Ex-Tourism Minister: Legalize Marijuana and Prostitution

Finally. That’s the only think I could think of when I was reading this Daily Star article.

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I have been an advocate of legalization of both these activities in Lebanon for quite some time. Marijuana especially. I am very open about my pro-marijuana stance, and I’ve written about it and lobbied for it offline extensively. (11 Reasons Why Weed Needs to be Legal in Beirut, Poll: Are You For Legalizing Marijuana, Chocolate, Weed and Gym Freaks, and Vice News: Lebanon’s Hash Farms)

So, it’s a relief to see prominent politicians finally starting to address the issue directly. Abboud, like me, thinks that the most obvious reason to legalize these “sinful” activities, is because they’re already happening, a lot. Only difference is it’s by criminals, and the state isn’t making any money off of it.

At a time when the parliament is debating a tax hike to fund the wage hike (love the logic here by the way: give them more money over 5 years, but make everything more expensive now. Genius!). When they let off real criminals like companies and people who have built on public property: public beaches… Oh, and allow people to beat up kids a day after banning that because religious leaders put pressure…

Taxes from weed and prostitution can help the government offset the stealing and corruption by our MPs and non-elected officials. It’ll also cripple major crime rings that traffic in drugs and humans via, into or out of Lebanon. It’ll also make the lives of people who work in these illegal industries safer (mainly sex workers) and the products/services cheaper and at a quality (untainted marijuana, consenting adult sex workers, etc.)

I hope more politicians jump on the pro-weed band wagon. It seems the pro-pot camp has been successful in getting their voice heard and overcoming the misinformation and lies that have ruined so many lives over the past two decades for offenses as minor and harmless as smoking a joint… So, let’s keep the momentum going!

8 Life-Changing Bills the Lebanese Parliament Buried in Drawers

1- Retirement Benefits Bill

We’re all going to get old. A civilization is only as good as its treatment to its elders. Of course, this doesn’t mean we let our lives get governed by old men in black robes, but it means we make sure our senior citizens have everything they need once they retire, from healthcare benefits and pensions and onwards.

2- Civil Status Laws Bill

The root of many of Lebanon’s problems can be traced back to Lebanon’s dependence on each sect’s personal status laws. This means everything linked to marriage, birth, death, inheritance, etc. is controlled by opaque religious courts with rarely any due process or rational thinking. We need a civil status law to equalize the Lebanese in the eyes of the law, regardless of their faith (or lack-thereof).

3- Mental Health Bill

In Lebanon, mental health is still a taboo subject. But, with above-average rates for diseases such as paranoid schizophrenia and autism, as well as a staggering self-medication numbers (1 million+ tranquilizer subscriptions in 2011), it’s obviously an issue. Mentally ill individuals rarely ever get the treatment they deserve, and proper rights and benefits to help them integrate into society and have a better quality of life.

4- Women Citizenship Bill

Lebanese mothers and spouses cannot pass on the Lebanese citizenship to her kids and family. This is a grotesque injustice and a major hurdle in the long march towards gender equality in Lebanon.

5- Anti-Corruption Bill

Corruption is more rampant in the Lebanese government and virtually every single one of its institutions than only a handful of countries around the world. Where corruption is a way-of-life, and bribes and favors are a given, such a law is more of an absolute necessity for any hopes or chances for progress.

6- Anti-Censorship and Freedom of Theater and Cinema Bill

As a board member in anti-censorship and freedom of speech NGO March, this bill is particularly dear to my heart. The humiliating and absurd censorship decisions must stop. The media must be free, citizens must be able to exercise their sacred right to free speech regardless of who it turns off.

7- Penal Code Revision

Our penal code is very ancient. It’s a mixture of last-days-of-the-Ottoman-Empire and French-colonialism-era laws that are inherently susceptible to malicious interpretation, putting women, homosexuals and other groups in society through an unnecessary and unfair punishment. Old, ambiguous laws should be revised, and newer, clearer ones must be drafted.

