Christians Are Disappearing From Lebanon

The infamous Lebanese Christian civil war slogan goes: “نحن هنا وهنا سنبقى.” If you google those words that translate to “we are here and this is where we’re staying,” you get plenty of Lebanese-centric references that can, even over 24 years after the theoretical end of the Civil War, get those same Christians riled up. As it stands, however, Harvard did some studies on behalf of the region, and the whole “نحن هنا وهنا سنبقى” slogan is not entirely correct.

Religion Demographics specialists Todd Johnson and Gina Zurlo have recently published a study (link) in the Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policies that examines the situation of Christians in the Middle East in general and in some of its countries in specific.

In general, they noted that the overall Christian population of the Middle East stood at 13.6% in 1910. That 13.6% decreased to a measly 4.2% in 2010. The projections for 2025 put the population at only 3.6%.

They attribute the shift to multiple reasons, including emigration due to wars, instability, the rise of Islamic extremism, etc…. But Lebanon is a focal point of the study due to the different nature of the country compared to the region, especially that they find the drop in the Christian population of Lebanon to be substantial. 

These are their findings:

 

In 1910, prior to the founding of the state of Greater Lebanon (catch up on your history book), Christians constituted about 77.5% of the population of what was the Mutasarrifate of Mount Lebanon. Before the Lebanese civil war, the portion of Lebanese Christians relative to the general population was approximated to 62.5%. 

Following the end of the civil war and in estimated numbers for 2010, Christians constituted 34% of the Lebanese population. This percentage is expected to drop even further come 2025 to about 30%. 

The reason for the decrease is explained as follows:

  1. The Lebanese civil war and the emigration of Christians to Western countries,
  2. Lower birth rate in the Lebanese Christian population due to their generally higher economic status,
  3. Increasingly decreasing role and influence at a national level.

It’s eye-opening to see in numbers what we know in theory.

Decreasing percentages don’t mean that Christians are going to be wiped off from the country quite yet. The decrease has less to do with the propaganda of ISIS’ threat to existence through fear instilled by fear-mongering politicians, but more to do with how things are in the country as things stand today in 2015.

The purpose of this post is not to elicit sectarian talk. This isn’t about Christians as a religious establishment as much as a demographical agglomeration. The role of Christians in the building of Lebanon is historically established, so losing them is a disaster to the country. Their role in the advancement of the country cannot be denied: all the country’s major universities and schools were formed by missionaries; even our hospitals emanated from Christian religious establishment.

Changing demographics is a natural process in any country’s lifespan. Populations age, their characteristics change, their constitution gets altered over the years. So the solution isn’t to panic about the changes, but to see what they mean.

The Lebanese problem isn’t only that its Christians are becoming less and less of its population, but that those same Christians cannot 1) agree on a future for the country and 2) see that their future lies in stopping to look at themselves as Christians but as Lebanese first and foremost who have a country they need to build, especially given that Lebanon is probably the only country in the region where they can be safe and hope for a country. God, country, family – not in that order.

What Lebanon in general and its Christians in particular need at this point is to finally realize that the only hope, regardless of how demographical percentages change, is the establishment of a secular state in Lebanon where people are not defined by the religion they are born into, but as citizens with rights and duties that are not adjusted to their prayer building.

Certainly, the notion is beyond delusional at this point as it requires a massive leap of forward thinking from the entire Lebanese population. But if Lebanese Christians can’t see the danger of clinging to the status quo where the status quo is as moving as quicksand, then they have more things to worry about than decreasing percentages over a bunch of decades.

Less slogans, more plans. Less chants to civil-war-leaders, more criticism and accountability. Less religious marriages, more civil marriages. Less this faculty’s dean has to be Christian, more this faculty’s dean has to be competent. Less let’s massively panic about Khaled el Daher, more let’s ignore and try to take the higher road.

The “نحن هنا وهنا سنبقى” slogan is easy to say, but it’s tough to implement with no president, political deadlock, rising poverty, no prospect for jobs, and the urge to get visas stamped on your passport the moment you receive your college degree. I guess it all doesn’t matter in the face of fiery existential chants. If only, though, the numbers lied. Build a country in which you’d want to stay, not just shout about staying.

