrorists is more at home in the Dark Ages, where our politicians and priests and sheikhs and laws belong!

The President owes us an apology, and I demand he apologizes for what we’ll consider a slip of the tongue. This bullying and harassment, and outright threat to a fundamental right every tax payer has, is unacceptable. Even the Pope of the Catholic Church is extending a hand to atheists, and here we see the president, one of his followers, burn those bridges here. Even Patriarch Rai acknowledged atheists, and here we have the president threatening us.

Will the president threaten me with jail for speaking up? Let him. But, for him to threaten me and those like me with my country’s own soldiers, well, that can happen when the hell he believes in freezes over :)

I extend my deepest condolences to the soldiers’ families, and I am appalled the President would use such a somber occasion to push his radical thoughts and intolerant hatred towards people who don’t believe the same thing he does.

Oh, and look who followed in our President’s footsteps… The Saudi King! Sad times to be a free-thinking Arab…

My Thoughts on the Awesome “Dear Lebanon” Video

If you haven’t yet, watch the video till the very last second.

The movie is beautiful. It was perfectly shot. The teens were very eloquent and well-spoken. The rap segments were epic. The locations shown and the videos playing on their tech was very witty. All in all, it was a very captivating and well-done project by kids who are being forced to grow up way before their time.

While watching it, I couldn’t help but think back to when I was 15 myself. I was in Saint Joseph School in Cornet Chehwan, where the nucleus that later became March 14 started (in the archdiocese that was part of our school). Back then, we too were coaxed into growing up way before our time. The unbearable situation caused by the Syrian occupation had finally began morphing itself into a political uprising Lebanon or the region hadn’t seen before: peaceful, non-sectarian and successful (somewhat).

Back then, we had an assassination every other week, and a random explosion in mainly Christian suburbs to fill the gaps between the assassinations. We would joke about going to Kaslik tonight, cause they already bombed it last week. The morbid reality of normalization of violence, before we can even legally drive, much less vote.

But, we had hope. We had a lot of it. We kicked the Syrians out. We toppled the government. Things were looking up. With no occupying soldiers on our soil, after the Israeli withdrawal in 2000, and the Syrians’ “redistribution” in 2005, we had everything to hope for.

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Bit by bit though, disappointment after disappointment, and a dirty elections fresh off the heels of a “revolution”, a war just a year later, sectarian clashes the year after and the same old faces and Syrian regime boot-lickers were still in power. The “opposition” to Syria’s presence mutated into the newer, more corrupt version of the Syrian security apparatus. In other words, the hopes we had on the afternoon of March 14, 2005 were slowly being chiseled away, day by day.

The war in Syria and the participation of Hezbollah and extremist Sunni groups on opposite sides of the clash there, gave the ailing old man that was our sense of hope, a mercy blow and things no longer seemed bright. The light at the end of the proverbial tunnel was gone.

And here, is where these 15-year-olds’ lives have parked them at the start of their integration into society. A reality that includes suicide bombings and regular street clashes in different parts of Lebanon. One where the social and economic situation is deteriorating hand-in-hand with the appalling security one. And I do not envy them for that position.

I can’t help but feel just a wee bit guilty. We were the kids in 2005, and we should have made sure it doesn’t get that bad. But, I’m still too young to run for office, and have never voted in my life. So, it can’t all be us. Especially since many of us (us being my circle of friends back then and fellow activists) have matured enough to distance ourselves as far as possible from any existing political party, and focus on what we want, what the Lebanese people want to accomplish.

This video restored some hope though. It showed that the generations still in class are well in-tune with the generations that are stepping into boardrooms. The irk at our sectarian system, the faithlessness in our legislative and executive bodies, the complete chaos that is judiciary and policing, the absurdly corrupt economic policies and everything else like basic infrastructure and necessities, has taken a bigger part of our loyalties than our parents’ sects and parties.

We now care about making our every day life better, more than we do ideological struggles and existentialist phobias. And that’s amazing. We’re also figuring out how we can get things done without resorting to the streets, but lobbying and pressuring where we should. Significant advancements in terms of civil marriage and the LGBT civil rights movement says a lot about how pressure in the right place, at the right time, can open doors. If Ziad Baroud hadn’t given us the option to strike off our sect from our records, Nidal and Khouloud would have never gotten married a civil marriage on Lebanese soil. If folks like Legal Agenda hadn’t argued that homosexuality is technically not “against nature” (article 534 of the penal code stipulates) because it occurs naturally in many if not most species. These “loopholes” allowed for floodgates to open, and enough momentum and pressure to make it official (hopefully very soon).

