Riad El Solh Square: Sunday and Monday

Emotions have been running high after the Saturday protest, and the Sunday one was both heartwarming and heartbreaking, with Monday helping us see what is happening now after the dust had settled.

Sunday

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After the harrowing day and night on Saturday, it was a given that Sunday would happen. I arrived there shortly after 12:00PM, and I saw my friends in Tol3et Ree7etkon grappling with what to do about rumors and incidents that claimed individuals with a clear agenda of turning the protest violent, were organizing themselves in Riad El Solh, in an attempt to change the mood and nature of the peaceful protest.

At 5:00PM though, it was clear that a lot of people had heeded the call to the streets. Thousands upon thousands of men, women and children, undeterred by the police brutality the previous night, were arriving, even ahead of the scheduled 6:00PM rally. This overwhelming number of people which packed Riad El Solh square and the street leading to Martyr’s Square, restored confidence that the protest would not be taken into the more violent direction.

It was beautiful. Tens of thousands of people, from every age, town and city across Lebanon, carrying only the Lebanese flag, with smiles on their faces and hope in the tones of their chants. It reminded me of the protests I used to go to 10 years ago, where it was hope and excitement that took us to the street, not hopelessness and desperation.

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By 8:30PM, the mood started to sour, and even though attempts were made to back away from the security perimeter by the overwhelming majority of protesters, attempts to breach the security line finally made the security forces come down on the protest by force, after a day of self-restraint amid the countless provocations, even one attempt at  putting together a molotov cocktail to throw at the police, which was quickly stopped by other protesters, and resulted in a scuffle between the person trying to throw the molotov cocktail, and the one who stopped him.

Suddenly, the water canons were unleashed and the riot police started advancing into the crowd, beaten back by some protesters, while others fled to the rear. It’s important to note that not even the journalists near the front were spared from the police batons and tear gas, such as what happened to my dear friend Dalal Mawad as she was covering live for LBC. Unlike Saturday though, the protesters resisted the police advance, which made the police fire excessive amounts of tear gas canisters and rubber bullets at the protesters, who held their ground for as long as possible. Fires were started, and the scene became even more chaotic, with standoffs and clashes between protesters and police were happening in every street connected to Riad El Solh. After almost 20 minutes of back-and-forth between the police and protesters, live rounds could be heard.

At this point, is when I decided it was time to leave, and I was honestly exhausted from the past two days. We watched the riot scenes on TV, and that’s when I started to think more about what happened, after the effects of the tear gas was gone.

What Needs To Be Fixed

Reception was horrible in the square (Thanks Touch and Alfa!), so it was very hard to get the word out between the protesters, such as the “end time” of the protest at around 8:00-8:30PM. Even moving around was tough, with so many people at the protest. The sound system was also a bit late, which made coordinating and getting the message out harder.

So, better communication methods are a must, and one of the Tel3et Ree7etkon organizers assured me they are working on that for Saturday.

Also, a clearer set of demands, which I will get into at the end of this post.

Monday

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After the violence the night before, the Tel3ort Ree7etkon group postponed their 6:00PM demonstration, but decided later in the day to resume it at 7:30PM. However, that did not stop many from being in Riad El Solh anyway, especially after the erection of the highly controversial cement wall, that is reminiscent of the apartheid wall south of our borders. A wall which quickly became a canvas for street art that mocks the government’s erection of the wall, as well as the shaming of the political parties and blocks in power.

A little further down the Shere3 El Masaref (The Banks Street), there were the stairs and the Ancient Roman Baths which lead up to the Serail. There was no wall there, but layers of barbed wire with riot police in between. That is where I saw an interesting development in this mostly spontaneous movement:

A group of protesters had taken the initiative and created a human shield between the riot police and the protesters that wanted to try and breach the security perimeter by force. The protesters in the middle, were trying to stop the provocation of the riot police by the protesters, while also trying to stop the police from trying to break up the protest violently (assuming the police would appreciate their brave and level-headed stance).

