Why We Don’t Want Weed Legal in Lebanon (YET), Just Decriminalized (NOW)

I have been a very vocal advocate of decriminalization of marijuana in Lebanon for years. If not for my personal appreciation for the plant, for the extremely brutal, vicious, barbaric and sometimes even deadly reaction by Lebanon’s super corrupt judiciary and police force.

The horror stories I hear every day from busted pot smokers and their friends and parents, make my gut wrench. We all know someone who was caught, unlawfully incarcerated and often tortured. Every step in the right direction we take, is countered by a devilish scheme by the police to circumvent it. They can’t imprison users? They trump up dealing charges for them, which is a much more severe crime. Lawyers are often in on it too, and wait to get paid handsomely along with the bribes, before getting someone out of the police station. It’s a horror story from every angle, and if you need help, there are good people who will help you, like Skoun and Legal Agenda.

Anyway, that isn’t the point of the post. The point is a recurring theme in Lebanon, especially with Joumblatt’s controversial tweet this week.

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Lebanese immediately think money, and start proclaiming that if we legalize and tax it, we’ll pay off the national debt, etc. To that I say, come on, we both know that’s not true. Here are a few arguments I overhear, and why they’re invalid:

  1. “We don’t need to allow it here, just export our production to countries like Amsterdam”Firstly, Amsterdam is not a country, it’s a city. Secondly, export of marijuana plants is still illegal. We can’t ship off something illegal here to somewhere where it isn’t. It’s just not how things work. So, please, put this absurd argument to rest.
  2. “Taxes will pay off our debt, and make Lebanon prosper”Really? In Lebanon? With one of the most corrupt institutions on Earth? Where will those taxes go? Who will actually be taxed? Look at what’s happening with our non-existent oil sector: we didn’t even break ground and already millions of dollars are unaccounted for, shell companies in Hong Kong and the whole money laundering and theft of public money mechanism has already been worked out. Plus, remember, the main pot growers are all politically backed, or even owned. Why would they tax themselves? You’re right, they wouldn’t. Plus, making it legal would drop their bottom line, after all, what’s illegal is always more expensive. So, I don’t really see this working, and if it is, it’s the small-time farmers that’ll get taxed, not the ones that matter. And assuming it does, where will the taxes go? The answer is hard to find, but a definite one is that it won’t benefit us taxpayers in any way fathomable, just like every other tax we pay for no return.

    A good example is Joumblatt’s double-standards here. He tweets pro-decriminalization, when the security apparatus entrusted with butchering and torturing pot smokers is considered loyal to him in Lebanon’s disgusting confessionally-divided security system. Now, I’m not saying he’s doing it on purpose and I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he really is on our side, but perhaps he can’t micromanage the whole corrupt apparatus. But, he could at least try to use his political privilege to make them tone down on their barbarism and instead do something that helps society, you know, like fighting actual crime.

  3. “Lebanon is not ready, now is not the time”It feels like it’s never the time for anything in Lebanon for nay-sayers. To those folks, I say, pot is endemic in our society. Lebanese folks have been doing it since before Christ, and they still do. I’m not sure how not putting them in jail after beating them to a bloody pulp would “hurt” or “damage” our society, but in my humble opinion, removing the fear and hatred of the cops, and restoring some trust in the system would do our society wonders. So, you’re right, it’s not the time now, it was the time a decade ago before thousands of lives were destroyed forever for the sole purpose of getting paid bribes.

The main point I’m trying to get across, is that the point isn’t making money for the government’s leaky coffers, the point is stoping lives from getting ruined. That’s what the focus should be on, not unrealistic expectations of fortune and bliss. Let’s stop people getting violently and unlawfully detained for absolutely no good reason, and maybe then, we can consider a Colorado-like plan of legalization even for recreational use. For now, we need the cops to stop, and those encouraging them for part of the bribes, to stop as well. Khallas, enough.

Lebanon: 10th Most Inspiring City, 14th on Global Terrorism Index

It couldn’t be truer really. As observers, commentators and above all taxpayers in Lebanon, it’s often hard to figure out where we stand. We’re abysmal on so many fronts like corruption, lack of basic necessities like electricity and water and the constant threat of escalating violence. But, we’re also pretty fucking awesome. We put most other countries in the region to shame with our liberal ideals, even under threat by filth and scum like Da3esh and its sympathizers, we party harder than any other somewhat civilized people and the art, science and culture that ooze out of Beirut’s streets and underground basements deserves a special light shed on it.