That is why things like “Ana” were born. Not for revolutions. Not for big shiny titles. It was created for the “tiny” things, like police brutality, election reforms and women’s rights. If you beat down enough doors and make enough of a case to smartly shove the executive branch into blessing the “loophole”, and eventually forcing the legislative branch to catch up and make it official.

We had more hope back when I was 15. But, there still is hope, and I daresay we’re more prudent in how we invest that hope this time.

11 Reasons Why Weed Needs to be Legal in Beirut + Video

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It is no secret I am a huge proponent of marijuana, cannabis, hashish, pot, dope, buddha, ganja, pot, hisham, walid or whatever the hell you call what you smoke. It is no secret either that I don’t smoke or eat marijuana plants in Lebanon, for fear of brutal, human-rights abusive and inhumane treatment by Lebanon’s police and judiciary… Something tens of thousands of young Lebanese folks have suffered from since the late 90s, with the viciousness and horrific practices by governmental institutions skyrocketing in frequency and audacity in the past 24 months, as highlighted in this Human Rights Watch report.

This is unacceptable for many reasons, be it from the legal, medical, social, cultural, historic, economic and even national security interests of Lebanon.

It is very important before going forward that this is in support of decriminalizing marijuana/cannabis, not other drugs. This is a problem in Lebanon because most illegal substances are referred to as “hashish” by uninformed individuals, thanks to the same word applying for both a recreational marijuana user, and a heavy drug addict: “Heshesh/Hesheshe” whether it’s harmless weed, or fatal heroin. So, again, this is just for marijuana, not other dangerous drugs like cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, etc.

1- Prohibition is Not Working

Despite the theatrics every year of the army and ISF “clearing out” marijuana fields in the Bekaa, we all know that the farmers are planting more than ever before, and that the cartels are thriving, and thus have become more emboldened, than ever before. We also know that the only people ever caught are either foreign nationals (when its dealers/drug mules) and innocent, young individuals utilized for bribe money the judiciary police and Lebanese judiciary thrives on unfortunately.

It’s not working, so why waste our resources, people’s lives and encourage corruption for something many, and I do mean many, Lebanese are doing anyway with no harm done.

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2- Lebanese People Are For Decriminalization

A poll I ran late last year had 3147 respondents, and the question asked was: “Are You For Legalizing Marijuana in Lebanon?” The results were a whopping 85% for those “absolutely” supporting, 8% “maybe” and only 7% “never” (original post). This poll came over a year after I asked you guys about your marijuana smoking habits, to which 1232 respondents said that 39.2% smoke regularly, 19.2% occasionally, 28% would never try and the remaining respondents wouldn’t mind trying it (original post).

Even the former government, especially former Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, sort of gave the weed farmers a break. For several reasons, for one, the government is too weak and the cartels and clans too strong to be confronted. For two, the government has promised compensation and alternative crops for weed farmers for years, failing each and every time to actually keep their promises, prompting farmers to go back to growing cannabis, with a determination to get the government’s bulldozers off their fields, whatever the cost.

3- Weed is Good For You

Marijuana is a medicine. A very old, reliable, versatile and safe one. From nausea and vomiting, to HIV/AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis, dementia, epilepsy, diabetes, glaucoma, Tourette’s Syndrome and many, many more diseases are remedied, or their symptoms allayed by marijuana. Whether vaporized, smoked, eaten, drunk or used topically, marijuana and marijuana extracts are the miracle drug that have the ability to drastically improve people in pain’s lives, helps prevent forms of cancer like lung cancer and could even heal other types of cancer like melanoma (skin cancer).

Weed is a natural medicine, one used throughout history, especially for pain management. With every passing day, more and more research is corroborating the medical benefits of marijuana and dispelling the lies and misinformation that have ruined marijuana use and progress for generations. If you think this isn’t serious research already saving and changing lives, just look at these entire US families moving as “refugees” into Colorado to get their severely sick children’s lives saved by marijuana. (also, check out Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s series WEED on CNN, who was a vehement opponent of marijuana, but is now a major supporter)

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4- Loss of Faith and Respect in the ISF

With a highly educated sizable part of Lebanon’s youth, it’s not surprising that 85% of the readers of this blog are strongly for legalization. Even in the country’s disadvantaged regions like the Bekaa, farmers that might not have had a chance at exploring the academic benefits of marijuana, know that this plant is the only peaceful, harmless method for them to earn a living for their families, neglected by a heavily indebted, crippled government. So, regardless of the severe rift between Lebanon’s “upper and middle class” and “working class”, all three are for easing up on marijuana laws and crackdowns, whether in terms of using the plant, or producing it.