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However, the group that was ok with violence at this point, was not entirely the same as Sunday night’s groups. For one, the overtly sectarian intentions were not there, and I noticed a lot of people I personally am friends with on both sides of the protest, from the same sects. It became clearer that the pro-violence revolution side saw this as a class discrimination issue, fed up with the government’s shortcomings. Add to that the rage at police brutality the previous weekend and anger with the government and parliament for the gridlock and robbing the people of their right to vote, and you will get justified wrath at the government and police, and might make violence and rioting an acceptable reaction or revolt. My point is trying to say that not everyone who might want to resort to violence is sent on a mission by some politician. Most are genuinely that furious, and rightfully so.

The non-violent side also made a tough choice. After being brutalized by the police over several occasions, they decided to be the barrier between the police and the rest of the protesters. An unenviable position that puts them face to face with people they are agreement with on most things, just not on the means to the end. And on the other side by the people who might open fire and start beating them at any second.

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However, the scene remained relatively peaceful. Activists from both sides would calm down the protesters that got too riled up at times and tried to push through the lines of the human shield group. It was a very good way of keeping the peace of the protest, while ensuring it didn’t escalate like it had the past two nights. The rage was evident, but the resolve to not let it turn completely chaotic was also there.

My Personal Opinion

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I know lots of you think I am directly involved with #YouStink #YouReek, but truth is I’m just another protester trying as hard as possible to cover the events in Riad El Solh, with my own set of hopes and demands. The #YouStink team are all dear friends of mine, and I trust them and am proud of everything they did. However, my approach is far less optimistic and far more pragmatic.

I don’t want to change the system, not right now at least. Looking around us, we saw that agreement on removing bad politicians is not enough to make meaningful change. Most of the Arab countries that rose up, are either at war, ruled by Islamist extremists or a military dictatorship. All three options are a million times worse than the gridlock we have now. I think we should focus on more attainable goals, such as the garbage crisis, an issue we can win, and win fast. And after we have, we move on to other basic rights we are robbed of, starting with the water, electricity and Internet crises, and moving on eventually to proper parliamentary elections under a fair, non-sectarian law. That is my position, in addition to punishing those that fired at us on Saturday night.

We all utterly despise the ruling politicians, with their inability to vote for a President for more than a year, their spineless government and their illegitimate parliament that is only good for gutting good laws and extending for itself. If there is one thing all Lebanese agree on, is that the system needs to change, but the alternatives are vastly different, and I am worried about what system might rise from the ashes of this current one, buckling under its own corruption and violence under the pressure of the people, who have weathered every attempt to dismiss their movement and try to tarnish its message and image.

We should tone down our emotional reaction, and think of a level-headed way to get to our main demand: the garbage crisis, which, despite everything, the government has selected companies WORSE THAN SUKLEEEN, and who will CHARGE US MORE AND DOUBLE what Sukleen did, only this time, it’s divided into 6 parts, so each despicable za3eem can get a piece of the pie.

Garbage crisis first, then we get to the other issues that are plaguing us. We need a victory, and this one is within reach. The system is falling on its own, we just need to make sure we make our lives better in the process.

Prepare for Saturday

Check the Tol3et Ree7etkon page, which is the main source of information from the organizers. Prepare for Saturday, it needs to be huge, and we should focus on the garbage issue before the bigger titles that are almost impossible to achieve at this moment with the vile and violent creatures occupying what our taxes pay for. One step at a time, together, beyond sectarianism, is how we will get to the Lebanon we want, or at least improve our lives in the country we love and hate at the same time.

Also, follow my Twitter and Instagram accounts (@GinoRaidy) for live coverage of everything in Riad El Solh

As for our expat friends, there are Tol3et Ree7tekon protests in 4 major cities already, with Paris, New York, London and Montreal already gearing up!

The Police’s Brutal Crackdown on Yesterday’s Protest

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I’ve been away from Lebanon for a few weeks, and been absent from the pages of this blog too. But, I’ve been following events in Beirut and the rest of Lebanon closely, and it went without saying that I’d participate in yesterday’s protest. I am proud and grateful for everything the You Reek (You Stink) movement has been doing, from their non-violent and continuous pressure in the streets, to documenting the many crimes against nature being committed all over Lebanon.