8- Labor Law Revision

This law is ancient as hell too. We see labor unions always at odds with the government, and a minimum wage that has miserably failed to keep up with inflation. Workers’ rights are often exploited, and due compensation and non-discrimination regulations’ enforcement is lax. We need an updated labor law, one that includes domestic workers from foreign countries.

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 It’s Time We Focus

It’s time we focus on these specific goals instead of broader “struggles”. Keeping up the pressure from all sides on our illegitimate MPs will hopefully coax them into action (and earning their ill-gotten salaries). Victory after victory in those 8 fields and countless others stuck in Berri’s drawers, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll have a nicer life in the Lebanon we love.

Follow the guys behind it here, and use the hashtags: #KRE_LB and حلك_تتحرك#

Lebanese “President” Equates Atheists to Terrorists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1- Prohibition is Not Working

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

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

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2- Lebanese People Are For Decriminalization

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

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

3- Weed is Good For You

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

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

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4- Loss of Faith and Respect in the ISF

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

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

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

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

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

6- We Coined The Term Hashish

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

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

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

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

8- Less Abused if Legal

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

9- Gets Money Into The Right Hands

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

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

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

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10- Tourism

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

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

11- It’s Your Choice

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

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

Pessimism On This Once Beautiful Memory

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Today is the anniversary of that beautiful day when for a couple of hours, many Lebanese people had hope, and put aside their political and sectarian egos to fight a common enemy: the Syrian regime that had occupied Lebanon for almost 3 decades.

But, after those couple of hours, the political “leaders” of March 14, who had always been Syrian regime boot-lickers, reverted to their old ways again, just with new management. Corruption, lies, disrespect for basic rights and outright theft of Lebanon’s coffers. A couple of people who weren’t rotten to the core, ended up being blown up to a million charred pieces, just like everyone’s hopes for a better Lebanon.

We always had something to look forward to in our unfortunate history. The end of the civil war, the end of the Israeli occupation, the end of the Syrian occupation, etc. But now, it seems the new “light at the end of the tunnel” is the end of the Syrian war, which is at a stalemate that doesn’t look like it’s ending soon. So, basically, we have nothing to look forward to this time. As Lebanese cleanly bisect themselves between two forms of Islamic extremism, the very few that remain on the sidelines don’t have much choice in the massively-corrupt and uncharismatic remnants of the Free Syrian Army. So, there is no light at the end of this proverbial tunnel, and it’s quickly becoming a  pitch-black, roller coaster tunnel with things not only stagnating, but deteriorating at an alarming rate on every level.

The economy is in shambles, and everyone is too busy with the cabinet’s platform’s vocabulary to care. Socially, we’re as divided and violent as ever, with the coffins of beaten women stacking up, and the collective conscience of our political elite held captive by a brutally medieval religious judiciary system that puts Lebanon on the bottom rung when it comes to women’s issues in the world.

But, the oppression of women, the LGBT community and free-thinkers is nothing new in Lebanon, and even though the state might be too corrupt and broken to actually do that themselves, any 2-bit criminal with a couple of dollars can make your life hell using the police and judiciary, which I’ve written about more extensively here. What’s new, or at least unexplainable, is the vicious crackdown on freedom of speech and journalism in a country where every oppressed Arab used to come to publish their magazines and newspapers without any obstacles or red tape.

Today, we see Jean Assy forced to publicly apologize to the president after the latter threatened him with two months in prison for a tweet. We see LBCI, who’s breaking away from the traditional Lebanese mainstream media and actually reporting on things other than what the political parties sponsoring other channels care about, getting hounded from all sides for covering the tough stories. We see bloggers like Imad, Rita, Abir and myself being dragged to police precincts and threatened with arrest if we don’t sign a pledge that guarantees we stop “slandering” some disgusting scam some Lebanese think is “7arba2a”. We see journalists getting kidnapped, death threats and law suits for doing their jobs. We see average citizens queueing up to explain what they said in a Facebook status or blogpost. To top all that off, we have the delightfully narcissistic censorship bureau censoring things left and right, to the point that many people and companies now self-censor for fear of getting shot down by that horribly insulting bureau.