0.3% of Lebanese Own 50% of Lebanon

Lebanon isn’t a country where population studies are omnipresent. However, given the data that the country has, Credit Suisse, in their yearly report on Global Wealth, has managed to paint a picture on how things in this country actually are.

The report dates back to October 2014, and frankly I am surprised that these numbers did not cause a stir and were not discussed. The report, at 160 pages, can be found here. Perhaps no one noticed the info, so here they are:

At an estimated population of 4.37 million, Lebanon’s wealth is estimated at $91 billion. That actually constitutes 0% of global wealth. How anticlimactic.

When it comes to the Middle East, and despite the reputation we get of being oil-rich, things are similar: Saudi Arabia has an estimated wealth of $653 billion, which ends up as roughly 0.2% of global wealth. Qatar, and all our shoukrans, has $200 billion, which is 0.1% of global wealth. The UAE is at $461 billion, and 0.2%. Meanwhile, Israel has an estimated wealth of $843 billion, translating to 0.3% of global wealth.

All of these numbers look flimsy compared to the United States’ $83708 billion, constituting 31.6% of world wealth.

Keep in mind that – with the exception of Israel and the United States – Credit Suisse considers the data for Lebanon and other Middle Eastern countries to be poor in quality. However, I highly doubt that any estimations are overly erroneous in any way or that the margin of error they are admitting to will change the findings considerably.

But this isn’t the story. We all know the country has money. Recent leaks out of Switzerland placed the country at #11 in total customers at their banks and #12 in total deposits within the few months whose data was actually leaked. We’re 10452 km2. That’s a lot (link).

The story is in how that money is actually divided on the 4.3 million Lebanese living here.

Out of all those $91 billion, 0.3% or approximately 8000 people of the estimated workforce according the study own about half (48% to be exact), which is approximately $44.6 billion. Meanwhile, 99.7% of Lebanese own slightly more than half at $46.4 billion.

To put those numbers in perspective, Credit Suisse employed a criteria called the Gini score. The score, according to Wikipedia, is essentially a “measure of statistical dispersion intended to represent the income distribution of a nation’s residents, and is the most commonly used measure of inequality.”

Lebanon’s Gini score is 85.6. a score of 85.6 places Lebanon 6th worldwide in terms of wealth inequality behind Ukraine, Denmark, Kazakhstan, Seychelles and Russia.

The story doesn’t end here. Even among those 0.3%, there are disparities. That 0.3% basically any Lebanese who has an estimated wealth above $1million. But who actually owns most of the country? The answer is two families: The Hariri and the Miqatis.

Forbes Lebanese Billionaires Miqati Hariri

According to the Forbes latest list of billionaires, there are 6 Lebanese on the list whose ranking ranges from 530 worldwide to 1478. Two of those 6 are the Miqati brothers. The other 4 are the Hariri brothers, including former PM Saad Hariri. Their cumulative wealth is estimated, according to Forbes, at $12.6 billion. This is 30% of the total wealth owned by those 0.3% of Lebanese – except it’s owned by just 6 men.

This isn’t to say that the Hariris and Miqatis do not deserve their wealth. The Miqatis started and ran a telecom empire. The Hariris started and ran a major contracting company in Saudi Arabia. Good for them.

The problem with these numbers is the other side that they portray. About two thirds of the Lebanese population (64.6%) have an estimated wealth of less than $10,000. Such numbers indicate massive poverty in the country, and yet I was unable to find substantial studies apart from one that was recently done by the UN about Tripoli.

In numbers, (link) the UN found that 57% of Tripoli’s families struggle to reach an acceptable standard of living, while 26% are considered extremely deprived. It wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that things are similar in other regions beyond Beirut.

To the background of this massive poverty is the 0.3% who owns 50% of the country’s wealth, and those 0.3% happen to include most (if not all) of our politicians. Aoun is in it. Geagea is in it. Our MPs and ministers are probably part of those 8000 people too. There are no estimates of the wealths of Lebanese politicians if their last name isn’t Hariri or Miqati, but one assumes they are not middle class folk who are going by paycheck to paycheck.