We, or at least I personally, went down to demand that the environment minister resign, that the solutions being vetted and the vetting process be transparent and to demand the funds be released to the municipalities immediately so they can begin to resolve the choking garbage crisis.

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I’ve been to dozens of protests in the past 10 years. I’ve seen firsthand how the police manhandle and beat civilians countless times. I’ve seen the barbed wire and the water cannons and riot gear too many times for me to expect anything better of the police. But, I can honestly say, I have never seen it so heavy-handed, unnecessary, brutal, relentless and prolonged. There were moments of sheer terror, repeated over and over again over the course of 3 to 4 hours in different parts of Beirut’s Central District.

Dozens of tear gas canisters were shot immediately and indiscriminately at the thousands of protesters who didn’t see it coming. Teary-eyed and coughing men, women and children were running away from the trucks and batons of the police, as volley after volley of tear gas, rubber bullets and rubber grenades landed everywhere, tens of meters away from the alleged “security perimeter” established around the Grand Serail and Nejme Square.

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After the water canons doused unarmed civilians and the LBC live broadcast crew and car, people started stepping back, but for some reason, the police fired barrage after barrage of tear gas and rubber grenades at protesters looking up at the sky, terrified where the next grenade that could easily take an eye out, was going to land. It was absolute chaos as the onslaught of the police pushed the protest towards Martyr’s Square.

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It didn’t stop there though, while walking away to get to next to Virgin Megastore, army soldiers loaded their rifles and cocked them, as citizens pleaded with them to stop, others expressing how horrified and disappointed and betrayed they felt by the army, reminding them “sharaf, tad7iya, wafa2” (honor, sacrifice, loyalty), the army’s slogan. The soldiers then proceeded to fire live rounds into the air, even though the crowd was already dispersing, blinded by the tear gas that had quickly become like the heavy smoke that was covering other areas in Lebanon because of garbage being burned by misinformed or malicious individuals.

What was surprising is that the security forces did not stop when the crowds dispersed, but kept on firing their “non-lethal” weapons at the people fleeing to their cars in the parking lots between Annahar building and Saifi/Gemmayzeh. An absolutely unnecessary measure, whcih I don’t think can have any sort of explanation that doesn’t warrant serious jailtime for whoever ordered and carried out this over-the-top and unprovoked response to unarmed civilians with legitimate rights, that even the politicians being shamed in the protests, admit are rightful.

I went down for a set of simple demands, that are the most absolute basic rights for us as taxpayers and citizens in this country. But the fear, anger and disbelief after the horrifyingly brutal attack, quickly changed the mood and attitudes, and it became clear that this heavy-handed response form the government and security forces was going to backfire, and only add to the resolve of the protesters who were assaulted, injured and humiliated  in an attempt to deny their right to express themselves and peacefully protest.

I wasn’t even standing close enough to see the face of the police officer who shot that rubber grenade that made my stomach bleed. The same grenade whose pellets hit mothers running with their kids held tightly in their arms. A grenade that fell moments after a teargas canister hit a young man in the head, and he fell to the ground unconscious with his face bloodied.

I am still in shock, and severely disappointed at what happened today. It seems the system is finally buckling under the weight of all the corruption and impunity the local politicians and their bases enjoy. The level of violence and maliciousness and disregard for human life and rights, was reminiscent of the pre-2005 dark days of the Assad regime’s occupation of Lebanon, only this time, there is no excuse that it is under the foreign handlers’ orders. The police officers are Lebanese, and so were the people who ordered them to behave in this unacceptable manner, only two days after a brutal crackdown on a much smaller host of protesters.

But there were many good things too. People from every walk of life and sect and background were there, because the garbage crisis, ironically, has been a unifying factor that has been able to escape the bonds of sectarian and political considerations. People from all over Lebanon, from different sects, political ideologies and social classes were participating. Young folks, moms and dads, tetas and jedos. It was beautiful to witness, and the mood was beautiful and positive until the water canons suddenly went off, and the shooting started, without warning and targeting everyone indiscriminately.