In other words, it’s looking a lot like Saudi Arabia and Iran these days in Beirut. And I’m not happy about that. I hate the fact that I need to be afraid when I land in Beirut’s airport. Afraid because in my absence, any malevolent and illegally fueled legal action against me with inaccurate information, will make the ISF’s efforts to find me (read, call me on my personal cellphone) futile and thus, I’ll be a fugitive and will be arrested the second I land. By the time the snail-mail judiciary system figures out I’m in jail and shouldn’t be, I would have spent a good month or two behind bars for no good reason (except maybe that I don’t have thousands of dollars to “bail” me out).

I was in Washington DC the other week, and you all saw that hilarious Egyptian woman shouting at Obama to “shut up your mouse”. Being blocks away from The White House, I couldn’t resist not doing my own version, just a stone’s throw away from Obama’s bedroom. There I was, a big, bearded Arab man shouting “SHUT UP YOUR MOUSE OBAMA”, the most powerful man in the free world, and lo and behold, I’m still alive, not behind bars and not being interrogated. The fact that I can do that to the president of the United States of America, and that right is guaranteed, while at home, a tweet or blogpost can land me in jail, is particularly painful for me. It also shows you how different we are, that we still need centuries to get to where freedom of speech has in better countries. Please, don’t bring up US foreign policy here, I’m talking about individual rights on US soil. I also know that murder rates here are higher, but at least here they’re punished and investigated, not protected by sheikhs and priests. Also, of course it’s gonna be higher. A large US city’s population is usually double that of Lebanon’s.

Anyway, I feel more respected here than back home. Here, in a country where we think people are racists towards Arabs, I’ve had the best hospitality from New Hampshire to Florida, San Francisco to San Diego, and everything in between. The police never harass me. I’m never stopped and searched. I feel like a normal human being, one with enough rights and dignity to say “Hello officer!” to a man or woman in uniform, not try as hard as possible to evade them for fear they’ll humiliate me, ruin my day/night and try to squeeze some dollars from me by made-up or silly reasons, when real criminals are let free to do as they please on our streets.

I have never been this pessimistic about Lebanon. Both “sides” are culprits in this unacceptable crackdown on free-thinkers and opinionated citizens. Whether it’s the president’s absurd intimidation of Jean Assy, or Gebran Bassil’s lawsuit against Executive Magazine, or Samir Geagea’s endless list of lawsuits against anyone who addresses him, or the numerous threats of legal action and worse against people you piss off for one reason or another, it’s become shit. In other words, they’re all guilty of that, some more than others. Why? Because I don’t expect Hezbollah or extremist sunni groups to value freedom of speech and individual rights. They strive off of extorting you from your rights “for the sake of the greater cause”. I do expect the Lebanese Forces, Free Patriotic Movement and Future Movement though to be guardians of the freedoms they all advertise themselves as protectors of. Instead, they’re just like all the rest, only worse because they’re hypocrites, not just obstacles to a better Lebanon.

I’ll leave you with these few moments of zen with two of my very good friends and colleagues: Dima Sadek, and Imad Bazzi as a show of disdain for the path Lebanon and its politicians and security forces are taking when it comes to personal freedoms and basic rights.

Lebanon, I don’t really miss you. And I’m not sure I can come back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why We Need This Law

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

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

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

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

Why You Need to Go Down Saturday

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

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

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

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

How Oppression in Lebanon Really Works

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Let’s be real for a few moments, and admit that the Lebanese government and institutions are weak. They’re very weak. Infested with corruption, outdated laws, unworthy employees in important positions, a crumbling judiciary, rotten police force and the list goes on and on.

But, Lebanese people, good, upstanding citizens who pay their taxes and try to make a living, are regularly oppressed. We don’t have a Hosni Mubarak, or Moammar Gaddafi, or the Saudi King or Iran’s Ayatollah though (we do have the latter two to some extent, but you get what I mean). We don’t have a strong man in power, there isn’t one ruling party that exercises oppression exclusively in Lebanon. Instead, we have many ruling parties, and they’re all magnificent at giving excuses.