Most people also lose respect for Lebanon’s police, even anger and defiance, seeing the officers they want to trust, make no effort to secure citizens’ lives from violent clashes and terrorist attacks, but spare no expense to entrap and blackmail harmless marijuana users. In a country where faith in the government and its institutions is already rock-bottom low, increasing the angst many if not most people have towards the police by unfairly entrapping and brutally and selectively enforcing marijuana crackdowns makes things worse: police become the stuff you want to avoid, even fear, instead of trust and respect.

5- Why Should Israel be the World Leader in Medicinal Marijuana Research?!

Most of Europe has decriminalized or even legalized recreational marijuana use, and most US states now allow medicinal use of cannabis and states like Washington and Colorado completely legalized it for recreational use as well. Unfortunately, several reasons such as federal bureaucracy and lack of funding, have made serious research into marijuana still very minimal in the West.

Israel on the other hand, is lightyears ahead when it comes to medical marijuana research and use. I don’t see why Israel should get all the benefits and glory of this revitalized field of medicine, when we can easily do it just as well and even better with Lebanon’s long history of above-average cannabis, rich in THC which is so valuable in many medical applications. So, instead of selling Israelis weed over the border, let’s beat them at their game.

6- We Coined The Term Hashish

Many people don’t know that many words in English trace back to Arabic. One example is “Alcohol” -> Al Koohool (الكحول). Or, “Elixir” “Al-Ixsir” from the alchemy days. Another important one is “Assassin” which many people believe comes in a reference to the-often high killers sent to murder prominent enemies: “The Hashashins” eventually became “Assassins”. Of course, that cannot be completely confirmed, and some suggest the Arabic root is “Asass” which means “Foundation/Origin”, but was misunderstood by foreigners as Hashish. Regardless, it was a something deeply rooted in our history, and it’s sad that many places around the world celebrate it, and the people who made use of it most efficiently (us), vilify it today in legal terms.

7- It’s Not Addictive or a “Gateway Drug”

I’ve smoked a lot of Marijuana in my life outside Lebanon, and I very easily stop when I move back to Lebanon, (even though I hate being forced to). No one is addicted to marijuana. No one has ever overdosed on marijuana. Research has categorically demonstrated marijuana is substantially less addictive and harmful than fully legal alcohol and tobacco.

Read all the literature. Study the science. The old lies and misconceptions about weed need to stop now, and we have a lot of catching up to do…

8- Less Abused if Legal

“El mamnoo3, marghoob”, in other words, something being illegal makes it all the more appealing to obtain. Trials around the world have corroborated that, with examples such as Amsterdam’s, and the more radical decriminalization of all types of drugs more than a decade ago in Portugal, has more than halved drug abuse and addiction in the tiny southern country.

9- Gets Money Into The Right Hands

Drug dealers in Lebanon are powerful. Many prominent Lebanese political parties make money off the illegal drug trade, which allows armed factions and clans to form ruthless cartels that end up acting like feudal lords hailed by local communities for providing the services and needs the government is unable to provide.

Legalizing marijuana, means taxing it, and that’s great news for all the good guys. For one, the price will drop for the average weed user, who pays a lot of money for mediocre weed because of all the danger involved. Even though it’s cheaper, a big part of it will be tax for the state, which is in desperate need of filling its coffers raped brutally for decades by rampant and rudely obvious corruption.

Let’s not get excited about oil and gas 10 years down the line… We can start making millions by next fall…

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10- Tourism

If anyone tells you they’re going to Amsterdam for the architecture, they’re probably an architecture student using an excuse to go smoke good kush in the Dutch capital. Everyone goes to Amsterdam for the liberal cannabis use, and that’s sad, cause there are so many cool things in that city too, like the clubs =P.

Lebanon can be that. Our indigenous weed is world-famous and much-sought-after worldwide. Imagine how many lower-budget, younger tourists we’d attract… Backpackers who come to try our weed, listen to our music and party on our slopes and beaches.