I am glad it was all well-documented, and I am thankful for the live coverage provided by channels like LBC and Al Jadeed, who stayed there till well past-midnight, and helped get the messages across and mediate between the protesters and those in charge. I also feel this reaction will. I’d also like to remind people, that the protesters don’t all have the same opinions or demands, they are not a heavily organized political party, they are individuals who came on their own accord, and who have different outlooks and expectations, so please, don’t take a 10-second interjection on live TV by an angry protester as some official manifesto of what’s happening or being planned.

Truth is, no one knows, and we were all caught off-guard by the reaction. I remember telling Najib when it started, that “it’s just fireworks”, and we were laughing at the canons spraying us with cool water on a hot day, when suddenly, it became difficult to breathe and we were no longer sure what was being fired, on who and what for.

Tomorrow will hopefully be clearer, and I am writing this at 2:00AM right after showering off the tear gas and disinfecting the wound caused by that pellet. Something’s different this time, and I am cautiously hopeful, and plan to keep monitoring this from the streets, and document what I can live on my Twitter and Instagram accounts (@GinoRaidy), and on this blog when I can have access to a computer.

Today, I’m proud of so many good people with good intentions, but I am also seething with anger at the savage response. This is Lebanon. Peaceful protesters should not be suppressed in this unnecessarily violent way. And I’m also happy it has weathered attempts by political elements to harness the people’s rage and take it to places it doesn’t belong.

Perhaps the system has finally began to crumble, but what’s important, is what might come next.

(Low quality photos by me, high quality ones by Jimmy Ghazal)

More coverage and opinion on this later today.

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.

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.

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.

A Must-Read About Aarsal

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I know most of you had never heard of Aarsal before 2011 or 2012 maybe, but that’s really part of the problem. Aarsal and its hinterlands are a very sizeable portion of our 10452 square kilometers. A portion that extends along an important corridor between Lebanon’s Bekaa and Syria. There is so much misinformation and misconceptions on Aarsal, especially in the last few weeks, that I felt I need to write this post and clarify a few things and put others in a less sensational-Lebanese-news-intro perspective.

What Happened to Aarsal

Aarsal was home to some 40 thousand Lebanese citizens. After the fighting intensified in Syria, entire town populations sought refuge in Aarsal. At its peak, the number of refugees in Aarsal was just a little over 100 thousand. Today, the number is closer to 80 thousand, which is still double the host community population.

Imagine double the population in your city suddenly moves in, and the government is incapable of properly managing the crisis. Add to that a general sentiment in the city that is pro the secular FSA. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine having to readjust to the present situation, and make it work as smoothly as possible.

That’s until August 2nd, 2014, when all hell broke loose in Aarsal. That is when militant groups ISIS and Al Nusra Front attacked police and army checkpoints and bases, killing several and taking hostage dozens more. The fierce battles and the hostage crisis that is still unfolding to this day, changed everything in Aarsal.

Islamic Courts and Relationships with ISIS and Nusra

Most of Aarsal supports the FSA’s cause and are anti-Assad. Some empathise with Al Nusra. But all of them are squarely against ISIS. Al Nusra and the FSA largely stuck to dealing with Syrian affairs in Aarsal, never encroaching on Lebanese citizens’ sovereignty or right to govern themselves. ISIS however, who mostly consists of non-Lebanese and non-Syrian foreign fighters in the area, was a different story. Their barbaric murders, kidnappings and bomb attacks were unacceptable to everyone in Aarsal, and you will find unanimous hatred and apprehension for the extremist group.

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The news about Aarsal being run by Islamic Courts and Councils is somewhat inaccurate. It is true that these courts do exist, but in the outskirts, the hinterlands “jrood”, not the city itself. The ones in the jrood are ISIS courts, where Lebanese citizens and Syrian refugees who were kidnapped from Aarsal, were tried and sometimes executed. As for within the city, as I mentioned before, entire towns sought refuge in Aarsal, and the local municipality and refugees saw fit that each town population have its own council, and a council that groups them all together, which would help them sort out disputes and concerns amongst the Syrian population of Aarsal. It was never for Lebanese citizens of Aarsal, but more of an internal mechanism for the massive Syrian population there to govern itself. Al Nusra did have a complaints bureau in the city though, which ISIS bombed out later on.