The Parties

On one side, we have the carcass of the March 14 coalition, the ones that weren’t assassinated or just gave up. The components of the rotting corpse of what was something beautiful in 2005 are experts at blaming Hezbollah for everything. It’s sorta like the “Thanks Obama” the US Tea Party uses for everything like a cold pizza being delivered. So, the broken record goes something like “illegal arms” “state within a state” etc. which are all very legitimate concerns, but as we say in Lebanon “ma bi ta3mo khebez” (rough translation: don’t put bread on the table). It’s exonerated whatever is left of March 14 from doing anything themselves to try to make things better. Khallas, just sit at home and blame the arms for everything, and more recently, fund and arm Al Qaeda offshoots to allay the anger the Sunnis have towards Hezbollah’s fighting in Syria with the Assad regime.

On the other, we have Hezbollah. Militarily unmatched, they pull the strings and when push comes to shove, their black shirts sort things out for them. The problem with Hezbollah though, is it is a religiously extremist group, no matter how you look at it. It’s headed by a cleric, and adheres to strict Islamic law (notice how no women singers, including Fairuz who loves Sayyed Nasrallah, are ever shown on Al Manar) so having them as Lebanon’s overlords is something no one wants (no one who’s a fan of stuff like freedom and rights and equality that is). The problem too is that to their supporters, they are infallible. After 6 or 7 attempts to blow up Israelis in other countries to avenge Imad Mughniyeh’s assassination, Hezbollah doesn’t admit foiled plots, but that this wasn’t the time God has chosen. Also, convincing Hezbollah fighters and their families that going to Syria, fighting and dying there, is actually something justifiable is also an example of how deep the indoctrination runs: fighting someone else’s war, on someone else’s territory, for someone else’s interests.

With that depressing foreword, I want to get to the things I care about more: our daily lives. Ideological and regional wars are great news reel content, but for the average Lebanese person, it’s not the war in Syria that’s got them worried, it’s police corruption and brutality, judiciary intimidation and opaqueness and how with a few bribes you can pull off anything in Lebanon.

How People Are Oppressed

Which brings us to the “how” part. Government institutions and employees are generally lazy. They would never monitor social media for example, if someone higher up wasn’t whipping them to, or someone from outside the circle was handing them fat stacks of cash. So, here’s lesson number one: the Lebanese government is weak, and it can’t oppress people, but, with enough money, you can use the government’s jurisdiction and power to get a message through or punish someone that’s bothering you.

Proof? The endless parade of journalists and bloggers being summoned to the Cybercrimes Bureau. Why? Because a powerful individual or company with some spare, crooked cash pays off a district attorney, who pays off a bad judge, who issues a summon for something as simple as a tweet, or as big as an investigative report that foils an online prostitution ring in Lebanon, or a scam that involves international theft and money laundering.

Of course, there’s only so much they can do to harass you legally, but the problem is, that the time and effort you waste being dragged around by the same institutions that allow wife killers, rapists, thieves and militants to roam free, makes you think twice before tackling a sensitive issue in the future, and that is the worst that can happen to Lebanon’s freedom of speech advocates: self-censorship for fear of harassment and imprisonment.

Then, these journalists and bloggers are made as an example. The crooked scam artists and dishonest TV hosts can make calls and send emails to anyone criticizing them saying, “look what we did to X” or “if you keep criticizing us, the same that happened to Y will happen to you”. So, further oppression and threats.

Of course, you have the really mean person with really mean friends, like that annoying neighbor, who calls up his cop friends to raid your house party and when they don’t find any contraband, slap you with an absurd “satanic worshipping” indictment or being homosexual. That’s of course only if your urine test turned out negative for drugs, or else they’ll have a field day (and pay day) with that instead of the satanic and gay stuff.

So

The list goes on and on, and I’m sure you folks will post a lot more in the comments section. But yeah. We might not have a dictator oppressing us, and a weak government incapable of strong-arming us, but we most definitely have bad people and companies, using the government’s almost unlimited power over an average citizen, to send a message, quiet down dissenters or just make your life a living hell.