Lebanon: 10th Most Inspiring City on the GOOD City Index

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The last bastion of the liberal Middle East, Beirut is where the rest of the Arab world comes to let their hair down. While there is much more to the city than drinking cocktails on the beach, the fact that one can even do that legally is an important aspect of life in Beirut. More importantly, Beirut is one of the region’s only cities where people are free to embrace secularism, gay rights, and free artistic expression. Residents of Lebanon are constantly reminded that they are living in the midst of ongoing regional and political turmoil. However, this uncertainty has done little to slow Lebanese-funded construction. Nor has it impacted infrastructure, park development, or partnerships with cities like Geneva, London, and Paris aimed at making the city a better place to live. In 2014, Beirut’s startup scene thrived: Displaced Syrian artists established new studios in the city, the arrival of Uber ameliorated the city’s notorious traffic problem, and green activists proved Horsh Park could be a place for tolerance. Clinging to its outlier status in a region of uncertainty, Beirut will continue to be a beacon of possibility.

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Talk about a boost of serotonin, huh? Philippa Young said it pretty accurately above, and there’s not much I’d like to add here.

Lebanon 14th on Global Terror Index

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The Global Terror Index is a comprehensive study prepared by IEP that accounts for the direct and indirect impact of terrorism in 162 countries in terms of lives lost, injuries, property damage and the psychological after-effects of terrorism.

It is disheartening to see that we lie just behind Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and others when it comes to how deeply we’ve been affected by terrorism. Lives lost, opportunities missed, property damage, economic tolls, social unrest…

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Make Your Choice

Given such stark, yet such Lebanese, contrast in where our position lies among the world’s countries, it’s almost impossible to reconcile them both. Are we the 14th most devastated country by terrorism? Or are we the 10th most inspiring place to live in? We’re both in reality, but I choose the inspiring one more. Cause if I don’t, the terrorists win, and I know that sounds cliche, but if we stop advocating for women’s rights, gay rights, our right to drink and party and make art and make love, we sorta become like Da3esh’s Islamic State. We do have a role, and as the late Pope John Paul II said, “Lebanon is a message, not just a country” (or something like that), and even though me and him differ on what that means, I do agree that Beirut and Lebanon are a message, a message of hope for the rest of the region in turmoil.

We came out of a brutal 15-year Civil War and somewhat survived in one (though incoherent) piece. When cops shove a stick up a person’s ass because they suspect him of being a homosexual, there’s an uproar and backlash and we force it to stop. When we fight for women’s rights and it gets derailed by religious authorities, we force them to pass it, though partially, and keep struggling till it’s in the format we aspire to in the 21st Century. When a conservative minister wants to punish an Olympian for posing for risquee photos, we all got naked to shut him up and support one of the few heroes representing Lebanon in such events.

The list goes on and on, and even though it’s barely even scratching the surface of what needs to be done, it’s something, and we’re not giving up. We’re just rethinking our strategy, and toning down our ambitions to more achievable, pragmatic ones. No revolutions, no mass protests, just smart, patient and well-timed pressure to preserve our liberal ideals that so many have tried in vain to erase…

Shake b3aynkon ya jayyet w 2ol3at el tatarrof <3

Lebanon Now Officially a Failed State

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On Wikipedia, the definition of a failed state is when a government:

  • Loss of control of its territory, or of the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force therein
  • Erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions
  • Inability to provide public services
  • Inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community

All the above apply, as I’m sure you know. Add to that the complete breakdown of the Lebanese representative democratic system, and you get where we are now. Here, I’d like to pause at a few moments I find significant and important.

March 14 = Assad Regime 2

The images we saw of the brute force and uncalled for arrests by police of protestors practicing their legitimate right is eerily similar to when the “kaak” sellers used to go down and beat the shit out of Huvelin and AUB students during the Syrian occupation. So is the autocratic trend that has extended terms of the parliament twice. I’d like to remind the 14 March hypocrites about why they fell out of the Syrian occupier’s favors back then: the Assad regime wanted to extend Lahoud’s term. Today, they’re all standing in line, getting eggs and tomatoes thrown at them, while they demonstrate what Assad and his cronies taught them for years before they rose up, and simply replaced the Syrian security system with their own version of oppressive, corrupt and permanent security system. Assad’s excuse is he’s a foreign occupier, what’s the Lebanese zo3ama’s excuse?