The Army’s Role

The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) deserve our gratitude and respect for what they have achieved in Aarsal. They successfully control the flow of people and material to and from Aarsal. This means that the supply routes and kidnapping-spree corridors have been cut off. The army also expelled the fighters from the city, bringing safety back to its citizens. This was a major victory that allowed the restoration of calm inside Aarsal, with the fighters holed up in the jrood unable to freely reassemble and resupply in the city.

However, this mission is not without negative consequences. Aarsal’s is a heavily agricultural economy and many Aarsalites’ fields are in the jrood now controlled by ISIS (or Hezbollah) and cut off from the city by the LAF. It’s also made commuting to and from the city increasingly difficult, and mobile Internet service has been halted for almost a year now.

What Should Happen

The ISIS and Al Nusra militants need to be expelled from the jrood of Aarsal. Hezbollah chief Nasrallah is right in saying that these militants need to be removed from there. However, he is even righter in stressing he and his fighters have no intention of going into Aarsal. That’s because in this scenario, it’s likely the people of Aarsal would side with the militants against Hezbollah. It has to be the LAF who weeds out any pockets of resistance in the jrood or the city itself. Dislodging the militants and freeing our hostages will ensure calm is restored to Aarsal and our border with Syria.

It’ll also give the people of Aarsal a break. Over the years I’ve been lucky to meet many brilliant Aarsalites, and it saddens me I need to get clearance from the Military Intelligence to go and visit. It saddens me even more that the most basic of daily life needs, like going to a neighboring town to shop or do business, or having 3G on your phone to Whatsapp your friends and family, has become a thing of the past now in Aarsal. Add to that the constant fear of a militant onslaught or sneak attack, and a near-constant barrage of misinformation in the media and the vilification of an entire Lebanese city that has already been through so much, and you get the daily struggle of every Aarsalite.

Aarsal is part of Lebanon, and its people are Lebanese and the Syrians in it are people who sought our help in their most dire hour. Lebanon’s government has not done right by Aarsal yet, and the LAF have done a fantastic job in making sure Aarsal is safe, but its job is not completely done yet, and I can only wish them a swift success with no loss of life for our soldiers.

Next time you hear something about Aarsal, put yourself in their shoes and try to understand the unenviable situation they are in. Don’t let biased media outlets make you forget that Aarsal is a Lebanese town, and that it is our duty to make sure it’s safe and peaceful. It’s also our hope that Hezbollah will stay away from Aarsal, and not threaten to escalate the situation dramatically when it is so close to resolution. Our hopes lie with the Lebanese Army, as always.

My Latest Trip to Aarsal

I went up last month with my dear friend LBC reporter Dalal Mawad, and assisted her in a workshop being given to young men and women from Aarsal. The workshop was designed to teach them basic techniques and principles to become successful citizen journalists in a town increasingly hard to reach for journalists from outside the city. The idea was to empower and guide local Aarsalites to cover their own city and its people, their concerns, hopes and stories. I’m happy to say that in the week after the workshops, our students produced 8 amazing reports from Aarsal, which I will be uploading veryyyy soon! And that was our lunch that day!

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Special thanks to my dear friend Carol Maalouf

Love and War on the Rooftop: MARCH’s Awesome Conflict Resolution Project in Tripoli

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Many of you have been following the progress of MARCH’s project in Tripoli, Lebanon’s second city. I am extremely happy and proud to announce that the project has finally come to fruition.

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 partnered up with locals and held auditions in Northern Lebanon’s capital. Soon, we had a 16 young men and women, most of which 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.

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It was perhaps what happened during the breaks, that was the most fascinating and encouraging. Friendships between former enemies started to flourish, and soon enough, rooftops some would have guns aimed at, were now venues for get-togethers, arguilehs and plenty of laughs in neighbourhoods formerly drowned with the clickity-clack of bullets and cries of anguish.

The project was not without its challenges: several unfortunate security incidents threatened our scheduled rehearsals, and a pattern of misbehavior, violence and deep-rooted hatred took time and many a tough conversation to resolve. Our fantastic trainers and volunteers though never gave up, and helped the actors channel energy that was wasted on conflict and intolerance, into theater and comedy that captures the tough realities in Tripoli in a light-hearted way only people from those two neighborhoods could truly portray.

I cannot stress how amazing this conflict resolution project was, and how happy I am to have had the chance to document parts of it. I cannot but be extremely proud and grateful to Lea, Steph and everyone who invested their time and effort to make this happen (and our volunteers like Joyce!).

The first performance (avant-premiere) will be held in Tripoli’s Rawda Theater on June 9, at 6:00PM. The premiere will be on June 15, 8:30PM in Al Madina Theater in Hamra. Both performances are already fully booked, but the play is going to be touring different parts of Lebanon in the coming weeks and months, such as the Gemmayzeh Theater on July 29. For more info on other dates, or to reserve, please email info@marchlebanon.org. (Entrance is free, only booking is required and you can donate to help support MARCH’s many projects at the screenings)

HERE’S OUR OFFICIAL TRAILER!

And a special Kalam Ennas report on our project in Tripoli

More info on MARCH:

I dedicate my time as often as I can on NGOs working to better the state of Lebanon and everyone residing within it. However, MARCH is the one NGO I am actually part of and constantly follow and participate in. For those of you who still don’t know, here’s a bit about MARCH:

MARCH’s mission is to educate, motivate, and empower citizens to recognize and fight for their basic civil rights, raise a tolerant open Lebanese society in order to foster diversity and equality and reach a genuine reconciliation among the various communities. The focus is on the youth, who are our best hope for positive change in leadership and who will drive Lebanon’s future.

In its current strategy and projects, March is currently focusing on fighting for the right to freedom of expression (and fighting censorship), women’s rights, and peace-building through diversity and conflict resolution activities.

The Black Cat Loto Campaign Confusion in Superstitious Lebanon

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When I saw that campaign while walking in Saifi the other day, I was impressed. To create a campaign with such witty sarcasm was awesome, but I also worried that it’d be severely misunderstood by Lebanese folks, and it was, in different ways.

The Leila Abdellatif Factor

Lebanese people are hopelessly superstitious. Our millionaire entrepreneurs are sadly all astrologers and other types of snake oil salesmen (Michel Hayek, Maguy Farah, and all the copycats they spawned). It’s understandable people would resort to believing horse shit that cunning marketeers pedal to desperate masses, given that they cannot hope for anything more from a failed state and corrupt leadership that is nose-diving the country’s economy and society into the abyss.

This tendency to believe in something that is obviously not true, and is actually quite stupid if you think of it, makes people more likely to participate in the lottery, which I think is aptly dubbed the “stupidity tax”. Therefore, from a marketing standpoint, pandering to many Lebanese people’s weakness to obviously false and idiotic superstitions, was genius, though heavy-handed somewhat.

What’s Happening to the Cats

According to the press release I received, the black cats that are “reported” are picked up and shipped all the way to New Zealand, one of the few countries where superstitious people consider black cats as “good luck”, not “bad luck”. Now, the first thing I thought when I read this, is “fuck, those cats are lucky, leaving this superstitious cesspool of religious extremists to go to one of the most gorgeous, peaceful places ever: Middle Earth, otherwise known as New Zealand.”

But then, I was like, “NO! What are you doing, stop encouraging the decline of Lebanese intellect into a sad, sad old woman that truly believes a black cat is bad luck cause she’s a witch in disguise”.

But at the end, I was happy for the cats. Happy they managed to escape Lebanon into a good country. Lebanese cats and animals in general suffer massively from the cruelty and evil of folks. How many times have we seen stupid kids microwaving their animals, shooting them, torturing them, dragging them behind their cars, running them over on purpose and even FUCKING MUNICIPALITIES like the Burj Hammoud criminal ones that were shooting stray dogs at night. So, if I can make the “stupidity tax” people pay moeny to save poor animals and send them somewhere more civilized, then why the hell not?