We’re not criminals. We’re normal folks, who want a normal life, and to be happy in Lebanon.

It’s a Man’s Lebanon

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While sitting in the smartly decorated, adorable apartment of Dounia in the Upper West Side of Mahattan, I sigh with relief that I’m not in Lebanon. Yet I cannot but let my thoughts drift away to that hellish piece of 10452km2 divided land, even as I gaze up at the skyscrapers I called home last year and hope to call home permanently some day soon.

I grew up in a family where my sister and I were never treated differently. My mom is a top-notch executive at a multinational, and my sister does psychology work in places even I would think twice before visiting. My relationships were never the stereotypical man and woman, even though some old-fashioned gentlemanly gestures like opening the door for my date still survive. Many of my mentors are strong, brilliant women, like Joumana Haddad. What I’m trying to say is that the machoism so characteristic of Lebanese men, was never an issue for me, and the problems associated with it seem incomprehensible most of the time.

During the past few years, I’ve campaigned with NGOs like KAFA for women’s rights constantly. From protests, to lobby groups, to naming and shaming the MPs responsible and the legal headache that comes along with that, I saw how what all the amazing people on board had worked so hard for get sabotaged and gutted by dirty MPs and disgusting religious men. With only minor victories, like eradicating the barbaric “honor crimes” section of the penal code, it’s frustrating and depressing that women in Lebanon are so lacking in terms of human and civil rights in 2014.

Unchecked Domestic Violence

In the past two weeks, 2 women have been beaten to death by barbaric husbands, and a third committed suicide because of the hardships her spouse put her through. Add those 3 to 24 other innocent women killed by domestic violence and rape in Lebanon since 2010. What do you get? An acquittal of one murdered woman’s husband, who never even stood before a judge before being let off the hook and allowed to be the guardian of her 3 beautiful children.

What happened? Nothing. The pro-women’s rights movement in Lebanon is always dismissed by the macho as “a reason for a woman to get her husband into trouble by lying about being abused.” You’d think that absurd excuse would be rare, but I’ve heard it myself from several people, including women, on more occasions than I’d care to admit.

No Citizenship

A Lebanese mother cannot pass down her nationality to her kids. This archaic law was put in place to allay the fears some Lebanese had that Palestinians would seek to “normalize” their presence in Lebanon by marrying Lebanese women. As if a Palestinian woman marrying a Lebanese man is any different. Disgusting, sexist and misogynistic law derived from a morbidly xenophobic mentality.

Blatant Racism

As if the citizenship “provision” wasn’t bad enough, migrant workers in Lebanon get their fare share of abuse and oppression. Whilst 27 Lebanese women have been killed in the past 4 years, 1 domestic worker is killed or commits suicide in Lebanon ever single week. That’s over 200 innocent domestic workers in the same amount of time.

If it’s not physical assault and rape, it’s modern-day slavery-style labor, with passports withheld and doors locked on them when the employers leave home. And if not that, visitors from countries perceived as “domestic workers” by Lebanese, such as Sri Lanka, India, the Philippines and Ethiopia, are treated like second-class citizens and human beings. Denied entry to venues, racial slurs and governmental harassment by police and at the customs control area in the airport, gives a horribly racist and backwards image of Lebanon.

Zero Empowerment

Government cabinets usually have no women. Our parliament is only 3% female. The only reason women were incorporated into the police force is to help them search women wearing hijab. Paperwork in many companies and most governmental institutions need the husband’s oversight or signature. The list goes on and on. The idea is, women aren’t as empowered as men when it comes to elected office and high-profile careers or even startups.

Hypersexualized but Sex is Taboo

Fake boobs, fake lips, fake ass cheeks, fake heels, fake brands, fake eyelashes and nails. Women are expected to dress provocatively, with cleavage on the verge of bursting and heels more fitting for a corner hooker, you’d think these girls are getting some action. If they do though, they become “damaged material” to other guys and girls, “ruining the honor” of her family. Heck, even posing topless like Jackie Chamoun can get you in a ton of trouble. So, in a hyper-sexually suggestive society, being promiscuous if you’re female is still very much frowned upon. Or not even promiscuous, just sexually active, is something many women would rather keep secret.

