Lebanon’s Presidential Elections, Round One: The Joke of A Lebanese Parliament

I don’t care about who ends up president.

I don’t care about the presidency to begin with, but I do understand that the seat becoming vacant, which it probably will for the second time in a row, will indicate how utterly fucked up our political system is. It’s okay though, no one expects otherwise.

But after the first round of presidential elections, the only question I want to ask is: why the hell are we not voting for the president? Why are some of those parliament “members” voting for who will pretend to lead the country for the next 6 years?

There was a moment there, just before they starting counting the ballots, that I realized how underwhelming our elections actually are. Many didn’t even know our parliament was voting today. Many others didn’t care, and quite honestly why would anyone want to bother when we all know exactly how silly of a charade we were going to have to watch?

Yes, our elections are massively underwhelming because we – as people – are massively irrelevant as we await the main heads directing our parliamentary blocks to get their OK president from their country of political origin.

I expected the presidential vote to be predictable, indicative of how big of a joke our self-anointed parliament actually is. What I did not expect however is for our parliament to reveal itself as the combo of civil war-hung up people whose maturity range is that of a fourteen year old who has yet to hit puberty and whose IQ is that of a whale, with all respect to whales in all their forms.

I don’t mind blank papers. I couldn’t care less about Samir Geagea’s name being cast 48 times. Good for him. It’s not like he will ever win. What I do mind, however, is for some parliament members to be so spiteful, degrading, loathing and so utterly immature and irresponsible that they’d cast votes for civil war victims who have been allegedly killed by Samir Geagea back in the day, as if anyone knows who killed whom in our civil war, but everyone gets to be the expert, of course, in typical Lebanese fashion.

As I heard the names of Jihane Frangieh, Rachid Karami and whatnot being read out loud, I felt sad because there’s someone in parliament who is legislating on my behalf (or not) who actually thought it was a good idea to cast such a ballot. I felt sad because what is supposed to be a round of a presidential vote ended up becoming a gathering of kindergarten children in playtime.

Of course, such an opinion of Geagea exists in the Lebanese populace. But this is not the Lebanese populace. This is a parliament that should hold the minimum levels of professionalism when faced with a task of choosing who the country’s president will be. Parliament is not a place for such votes, no matter how poetic some people want to spin it.

Why are those people voting for my president again? What kind of system is this that gives people like them the right to have that choice?

How can we hope to have a strong enough president when the only way for someone to become as such is for him to be liked by the 128MPs making parliament?

Sure, on a bigger Lebanese scale people like them exist profusely. I only had to check Facebook and a Twitter for a wide cross section of people whose version of the civil war is basically the Lebanese Forces starting it, killing everyone and then losing. But on a bigger scale, I’d like to think people who are that spiteful get diluted among those who can actually see beyond the Lebanese civil war in casting a vote for a president.

This is not a country that has moved on. This is not a country that will ever move on if whenever – as they say – “bi de’ l kouz bl jarra” we end up digging up every single thing that happened in the not so long past, just because we can, in the most hypocritical of ways.

How many parliament members of the likes of those that were so gallant to cast ballots of civil war victims would cast a vote for current murderers participating in neighboring wars and holding the country hostage? No one.

I was told that having almost 50 parliament members vote for Geagea means we don’t deserve this country. After what I’ve seen today, I want to say this country doesn’t deserve us. It’s 2014 and we’re still pretending the civil war was yesterday, have member in parliaments voting for the civil war and have politicians who were all active way back then.

I want to vote for the president, not clowns in parliament who think it’s recess time.

This Is How Noah Got Released in Lebanon

I didn’t know “Noah” being screened in Lebanon was a matter of “if.” Everyone just assumed showing it might be a big deal given Egypt and Qatar banned it. But Lebanon following the footsteps of neighboring countries when it comes to censorship is a rare thing, and Noah found its loophole.

I watched the movie yesterday and I have to say, I wasn’t impressed at all. Not every movie needs to arise from a cinematic need to have it exist but I fail to see any point that Noah can put forth. Perhaps Aronofsky was fulfilling his childhood dream of bringing his favorite prophet to life.

I don’t even get why this movie has been labeled as offensive right out of the bat. If anything, Noah is only Biblical or Quranic because the main plot of the movie (a flood and an ark) as well as Noah himself are Bible and Quran entities. Apart from that, the movie holds next to no resemblance to any form of scripture.