The LF Should Be Sued for Damages

Remember when LF MPs filed a lawsuit against taxpayers because they called them “128 thieves” for stealing the people’s right to vote? Remember how the LF MPs also said they’re against the extension this time? Remember how they alleged after the lawsuit that “they wanted to work together” with us against the extension, sponsored by Fatdouche? Well, lo and behold, the LF have flip-flopped a whole 180 degrees, again. So, technically, the 128 thieves slogan was correct (at least when it comes to the 95 scumbags that extended for themselves) and so, the “accusation” was in fact true, thus, the slander and libel case is meaningless.

Future-Hezbollah Childish Game of Chicken

“No! You want temdeed!” “No, you want temdeed!” and magically, they both went down and voted in favor. The theatrics were so poor, it’s like a cowardly jock at a party asking his friend to hold him while pretending to wanna attack another dude. And the saddest part? Their followers justify their disgusting stance as “no other choice”. Umm, how about holding elections like most other countries around the globe? “Security reasons”, really? Is Iraq or Libya or Egypt or Afghanistan or Pakistan more secure than Lebanon?

The Presidential Election Excuse

So, if Aoun and co don’t wanna go down to the parliament, and the parliament is failing at everything else, in what universe is extending the term of that same parliament for ANOTHER TWO YEARS AND SEVEN MONTHS a solution? How stupid do you think taxpayers are? Who would buy this rationally, without the indoctrination and bias of the “peasants” following their “chieftains”?

March 14 Need to Desperately Change

For a team whose political career is founded on the sole purpose of “not being Hezbollah” and being better, more democratic, bla bla bla… They too often behave the exact same way, and justify it with “at least we didn’t do it as bad as Hezbollah”. Dude, if your entire platform is being against Hezbollah, then stop behaving the same way and saying “they’re doing it!”. I mean, they can if they want to, but they need to change their rhetoric. That was crystal clear yesterday, when the supposed mortal enemies came together to supplant power and fuck us all over as long as they keep the seats they illegitimately covet.

New Rules

The death of democracy in Lebanon is sad, especially since we’ve always been a beacon for progressive and liberal ideals in the Arab World. But, this also means that since we’ve been robbed of our rights as voters and taxpayers, we might no longer need to fulfill our duties as taxpayers and voters… Civil disobedience? I wish. Stop paying taxes? I’d love that. Refuse to recognize the official institutions’ power and jurisdiction? Would be completely appropriate. Will it happen? I guess only time will tell…

Ashoora in Nabatieh: One Year Later

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Last year, when I went down to Southern Lebanon to witness first hand the Ashoora commemorations in Nabatieh, it sort of awakened in me the love of exploring misunderstood rituals, people and places and sharing that experience from my personal point of view. This year, I wanted to go back, given that the sectarian tensions in the region are as high as ever and hatred and intolerance spoil so much lives in Lebanon and the region.

What It Was Like There This Year

Reading intelligence memos about plans for a “woman suicide bomber that will target Ashoora commemorations” and other unnerving intelligence leaks leading up to the 10th day of “Muharram” made this year’s trip somewhat more disconcerting. Add to that rumors that “many suicide bombers” had been caught in the days leading up to the Ashoora memorial made it feel like visiting a bomb site and hoping that a secondary bomb wasn’t ready to go off when you’re there.

The alleged heightened security measures made me go to Nabatieh a day earlier, and spend the night there at a friend’s instead of risk not getting there in the morning (traffic + security measures = hours on the road). But, security wasn’t that visibly unbelievable. Roads were blocked off, and you get quickly patted down a couple of times before getting to the town center. The men are locals, some with Hezbollah insignias, others with no noticeable uniforms or tags. I saw a few riot police there too, and Lebanese Army intelligence officers with their brown vests were walking around. But, that was it. One thing I’ve learned about security in places like Nabatieh, is that it’s not the obnoxious, loud kind our police do, but the useful one that doesn’t ruin your day or overshadow the actual event they’re supposed to be protecting.

Anyway, after making our way into the town center, we bought some croissants and juice and waited to see the processions come in from different towns surrounding Nabatieh. The first few were bloodless ones, either because it was still too early, or because the men and women of that procession decided not to practice bloodletting anymore. But, soon enough, the copper-like smell of coagulating blood creeped up, amplified by the light rain that only made the smell more overpowering. A picture can never really portray that moment, when the streets turn red and the squeamish start to cover the mouths and noses to keep up with the procession…

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The swords are ceremonial, and on any other day, one would be a bit spooked to see so many stern-faced men with machetes and swords walking around, but not on the 10th day of Muharram. At around 9, we made our way to the local Husseinieh where the actual incision is made by men with sterilized silver razor blades. A friend, WJ, had come all the way from Canada to participate in the bloodletting procession and was kind enough to let me tag along and ask him questions all day long. Two swift strikes on the top of his head by a relative later, and the blood started to stream down his face and he donned a white cloth on his torso and made his way to his old childhood friends’ procession.