Women should be able to do whatever they want with their bodies. They aren’t the property of their dads or brothers, they’re their own people, and in Lebanon, many men, and a sizable amount of women still refuse to accept that.

I Wouldn’t Wan’t My Daughter or Wife in Lebanon

I’ve dated a Korean girl, and an Indian girl in my life. I would tell them stories about Beirut and Lebanon. How epic it was. How fun life there can be. But deep down, I knew, but never told them, that I couldn’t invite them over to Lebanon. Imagine going to a posh club and being denied entry because a half-wit baboon bouncer thought they were my “maid”. Imagine a bunch of drunk kids making fun of us of while walking down a street. The humiliation would be unbearable. Not the humiliation of dating someone from another race. That’s something to be proud of, proof you love someone for who they are, not what backwards society thinks they should be. But the humiliation of being Lebanese, of fellow countrymen treating the women I date with such racist, supremacist, all-out stupid attitudes. I want them to keep the good idea of Lebanon and the Lebanese I hopefully portrayed to them, not the one it really is.

I’d never want my daughter born in Lebanon. Imagine she dates a douchebag and becomes a social outcast after he tells everyone they slept together (which should be normal and ok for any consenting young adult). Imagine she marries a sick bastard who beats and rapes her, but the priest or sheikh won’t allow her to divorce him, and the state sits and watches idly as she gets murdered by a testosterone-crazed macho man. Imagine my grandkids being denied a Lebanese citizenship if my daughter marries a foreigner. Imagine the humiliation of being a Lebanese father.

I’d never want my daughter born in Lebanon. Not as long as we have presidents, prime ministers, speakers of parliament, ministers and religious men like the ones we have now. Not as long as some cabdrivers pay a migrant worker 5,000LBP after raping her. Not when people still differentiate between a man’s rights and a woman’s rights. Not when many women accept that as their fate and do nothing to help the movement for their civil and human rights.

What Can Be Done?

  • Mandatory Civil Marriage (because the people who do it willingly don’t need it as much as those forced into religious marriages)
  • Abolishment of religious personal status laws (so we level the playing field)
  • Severe punishment of men who rape or abuse women (serious jail time)
  • Draft laws that sanctify a woman as equal, not complimentary to men (this isn’t Kandahar/Saudi/Iran)
  • The right to pass down citizenship (Cut the racism)
  • Focus on these issues instead of the ideological wars everyone is so preoccupied with.

How?

Force our MPs to vote for it. Name and shame every abuser of women’s rights. Eject religious authorities from the bedroom and club.

So

Lebanon is a man’s world, and it is one of the many reasons why I utterly hate it at the moment, and feel the need for change more than ever.

Lebanese Ads in the 60s: “Mutribat Al Sex” and Vibrators

For people outraged about what Jackie did, and the #StripForJackie campaign, take a look at what Lebanon used to be: not sexually frustrated and as far as possible from Kandahar/Saudi/Iran.

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Starco, near where Mohammad Chatah was assassinated…

unnamedLet’s not forget what Beirut is like. You can be as conservative as you like, but let the liberals do what they want. Back off.

 

Disgusting Lebanon: Horribly Backwards Reactions to Olympian’s Photos

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I don’t even know where to start with this. It’s too similar to the Rasha Kahil incident a few weeks ago, and I still cannot comprehend the horribly degrading reaction of people to something so natural, so normal as a pair of bare breasts shot tastefully for a calendar.

To Everyone Upset at Jackie and Chirine

Who the fuck are you to get upset? Is it the first pair of boobs you see? The horribly backwards reaction to the surfacing of these old photos, makes you all look like savage brutes living in some theocracy in the mountains between Pakistan or Afghanistan, or in Iran, or Saudi. You are in fucking Beirut, the city that placed ads in Playboy Magazine in the 60s, and had its own red light district back in the day. Today, in 2014, you want to turn it into some religious theocracy that’s afraid of sex and hates women unless they’re 72 virgins you get for blowing your stupid self up? Or some savage tribe that still believes women are property and carry “the honor” of the family or whatever it is you call what you congregate yourself in?