In fact, Noah probably has as much in common with scripture as Harry Potter: they are, at the end of the day, only tales of good versus evil centered around a character with troubles. In Noah’s case, he is such a troubled man that his entire demeanor becomes grating, often pushing you away from any form of rapport that can be established with the characters on screen, all as he tries to appease his creator to the best of his capacities, even against common sense.

At the center of the Noah are gigantic rock transformers-ish creatures that used to be angels once upon a time, flowers that grow out of dead land, forests that sprout in minutes, a creation sequence that is beautifully portrayed, completely useless fighting scenes, a lot of CGI and a lot of drowning. It was somewhat like Lord of the Rings, except nowhere near as good.

Having watched it, I have to say this is yet another case of people rushing to see a movie only because of the controversy around it with the movie itself being quite subpar. Was it enjoyable? I have to say the two hours passed by well enough. But it was nowhere near as engrossing as I envisioned a biblical tale such as Noah would be. And that’s a shame. Out of 10, I’d give the movie 6.

However, before the movie began rolling, we were met with a screen that stayed there for 2 minutes, making sure everyone read what was on it. This was the loophole that got Noah screened in Lebanon:

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Hilarious? Sad? Horrible? I don’t even know in which category that prompt screen falls, but it’s the reason we’re getting to watch the movie. So either await a download or go to your nearest theatre to make sure that the science fiction movie you are about to see has factual contents and is religion-friendly.

When A Polling Company Calls About Lebanon’s Presidential Elections

The phone rang. It was a number I didn’t recognize. Hoping it wasn’t the hospital calling me for a patient emergency, I answered to someone asking me if I was Mr. Fares and if I didn’t mind answering a few questions about our upcoming presidential elections.

- Me: Okay, I’ll answer your questions

- Operator: What’s your name?

- Me: Elie.

- Operator: How old are you?

- Me: 24.

- Operator: Where do you vote?

- Me: Batroun.

- Operator: What’s your sect?

- Me: I don’t practice.

- Operator: That’s besides the question, what do you have written on your ID?

- Me: IDs don’t have sects.

- Operator: On your “Ikhraj Eid?”

- Me: I’ve had it removed.

- Operator: We can play this game for a while. Your name is Elie. I’m assuming you were born Maronite?

- Me: Yeah…

- Operator: Do you want a strong or consensual president?

- Me: Hmm, strong?

- Operator: Out of these four names, then, who do you want as your next president: Samir Geagea, Michel Aoun, Amin Gemayel and Sleiman Frangieh?

- Me: Those are your picks for strong president?

- Operator: Yes, you have to choose one.

- Me: How about none? Each one is worse than the next. Can I get that option?

- Operator: Certainly, I’ll just move you to the consensual candidate category. Which of these do you prefer? *blabs a series of names each more irrelevant than the next.*

- Me: Either Demianos Qattar or Ziad Baroud.

- Operator: Ok, I’ll list you next to Demianos Qattar. Why didn’t you go with the other four?

- Me: Because they’re not exactly “build-me-a-hopeful-future” material?

- Operator: Alright. Do you belong to any political party?

- Me: I did.

- Operator: Which one?

- Me: The Lebanese Forces.

- Operator: And what’s your level of education? Are you illiterate, a brevet holder, high school degree holder, university degree holder or postgraduate studies degree holder?

- Me: I’m a medical student.

- Operator: Oh doctor! Sorry for taking your time. I don’t have any more questions. Sorry for bothering you.

- Me: It’s okay.

*Hangs up.*

I don’t know where my answers will end up or if the woman on the other end of the line thinks of me as some pompous political hipster who doesn’t want to be labeled, but I seriously don’t get the point of polling companies in a country as politically dysfunctional as Lebanon. Couldn’t the money invested in polls be spent elsewhere?

In decent countries where actual electoral campaigns are waged, polls are employed to ascertain the effect that some items have on voters, to assess the chances of certain candidates compared to others and to test the efficacy of a campaign. Which of those do we have here?

We haven’t been to any major polling in about 5 years. We can’t vote for a president to begin with. We have no choice over who ends up as prime minister. And we are given the illusion that our opinion matters.

When their round of calls end, the company at hand will end up with a nice study about how each Lebanese sect breaks down in support for Lebanese presidential candidates. Those who get a bigger portion, or in other words those who paid for the poll to be done, will flaunt these results left and right.