Of course, it only makes sense that money brings influence, and then influence brings power. A politician’s job in Lebanon isn’t only to legislate but to “provide” for the voters. This is how democracy works here.

The problem with those 0.3% (not all of them obviously) being those running the country is that the country’s policies over the years have not served to close the gap or make those 64.6% with little to no wealth slightly better off. The Gini coefficient clearly shows as much. The country’s policies have not aimed at improving education, providing economic opportunities (for instance, a 1 million m2 zone in Tripoli to bring in international technology has been on hold over sectarian causes for the past 6 years) or making living standards better. Those 0.3% do not get how things are for the 64.6%, the people they’re in contact with once every 4 years for that pre-electoral paycheck. And honestly, there’s no reason for them to get it. And yet our MPs and ministers wanted to increase their salaries?

Meanwhile, the Lebanese population who happens to be of the third that has wealth above $10,000 is pre-occupied with selfies, porn stars, bananas and Kardashian-like reality TV shows because those are what matters.

Lebanon To Have Its Very Own High-Tech “Silicon Valley” Soon?

Batroun hollywood sign

Back in 2012, I wrote about an economical boom coming my home district Batroun’s way (link). It promised great things for the caza and North Lebanon. Now, more than 2 years later, that project is going through the bureaucratic motions of Lebanese governance on its (hopeful) way for fulfillment.

A parliamentary committee consisting of MPs Ibrahim Kanaan (Metn), Nadim el Jesr (Tripoli), Hekmat Dib (Baabda), Jean Ogassapian (Beirut), Neamtalah Abi Nasr (Keserwan), along with a representative of the Minister of Economy Alain Hakim, is studying the law required in order to make the zone a reality.

The zone will be spread over an area of 200,000 m², donated by the Maronite Church in Batroun. The project was championed mainly two years ago by the Maronite League (الرابطة المارونية).

The purpose of the Maronite League behind the project is to improve the economy of that region in order to prevent its people from moving to Beirut and its youth from emigrating. Certainly, even if unknowingly by the League, such a project’s benefits will not be exclusive to the people of Batroun or Maronites for that matter. Let’s hope they don’t mind.

The feasibility study of Batroun’s economic zone indicates that there’s a possibility to generate over 5000 jobs. The companies that will operate in said area won’t be those of heavy industries akin to the ones present in nearby Shekka or Selaata; they will be high-tech industries similar to the ones operating in California’s Silicon Valley, which is where many Lebanese youth today are heading as career choices.

In order to bring in such high-caliber investors, the law that is being studied by parliament will give investors and their companies many advantages:

  1. The zone will not be run by the Lebanese government, but by a separate appointed committee whose members are, in theory, not chosen based on sectarian distribution but on qualifications,
  2. They will have their products exempt from custom fees, which would make their prices competitive,
  3. They will have their mode of business not constricted by Lebanese bureaucracy, which means they won’t have to face months of legal paperwork to finish anything that’s remotely crucial for business,
  4. Permits will be issued by the committee in charge of the zone and would therefore be more easily obtained,
  5. Taxes will be reduced on companies to make their business more profitable.

As is always the case in Lebanon, there’s big fat “HOWEVER” lurking in the background. It is not all awesome news. Is it ever?

Tripoli's "Tall" Area

Tripoli’s “Tall” Area

Batroun’s Silicon Valley-like area isn’t Lebanon’s first to be suggested. Back in 2004, late PM Rafic Hariri came up with an idea for a similar zone in Tripoli, and in August 2008 Lebanese parliament actually passed the law required to set such a zone in action. This is a copy of the law (link) if you’re interested.

For the first time in years, Tripoli – and North Lebanon – were to have major development coming their way. Keep in mind that in 2008, Tripoli was not the war-torn city you all love to criticize today. It was, at the very least, much stabler than Beirut.

In numbers, Tripoli’s zone was more impressive than Batroun’s. Its area was to be spread on 1,000,000 m² of reclaimed land facing the city’s port, of which 350,000 m² has already been done.

At poverty rates ranging between 57 and 63%, Tripoli would have witnessed a tangible and drastic improvement in its economical state as well as the living standards of its people. The study of the area indicated the possibility of generating more than 6000 jobs.