As for the turnout, it was the same if not slightly less than last year, given that many locals chose to go to Beirut’s Southern Suburb instead for the main Ashoora event that HA Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah personally participated in. The mood was somber of course, given the sadness for the Hussein that surrounds the event, but it was also relaxed. The threats didn’t seem to deter anyone, nor did they make anyone more intent on being there. It was just like any other year.

Religion vs Tradition

WJ helped confirm to me that the ritual is more of a cultural tradition than a religious one. Sheikhs rarely ever venture into Nabatieh on the day, and most of them condemn the act of bloodletting. Even Hezbollah frowns upon this ritual, and encourages its members to donate blood instead of participate in this violent ritual. A couple of hours later, we met up with WJ again after a shower at his aunt’s house, and if I hadn’t seen him earlier, I wouldn’t have believed that only minutes ago, he was drenched in his own blood.

WJ and many of the young men who participate, don’t adhere to religious teachings in their every day life. Even when asked why they do this, the answer is always along the lines of “you need to do it to really understand why”. But, a part of me feels that it’s to feel you belong, wanting to go along with friends doing it and participate in it that forms a bond that would make someone come all they way from Canada, 9 years later, to reminisce the old times he used to spend with friends.

That doesn’t apply to everyone participating though, and one thing I continue to vehemently disagree with is kids and people with Down Syndrome participating in the ritual. Apparently, when parents make their kids participate in this bloody tradition, it’s to repay a “نذر”. That’s when religious people promise a divine figure to fulfill an obligation they choose, if the outcome they were looking for unfolds. For example, like when Maronite Catholics promise if their son heals from a disease, that they will “walk barefoot” to St. Charbel’s tomb from their town, or wear the Virgin Mary’s clothes for a month, etc. It’s not in the religion per se, but folks still do it.

Of course, cutting a child’s head is a lot more extreme, but the religious rationale is somewhere along those lines. Which explains why parents might do that to their kids, but, I still find it completely unacceptable. Me being ok with the idea of Ashoora is based on my belief that adults have the right to do whatever they please with their own bodies, without permission from anyone as long as it does not hurt or violate the rights of others.

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Please, Donate Blood Instead

I think dismissing this ritual as something “barbaric, backwards” and other such comments is unfair and incomplete. I also think that pretending it’s not there doesn’t make sense. It’s one of the few places on earth where this still happens, so, culturally, it’s a chance to witness firsthand something rare and unique, whether you think it’s right or not. The problem is that many non-Shiites see it as scary, and many Shiites find it embarrassing. But, when you understand the idea of bloodletting and feeling the pain and suffering the Hussein’s loved ones felt after his gruesome death, you see it as more of a show of grief and sadness, not of thirst for blood and violence.

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As an outspoken atheist, this is something I’ll never be able to relate to and believe that the recent trend of donating blood instead of it letting it flow down your head to the street, is a much more fitting way to remember the Hussein and help those in desperate need of blood. That is why, I fully encourage and support the Who Is Hussain? initiative with DSC Lebanon and hope more and more people decide to switch to donating blood instead of bloodletting on the street.

Will I go next year? I don’t think so. I feel like I’ve experienced and witnessed the Ashoora commemoration in Nabatieh to the fullest. Would I encourage folks to go see for themselves? Definitely, if you’re not squeamish. I’d like to thank the people of Nabatieh for making everyone who comes down from different parts of the world and Lebanon for the warm reception, and the amazing food at WJ’s aunt’s house!

And please, remember, at such a difficult time, when folks in places like Nabatieh or Tripoli are demonized and vilified in the media, it’s vital to remember we’re all Lebanese and that the reality on the ground is that these people are nicer and kinder than most folks in Beirut, and that prejudging them based on misunderstood traditions or as religious extremists en-bloc, is both unfair and plain wrong. Go down to Nabatieh, spend a day up in Tripoli and stop being afraid of a minority that gives a bad name to the rest. Try to understand that in Tripoli, it’s politics and economics that are screwing things up, and that in Nabatieh, it’s misunderstood traditions that are giving the rest of the population an unflattering reputation.