Hey! Look! The people chose me! I’m the rightful heir of the Baabda throne!

But the people can’t choose. The people were not even allowed last year to choose which MPs get to choose this year’s president. And those polls force you to fit in every preset category of Lebanese citizenship to have a valid opinion. There’s no category for people who refuse to declare their sect. There’s no category for people who want a strong president outside of the Fantastic Maronite Four. Even our polls, simple and silly and irrelevant as they may be, are a redundancy of our political status quo.

I wish I had hung up.

Samir Geagea For President!

OMG. Can you believe Samir Geagea’s running for president?

The horror. The disgrace. The shame. Let us go turn in our passports (worthless as they are) right here, right now.

Samir Geagea’s nomination for president was met with an onslaught of histrionics that the Lebanese political scene hadn’t seen in a very long time.

We had photoshopped Israeli posters.

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People acting like Civil War know-it-alls when they, in fact, know nothing at all. Granted, this happens all the time but it always finds its way to surface whenever Geagea does something. As a future medical doctor, I shall dub it Geageatis.

Twitter hashtags with every combination imaginable to attack Geagea’s judicial records.

Newspaper editors freaking out like pregnant teenager girls who hail from the Bible Belt.

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And so and so forth.

You know what’s in common between all of the aforementioned reactions? They reflect the well-rooted hypocrisy of people who have perfected double standards. And isn’t that what Lebanon is all about?

Samir Geagea is a war criminal. Samir Geagea has a tarnished history. Samir Geagea went to jail. Samir Geagea is sectarian. Samir Geagea is this and that.

But the fact of the matter is that those same people digging up Geagea’s past also turn the blindest of eyes to the past of their favorite politician and warlord and person who hasn’t even gotten a brevet degree yet but is practicing politics anyway.

They are the same people who chant their politician’s name off rooftops whenever he has an aired speech. They are the people who empty riffles to celebrate such speeches, regardless of the passerby who might get hit by their stray bullet.

They are the same people who defend war criminals whenever those war criminals serve their purpose. They are the people who have been defending Bashar el Assad for the past three years as he worked his way through a six digit body count.

They are also the same people who would put forth anything championed by Lebanese parties like Hezbollah who, lately, have only been dabbling in the war mindset that we supposedly don’t want for our country through people like Geagea. Or is war in the eye in the beholder?

They are the same people who proclaim secularism as a headline to sound cool and modern but fall back to their old sectarian habits whenever push comes to shove.

Can you envision a Lebanese future where someone like Samir Geagea is president? Can you even fathom how dissociative that is from the reality of today’s Lebanon? You know, the Lebanon where Tripoli was in a state of war up until last week but no one cared; the Lebanon where everyone is getting armed again; the Lebanon where a government took a year to be formed and is basically stillborn even now; the Lebanon where there’s no economy, no hope and no prospects for a future; the Lebanon that is still talking about Samir Geagea and the other warlords he played with way back when even today.

Yes, in such a Lebanon, someone like Samir Geagea and every single other politician being proclaimed as the next president wouldn’t make the natural selection for the presidency.

No, I don’t think Samir Geagea is the best possible candidate to become the next Lebanese president.

No, I don’t think him getting nominated for that position, however trivial such a thing actually is in Lebanese politics, was the right move.

I don’t even get why everyone is entering our own version of Game of Thrones for the Baabda Chair when they all agree that it’s borderline worthless. Perhaps it’s comfortable for gluteal muscles?

I don’t have a say in who becomes president anyway and neither does anyone else including those who have been throwing bitch fits over the past few days, but I have to say it has been quite entertaining to see the borderline mania that has overtaken those people. Who knew Lebanese politics can elicit this much excitement still?

The reasons I don’t think Geagea should be president is simply because he is part of the current perpetuation of a status quo that I cannot I agree with. It’s because him as president will perpetuate this status quo for six years to come and I don’t think our country can handle such a thing anymore. It’s because I think it’s high time other people take up a position of power to challenge the current system, be it within their own sects or within the broader framework of Lebanese politics.

The same reasons why I don’t think Geagea should be president also follow to Aoun, Frangieh and Gemayel, which are being called around as the Maronite Four. Perhaps you should use your future as an argument instead of digging up pasts no one wants uncovered and instead of bashing the part of the civil war class you don’t agree with while secretly swooning over the part you do agree with.