Couple that with Batroun’s numbers and North Lebanon, the country’s poorest and most forgotten mouhafazats, gets more than 11,000 new jobs for its market.When has it ever had such development take place? Never.

Soon enough, the situation in Tripoli decompensated miserably into what things are today. The situation in the country as well wasn’t better. Tripoli was Lebanon’s battleground for the subsequent years. However, those two broad headlines weren’t the only reasons why Tripoli’s zone came to a standstill. Our government couldn’t appoint the committee that would oversee the project. As such, that massive economical development has been sitting on shelves for the past 7 years.

Why wasn’t our government able to appoint the required committee? Because they haven’t found the appropriately backed people of appropriate sectarian backgrounds. Even getting decent jobs to the poor and unemployed in this country is a matter of religious calculations.

Today, here’s what’s at stake. The country can remain as it is, with our youth leaving the country and ending up on best end-of-year lists (link) for doing things abroad that they could have done here. The status quo can remain. Excuses such as “Tripoli is too unstable” and “Batroun is too far” can be used to kill such projects in order to keep all the money flowing to Beirut and Mount Lebanon because only those matter. Tripoli can be kept poor, Batroun can be kept underdeveloped and North Lebanon can also easily be kept needy. The people can be kept jobless and uneducated. Let them stay hungry, let them stay foolish, let them forever remain prone to political manipulation.

Or, infrastructure-issues notwithstanding, we can realize that such projects are a solution, not a symptom, and that it’s high time to realize that Lebanon is 10452 km², not only confined to Beirut, and that sectarian balances are second-rate when it comes to being part of a 20 trillion dollars economy (this is the number in zeros for magnitude: 20,000,000,000,000). Let’s hope those in charge realize the latter, and don’t succumb to the former.

 

Why MTV’s “Banana Song” To Increase Culture In Lebanon Is A Big Failure

The only banana picture worth sharing

The only banana picture worth sharing

I was asked last week why I didn’t address the “banana song” that everyone was talking about. My answer was simple: it was something I didn’t feel should be propagated. Any kind of publicity is publicity, and I wasn’t going to be yet another blog exposing it to more people, not that it needed my help in doing so. Blog clicks and views be damned.

Yesterday, MTV announced that the whole thing was a marketing ploy orchestrated in collaboration with Impact BBDO to highlight how easily Lebanese fall for such flashy headlines and brainless news content instead of pursuing “culture.”

Certainly, the cause behind the mortifying song is noble, and kudos to those behind it for managing something that got almost everyone talking, even if it were to bash or criticize or to share it among friends for finding it hilarious.

But having everyone talk about it doesn’t mean the purpose of the campaign was successful. The campaign’s goal, to boost culture among the Lebanese populace, feels empty and hollow. I mean, isn’t MTV one of the leading Lebanese TV stations promoting lack of culture and decadence?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. How about 14 pictures about the content that MTV has been advertising on its channels for the past 4 days?

I don’t know about you but news about selfies and skin products don’t qualify as propagating culture in my book.

MTV’s lack of “culture propagation” also extends to their shows: when has Adel Karam hosted an artist on his show that promotes culture? His most successful episode was with Haifa Wehbe.

What was MTV’s attempt at keeping you glued to your TV sets on a Saturday night? Maya Diab in barely-there clothing singing karaoke.

How did MTV try to sell Dancing With The Stars in its first season? By using May Hariri.

Of course, MTV isn’t alone in this practice of culture-lacking Lebanese media approach. Here are some screenshots thanks to LBCI, OTV and Al-Jadeed:

Isn’t it ironic that the same TV station wanting to fight decadence has been actively promoting it for months and years based on the rule that “الجمهور عايز كده?”

Do they even know that people massively clicking on a link isn’t indicative of its quality and that people tuning into a TV show doesn’t mean that said TV show is of decent quality?

Does MTV also think that the people who shared the video and who are targeted by the campaign would suddenly wake up and find themselves needing to pursue some Picasso instead of a Miss Lebanon selfie and some Beethoven instead of Haifa, especially that there’s absolutely no Lebanese TV stations that serves such a level of “culture” to begin with, in a country where such a thing isn’t remotely primed in the first place?

The Lebanese population is being actively dumbed down by TV stations who then come sweeping in with a marketing ploy to show us that we easily fall prey to gimmicks, while doing absolutely nothing about the problem in the first place. Don’t ridicule people with a silly “music” video when your TV station makes absolutely no effort at advocating for the campaign you’re supposedly championing.

If you want to fight decadence and promote culture, then do it, don’t preach it. Offer some culture to your viewers that isn’t gimmicky. Educate them. Give them news articles that would stimulate their minds, that don’t start with a  “بالصور ” or ” بالفيديو ” headline.

Don’t expose the music of the highest bidder when there’s so much better pieces floating around the Lebanese scene but without the needed money to give them airtime. Don’t give acting roles to models when there are countless theatre students in the country who can’t make a living.

If you want to promote culture, don’t shy away from investigative journalism that could highlight and maybe change a lot of what’s happening in this country just because a politician owns shares in your establishment. How many issues has MTV and other Lebanese TV stations forcefully ignored because they’re not “catchy” enough, because they deem aren’t newsworthy enough, because they want to kill them upon arrival for a reason or another? How can you promote culture if you’re deciding what is cultural and what isn’t?

The simplest analogy to this whole issue that I can think of is the following: MTV promoting culture is akin to Al Manar promoting secularism or Tele Lumiere promoting atheism. In other words, it’s bullshit. In a week or so, when people get over bananas, MTV will go back to what it does best and it will all be “بالصور ” or ” بالفيديو .”

 

#SwissLeaks: Lebanon Is #11 and #12 In Countries With The Most Money In Swiss Banks

We often hear that the Lebanese diaspora has a lot of money and is quite well off. That is the impression that we leave abroad. When I was in France, the stereotype that many seem to attribute with Lebanese is being rich. As my grandma would say: a reputation of richness is better than that of poverty.

But how rich are the Lebanese abroad? How much money do they have in foreign banks? Well, how about we discover the situation in the banking capital of the world: Switzerland. After all, aren’t we the Switzerland of the Middle East?

A fascinating report has surfaced online yesterday  detailing information that was “stolen” by Hervé Falciani, a former employee at HSBC Switzerland’s HQ in Geneva. The information dates back from 2007. It encompasses a timeframe of a few months’ worth of transactions across HSBC in Geneva: between November 9th, 2006 and March 31st, 2007.

The information was recently uncovered by French newspaper “Le Monde.” Going over the hundreds of thousands of info has allowed investigative journalists to compile a list of top countries when it comes to clients at HSBC in Switzerland as well as top countries by deposited amounts.

This small country of 10452 squared kilometers and of about than 4 million people has the #11 highest number of clients in the world, ahead of places like Germany, Spain and Canada. Moreover, when it comes to the amount of money that those Lebanese have deposited, Lebanon ranks at #12 with a staggering amount of $4.8 billion of transactions in those 4 months alone. That amount puts Lebanon ahead of countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and Cayman Islands.

To assess how big the $4.8 billion amount is, I made a quick search to see the situation of deposits in Lebanese banks. According to this report by the Audi Group Lebanese banks saw a total of $5.8 billion in growth in transactions during 2014.

Sure, the comparison is not entirely sensical, but it still serves to assess exactly how gargantuan an amount Lebanese citizens had at a foreign bank.

Why would Lebanese want that much money in Swiss banks? Well, for starters Swiss banks are known for their secrecy, although that’s ironic at a time like this. The situation in Switzerland, with its stability and neutrality from international conflicts, also permits ease of mind when it comes to such massive amounts as opposed to the volatility of the Lebanese side. Moreover, having such deposits at Swiss banks enables easier access to the European market for possible investments. The date of the information being 2006-2007, however, could have skewed numbers post the July 2006 war although I’d assume the recent situation isn’t exactly much better for investors.

Who are some of the names with money at HSBC in Switzerland? The leaked information has some of those too according to L’Orient Le Jour.

Elias el Murr, son of Metn powerhouse Michel el Murr and former minister of defense, had a staggering amount of $42 million, in accounts which he says date back to before his birth. Mohammad Safadi, the Tripoli MP and former minister has $75 million deposited at HSBC in Switzerland. Meanwhile, former Keserwan MP Georges Frem has about $3.3 million in deposits.

Good for them! Hopefully many of us have that kind of money one day.

Meanwhile, for some food for thought, it’s worth looking at the situation in Lebanon that is scaring away both foreign and Lebanese investors alike. Between detrimental security, poor governance, terrible infrastructure, a non-manageable refugee crisis, wars all around us that always manage to seep in and dead on arrival civil movements, the extent of such news becomes even more important.

What’s sad is that apart from L’Orient Le Jour, no Lebanese newspaper or media outlet has discussed this information or what it could mean. Obviously, because there are no porn stars, no banana songs and no traitorous selfie with no possibility for a “بالصور ” or ” بالفيديو ” headline, this becomes irrelevant.

 

How Lebanon Absolutely Failed When ISIS Killed Our Soldiers

August 2nd, 2014. It has been such a long time. That was at a time when the Lebanese army was fighting ISIS at our north-eastern border with Syria. Nowadays, we call it “The Battle of Arsal.” And on that day, ISIS took hostage several of our army members.

Subsequently, our government became a little irritated. Here was another “mess” they had to deal with. It was nothing major. They weren’t obviously going to try their best as long as the status quo remained the same; that status quo being the soldiers remain alive and the fragile “truce” with ISIS remains in place.

On August 28th, Ali Al-Sayyed was beheaded, becoming the first public Lebanese victim of ISIS. His video did not cause the outrage – even in Lebanon – that the death of James Foley caused. Nowadays, if you drop the name Ali Al-Sayyed in a casual conversation, few would remember him. But he existed, and he left behind a pregnant wife, who gave birth to his son a few days ago, and a daughter called Rahaf.

This is Ali:

Ali al-Sayyed

Ali was one of the brave men who fought against the Islamists in Nahr el Bared in 2007.  When he was killed, our government responded with statements and empty promises. They were considering their options. This beheading was a clear attempt to “cause civil strife.”

Meanwhile, the parents of those soldiers were closing off highways to the dismay of many. Traffic! Ugh. Then when they moved their protests from the Tripoli highway in North Lebanon to Beirut for more relevance, they found themselves being hosed down to clear roads as they chanted for our government to do something – anything – for their sons.

Their protests increased. It was no longer just a matter of a fragile status quo that allowed our government to continue its summer vacation. However, as things usually go in Lebanon, a couple of days after the murder of Ali Al-Sayyed, the news cycle diverted to other issues.

On September 5th, as the hostage’s families caused more “unrest” in the country, as they became angrier and promised escalations, our minister of social affairs Rachid Derbas made the following statement:

“Protesters in Qalamounaccused the government of being too strict and demanded negotiations while others asked for a military solution and accused the Cabinet of cowardice. This was a scary scene…. What’s with the families of the captured soldiers threatening [to incite] a civil war while their sons are still safe?”

Naturally, even the people in our government had forgotten that it had only been 7 days at the time that a public beheading of one of those sons had taken place. What made it even more ironic is the fact that the following day, on September 6th, ISIS released the beheading video of another Lebanese soldier: Abbas Medlej. He was 20.

Abbas Medlej

How did our government respond?

Well, for starters, our PM Tammam Salam gave a speech, straight out a Paulo Coelho book:

“We are not in a weak position. We have several options. There are various elements of strength in our hands…. Lebanon will not be defeated. Those terrorists will definitely be defeated.”

And then, because as we all know Lebanon is a country of utmost respect for civilities and the law, our minister of Interior Affairs Nouad el Machnouk promised to “speed up” the trials of Islamists in Roumieh. He also went to Qatar to see what can be done.

Then, almost 2 weeks later, on September 19th, ISIS executed another soldier named Mohammad Hamieh.

Mohammad Hamieh

Then we forgot about all of this for more than 2 months.

On December 5th, 2014, ISIS released a video in which they showed the execution of a fourth Lebanese soldier named Ali Al-Bazzal. They shot him in the head. A few days later, Ali’s grief-stricken father also passed away.

