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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The Invalid Excuse: Child Pornography Threat

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In Lebanon, we have a history of corrupt politicians and authorities who commit heinous crimes and put up some noble cause as their excuse. Remember when the MPs decided to cross off the word “woman” from the women’s right’s law that would protect from rape and abuse? Do you remember what the FPM MPs cited the cause as? They said, “all family members should be included, not just women, but men and children and the elderly”. What the MPs failed to tell you, is that that legal provision would render the law almost useless, since it failed to explicitly mention “women”, meaning the barbaric, ancient religious laws still have precedence over this rational, civil one.

Being a victim myself of several attempts to block my website, I’ve become accustomed to the tricks and ploys used. One I’ve been noticing over the past few months, is a rising trend in citing the Internet as a menace due to “child porn” dangers, and “corrupting children’s minds”.

Now, banning anything with that excuse is a slippery slope, and just another attempt to pretty-up a despicable clamp down on freedoms in Lebanon.

Here’s why it’s stupid to do that:

Use Child Porn to Catch Pedophiles

In most respectable countries, child pornography is dealt with rationally. When a pedophile is stupid enough to upload photos online, this should be considered as a chance to track him or her down and arrest them. The police in Lebanon is amazing at hacking people’s phones to find out if they’re gay or do drugs, and they go all CSI-FBI-CIA on innocent people’s asses. I don’t see why they can’t do the same if child porn is ever found in Lebanon online. So, instead of hiding behind our thumbs, we should use the data to track down the pedophiles and put them behind bars. That’s a far more noble use of this power to monitor the internet, then just a stupid, easily bypass-able ban.

So, use the incriminating content to catch the bastard, then have it removed altogether instead of a simple ban anyone with a brain can bypass.

Slippery Slope

Who the hell determines what “corrupts children’s minds?”. Maybe to some, Reddit and Facebook and 9gag are “corrupting”, should they be banned? What if someone writes something that pisses someone higher-up off? Will they get slapped with the “child protection” excuse to be shut down?

In the absence of a sensible civil law, authorities have no right to clamp down on the Internet in Lebanon without due process and monitoring, a proper appeals system and transparency and access to information regarding the ban. I mean, we still don’t even know the details of the 6 porn sites banned… Walaw?!

Do Something Offline First

If you drive through Maameltein at night, you’ll see grown men walking around with underage girls soliciting cars and passerby… Girls who obviously couldn’t even get into a club because they’re so young. Why doesn’t the police arrest that man? Why doesn’t any governmental authority protect these kids? Or is it just “smallteenpussy.com” that’s the real threat to those poor girls being sold on the street in plain sight of everyone… Maybe, if we see real attempts to rectify this injustice, we might start thinking of doing something online.

But, for now, the government has proven otherwise. Why? Because when I wrote about an online prostitution ring online in Lebanon last year, the authorities shut the blog down, but kept the prostitution websites I wrote about running. Inno, w air?! Could it be any clearer that the intention is clamping down on freedom, and not protecting children?

My Thoughts on Rifi’s Actions

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Being an outspoken atheist means I get into a lot debates with annoyed theists over statuses. It’s funny how they forget that the “fundamental” elements of their faiths are chopping heads off, selling women into slavery and ethnically cleansing entire regions of the Middle East. But, hey! A status is just as offensive and bad, ok?!

One argument I always hear is that “these extremists are a minority” and “not everyone who is faithful is like that.” Well, DUUUH! No one ever said every faithful person is a blood thirsty barbarian straight out of the Dark Ages. If they did, they’d be stupid and unreasonable (just like the religious extremists.)

But, as Rifi was so brilliantly demonstrated, the “moderates” pave the way for their extremist counterparts by their irrational behavior to what they perceive as “protecting their faith.”

Richard Dawkins said it beautifully once: “The moderate, sensible religious people… make the world safe for extremists… by influencing society to respect faith.” I’ll edit it a bit to fit the current situation to make it sound something like “The self-proclaimed moderate, sensible religious people in Lebanon are forcibly making Lebanon a safe-haven for their extremist counterparts by forcing people to respect their faith.”