I’ll give you this, though, the craziness is comical.

Lebanon’s Parliament Fails Lebanon’s Women

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71 Lebanese MPs signed the petition by KAFA to include amendments to the proposed Domestic Abuse bill in the actual law that would pass in parliament.

2 minutes was all it took for the law to pass.

0 is the number of MPs who argued for the amendments. 0 is also the number of amendments that made it to the actual bill.

Is the law in its current form bad? Yes it is even if it’s a step forward somehow. It’s greatly lacking in so many ways, of which is the fact that Lebanese Parliament has (unknowingly?) legalized marital rape by failing to omit the term “spousal privileges” from the draft that has become official today.

Under the new law which parliament passed today, marital rights for intercourse were enshrined for the first time in text in civil law. What a victory for civility in 2014.

The law also has other shortcomings, which you can check out in this Arabic document.

I wonder, has any of the MPs that approved this law actually read it or did they just go with the decision of their political bloc? Did the female MPs that voted for this law also give it a second look beyond the fancy title that is not even exclusive to their gender? Is two minutes all the time our MPs believed is enough for such a vital law to be discussed?

There’s a line where MPs who cared should have drawn a limit. That line is when the lives and sanctity of people is as stake.

Yet again, should we really be surprised?

The shortcomings of the law are nothing more and nothing less than a simple manifestation of the status quo in Lebanese law: one that is enshrined in religious text that dictate everything about our daily lives, legally. The bill in question has been maimed into a stillborn proposition by MPs who were too afraid for their religiosity that they can’t view any cause as worthy outside of that frame.

It will always be the case until we view our worth as Lebanese citizens as something that transcends the sect we were born in, where us being governed is not contingent upon the laws that are bestowed upon us due to our birth being in this town or in that region.

Perhaps we were too hopeful that parliament would pass a decent law for us to be proud of. But the joke’s on us for being foolishly optimistic. It is, after all, April Fools.

#NoLawNoVote: Get Lebanon’s Parliament To Do Something Decent For Once

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As a taxi drove me back home yesterday night, it reached a point in Downtown Beirut where the road was blocked. In typical Lebanese cab-driver fashion, he proceeded to curse at whatever was causing him to go through a detour in order to deposit yours truly who was, obviously, underpaying him for his services.

The road that was blocked is one of the many that could lead up to parliament. Because why wouldn’t our government invest in resources and man power and cause insurmountable traffic so men in tuxedos whose term has expired it’s been almost a year now could convene and do what they’ve been doing for five years: nothing?

Except our parliament is, for the first time in who knows when, actually discussing something worthwhile in a few hours from now, something that could potentially change the lives of many people around this country who have previously not had a voice in our beloved patriarchal society.

#NoLawNoVote is a campaign I am definitely participating in. It doesn’t matter if you can’t make it to downtown Beirut tomorrow in the early hours of the morning to stand there and shout your heart out at those deaf ears that often choose not to listen. It doesn’t even matter that those parliament members gathering tomorrow have yet to even remotely consider an electoral law for us to vote on. What matters is that the outcome of tomorrow’s session should be a very important factor in determining whatever happens to those MPs whenever it actually happens.

I am currently represented in parliament by Boutros Harb, who is also minister of telecommunications, and Antoine Zahra. And I hereby declare to whoever’s reading that if they do not approve the domestic abuse law, which will be up for a vote tomorrow, that the ballot they’ll get come election day is one that does not contain either of their names.

This is not about politics. It’s not about parties, religion, electoral gambling and other narrow-minded calculations that some might want you to fall for. This is about your mother and sister and aunt and future daughter who might get stuck in this country, unable to escape its prawns. This is to every single Lebanese women who was hit by her spouse. This is to every single Lebanese women who is not here today to tell her story.

Lebanon needs accountability. We’ve had very few opportunities for us to hold those we’ve entrusted to govern our country accountable to anything they’ve caused. We nag about the state they’ve led us to and vote for them all over again. Tomorrow is possibly one of the very few chances we’re getting to show those in charge that we can actually stick to what we believe in and reprimand them for their horrible voting-track record.

Your political party of choice saving face is not as important as your mother’s actual face. #NoLawNoVote is how it should always be.

Check out the event for tomorrow’s protest as well as some pictures from Kafa’s Facebook page:

Is The iPhone Really Getting 4G From Alfa?