NDU Should Not Have Canceled the Elections, but Learn from AUB

Yes, that’s in NDU, not a zoo somewhere where a piece of meat was thrown into a holding area with dozens of carnivorous animals. The difference here is that this is a university campus, not a zoo, and the animals are actually loyalists of Geagea and Aoun, two of the warlords Lebanon was never really able to get rid of. It’s so embarrassing that the supposedly “educated youth”, still have so many testosterone-crazed baboons that often spend over a decade in universities to be the “representatives” of their political macho men, ruining any chance of meaningful political reform at an early stage in hopes they’ll graduate knowing how to run a proper political campaign and elections, far from the norm their leaders outside campus set. Watch more of the fight here:

The priest-run church, instead of trying to properly manage the election process, and expelling the perpetrators, decided to cancel it altogether. I’m not sure what message they’re trying to send with that move, forbidding students from their right to be represented and participate in the decisions affecting their education, for a bunch of dumbasses whose loyalties lie outside the campus. They also encouraged them to do what the Lebanese parliament is doing: the baboons in it keep fighting, so they all decide to extend for themselves and not do elections, TWICE now. Hell of an example to follow…

AUB though, is an example to follow. Lebanese politics is banned on campus, and if a student even chants a sectarian or religious slogan from outside the campus, they can consider themselves no longer part of AUB. Of course, AUB’s students aren’t immune to the general political environment in Lebanon, and the two main coalitions often reflect the 14-8 March divide. However, the diversity at AUB and the strict rules regarding campaigning, as well as a more open mind and a realization that at the end of the day, you want a good student representative, not some name that this party or that endorsed. That’s why in AUB, no one ever wins in a landslide, and its often independents or seculars, that are the kingmakers, winning a sizable number of seats every year that allows them to decide who goes on to be part of the USFC (the executive branch).

Elections at AUB were fun, and in its recent history, not even a slap was recorded, despite the excitement and intensity sometimes of the voting process. They were also a valuable lesson in how to run a campaign, not just buy or bribe votes with emotional blackmail, telephone cards or the answers to an upcoming tests. What I especially loved is that a very large percentage of folks would not vote en-bloc, but pick and choose candidates. Some because they’re friends, others because they were more convincing in their campaigns and canvasing on the campus grounds. Candidates have platforms they run based on and campaigns are worthy of being called an electoral campaign, complete with impromptu public debates in Hyde Park-like speaking sessions.

Here’s what NDU should have done:

  • Expel every person involved in the fight. If they’re so willing to beat the shit out of each other for Geagea and Aoun, allow them go to their warlords and have them figure out their future.
  • Suspend every student who breaks the elections rules, and ban them from using sectarian and political slogans, symbols, even gang signs with their fingers on campus.
  • Kick out the “roo2asa khaleya” who spend the better part of a decade in uni, and get paid and promised positions in their respective political parties if they sacrifice their time and education to “coordinate” the political agenda of their handlers off campus.
  • Provide adequate security. These are young boys who have been raised to be “macho men”. The “bayyeh 2a2wa min bayyak” “ma bta3ref ma3 min 3am te7ke” bla bla bla crap that make idiots throw bottles at each other in nightclubs. Split the courtyard into 2 parts, one for each political block, and leave an area in the middle for the more enlightened students. Put up screens and broadcast the election results live. Exactly like what’s done on West Hall. Make it akin to watching a World Cup match, where people can be enthusiastic when their campaign wins a seat, and deafeningly silent when they lose one. Use enough security, just in case a few dumbasses decide to get sectarian and Lebanese-shit-political.

elections-2012-post-inUniversities are somewhere where change should start. Where it’s a rehearsal for hopefully elections off-campus that are based on more than paving roads and buying votes, or just fear mongering and blackmail. Banning them is stupid. Put stricter rules, be uncompromising in severely punishing those who break the rules. And watch the magical process of de-brainwashing that happens and how a third, level-headed, secular block emerges.

Here, I’d like to say shame on you to the political activists outside campus, who see the NDU for example as a “gauge” of the popularity of the “Christian” parties (mainly LF vs FPM), and thus fund and encourage such behavior and extreme loyalty from impressionable students. Shame on the brutes that were jumping up and down like monkeys in the fight recorded on camera. Shame on NDU for banning the elections altogether.

I’m proud though, because in the report on LBC that Maytham did (embedded above), two of the level-headed boys were in my scouts troupe, Jad Iskandar and Joe Hakmeh. So, I know for a fact that there are good people on campus, rational ones that don’t run around licking the boots of their parents’ warlords, but, want to focus on their education, which the elections are a big part of, in terms of political campaigning experience, or influencing decisions about their student affairs.

Yalla, Allah Ouwet, w tararatata General. Dumbasses.

Sukleen Worker Forced to Kneel, Cheek Cut in Dekwene

10435523_951718213182_8499683667885837652_nThe look in this teary-eyed man’s bloodied face is enough to tell you that something aweful had just happened. I’ll quote what the original poster, Anastacia, had to say:

This morning while I was on my way to work, a man was hysterically yelling at a Sukleen worker on the side of the road in Dekwene (Slaf) demanding him to kneel. The Sukleen worker was around 20 years his senior. The man (animal) had his hand on the worker’s shoulder forcing him to the ground, shouting: ‘kneel, kneel’ and verbally insulting him in the worst ways. He grabbed a pocket knife and slit the old worker’s cheek. Someone had to do something other than spectate. When I got out of the car to try and stop this brutality, a woman watching from the balcony looked down at me and said: “leave him, these foreigners are all over our country, and they deserve it.” The swallowed tears in this old man’s eyes just stab right in the heart.
I am still sick to my stomach, disgusted by the injustice of it all, knowing that this incident will go no further than a Facebook post.

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To the young monster of a “man” who forced a gentleman that could be his dad to kneel and then take out a pocket knife and cut his cheek seems something that Da3esh or Nusra or other filth would do. But, this happened in Dekwene, the scene of so many human rights abuses in the past few years against so many vulnerable people. To that disgusting man and the even more revolting “tante” on the balcony, I say, you’re fucking idiots.

I’m tired of hearing the same thing over and over again, that “foreigners are stealing our jobs”. Ya habibi, would the fucktard that did this and the braindead monkey cheering him on from the balcony be a sanitation worker? Would they, in their feeble minds, “stoop as low as picking up garbage from the street”? The very garbage that brute probably threw a few seconds earlier.

There are anywhere between 1.1 million, and 2 million refugees in Lebanon, in conditions often not fit for human beings. How do you think acts like these will help solve the problem? If anything, it’ll push the already hopeless majority into extremism and fundamentalism. The feeling of being abused, oppressed and left out often pushes people to go on the streets and chant vileness such as “The people want the Islamic State.” This racist, xenophobic and plain stupid attitude and behavior will get us nowhere. Even before the Syrian crisis, hundreds of thousands of foreigners worked the jobs few Lebanese would: agriculture, odd jobs and construction. After all, “el lebneneh baddo yekhla2 mudeer”.

As for businesses firing Lebanese folks to hire foreigners, well, that’s the business’ fault. If you call up your favorite restaurant and get bothered that they fired the Lebanese girl on the phone to hire a Syrian man, then stop ordering from it, don’t prey on innocent people just trying to make ends meet and clean up after your own fucking shit.

In the hysteria and struggle against extremist Islamists, it seems many people who see themselves as “civilized” are turning into something much worse. At least the terrorists have the excuse of religion to hide behind, what’s your fucking excuse?

If anyone was a witness to this crime this morning, please call the police on 112 and give them the details. Better yet if anyone caught this on camera. Also, please call Sukleen on 01360000 and report it, or just complain and ask for better precautions for their employees.

Fucking disgusting. I’m sorry old man, not all of us are this savage and disturbed.

British Ambassador Tom Fletcher was a Domestic Worker Today

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There is no love lost when it comes to me and politicians and diplomats in Lebanon. All of our warlord-feudal-chieftain-turned-corrupt-oligarchs aren’t worth much when it comes to self-respect, respect to Lebanon and above all, respect to other human beings. Their motorcades drive you off the street when they’re not closing it, their thugs intimidate you, sexually harass girls and are basically just a well-paid private gang of thugs (that’s not counting the crimes they commit in politics, like extending parliament’s term and gutting vital legislation for personal gains). There’s only a handful of diplomats and politicians in Lebanon that you could daresay you “respect” (and it’s definitely not the ones that sue innocent taxpayers to force that “respect”).

That’s not the case though when it comes to foreign diplomats serving their countries in Lebanon. Her Majesty’s Ambassador Tom Fletcher, his predecessor Francis Guy and their current EU counterpart, Angelina Eichhorst, are my absolute favorites. At a time when our own diplomats and officials are busy throwing lawsuits and intimidation at us, shutting down our websites, dragging us to police stations and courtrooms, these diplomats lend us a listening ear, they read what we write and they provide moral support for our struggles. Just look at one of his most recent tweets last week, it’s infectious.

But, apart from the respect he shows the Lebanese people, Tom Fletcher is an all-around amazing man who I am very happy to have met. He’s an exemplary diplomat and civil servant and activist, who’s sometimes even more passionate than many Lebanese when it comes to human rights and freedoms issues in Lebanon. Once, he was invited to a formal dinner, and noticed that domestic workers had been put on a table to the side, segregated from the other “more honorable” guests in the organizers’ backwards opinion. Tom Fletcher sat down on the domestic workers’ table, setting an example that resonated profoundly in Lebanon.

He took his stance on this very troubling issue one step further today, and he filled in the shoes of Kalkedan, an Ethiopoan domestic worker in Lebanon. He tweeted photos of his day on the job, and shed light on the issue in Lebanon, where one domestic worker is killed or commits suicide every single week.

Apart from the slave-like treatment of their employers, such as confiscating passports, locking them indoors indefinitely, absurdly long working hours, no vacation, verbal and physical abuse, the government’s track record is just as abysmal when it comes to treatment of domestic workers. They’re arbitrarily arrested for extended periods of time with no charge, suffer torture and are treated in sub-human standards from the minute they land in Lebanon (which many governments around the world ban their citizens from coming to to work as domestic workers because of the severely horrifying track record of abuse.)

So, I’d like to take this chance to thank his excellency, and tell him that many activists and people who care in Lebanon, look up to him and deeply appreciate his efforts when it comes to human rights, specifically women’s rights in Lebanon. We’re lucky to have you serving in Lebanon (which I know for a fact HMA specifically requested because of his love of Lebanon and the Lebanese) your excellency.

Here’s to hoping a local official does 1% of what a foreign dignitary has done so selflessly and passionately, and to domestic worker conditions drastically improving in Lebanon ASAP.

To Our Countries

It’s hard not to shed a tear or two in those deeply moving 8 minutes and 44 seconds. If not for Rihan’s gut-wrenching words, then for Faia’s heart-piercing voice and the medley of song verses and anthems from the Levantine’s absolute best.

I adore my country. I love Syria and Iraq, and some of my fondest childhood memories happened in streets unrecognizable today. I wish I could go to Palestine, and their struggle, for better or for worse, has been ours as well for decades.

I love the people, I’ve been in love with a couple of them too. I love the food, the history and even the rich, beautiful language and dialects we all speak. I love Lebanon’s towering mountains and snowy winters and sunny summers at the beach. I feel at home in the deserts of the Levantine too. I’m proud of my fellow Levantines everywhere, who make the world a better place and have been doing so for millennia in different aspects of human life and progress.

I also utterly despise my country and my Levantine. I hate it because it has made happiness everlastingly elusive. I hate it because family and friends have been ripped away from the face of the earth with its bombs and guns and missiles and knives. I hate it cause it’s left scars on my skin and my brain no amount of time will ever, ever heal. I hate it most though, because of all the lost potential and the needlessness of it all.

It’s hard to describe how this feels exactly. It’s hopeless with some hope. Tragic with some happy twists. Completely dystopic but runs smoothly somehow.

When I was a 15-year-old chanting in the streets with a Lebanese flag, my hopes and dreams were limitless. We could do anything. We could become anyone we wanted to be. We would build the Lebanon and the Levantine we all weave our grandiose myths around. Today, I just want all this to end. I want a chance to catch a breath between wars, from a civil war, to a religious one, to a sectarian one interspersed with brutal invasions and occupations, failed revolts and bloody and bloodless coups. I want to not leave. I want to matter, not just be an extra, faceless, uncertain integer in a casualty count on the evening news.

Will we ever see those days? Will we ever get a chance to? Will we ever see our countries again the way we remember them, or at least our parents and grandparents remember them?

I hope so. For all our sakes.

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Disclaimer: The sisters above are apparently ardent supporters of the Assad regime. While that is unfortunate, I still think the video was amazing and the emotions it invoked are real and non-partisan. But, I stress, I in no way support or condone Assad and his barbaric regime which has not only wreaked havoc on Lebanon and the Lebanese and continues to do so, but is massacring his own people day in and day out, for years now.

Alleged Photo Two Innocent Lebanese Were Sued For

10717885_10152276132731582_971642133_nThe above photo was apparently enough to unleash the wrath of the Lebanese Forces MPs against two Lebanese citizens, who carried it in a protest condemning the plans to extend for parliament, yet again, thereby violating the constitution and robbing Lebanese taxpayers of their right to vote for their elected members of parliament for the second time in less than two years.

The Lebanese Forces MPs aren’t the first to do such a thing though, Amal MP Hani Kobeissi filed a similar lawsuit against banking syndicate chief, Francois Bassil. It’s becoming a shameful practice by the nation’s MP to try and shift focus from the grossly illegitimate practice of extending for themselves, with the occasional hike in their eternal wages (something they have yet to grant the hundreds of thousands of employees, despite it being justified in that case.)