Here, I’ll break it down to help you understand why what Rifi did was NOT ok.

MAJOR Hypocrisy

Rifi is from Tripoli, a town where Islamist extremist flags are always a source of conflict. After the Lebanese Army removed the despicable black flags and replaced them with our Lebanese flag, the Islamist elements removed the national symbol of our country and replaced it with the black flags that have become synonymous with horrific death and genocide in our region.

Why didn’t Rifi ever send police cars to arrest these people? Where are the criminals that burned the historic library? The criminals that burnt the Christmas tree? Why didn’t Rifi think that they deserved to be “punished in the severest forms”? Is it because they were Christian symbols? Is it because the people he’d be arresting are constituents where we all know he’s planning to run for elected office?

Why are a bunch of misguided youths in Ashrafieh such prime targets to Rifi, enough to distract him from saving the lives of our abducted soldiers, who, till this day, Rifi and his government have no idea how many they are? How can he suggest he’s protecting the coexistence in Lebanon, when it’s clearly only Christian areas and individuals that feel the full brunt of his legal weight, while murderers and terrorists in his own hometown remain at large, with his blessing and the blessing of his colleagues? Is that really the best way to “protect coexistence”? By targeting Christian youths to try and score points with the extremist elements in his district? I think not.

Christian-Protector Bandwagon: FPM vs LF

The FPM (Free Patriotic Movement), the arch-rivals of Rifi’s FM (Future Movement) immediately jumped on this and even delegated its MPs to act as the youths’ defense attorneys. Though that is welcome, I’m sure dozens of independent attorneys would have come to the aid of these young people. It’s an attempt by the FPM to score points in their own districts, just like Rifi. As Rifi panders to Da3esh and Nusra members who can vote for him, the FPM pander to the Christian community in Lebanon, which plunges day after day into hopelessness and existential fears amid the vicious genocides the Islamic State has committed in Mosul and Syria, and the failure to fill Lebanon’s presidential seat, ceremonially sat on by a Maronite Christian figurehead.

Regardless the real motives though, the FPM deserves a nod of respect for stepping up so quickly and forcefully.

The LF are the ones that I feel are truly embarrassed. The LF traditionally sees itself as the most righteous protecter of Christians in Lebanon. It might not be said explicitly as much (except during the mass honoring their martyrs), but slogans like “Mar Charbel wel 7akim” are always present in their rallies and Facebook statuses. So, to seem them sit mute while Rifi does this to what was traditionally one of their powerhouses: Sassine Square in Ashrafieh, is embarrassing, and goes to show you how dependent Christian parties in Lebanon are to the funds they receive from their Muslim allies. Rifi is Future Movement, so, they keep their mouths shut. A shiite puts tiles in his home in Lasa (Kesserwen), and their media mouthpieces herald it as “an attack on Christians” or something just as sensational. But, prosecuting kids for protesting in what was once their “heartland”, and for strictly religious purposes, doesn’t even make them bat an eye…

It’s the “Orthodox Law” all over again, with both sides trying to score points with the increasingly skeptical Christian audience which is exhausted from the hypocrisy their political parties demonstrate every day, as a consequence of being tied down financially (and security-wise), to their Muslim coalition mates.

Freedom of Speech > Religion

Your faith is yours. Your religion is yours. But freedom of speech is universal, unalienable and absolute. Why can Islamist terrorists burn US and Israeli flags, but a disgruntled Christian kid can’t burn the flag of the most evil terrorist group to grace the face of this Earth? Doesn’t the Israeli flag have a Star of David on it? Isn’t that a religious symbol? A religious symbol of a sect the Lebanese government recognizes? Do people who burn Israeli flags mean to insult all Jews or Judaism in general, or just Israel? Then why did you consider the IS flag an insult to Islam in general? Why the painful hypocrisy?