A couple of weeks ago, when Apple released its 7.1 update for iOS, it also brought with it an update that enabled Lebanese iPhones to access the country’s newly launched 4G network.

I brought the fact that the iPhone wouldn’t work on the country’s 4G network way back when it launched last year due to Apple’s approval of the network being a requirement. Our carriers then scrambled to work with Apple for that purpose. Now, more than a year later, the iPhone will be launched officially by our carriers here and Lebanon is on the list of countries that can get iOS features that were unavailable to us before, such as iCloud Keychain.

However, there is a discrepancy in the rollout of the service between Lebanon’s two carriers that I believe has to be outlined for transparency’s sake and it is the following.

If you own an iPhone 5S on Touch’s network you’ll notice the following switch to enable or disable LTE.

iPhone 5S LTE Touch MTC Lebanon

If you own an iPhone on Alfa’s network you’ll notice the following button to enable or disable 4G.
Alfa iPhone 5 5G Lebanon

Both buttons are not exactly the same because in Apple’s standards, 4G is not exactly LTE. How so? Well, back in 2011 when the iPhone 4S was released, the 4G toggle was enabled for that phone fully knowing that it is not actually a 4G device. The move was criticized by many for being false-advertising. But the iPhone 4S in the United States, on AT&T’s network, clearly showed connectivity to a 4G network which wasn’t an actual 4G network, just a faster version of 3G, which was supported by the iPhone 4S at the time with speeds that can go up to 42Mbps.

iPhone 4S 4G AT&T

Are Lebanese customers also the victim of false advertising?

I doubt a company like Apple would give preferential treatment to a Lebanese network and give it a special “enable 4G” button when that same toggle has been “enable LTE” for every single other carrier around the world, including Lebanon’s other network.

To support the argument is a collection of speedtest results that show a discrepancy between the speed of the service offered by MTC and that of Alfa.

This might as well be considered as unimportant given everything the country is going through. Varying speeds of fast internet are not a priority. But the question still begets itself: why is there such a discrepancy between the country’s two carriers if they are supposedly offering the same service?

All in all, my experience with 4G so far has been subpar but those speeds, regardless of whether they’re actually 4G or not, are desperately needed for DSL. Someone out there take note and make it happen.

A Proud Lebanese

When I get asked how it is to live in a country on the precipice of collapse, I often answer that I wouldn’t know. I guess I have to reconsider as the places I once called home are making me increasingly claustrophobic. I don’t fit. I don’t even know if I belong. And with each passing day, I fit and belong even less.

People in Tripoli couldn’t sleep last night due to the fights taking place there. I thought I was being made fun of as names such as “Allouki” and “Abou l Jamejem” were mentioned in front of me, but those were real people with real power and they were keeping an entire city on edge. Why? Who knows. We share the country with Alloukis and we can’t do anything but sit and watch as they do what they please in defense of their twisted ideology.

What was happening in Tripoli yesterday had been taking place for more than a year now for those keeping track. Schools have been closed, their students stranded. Businesses are closing. People are narrowly escaping sniper fire. This morning, for whatever reason, fights in Beirut broke out too. Let’s not even forget about the fire coming in from the Syrian side, one that we don’t condemn, one that we deem friendly. Where exactly is the line that delineates a country at war actually drawn?

We call ourselves a country of diversity, of 18 different sects that blend together to form a mesh of beauty – or whatever formulation we are spoon-fed. Never mind that it’s religion that’s the basis of the mess we’re in to begin with, but what’s there to be proud of when it comes to having 18 different sects of which we have next to no idea about? We pretend it’s nice to have them. We are born in regions that are so uniform that us getting exposed to those who are different is entirely contingent upon us branching out. Many prefer not to. Diversity isn’t only a headline, it’s a practice. And it’s non-existent.

I’ve seen people who hate others just because they were belong to a certain sect, wishing them death. Those people, as far as I know, were not as numerous and vocal a few years ago. I never thought I’d have to worry that someone would hate me just because they don’t agree with practices I didn’t even choose. How despicable is it for people to wish you death just because you happened to be born in a random area to a random family who sporadically happened to pray either at a church or at a mosque, believes in resurrection and is either waiting for the Mahdi or not?

Governance isn’t better. We’re in a country that took 10 months to form a governmentwhich then almost collapsed because it couldn’t agree on semantics that have no bearing to begin with. People, resistance, army. Who cares?