You, sirs and madams, are a very sad, sexually frustrated bunch of hypocritea with nothing better to talk about as you wait on the doorways of your politicians to ask for a favor you’ve already paid for with your taxes. Or waiting at the doors of the churches and the mosques that ban you from getting married civil marriages, and sanctify a man’s right to kill and rape his wife, as God intended it in their twisted, old, wretched minds.

To Feminists Worried About “Objectifying a Woman’s Body”

Oh, because bashing two young women for posing whichever way they want, for whatever reason they want, fits in perfectly with the feminist rhetoric, right? If you really are for gender equality, and no differentiation between men and women, then you shouldn’t go out guns blazing against a woman who showed some skin. Just like no one ever bashes a male model or athlete that poses topless or in provocative poses. This is hypocrisy, and whether you like it or not, sex sells and drawing attention to causes, brands, charitable causes, etc. using a bare human body, will always happen, and you should celebrate the fact people have a choice to do that, and honor their choices.

To the Minister of Sports and Government

How DARE you “investigate” Jackie?! After the horrible support our Olympians always get from the government, who didn’t even bother telling Chirine she isn’t participating this year? The same corrupt, rotten, filthy government that sent only 2 athletes, with 7 “organizers”, just like our mysteriously large UN General Assembly “organizers” who are in the several dozen, when China’s entire delegation was a fraction of ours.

Amidst this massive corruption scandal, and laughable handling of your ministry to the Olympics case, how do you have the nerve to investigate one of our Olympians? It’s no thanks to you she’s there, and we can live with that, but suggesting actions might be taken against her for disobeying some Lebanese’s conservative absurdities, is plain rude and unacceptable.

To Jackie and Chirine

We love you, don’t let people’s trash talk faze you. We are proud of you for representing Lebanon, in Sochi and in Vancouver, and I’m proud of you for having the guts to be topless on camera, on the slopes of Faraya in public. Takes a lot of courage and self-esteem to be so secure with your body image. Thank you for standing up for the liberals in this country, the ones living in 2014, not 1200s. Also, don’t ever apologize for participating in that calendar, we’re proud two Lebanese skiers were featured, and might I say favorites on that calendar that grouped female skiers from around the world.

To Lebanese Liberals

Don’t shy away from defending these two brave women. Don’t sit idly by when your supposed “patriotic” fellow citizens joke about bombings and parts of Lebanon becoming a theocracy. Lebanon is liberal, it always was. We can’t let the recent trend in extremism change that. They call on us to “subdue” our women when they do this, when just the other week a savage brute beat his beautiful wife to death, and they thought it was ok… Those very same people and authorities outraged at showing Jackie’s boobs, have no problem with a man beating his wife to a bloody pulp, but GOD FORBID BOOBSSS! AHHHHHHH! SCARY! :’(

Glad I’m Leaving

I need a break from this disgusting place festering with corruption, extreme religious bigotry and hypocrisy that is at The Onion levels. Tfeh on each and every low-life who insulted these two fine young women, representing Lebanon in one the most prestigious of sporting events. Tfeh for making us look like stupid, backwards baboons who go apeshit if our gorgeous athletes show off what they got. I am proud of Jackie, immensely proud, and for once, I like someone representing Lebanon. And I’d much rather have her representing my country, someone comfortable in their skin and open-minded, not tied down by the crippling cultural and religious norms that teach us to hate women, to subdue them, to oppress them. Shame on all of you. I have no words to describe how disgusted I am by the backwardness, childishness and lack of patriotism you have shown. Oh, and btw, t3eesho w tfoo2o you dumbasses, we’ve known about this calendar since December. Sub-par journalists, with sub-par IQed viewers. Tfeh.

Final Advice

Always, before judging and bashing and “investigating” someone for something they did willingly, always, always, always repeat to yourself: “Who. The. Fuck. Am. I?” Trust me, you’ll be all set!