Dear Minister, Call Your Witch Hunt Off

And focus on our kidnapped boys. You know, the ones kidnapped by the murderers who use that flag you are so dearly fighting for. Apologize to the Lebanese people. And don’t worry about your election hopes, because your protection, and dare I say support for the fighters in Tripoli, has sealed that deal for you already. So, leave Ashrafieh alone, and focus on banning alcohol and other IS-like things in your hometown, the victim of religious extremism with no salvation in sight unfortunately. And if you wanna uphold “principles”, make sure you exert the power of the law equally on everyone. Why should Tripoli youths who burn flags have the right to do so, and kids in Ashrafieh can’t? Your attempt to “protect coexistence” has actually exacerbated sectarian tensions. You are the Minister of Justice, so, please, be just.

What Tripoli’s Municipality Did Is Illegal, Here’s What To Do About It

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The nice thing about our Constitution is that in its preamble, it’s pretty awesome. It ensures Lebanon’s utmost adherence to human rights, the equality of its citizens under law and the absolute right to believe or not believe in whatever you want, and the freedom to practice that freely. The specific articles I’m referring to are the following:

A) Lebanon is a sovereign, free, and independent country. It is a final homeland for all its
citizens. It is unified in its territory, people, and institutions within the boundaries defined
in this constitution and recognized internationally.

B) Lebanon is Arab in its identity and in its affiliation. It is a founding and active
member of the League of Arab States and abides by its pacts and covenants. Lebanon is
also a founding and active member of the United Nations Organization and abides by its
covenants and by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Government shall
embody these principles in all fields and areas without exception.

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 of powers, their
balance and cooperation.

F) The economic system is free and ensures private initiative and the right of private
property.

G) The even development among regions on the educational, social, and economic levels
shall be a basic pillar of the unity of the state and the stability of the system.

H) The abolition of political confessionalism shall be a basic national goal and shall be
achieved according to a staged plan.

I) Lebanese territory is one for all Lebanese. Every Lebanese shall have the right to live
in any part thereof and to enjoy the rule of law wherever he resides. There shall be no
segregation of the people on the basis of any type of belonging, and no fragmentation,
partition, or settlement of non-Lebanese in Lebanon.

J) There shall be no constitutional legitimacy for any authority which contradicts the
‘pact of mutual existence.

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So, as you can see, the extremist stances of the Tripoli municipality chief is illegal according to Lebanon’s constitution, which has precedence over any local government crazy decisions like “banning foreigners from going out at night” and “banning the sale of alcohol.”

Why the Tripoli Affair is Scary

It’s definitely not new. Many parts of Lebanon are already forcibly alcohol-free, like Nabatieh and Sour and other regions in Lebanon where places that sell liquor have been burned, bombed or forced to shut down. What’s different about the Tripoli incident, is that apart from the thugs and extremist elements, it added some “fake” legitimacy to the intolerant decision that encroaches on people’s rights and freedom to choose what to do, and what religion and religious practices to abide by, or not to. I say “fake” legitimacy because the municipality doesn’t have the right or jurisdiction to disobey the unalienable rights guaranteed in the Lebanese Constitution’s preamble. (It is in clear violation of articles B, C, E, F, I and J).

That is why, it’s imperative that this injustice be rectified, and immediately.

How to Rectify this Injustice

Ever since word broke out, a team of awesome people with the support of some of the nation’s brightest legal minds have been considering what can be done, and we’ve decided it’s time to take this to the Shura Council of Lebanon. The Shura Council is sort of like the US Supreme Court, which has the final say regarding constitutionality of bills and laws and other matters in Lebanon. What’s great is that any citizen can file a lawsuit with the Shura Council, and we plan on doing just that. All we need is your help, especially if you’re a Tripoli resident.

We’re very proud to announce that if you’re willing to file the lawsuit, we will take care of all your legal fees and proceedings with some of Lebanon’s brightest and most-connected attorneys and the support of several legal, rights and freedom NGOs.