Here’s why this is not OK:

  • It’s bullying. Members of parliament enjoy parliamentary immunity and thus cannot be sued themselves without express permission from the parliament. So, exercising that right when it cannot be exercised against them, is outright bullying.
  • It’s random. Dozens if not hundreds and thousands of people say that sort of thing every day. Why were these two singled out? Are they being made an example of? Is it to deter people from demanding for their basic, absolute right to vote in what is supposed to be a democracy?
  • It’s insulting. Instead of doing their job and legislating, or focusing on more pressing issues like voting for a president, solving the hostage crisis of our boys in uniform and the dozens of basic social and economic issues they can focus on, our MPs are busy drafting trumped up charges against harmless taxpayers who are merely expressing their opinion.
  • It’s shifting focus from the real issue: that extending for the parliament is not OK. It’s not healthy, and it’s chiseling away at what little semblance of normalcy and a democracy Lebanon has.
  • It’s adding insult to injury, when taxpayers see the parliament unable to ratify their well-deserved wage increases, but have no problem hiking their own parliamentary wages, and above all that use their special privileges to “punish” citizens, that’s just too unacceptable.
  • It’s embarrassing and humiliating. The parliamentarians cite “protecting the prestige and privilege” of their office as the reason they’re suing two taxpayers, but in reality, it makes them look weak and juvenile, unable to accept criticism and their own constituents, who are frustrated at their extremely poor performance and are venting in a peaceful, legally sound manner.
  • It’s not generalizing, because it’s not an actual indictment. We know not every single one is a corrupt criminal, but the word “thief” here is used to stress that extension of parliament’s mandate is “stealing” taxpayers’ right to vote and choose their own MPs. We cannot prove if they are actually “thieves” because we do not have access to information in Lebanon, and even if we could, they would use their parliamentary privilege to avoid prosecution.

To sum up, it’s unfortunate this is happening, and I’d like to remind our MPs of the Lebanese Constitution that they’re ought to uphold, especially a few articles from its preamble:

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.
d. The people are the source of authority and sovereignty; they shall exercise these powers through the constitutional institutions.
e. The political system is established on the principle of separation, balance, and cooperation amongst the various branches of Government.

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And please, focus on doing your jobs. Earn the respect you demand of Lebanese taxpayers, instead of bully them into silence over something they have every right to protest against and condemn.

As for any MPs reading this and thinking of filing a lawsuit against me, please don’t. If it hurt your feelings so much to listen to the opinions and thoughts of one of your constituents and a Lebanese taxpayer, maybe you should pause for a second and think of rearranging your priorities and focusing on what matters. Of course, I acknowledge it is your right to file a slander and libel lawsuit according to Lebanon’s ambiguous laws, but what good would it do? It’ll just create more disgruntled, disenfranchised youth that cannot wait to leave Lebanon for anywhere else that’d accept them with their Lebanese passports (like me).

I hope you take this in good faith, and act in a manner that’ll earn all our respect, instead of running around trying to punish people who spoke their mind and voiced their understandable frustration.

GCR: Lebanon Among Best in Education, Absolute Last in Trust in Politicians + More Numbers

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So, the World Economic Forum published its Global Competitiveness Report, and Lebanon got some interesting number I’ll highlight here:

Stuff We Sucked At

  • In public trust in politicians, we ranked ABSOLUTE LAST. We ranked 148 out of a total of 148 countries…
  • We’re next-to-last at 147/148 for “favoritism in decisions of public officials”
  • For cost of terrorism to business, we ranked 141/148
  • Wastefulness of government spending 144/148
  • Reliability of police services 119/148
  • Irregular payments and bribes 138/148
  • Judicial Independence 135/148
  • Quality of overall infrastructure 142/148
  • Quality of electricity supply 148/148
  • General government debt 145/148
  • Women in labor ratio to men 142/148
  • and the list goes on…

Stuff We’re Good At

  • Quality of primary education 7/148
  • Quality of math and science education 4/148
  • HIV pervalence in adult population 11/148
  • And a few other cool stuff…

All in all, everything really, really, really sucks. Like really bad, like, the absolute worst in the world for many things… But, we’re pretty good at a bunch of stuff too. We don’t have as much HIV+ people walking around. Our primary education is one of the top 10 worldwide, and our maths and science education is in the top 5 worldwide, so, there is hope in our future generations…

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