11- It’s Your Choice

No one has the right to tell you what you can and cannot do to yourself. As long as you’re not actually harming anyone, it’s no one’s business. Weed brings out the good in people. It mellows them out, makes them more creative. Personally, some of my best work has been done high and I focus a lot better after a joint. I also prefer it immensely over alcohol. So, back off and let people enjoy themselves.

Here’s a video of my beautiful self tackling this post in Lebanese Arabic for those of you who aren’t in the mood to read so much.

Lebanon Worst Place to Go On Vacation: The Daily Beast

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Usually, we’re celebrating being among the best something. This time though, The Daily Beast has named Lebanon the #1 worst place to go on vacation for Westerners right now… We beat delightful places like Iran and Senegal, and outdid fellow Arab countries Jordan, Morocco and Egypt.

On the best 10 places list, Brazil is number one and Australia comes in second, with destinations mostly in South-East Asia and the Southern Hemisphere, and of course Canada.

Even though this is just a poll on a website (with a massive audience), and even though it might not mean we’re worse off than Senegal and Iran, but, we sure are perceived that way by many people around the world, and I think it’s time we admit it to ourselves too.

We’ve been through a lot, and we always make it through like there’s no tomorrow. But, this time is different. It is genuinely bad and with no light at the end of the proverbial tunnel like we used to have. I wish we’d go back to topping lists encouraging folks to come visit, but it’s not just the suicide bombers and terrorists’ fault… It’s ours as well.

Terrorism and ideological wars might be out of us normal people’s hands. But, civil marriage isn’t, neither is a law protecting women and respecting human rights. And, as long as we can’t as a people in 2014 update and change what we can through prudent, calculated and consistent efforts to get what we deserve, what we pay for with our taxes, then I can’t really be expected to contradict what the “mainstream media” would have you believe… After all, is the reality that much better?

Check out The Daily Beast full list here.

8 Reasons Why I Never Fly MEA

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Small Note Before You Start Reading

If you’re one of those people who pretend that everything Lebanese is “the best in the world” and that any person criticizing them is “not patriotic” or “zionist” or whatever other buzz term you like to use on Facebook for someone who disagrees with you, then please, save yourself the heartache and don’t read this post. I care about the services I’m getting for the money I’m paying, not if the plane has a cedar on it or not.

1- The Ads Never Stop

If you’ve ever flown on MEA, the ads after the ancient safety and security video run for about 20 minutes (I shit you not) and you see better ads on US daytime television. From real estate, to plastic surgery and restaurants you’ve never heard of, there’s no way you can skip, mute, etc. the dozens of ads.

Now, putting ads is something everyone does, especially when the service or product they provide is free. But, when we pay the amount of money we pay to travel on our flagship airline (which has exclusivity btw) should be enough to make sure we don’t spend a quarter of my flight time admiring Dr. Nader Saab’s clinic and his cheesy “Al Jamal Nader w Saab.”

2- The Ground Staff Haven’t Heard of Standing in Line

Lebanese people don’t know how to wait in line. It’s genetic I guess. But then again, when they’re abroad, they miraculously learn how to wait for their turn. Usually, if someone cuts in line, the staff very politely take him/her aside and send them to the back of the line. They also help people stand in line (calling numbers, passengers with kids/disabilities/elderly first). In Lebanon, the hostesses with 2 kilograms of makeup have no problem at all letting some douchebag with an iPad1 and fake Abercrombie & Fitch sweatpants cut in front of 50 other passengers. Meshe el 7al wlooo!

Check-in times are also unusually long. You stand in line for ages because there aren’t enough staff, or simply because the employee’s friends from her hometown all decided to go on a field trip, and again, cut in line as you calmly wait for their small talk to end while listening to Skrillex’s “I wanna kill everybody in the world” to stay sane.

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Courtesy of Joumana Haddad

3- The Flight Attendants Utterly Despise You

More like elementary school teachers. Now, I’m not a prince or anything, but again, for the money I pay, I expect a “Mr” or “sir” like in any other company you’re dealing with, not “3ayni” w “habibi”. Also, it’s rare that you find an attendant which is accommodating, it’s as if they always hate their job and are having the worst day of their life and you’re just one more insufferable burden for asking for a glass of water to take your sleeping pills to be able to live through the flight.

4- The Cedar Lounge Smoking Area

It has very comfortable chairs and everything, but what really grinds my gears is that they have a smoking area too. I am a smoker myself, and would appreciate a smoking room in the Beirut airport like any other airport. But, in Beirut, it’s only if you’re rich enough to pay for business class, and that’s just pathetic, even though it coincides with Lebanon’s general narrative: if you have money, you can do whatever the hell you want even if it’s against the law.

5- The Water is Never Lebanese

Correct me if I’m wrong, but in all the times I went onboard (because Qatar Airways were using MEA planes), the water is always either Turkish or Saudi or some other country. Now, for a company that so vehemently opposes criticism to its job as “non-patriotic”, I find it extremely hypocritical to save money by buying water that doesn’t come from Lebanon’s mountain springs we’re all so proud of.

Is it the airport catering service’s fault? Then stock up on Lebanese water before you fly off from Beirut. I’m sure 70 passengers won’t drink more than a 3-4 standard baggage worth’s of bottled watered per 4-5 hour flight.

6- MEA Are Rude and Heartless

You all heard about Rula Helou, a disabled Lebanese journalist who wasn’t assisted on board an MEA flight, and ridiculed and taunted by their employees. Now, horrifying and inexcusable as that is, MEA’s statement was a bland, rude one, and they even had the nerve to comment on Helou’s alleged foul language. What. The. Flying. Fuck. (forgive the pun). If I am on a wheelchair, and some dumbass employee taunts me to “get up off it and walk onto the plane” when I have paid good money for that service, I have every right to tell him a hearty “Fuck. You.” (which Helou denies doing by the way).

So, instead of owning up to this atrocious customer service incident, MEA was haughty and defiant. I never took business courses, but even if the customer is a dick, you have an obligation to provide the service they paid for. We’re not dating MEA, so they don’t really get to tell us what we can and cannot say to them when they treat us like a high school playground bully.

Edit: apparently, it’s not just people on wheelchairs, but also blind people who suffered abuse at the hands of MEA employees, with a rude statement issued instead of a proper apology. (source, thanks Mostapha)

7- Safety Doesn’t Really Matter

Picture this: a crazy da3esh or nusra or (whatever they’re called this week) fighter with a surface to air missile. We’ve seen it, they have some of those weapons and they’ve allegedly succeeding in downing jet fighter aircrafts. Now, let’s assume there’s only a slight risk of that being true, what would that very same extremist baboon do if he felt trigger happy as an MEA flight full of innocent passenger passed over his “imara”? But, who cares right? We save on fuel and time!

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Syrian MiG21 allegedly downed by anti-aircraft fire. Source

8- Just Another Governmnent Monopoly, Only More Profitable

They are a monopoly. No one else has the right to start a Lebanese airline. Almost every single store and restaurant in the airport belongs to MEA or MEA higher-ups (like Cafematik and their million dollar coffee, just read the horrifying reviews on Foursquare here). They leave you no choice. I like choice. They also push up other airline prices. Why? Because there is no competition in Beirut’s airline industry, so MEA can charge whatever they want. Seeing that, foreign airlines will hike up their prices too, more profit, and us flyers can’t really do anything about it, cause we don’t have a choice.

 

Add to that unfair employee treatment, the sand siphoning scandals and a ton of other reported shady dealings like today’s Iraqi official scandal that made the plane turn back because his son missed a flight. All that shows you why I’d much rather avoid flying MEA. Heck, I get pissed when I book Qatar or Air France, and get an MEA connecting flight to the layover airport.

So

Take your patriotic beer goggles off. Being patriotic doesn’t mean smiling when you get ripped off or mistreated. Being patriotic means you have the guts to point out what’s wrong, say it like it is and do something about it. The idea that we need to sacrifice for our country and its companies, but don’t get anything in return for the money we pay for, is outrageous. And don’t even think of trying to quote JFK here. If he saw what was happening in Lebanon, I’m sure he’d retract it that famous quote.

So, pick up your game MEA, cause I personally would never willingly fly on the “world’s youngest fleet” till it’s worth the money you charge. The only good thing, is their old vintage ads…

Vice News: Lebanon’s Hash Farms

Vice News’ amazing coverage of Lebanon continues, and this time, they tackle Lebanon’s cannabis farms and farmers. It most definitely isn’t the first of its kind, plenty of reports have been done on our legendary cannabis plants. What’s nice is that it reiterates what I’ve been saying for months and years on this blog: that the government cracks down brutally on harmless users and small-time farmers because they are a cash-cow for them in terms of bribes and foreign assistance, but they pussy away from the major drug lords who they’re too weak to face, and are often in league with them for a certain handsome price.

Here’s to hoping that one day, marijuana will be decriminalized and even fully legalized, in a country where the cannabis plant is so prominent and a crop with countless health and recreation benefits we should be proud of, not persecuted and unfairly incarcerated and punished for, while the real bad guys live in luxury fortresses the police don’t even dare to look at…

Join KAFA This Saturday – Enough Wife Killing and Let’s Make March 8 Mean Something Good

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Manal Assi was monstrously bludgeoned to death by her disgusting polygamist husband. Painful as that was to hear, what was even more cringe-worthy is the bastard’s abhorred choice of weapon: a pressure cooker (“presto” as Lebanese folks call it). If there ever was insult added to injury (mortal injury in this case) this would be it. Using a symbol of the oppression and abuse women face by macho men propped up with disgusting religious laws that believe women are possessions, and “belong in the kitchen.” On Dr. Michael Stone’s Evil Scale, I’d put this squarely in on level 20 of the 23 levels.

Christelle Abu Chacra also suffered a horrifyingly brutal death at the hands of a psychopath, who poisoned her and called her parents to come watch her die. This level of evil pales in comparison to a spur-of-the-moment murder in response to infidelity for example. Those kinds of murders are impulsive and reactionary, and usually end up with the murderer feeling remorse. These two men though, remain defiant, and unfortunately, the laws are on their side. The level of evil, narcissism and complete lack of empathy in how they chose to murder their wives is something to stop and consider for a moment. Society is partly to blame, if not in single-handedly creating these psychopaths with the dehumanization of these women with religious laws, it’s in how we as a society choose to react to these crimes and how we proceed to punish them (or not punish them, like in Lebanon).

The Usual Excuse: “It Happens in the US and Europe More”

First, that is a major fallacy. In Lebanon, our culture encourages that we stifle any attempt to talk openly about a “shameful” crime like pedophilia, rape and murder. Isn’t it funny how so many deaths by gunshots are “hunting accidents”? The fact that countries in Europe and North America chronicle these crimes and aren’t ashamed of going public with them, makes unnecessarily arrogant folks in Lebanon resort to the age-old excuse, “it doesn’t happen as much as it does in those countries” but with lack of real numbers and statistics in Lebanon, we can’t really draw that conclusion.

Let us assume that that conclusion was in fact true. So what? Countries in the West still come off as lightyears ahead, because they punish their criminals. In Akkar, the murderer who beat Roula Yaacoub to death is not only free, but has custody of her three beautiful daughters. Could a more horrific scenario have happened, with the blessing of the religious courts and civil judges of course. Also, remember the pedophile priests and their brutish thugs? Mansur Labaki and Pandaleon? People’s excuse was that pedophiles are everywhere, not just priests. Well duuuh! Of course not all priests are pedophiles, but the difference is that all the pedophile priests in Lebanon escaped justice and even got support from the religiously blind brutes who attack and threaten journalists, ban websites and file lawsuits. And that’s where the real crime is. Rapists, murderers, pedophiles will always be there, it’s how society handles them that really matters, and Lebanon has been failing, miserably, on all counts.

Why We Need This Law

All of Lebanon’s problems stem from the power of the religious courts and the corruption it facilitates in all branches of government and society. Today, each Lebanese person falls under different personal status laws, depending on what deity they’re supposed to worship. What this means is that the laws that govern your lives, the lives of your sisters and mothers and lovers, were written in old books, and are interpreted by old men in black robes and funny hats/towels on their head.

We need this law, to make sure civil laws, which are based on logic, reality and the 21st Century, have legal precedence over the dusty, detrimental religious laws that objectify women, oppress them and regard them as secondary to men when it comes to rights. This is what applies for minors. In Lebanon, religious laws regarding kids are obscenely unfair and dangerous. So, someone did something back in the 90s that ensured that civil courts had precedence over religious circuses, which gave custody of a child of a certain age to a father who might have molested him, just because the holy books say that after 2 years old, “the child is the father’s”.