Transparency is an Issue

Did the cats really get to New Zealand? Would someone really spend so much money and diplomatic connections to send a bunch of black cats to one of the farthest countries from ours? I’m not sure, and these “stupidity tax” stuff always lack enough transparency for me. Can we get the number of cats? How much all this cost? Who paid for it exactly? How can we verify the cats are doing ok in NZ?

And the press release mentions that they had the “support of municipality officers”, the same officers who shoot stray animals on the street because they somehow think that they are all “rabid” and pose a threat to citizens, which is something anyone with a functional brain knows is absurd. A rabid animal would show clear signs of that, and would die soon after the symptoms kick in, so the chance of that happening is almost negligible, or at least not enough to explain the slaughter of so many poor animals for no good reason using LIVE AMMUNITION in our neighborhoods…

Conclusion

It was a cool ad, although I think instead of fostering and encouraging the ill-advised superstitious decision-making of Lebanese folks, the focus should have been on removing the myth from the Dark Ages that cats are actually witches (which back then meant women that could read and write, and thus, in the backwards religious mind “threaten faith”).

It also has a hint of racist behavior, whereby we purge a certain “color” (black) and celebrate another (white). It also wreaks with our bloated self-importance and entitlement attitudes: “these cats are bad luck, so fuck it, let’s get rid of them cause I didn’t pay enough attention in school to know that witches don’t exist and it’s 20 fucking 15”.

What are your thoughts?

قانون سير أفضل لضمان سلامة المواطن اللبناني

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بعد القرار في بدء العمل بقانون السير الجديد في لبنان، قررت وضع قانون سير لبناني من نوع أخر نحن بحاجة إليه، هو لضبط مخالفات المسؤولين وقوى الأمن في وطننا الحبيب

دركي على الخليوي بدل تنظيم السير: ١٬٠٠٠٬٠٠٠
دركي عكس السير: ١٠٬٠٠٠٬٠٠٠
دركي صافف على الرصيف أو نصف الطريق: ١٠٬٠٠٠٬٠٠٠
موكب أمني يسبب زحمة سير للمواطنين: ١٠٠٬٠٠٠٬٠٠٠
موكب أمني يهدد بالسلاح المواطنين العزل: ١٬٠٠٠٬٠٠٠٬٠٠٠
موكب أمني يعتدي بالضرب المبرح للمواطنين العزل: ١٠٠٬٠٠٠٬٠٠٠٬٠٠٠٬٠٠٠
حاجز درك نيته إهانة المواطن بلا سبب وافساد ليلتهم: طاولة مجاناً على حساب الدولة وإعتذار لدافعي الضريبة
حواجز اسمنتية في منتصف الطريق “لأسباب أمنية”: ١٬٠٠٠٬٠٠٠
تلطيش الأنسات والسيدات اللتين تقود السيارات من قبل قوى الامن: فرك ألسنتهم بالصابون البلدي و ١٠٠٬٠٠٠٬٠٠٠٬٠٠٠
إقفال طريق عام أو اوتستراد لتدريبات عسكرية: يوم عطلة مدفوع لكل اللبنانيين مع غرامة ١٬٠٠٠٬٠٠٠
إعطاء ضبط سير بدل من تسهيل السير وامن السير: ١٬٠٠٠٬٠٠٠٬٠٠٠
إجبار المواطن على تجاوز الضو الأحمر ومن ثم اعطائه ضبط سير: إجبار العنصر على دفع الضبط، وتعويض للمواطن بضعف مبلغ الضبط
السماح لشبيحة الفالي باستملاك طريق عام مقابل رشوة: دفع مبلغ الرشوة ضعفين لكل مواطن يسلك الطريق المذكورة

 إن كنتم توافقون على هذا القانون، أو لديكم أي تعديل أو إضافة، الرجاء إستخدام هاشتغ #يا_نظيف

مع أطيب التمنيات والتهاني للدولة على الثروة التي ستجنيها دون تحسين السلامة المرورية في وطننا الحبيب

جينو رعيدي

ملاحظة: هذا النص ساخر، ولكنه يحاكي الواقع المرير الذي يعيشه المواطن اللبناني جراء انتهاكات القوى الأمنية والمسؤولين السياسيين دون أي محاسبة أو معالجة