How could we hope for any form of governance when we can’t even agree on what we want to govern? Walk around Achrafieh and you’ll find graffitis encouraging Christians to wake up and smell the Federalism coffee. Go to the South and you’ll see countless posters of dead people who sacrificed their life for this cause or that. Christians don’t view those causes as worthy. The Southerners view Federalism as an imperialistic attempt to dismantle the country, while the Sunnis scramble to find a leader that would keep them in check and as such, Tripoli has become Rifiville. Behold our identity crisis. Our demarcation lines are apparently political but inherently sectual. Don’t be fooled. So long for our state of apparent fictive unity.

Our MPs care less about legislating than about proving religious points in parliament. That building is where our MPs compete to show God (and their followers) who loves him (and wants popularity) more. Meanwhile, the rest of MPs who aren’t busy yawning their day away are playing Candy Crush, reading a book on their iPad, complaining about fasting, a religious choice that they willingly took, taking pictures inside parliament to share on their instagram account.

We also have presidential elections coming up soon, as people scurry to secure as much support as possible to their theoretical bid. I’ve received text messages to go and vote in online polls for whom I want as my next president. It’s not desperation, per se, that pushes parties to such acts. It’s them flexing their muscles, doing what they’ve been doing for a long time: getting stuck at the superficialities of Lebanese politics, never getting knee-deep in the swarm that desperately needs cleansing.

Our job prospects are not good either. I keep hearing from people how, in a couple of years, I’ll start ripping them off with consults, in typical Lebanese-doctor stereotypes. What those people don’t know, however, is that when I graduate with an MD degree next year, I’ll start with a $700 salary. And while my example is probably skewed and well below the average, I have to wonder: what is the actual average of Lebanese salaries? And how does it compare to the rising prices all across the country that many people can’t even afford anymore? What hope of a decent lifestyle can we aspire to without resorting to our parents whenever the need arises?

Even our liberties are being compromised. This blogpost might get me in jail because who knows who will end up reading into it and getting offended. A publication wonders where a sizable amount of public funds went and they get sued by the minister who’s responsible for the funds. A blogger criticizes a minister’s henchmen and he is summoned by our bureau of cybercrime for investigation. A teenager kisses a statue of the Virgin Mary four years ago and some news service digs out his Facebook profile, diffuses the picture and gets him in jail. A twitter user uses the most vile of languages to address the Lebanese president and the next thing you know, he’s facing a possible jail sentence. Ladies and gentlemen, our country’s entire security and well-being rests upon the transgressions of those people.

I watched “Waltz With Bashir” recently and found it to be utterly fascinating. I also found it depressing, not only because the history it portrayed was sad and that we, as a nation, will not recognize anything of that era anytime soon. It was sad because we, as Lebanese, will never be permitted to tackle such issues in the way that they do. It’s not only a manifestation of artistic license and whatnot. It’s a manifestation of opinion within the legal framework of our country – the line runs very thin around treason. Who would dare?

I’ve been wondering if living in lala land is what we all require at this point. But that’s not the type of life I can lead, nor is it the type of life I think we should lead. It’s not okay to be disassociated from everything taking place and pretend all’s okay when nothing is. It’s not okay to be blindly proud of the homeland just because it’s our homeland. This is the homeland that is, today, pulling you back just because you exist in it. Should I be proud? Should I be thankful? Should I be content? Should I be passive and take it?

I feel powerless and useless and that is not something I’m used to feel. I’m lost for words when friends reach out, exasperated at how things turn out. I’m lost for words when foreigners ask me what’s happening in the place I call home. I’m also not used to being lost for words. I don’t even defend my country the way I used to do when someone would dare confront me about it. What’s there to defend anymore?

I’m tired of the superiority we exhibit towards other countries and nationalities who probably have it better than we do. Where does this whole “I’m better than you” attitude even stem from? What do we even have to show for ourselves? Gebran Khalil Gebran does not count.

Today, I look at around all the familiarity that once comforted me and all I see is desolation that diverges from everything I believe in. I’m one of those people who are trying to remember why they were proud to be Lebanese once upon a time. My friends are leaving. Those who are here are preparing to leave. Those who are not preparing to leave are not people with whom I can establish rapport. We go about our daily lives like zombies whose only purpose is to exist. We live on the ruins of glory days that have long gone, days that have been buried and whose graves have been ransacked time and time again. I try to find reasons to belong and, apart from family, I can find none.