This is Ali:

Ali Al-Bazzal

And then nothing.

Now let’s contrast this with what happened in Jordan yesterday.

Moaz al-Kasasbeh was a pilot who was captured by the terrorists on December 24th after his F-16 jet crashed near the ISIS stronghold city Raqqa in Northern Syria. Yesterday, a video surfaced showing ISIS’ new style of assassinations: they burned Moaz alive.

It was reported that he had been killed as early as January 3rd, but the terrorist organization still negotiated with the Jordanian government to secure the release of a woman named Sajida al-Rishawi, who had taken part in a 2005 suicide bomb attack in Amman.

Following the news of his death, Jordan’s king Abdullah cut his visit to the United States short and vowed “punishment and revenge” for Moaz’s death. A few hours later, the country had executed Sajida Al-Rishawi as well as another Islamist called Ziad al-Karbouli, before announcing that they would increase their role in the coalition against ISIS.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Jordan managed to highlight the gravity of the murder of their son Moaz Al-Kasasbeh so well that every single international outlet has been addressing the murder at length. The whole rhetoric of “oh, his death isn’t as important because he’s not Western” was rendered invalid.

Moaz al-KASasbeh

Jordan’s TV stations put black ribbons on their screens along with Moaz’s picture. The death of just one of their soldiers sent their country into a frenzy to make sure they hold their own, that it doesn’t happen again and that they would be sure to respond aggressively to put ISIS in place.

By being the only Arab country to respond to ISIS, Jordan has proven that they won’t be yet another pussy-nation in the region to be trampled on by those terrorists.

I can’t say the same for the place we call our country.

6 months and 4 soldiers killed later, how did we make international news? Because of a selfie and a pornstar.

6 months and 4 soldiers killed later, instead of giving the parents of those soldiers a second thought, instead of telling them that we would “increase our role against ISIS,” we hosed them down with water, told them they are wrong to demand justice for their children.

6 months and 4 soldiers killed later, the country never mourned the soldiers who died, whose death was turned into entertainment for the sadists; our media never really bothered and we never cared.

Ali Al-Sayyed, Abbas Medlej, Ali Al-Bazzal and Mohammad Hamieh are four men who were not just killed because of their government’s failure, but who had to die over and over again by that same government failing to stand up against those that murdered them, by failing to make sure that their death translates to anything relevant, by making sure their beheading ends up as a non-event, another filler report in our evening news.

This is a disgrace.

May Ali, Abbas, Ali, Mohammad and Moaz rest in peace.

Simon, The Boy We All Helped Fight Leukemia, Has Passed Away

It seems like it was just yesterday that Simon’s story became a Lebanese headline story that got people from all over the world to help him reach the $60,000 goal needed for his bone marrow transplant in less than 3 days.

It was a glorious moment. I remember how proud I felt that I had helped. I remember how happy his brother was when I spoke to him afterwards to see how Simon was doing. His brother was given hope. We had given his family hope. Simon, the brave Red Cross volunteer who, in spite of his illness, always worked to save lives, had a fighting chance.

There’s nothing that’s 100% in medicine, we are taught. You can never tell a patient they will be cured. You give them percentages based on studies done by people much bigger than you to inform them of their chances. A surgery is never 100% risk free. A cancer is never 100% curable. Some people fall through the cracks of the numbers, of the drugs, of the scalpels and of what we know about the human body.

On Friday, January 30th, after several weeks of being at the hospital, Simon Badaoui passed away.

I often hear that reasons are multiple and the end result is always the same: death is omnipresent. Today, Simon is being celebrated by his family and friends for the brave fighter that he was, for the courageous man that he is.

Simon will never die as long as there are people who remember him. He leaves behind the memory of a young man who rallied an entire country to help him. He is remembered as the young man who didn’t spend his nights partying but who worked tirelessly to save lives that would have otherwise perished. He is remembered as that man who was given 8 months of hope that he would have otherwise not had. He is remembered as a friend, as a son, as a brother.

All of those are memories worth leaving behind.

May he rest in peace. My condolences to his parents, siblings and all the people that held him dear.