Just FYI, the disgusting MPs on the committee that was debating that law, sought not only to gut the law protecting women with civil laws, but to reverse the law that guarantees a child’s safety from the dangers of adhering to religious courts rulings. The same MPs that have derailed the law and similarly beneficial laws to society, but did not hesitate in making sweeping legislation to extend to their crooked selves and increase their exorbitant salaries. Tfeh.

So, this law needs to specify women explicitly, in order to give fair laws precedence over the unfair religious ones that not only condone violence, rape and murder against women, but also sanctify it in some cases.

Why You Need to Go Down Saturday

Cause you all popped out of a vagina. You all have mothers, maybe even sisters, good friends, girlfriends and wives. How the hell can you accept that this happens, and in Lebanon! This isn’t Saudi Arabia or Iran, this is Lebanon, you know, where you all boast about creating the alphabet and cedar trees and freedom, but you’re ok with your women being raped, beaten and killed?

Go down so that March 8 is remembered for more than a political party that “thanked” Bashar Al Assad’s regime for occupying, oppressing, torturing and murdering Lebanese folks for 29 years. Let’s make the date of March 8 ours again, the people’s. Hopefully, we’ll take back March 14 too from the other side of the corrupt political coin.

I am extremely upset I won’t be there, as I am abroad. I have been to every KAFA protest over the past years, and I’m proud to have been a supporter since the day I found out about them. I admire their courageous work, their selfless help to battered women and their impeccable track record in drafting laws that Lebanese women deserve.

So, RSVP here on Facebook. Invite your friends. Share this event. Be there.

On The Fouad Boutros Project, by Dina Mneimneh

The Fouad Boutros Project has been an on and off issue for years, and I’ve tried to keep up with everything happening, but I will admit there are far more qualified people to comment on this project and its devastating effects, and one such person is Dina, who has vast experience working on the area’s architecture and heritage and deep concerns over the proposed project.

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Photo collage by Dina Mneimneh

The Green Light, Once Again…

It all started with my personal obsession with Beirut’s public staircases, and the Hekme neighborhood in Ashrafieh was one interesting pocket of urban space where these historic pedestrian connectors still existed today.

Hekme presents endless features that make it an illustration, on a neighborhood level, of Beirut’s architectural heritage and urban development. It also reflects on the issue of linkages in the city and urban spatial hierarchies through the semipublic communal spaces spontaneously created. Unfortunately, the unique qualities of these spaces are under threat by an obsolete highway project dating back to the 1960’s, which is on the verge of being approved for execution.

The Fouad Boutros project will demolish over 30 historical buildings, over 10,000sqm of greenery and the very essence of the neighborhood it will bisect.

The government has already expropriated most of the plots, and at this alarmingly advanced stage of the project that aims to add a seemingly haphazard “solution” to Beirut’s vehicular transportation at the expense of heritage, greenery and pedestrian transportation, here’s where I stand.

I am hoping, no, demanding, that the highway won’t be built.

What I am proposing instead is an alternative strategy that would be adopted by responsible public authorities in order to save the neighborhood. The proposal aims at preserving the neighborhood’s architectural heritage, intricate urban fabric and orchards all the while still offering public amenities in line with the area’s real needs. Forget the useless, expensive highway and keep the garden and open it up for the public.

For my final year project at AUB, I defended that proposal in front of a panel of architects, urban planners, landscape designers, engineers and consultants, and backed up by an intensive documentation of every tree on site, every house, and every pedestrian link (check photo collages embedded in this post).

Almost a year later, the exact same scenario has been revisited, and this time more seriously. The Fouad Boutros project has been given the green light again despite all the demands, protests and professional studies proposing alternatives to help elaborate a new vision for the city.

But, this year, I don’t want to be standing alone in front of a jury debating why and how the highway project should be stopped, for academic purposes. This year, we should all take action to let our public authorities know we want the project to stop it and demand a decent urban environment where walking in the city is complimentary to driving and where both are valuable experiences of being in Beirut.

So please join us this weekend. If you care about our city’s heritage, if you’re tired of the authorities’ nonchalant attitude towards our basic rights, and if you’re convinced of the necessity for a better living environment, come down and join us.

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Photo collage by Dina Mneimneh

So please folks, sign the petition and see you all in this weekend’s protests: Saturday at 3PM in front of Port View Hotel/EDL and Sunday in front of the Maronite archdiocese in Rmeil at 11AM. RSVP and invite your friends here.