Just call 01 208 101 and we’ll take it from there!

A Few Words

Despite the vicious onslaught of extremist Islam in different forms in Lebanon, we’re still here, and true to the ideals we all believe in: freedom, equality and peace. Whether its terrorists in Aarsal or delusional murderers blowing themselves up, or extremist clerics derailing women’s rights laws, or even hateful, intolerant municipal chiefs, they’ll never kill what makes Lebanon special: its liberal nature compared to other Arab countries.

No matter how much fear, disgust and hopelessness these extremists preach, we should never treat them as they would treat us. Violence and hatred is never an option we’ll want to take. Instead, due diligence and non-violent direct action is the path we choose to take. After all, if there’s one thing that makes us different from them, it’s that we don’t chop heads off and condone raping women and children.

So, no matter how vicious and abhorred the extremist camp and its fans become, we can’t resort to their level. Go party, have a beer and toast them. Go about your every day lives. Try to make where you are a bit better. Show the world and Lebanon that our version is better, happier and more tolerant. Help charities aiding locals and the millions of Syrian, Palestinian and Iraqi refugees who came to Lebanon to escape the hell these extremists made them go through back home. Never give up. This isn’t petty politics or academic debates. This is a real threat to our way of life, our way of thinking, and it’s up to us to keep it alive and well as our petty, dim-witted, corrupt politicians bicker over seats and their wages…

Thoughts About The Aarsal Operation

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I’ve been following the news minute by minute over the past week. The general sentiment was already an unpleasant one with the heart-wrenching crimes against humanity being committed in Gaza and Mosul, by equally extremist ideological entities, and it became worse when it hit so close to home, as we’ve all been predicting.

I’ve been to Aarsal several times over the past two years. I’ve met many locals and many Syrian refugees there. I know firsthand how hard it’s been for that Lebanese town of 40,000 originally now housing some 100,000 refugees in the greater Aarsal area and border regions, a barren, dry no-mans-land with no proper border demarcation. This lack of demarcation makes it difficult for international aid agencies like the UNHCR to get access to many of the refugees who happen to live in the part of town beyond the de-facto border set by the last Lebanese army checkpoint, beyond which the Lebanese jurisdiction doesn’t hold up for the UNHCR and its partners. This leaves the aid up to thousands of these refugees to independent NGOs and individual initiatives like Lebanese For Refugees.

Why You Should Be Confident in the Lebanese Army

Simply? Because I’m confident they’re one of the most experienced, if not most experienced armies in the region and the world when it comes to successfully fighting extremist Islamist terrorist groups. The epic and costly fight in Nahr El Bared, and squashing the “Fateh El Islam” terrorist group was the first major battle, add to that the unrest in Tripoli, the clashes with Al Assir in Abra, and earlier in the decade during the Syrian Occupation when they were attacked on New Year’s Eve Y2K by extremist terrorists as well.

So, training-wise, I know our boys in special forces units like the Mujawkal and Maghawir, are the best and brightest. Equipment-wise, they could always use better weapons and I hope the Saudi-bought French tactical weapons will make it into our soldiers’ hands ASAP.

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Why You Should Be Worried About the Lebanese Army

Because our elected officials see them as numbers. Our media and municipalities see them as “just another martyr”. This is unacceptable. If there’s one thing alone I agree with or would even dare say “respect” about the Israelis, is that they never leave behind one of their own. Every soldier’s safety and life is precious and a matter of national security. We need to take care of our soldiers, decrease as much as possible the loss of life among our troops, who often leave behind families that depend on them.

I’m also worried that the Aarsal operations’ effects extend beyond the Aarsal region. Already you hear voices of dissent and violent attacks against soldiers in the Tripoli area. The excuse is a contorted spin on events that feed off on Sunni disenfranchisement in light of Hezbollah’s virtually unstoppable participation in the Syrian war in support of the Bashar El Assad. Most Sunnis sympathize with the original uprising against Assad, which puts them at odds with the Shiite Hezbollah. The worrisome scenario is when Sunni youths get disillusioned into supporting terrorist groups that seem to many  of them as the only alternative to the Shiite scarecrow Hezbollah. Which puts them at an inevitable clash, which often innocent civilians and Lebanese Army soldiers pay the price for.

Why Everyone Should Support the Army, But Also Hold It Accountable

I cannot imagine someone not supporting the Lebanese Army in this operation. A group of foreign, extremist fighters taking an entire Lebanese city hostage, executing many and using others as human shields and obstructing their attempts to flee to neighboring towns. But also, calls for a media blackout and “unified media coverage” seems unreasonable to me. Sharing false information is unacceptable, but counting on official press releases alone, is not enough for the average Lebanese taxpayer who deserves to know what the LAF is doing in a Lebanese town full of innocent Lebanese civilians and thousands of innocent refugees.

I know many people would wish harm and pain and even torture for these murderous criminals, but when we don’t let proper civil justice take its route, we become guilty of the same crimes as the terrorists: blind hatred and zero rights. That’s why videos of beating up an unarmed suspect in Abra by a group of soldiers and civilians, is unacceptable. The alleged civilized society our boys are fighting for against the barbaric way of life the terrorists forcibly try to impose, demands we respect human rights of both the criminals, as well as the innocent civilians paying the price.

Worst Case Scenario?

That the voices of dissent against the army rise, and unrest boils up in regions like Tripoli, would apart from causing violent clashes and loss of life, would also hinder the immense efforts of the General Security, LAF and ISF to foil suicide bombing plans before it’s too late. The worst case scenario is not yet upon us, and I hope it never will be. Of course, Hezbollah’s possible participation in the Aarsal operations might be the spark that ignites the fuel, but I doubt Hezbollah would take that rash decision. Besides, the LAF is more than capable of doing the job, so their intervention would be even hard to justify to their own supporters, and a blatant reinforcement of every single crime March 14 accuses Hezbollah of.

Best Case Scenario?

That the operations end immediately with the fighters agreeing to release the soldiers they’ve kidnapped and retreat back into Syria. This would hopefully stop the loss of precious life, and jump-start the way-overdue process of properly managing the refugee crisis and making sure none of the impromptu refugee camps become fertile ground for these terrorist to regroup and replenish, for the sake of both Lebanon, and the Syrian refugees who are also victims of these extremist fighters. Talk is already starting about Aarsal being “Kahwagi’s Nahr El Bared”, which compares the success of former president Michel Sleiman as Army Chief in the Nahr El Bared battles that many agree ensured his selection as Lebanon’s next president. Lebanon’s presidency is currently vacant, and no clear resolution in sight, which helped spark hopes for some that the LAF’s victory would speed up the process of electing the current Army Chief, Kahwagi, as Lebanon’s next Maronite president.

We’d also see even more forceful condemnation from more moderate Sunnis, making it clear to the terrorist groups and other Lebanese people, that they stand as one hand in fighting this extremist, violent way of life Lebanon never was and will never be part of. The broken record of “these people don’t represent us!” without any viable action taken to further elaborate that, and the comfortable excuse “It’s Hezbollah’s fault” as an alternative, makes it pretty shaky when it comes to making sure our young men don’t end up enchanted by extremist promises of violent empowerment.

Last Words

Remember, Aarsal is a Lebanese town. The infamy some of its officials and groups have earned doesn’t negate the fact the overwhelming majority are hospitable, kind, generous people who have equal rights to every other person in Lebanon. They need to be saved from the terrorists and expect the Army to liberate them, and care for their safety and wellbeing, which I am one hundred percent sure the Lebanese Army is doing heroically.

As for our troops, we wholeheartedly wish you all stay safe and be careful, and thank you from the bottom of our heart for fighting the fight we never could. You make us proud, and repaying you is impossible, but making a better country to try to make it worth your fight, just might be one small step at a time…