Lately, when someone tells me how proud they are of being Lebanese and how beautiful this country is, I just shrug as my mind goes: get real. This is not a reality to let anyone be proud.

A Lebanese Woman’s Vagina

Your health matters.

I’ve said the previous sentence to so many people lately, possibly as a byproduct of my medical education, that it’s become akin to a broken record. The people I tell it to are always hesitant to agree. They never do. My advice always falls on deaf ears. Everyone thinks they’re invincible.

The biggest restraint I’ve gotten is from women my age, who are not in the medical field, and who always inquire about elements pertaining to an entity of their life that they almost never share with anyone. I always advice them to seek out a gynecologist with whom they can establish a good rapport and take good care of themselves.

Why would I want a gynecologist, they’d reply. What would people think of me if they knew?

I’d go on and on about the need for a gynecologist at any age. I’d tell them about the importance of being healthy. But the stigma is too much for some.

I find the following video by Marsa to be simply brilliant, perfectly summarizing how Lebanese society gets its women to look at their private parts as shameful organs that should be hidden, tucked away from everyone – even themselves.

 We talk about laws to protect Lebanese women, to empower them and make them stronger in our patriarchal society. But will any law take hold if our women’s view of themselves remains tainted by the years and years of upbringing that have only served to bring them down? Will those laws take hold if many of our women view their vaginas as nothing but shameful?

Think about it.

Protest For Tuition Fees: Well Done, AUB Students!

Sitting on the sidelines is good up to a certain point. But there comes a time when you can’t but act. AUB students did that today. And irrelevant me is proud of what they did.

I’m sick and tired of people constantly barraging anyone who goes to AUB and is complaining about tuition fees rising by saying: “you could always go to a cheaper university.”

How is their business what AUB students protest peacefully? When has everyone become so apathetic by default that they can’t but bring down people whose only goal was to be proactive in their own campus, against an administration that has become so corrupt with bureaucracy and is trying to remain afloat on their backs?

When I was at AUB back in 2010, I paid about 10 million LL in tuition fees for my sciences program. My brother whose program classifies under arts (i.e. cheaper than sciences) pays 14 million LL for the same amount of credits. His tuition is set for another increase.

Today’s AUB students reminded me of the days when I was a student there and the entire student body shut the university down to protest upcoming tuition increases. People camped out in front of College Hall. My friends slept nights on end there. We ended up with results.

It’s not because these students just want to have a cause for the sake of having a cause. It’s not because those students are bored and want something to protest. It’s not because they are all rich people who don’t understand the struggles of other Lebanese who can’t go to AUB.

It’s for our parents’ sake that we protested back then and that those students are protesting today, because we know how hard it is to make ends meet in this country, because our parents don’t grow money on trees and because going to AUB doesn’t mean you’re the son or daughter of someone who lights their cigars with dollar bills.

It’s for future students who can afford AUB today that we protested back then and that these students are protesting today, so they can still get the education that they can get.

It’s because the increase in AUB tuition fees has rarely, if ever, been a matter in which the student body was involved. It has always been a matter where administrative figures with six figure salaries (in dollars) gather to discuss how their salaries would remain relatively unchanged if not increasing over the years while putting forth lame arguments of “research funding, retaining professors, lack of endowments.”

Education is not an entitlement. If you have the means to get the best education you can get, go for it. But accepting the fact that the best education you can get is slipping out of your means due to corruption, plain and simple, is what those AUB students are not doing today by raising their voice, withstanding the barrage of people ridiculing them for doing what they’re doing in the process.

AUB’s administration is blaming the Lebanese situation and them wanting to maintain their level for wanting to take tuitions on another rise. But isn’t the Lebanese situation also affecting the parents who are required to pay those tuitions? Last time I checked, the  situation was general not selective. And is maintaing a level not contingent upon excellent and remarkable students who are forcibly being pushed out?

As an alumnus, AUB’s current students made me proud. The pictures of them protesting made me happy. Seeing their numbers and those signs made me smile. They can’t change the situation in the country. They can’t fix politics. They can’t ameliorate the economy. But protesting and hopefully stopping arbitrary changes in their university is something they can do. Getting news of X dropping out because they couldn’t afford their education from becoming current is what they’re trying to do. Good for them. Stop bringing them down.

The following are pictures from the protest that I got off twitter. Kudos on the slogans: