Those Worthless Lives Of The Middle East

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Those worthless people of Gaza. How many have died since Tuesday? It doesn’t even matter but I’ll list the number anyway: 154, and those 154 people don’t matter. Some will chant praises to their martyrdom and others will lament how their lives were lost, but they are but a number in a conflict that won’t end, a number to be buried deep in the Arab subconscious between seasons of Arab Idol, Ahla Sot and Elissa’s albums. Gaza was still an open air prison a few years ago and it will remain an open air prison a few years from now. It’s just only remembered at specific instants when their going gets slightly tougher. We get infuriated at the hypocrisy that Israel killing Arabs includes when its entire existence can be taken back, in one way or another, to Western guilt over the Jewish holocaust. But when you come to think of it, are Arabs even entitled to be sad for the people of Gaza who are dying, whose homes are being demolished just so muscles can be flexed and whose deaths are being ridiculed on certain TV channels just because they don’t fit with the rhetoric of the axis currently ruling the world? How are the people of Gaza dying exactly? Is it Israeli planes? Or is it the Arab oil fueling those planes? Or is it the Arab silent towards Israeli plans? Or is it those Arabs making sure their borders with Gaza stay closed, securing that open air prison until who knows when? Or is it the Arab slumber that only finds mild wakefulness sporadically, in Twitter or Facebook hashtags, never trying to speak out against their own regimes, in bed with those killing the people of Gaza, because they are providing them with the biggest mall on Earth and a great shopping experience to boot?

Those worthless people of Syria. How many Syrians have died in the past 3 or so years? How many digits has that number reached by now? As is the case with Gaza, this too doesn’t even matter, but I’ll list it anyway: 170,000. That six digit figure comprises entire families, men, women, children who will never have the future that a few years back was rightfully theirs. The biggest injustice, however, towards those Syrians isn’t just that their death, in the grand scheme of things, might not actually matter, but the fact that their deaths are also not an absolute truth among the Arabs infuriated by Israel’s actions. How many of those crying over Gaza now actually cared as the toll in Syria rose from one digit to the next? How many of those crying wolf over ABC, BBC, CNN or MTV Lebanon actually watch TV stations that do the exact same thing to those people of Syria? Those six digit lives are nothing more than a bargaining chip in a conflict that is greater than they’ll ever be individually. Those lives don’t fit with their grand political scheme of choice and are a mere tool in the attempt to stop the big bad Sunni monster.

Those worthless people of Lebanon. There’s no estimate of those that died between 1975 and 2014. Our parents had hoped way back when they decided to stay in this country that things would get better for us, with all the lives lost to fight for causes that they believed in. But things are still the same. Young men and women fought for causes and died only to have the people they fought for forget them the moment a glimpse of power flashed in front of their eyes. And things are still the same today. From one explosion to the next, from burned flesh on Beirut’s asphalt to spoiled breakfasts in Tripoli, to acts defending the country against armies now killing innocents in Gaza, the lives of our countrymen being lost are also simple digits that will keep on adding up until who knows when because we never learn.

The causes are not similar, and the conflicts are not the same. But the people involved are dying with one thing in common: their deaths only serve to escalate numbers without changing anything. How many had to die in Gaza before the collective Arab consciousness decided to budge, before the Arab league figured it should convene or before Egypt figured it should come up with a ceasefire plan with their BFFs? How many more have to die until it is realized that the current status quo regarding the region’s countries and regarding the attitude towards Israel does not simply work? When will Arabs learn that building the world’s tallest structure, biggest artificial island and hosting the World Cup aren’t what really matter when their own people are being slaughtered like sheep right on their doorstep as they sit around and eat their fancy iftars on this bloody Ramadan?

I am a 24 year old Lebanese who lives in a country of violence in a sea of even more violence, and I do not know how to be violent. I do not believe violence is the key to any solution for this region, but I am one of very few voices in a culture that sings weapons in song, brands them on flags and salutes the world with them as they chant takbirs for everyone to hear, a culture that, for instance, doesn’t really want to see Palestine free as much as go to heaven as martyrs for that purpose.

There are a lot of things that we are not allowed to do towards those countries. We can’t do like that Norwegian doctor and visit Gaza to help in whatever way we can. Protesting the regimes of the countries filling this region has also become a dangerous matter even though those tyrant regimes do much worse to their own people than possibly even Israel, regardless of whether such a notion is even entertained by people of the region or not. The only thing we are left with is our voices and platforms to express those voices and try to change perspectives, but does the region even have a clear plan towards using modern day media in order to fight the Israeli rampage? Is there a way for us to get a clear message across when we can’t even agree on what that message should be? Are we not also losing the war of information and misinformation that, in this day and age, has become as tactically important as rockets and blasts and tanks especially with the looming threat of treason over our heads when the message we need to get across is to those whose existence we are not allowed to acknowledge? Is there a way for us to make the lives lost in the countries of the region slightly less worthless than they are as we remain completely and irrevocably lost, unable to do anything about it but be angry about biased media reporting, portrayals of the people dying as terrorists and the blindness of a world that never really had sight to begin with?

May all those people’s pieces rest in peace.

The Lebanese MPs Who Haven’t Signed On The Domestic Abuse Law

Update: According to the NGO Kafa, who just issued the following clarification, the Domestic Abuse law has not been put up to a vote in parliament yet and is still stuck at its respective committee. The list of MPs circulating online is of those who approve to ratify the domestic abuse law in a way to make it more protective. The list gathered below is of the MPs who have not signed such a document yet due to parliament shutting down and is apparently not reflective of whether they have approved the law or not as such a vote has yet to take place. 

A list of Lebanese MPs who tried to pass the domestic abuse law is being circulated around the internet. While those MPs should be applauded for their enthusiasm and – sadly in this country – courage for taking a stance regarding this matter, the fact that three Lebanese women – two in the past month – have fallen victim to domestic abuse is making this particular matter a top priority.

Domestic abuse is not a joke. We all know it. It’s sad that we have to say it. Looking at who’s in parliament at the moment and at the list of MPs who supported the bill, here’s a list of the MPs who did not sign on the bill ratification in question.

The list you’re about to read encompasses MPs from different religious, different political parties and – interestingly – also features a woman.

  1. Nayla Tueini – Future Movement
  2. Michel Pharaon – Independent In M14
  3. Hani Kobeissi – Amal Movement
  4. Nohad el Machnouk – Future Movement
  5. Saad Hariri – Future Movement
  6. Ammar Houry – Future Movement
  7. Imad el Hout – Future Movement
  8. Ghazi Aridi – PSP
  9. Khaled Zahraman – Future Movement
  10. Khaled El Daher – Future Movement
  11. Mouiine El Merhebi – Future Movement
  12. Khodr Habib – Future Movement
  13. Hachem Alameddine – Future Movement
  14. Kassem Abdulaziz – Safadi Bloc
  15. Mohammad Safadi – Safadi Bloc
  16. Najib Mikati – Tripoli MP
  17. Ahmad Karami – Tripoli MP
  18. Samir El Jisr – Future Movement
  19. Mohammad Kabbara – Independent Within M14
  20. Badr Wannous – Future Movement
  21. Robert  Fadel – Independent Within M14
  22. Farid Makari – Future Movement
  23. Nicolas Ghosn – Future Movement
  24. Abbas Hachem – FPM
  25. Michel Aoun – FPM
  26. Nabil Nicolas – FPM
  27. Ghassan Moukheiber – FPM
  28. Michel Murr – Independent
  29. Alain Aoun – FPM
  30. Ali Ammar – Hezbollah
  31. Bilal Farhat – Hezbollah
  32. Fady el Aawar – Aley MP
  33. Talal Arslan – Aley MP
  34. Akram Chehayeb – PSP
  35. Walid Jumblatt – PSP
  36. Elie Aoun – PSP
  37. Nehme Tohme – PSP
  38. Alaeddine Terro – PSP
  39. Ibrahim Najjar – Future Movement
  40. Fouad Siniora – Future Movement
  41. Nabih Berri – Amal Movement
  42. Ali Osseiran – Amal Movement
  43. Michel Moussa – Amal Movement
  44. Ali Khreis – Amal Movement
  45. Mohammad Fneish – Hezbollah
  46. Nawwaf Moussawi – Hezbollah
  47. Ali Ahmad Bazzi – Amal Movement
  48. Ayoub Hmayed – Amal Movement
  49. Hassan Fadlallah – Hezbollah
  50. Abdellatif Zein – Amal Movement
  51. Yassine Jaber – Amal Movement
  52. Mohammad Raad – Hezbollah
  53. Ali Hassan Khalil – Amal Movement
  54. Ali Fayyad – Hezbollah
  55. Anwar Khalil – Amal Movement
  56. Kassem Hachem – Ba’ath Party
  57. Assaad Hardan – SSNP
  58. Jamal Jarrah – Future Movement
  59. Ziad el Kadiri – Future Movement
  60. Wael Abou Faour – PSP
  61. Robert Ghanem – Independent Within M14
  62. Nicolas Fattouche – Zahle MP
  63. Assem Araji – Zahle MP
  64. Okab Sakr – Zahle MP
  65. Hussein Moussawi – Hezbollah
  66. Hussein El Hage Hassan – Hezbollah
  67. Nawwar el Sahili – Hezbollah
  68. Ali Mekdad – Hezbollah
  69. Ghazi Zaiter – Amal Movement
  70. Assem Qanso – Ba’ath Party
  71. Elwalid Succariyeh – Hezbollah
  72. Kamel Rifaii – Islamic Action Front

This is an updated version of this post to reflect the fact that the vote has not been put up to a vote and as such any assumption as to what these MPs, who haven’t signed the law’s ratification petition, would have voted is factually incorrect. 

Once Upon a Time in Maaloula

It was December 2010, slightly after Christmas, that I went to Maaloula as part of a two day stay in pre-war Syria.

The village was nestled up the mountains some 30 minutes away from Damascus. I had no idea what to expect there, other than some difference from the  souks and mosques that their country’s capital had to offer. I should have known that Maaloula would be drastically different – the driver had been talking a language I wasn’t understanding all the way. It was Aramaic.

Once upon a time, the Maaloula I visited was a calm village, part of a calmer and oppressed country. The people there seemed poor. They also seemed especially devout, asking us to take off our shoes as we visited Christian shrines for saints that Christians in Lebanon worshipped. The town’s houses were tightly packed together, haphazardly built, in a way that climbed up the mountain that overlooked the village. A statue of the Virgin Mary could be seen atop those mountains. I’m sure they figured she’d be protecting their homes.

I walked around the hills next to the village, patches of snow from a storm a few days prior still visible. The townspeople looked at us warily: just another batch of tourists who are coming and going, expecting some funky eccentricities. A few children were busy playing football on the tarmac across the street. They asked us to play but we didn’t have the luxury of living where they did. So we kept looking around.

The monastery we visited, Deir Mar Takla, where the relics of a renowned Saint reportedly lay, was not very different from several ones I had seen in Lebanon. But I guess it’s always more interesting just because it represents a minority, something different in the vast sea of sameness you had come to associate with the Syria I was visiting back then. I never thought that desolate town, huddled in those cold Syrian mountains, would become the focal point of Lebanese politics almost three years later.

I never gave Maaloula a second thought until today when I was told that the Syrian civil war had reached it and I was told that I should care about the lives of its people, just because they are Christians, more than the lives of all the Syrian civilians who have died since whatever’s taking place in Syria started back in 2011. There are varying levels to the value of a human life.

Maaloula became the centerpiece of a long-used argument revolving around the core foundation of Christian victimhood, because the presence of Christians in this region cannot be guaranteed but by dictators and oppressors. Let’s always choose the lesser evil.

I was also invited to #ActForMaaloula today, an admirable effort and all. But I have to wonder: aren’t Muslim villages worthy of me acting for them? Who am I supposed to act for in Maaloula exactly fully knowing that 90% of its people have apparently left their town? Am I supposed to act for the Churches that have not been touched according to all news services? Am I supposed to act just for the sake of acting so I can tell the entire world that I care about the likes of those who happened to be born into my religion just because they worship Jesus and don’t fast Ramadan?

Christians in this region are and apparently will always be dhimmis, precisely because of this rhetoric, whether they like it or not. They’re dhimmis because they’re always forced to ask for protection. They’re dhimmis because they’re always treated differently than the countries of which they are part. They’re dhimmis because they relish in the rhetoric that they are different, that their lives are more precious, that one needs to act for their sake but not the sake of others just because they have carried a Cross.

Being against the regime next door doesn’t mean we sympathize with the Islamists. It doesn’t mean some Lebanese politicians, who remember the never-ending Christian victimhood argument listed above whenever they’re bored, get to patronize us about not doing enough for our “Christian brethren.” I refuse to be blinded to the fact that this talk about extremists and Islamists and Nusra and Al Qaeda did not exist in 2011. I refuse to be forced to forget that the talk about a ruthless regime, which can send the cold, penis-less corpse of a thirteen year old to his mother’s doorstep, has existed since the 1980s. I refuse to be forced to fall to that ridiculous notion that Christians are special and must be protected because Israel considers them competition.

I used to think the fear for Christians in the region is overrated. I don’t think that way anymore. But I also think that the entire way the issue is being dealt with will only lead to further decimation of those Christians and further increase of the fear they are forced to live in. You want to protect the Christians of Syria because you love them so? You fight for a political solution that involves stopping the regime that has killed hundreds of thousands of its people and with it those Islamists we all fear whose existence stems from that precise regime.

One more thing before I bring you full circle.

The Syrian regime protects Christians, sure. The rebels are creatures who want to behead Christians and only do that, sure. The following is not in Maaloula.

Lebanon, courtesy of the Syrian army.

Lebanon, courtesy of the Syrian army.

Whose protection am I supposed to ask for now?

America, Syria And All Those Arab Hypocrites

It’s funny how many people are suddenly against foreign interference in Syria. I’ve been wondering for the past week, as news of a possible American strike against Damascus surfaced, where all those people who cared about the sovereignty of Syria were for the past two years?

Arabs are interesting people. You only need to say America once in order to get them rallying behind their one common secondary enemy. The United States is the world’s biggest terrorist organization, some of them would say. You can sit back and laugh. The problem is that they firmly believe that the problem is actually the United States.

Media and people have rallied against any possible American strike, against the “imperialistic” regime that has targeted the countries of the Middle East for a long, long time. They started recalling Afghanistan and Iraq. They reminded people of the thousands who are dead because of this American greed for oil and power, although they failed to mention that Syria isn’t on the oil map. How dare they think they can use our airspace to fight our neighbors? How dare they think they can do whatever they please and not find repercussions? What right does the United States have to attack Syria?

Or so say the people whose brand of interference is not satisfied by America. Say no to foreign interference in Syria. Except foreign is only that when it’s non-Arab, no? Because somehow Arabs get to interfere in each other’s business as much as they want but it’s more than acceptable because they’re all one big happy family, raised on accepting each other’s boundaries and liberties.

For the past two years, every single Middle Eastern country has made it its bread and butter to interfere in Syrian affairs daily. But no one had a problem with that, right? Everyone is against foreign interference in Syria – except when said interference is at the hands of Hezbollah and Iran? Why? Because they’re helping the region keep one of the last remaining regimes against Israel’s zionist plans?

How exactly is the Assad regime resisting Israel? When was the last time that regime attempted to liberate the Golan Heights? How many bullets has Assad fired at the Israeli army in the past twenty years? What did Assad do when his country was bombed by Israel a few months ago?

How does anything that Assad did regarding Israel actually qualify as being a “resistance” regime? Does threatening Israel through Hezbollah in case the United States does anything to his country actually count?

The way I see it, the only country getting screwed in that non-sensical logic is Lebanon, as always. How long are we supposed to be the playground for that Syrian regime whenever it feels like it? How long are we supposed to be an extension of the war in Syria just because some parties in our country can’t mind their own business? How many more explosions that are caused, whether directly or indirectly by said parties, are we supposed to withstand just because they decided to go rescue their best friend next door? How many more independent war and peace decisions are we supposed to swallow just because they can do whatever they please? How is anything those parties are doing remotely acceptable to the entire well-being of this supposed nation that we want to call home?

Or is it because the Syrian regime is in bed with Iran and is therefore, by association, fighting Israel? And is “Israel” the only factor that is relevant enough to help us shape whatever policy or opinion we want to have? Is this “resistance” axis, whose only activity is that restricted to empty words, enough reason for us as Lebanese to let our country be screwed every single day?

Or are Arabs really afraid that those Western countries they despise actually have a form of accountability to their politicians that might see them removed from office that their countries would never, ever have? Because they’ll never see their parliaments vote against strikes? Because they’ll never see their presidents defer such decisions to legislative bodies? Because they’ll never see their leaders lose elections due to their political choices such as the ones that come to matters of war?

I also keep wondering how many people have actually forgotten what the Syrian regime is actually capable of when it comes to atrocities. Somehow, the discussion has become to let the regime stay because those rebels are worse. We’re fighting with the regime because we don’t want those “takfir” people to reach power. How abused has that word become lately? And how scared have people become of it without knowing that those who are supposedly fighting those “takfiryyin” are no different? This isn’t a matter of choosing the lesser evil. This isn’t a matter of bad versus worse. This is a matter of worst versus worst.

Do you not remember the years of human rights abuse that the Syrian regime has committed against Lebanese? Are you not familiar with the different types of experimentations that the regime has done on Lebanese people just because they defied it somehow? Do you not remember the children in Houla who were murdered ruthlessly last year by regime forces? How is this better than those “animals” who eat hearts and behead Christians? Are Christian lives more valuable just because they’re minorities? Can we stop using such useless arguments just because they allow you to have some form of cover for you coming out in support of a regime that is as horrible as the rebels you despise just because they don’t fit in your political mold of choice?

And then there are those who suddenly woke up from their two year coma and noticed there are human rights violation in Syria. Chemical weapons are a no-no – that is the red line that must not be crossed. Never mind the countless red lines that have already been crossed in Syria over the past two years as the entire world stood by watching. Human lives are not really worthy when their nationality is not of the decent kind. Those people have, therefore, decided that it makes sense for the United States to finally interfere in a “limited” strike whose effects might be anything but “limited.” Because human rights are somehow best perserved by increasing violence in a country that is already torn apart by violence? Because there’s no other solution to Syria except the easiest solution that involves sending missiles gifted from Washington, London and Paris to Damascus with love?

I don’t know who used sarin gas in Syria. Arguments can go both ways. Proof, be it fabricated or not, can also go both ways. Rebels or regime. Terrorists or the terrorist fighting those terrorists. But does it even matter who used sarin? The ship of common sense questions regarding Syria has sailed a long, long time ago. And by the looks of it, that ship won’t be coming back anytime soon because if there’s anything that life in the Middle East has taught us, it’s that the people of the region tend to think with their emotions when it comes to the matters of the head. But when it comes to politics, emotions have no role.

Awaiting The Rise of Assir 2.0

This is Lebanon. Picture courtesy of Cheyef 7alak.

This is Lebanon. Picture courtesy of Cheyef 7alak.

Ignorance is bliss.

Today, Lebanese bliss is illustrated in justified celebrations of the army’s victory over Ahmad el Assir’s gang in Saida. The celebrations aren’t just about our army adding a second victory to its list of victories in this country. They are also about the supposed downfall of Ahmad el Assir and with whatever he represents.

A lot can be said about Ahmad el Assir. A phenomenon is one. A bigot is two. A nauseating existence is three. A byproduct of the current times is four. A hypocrite is five. A lone case born out of immaculate conception is not six.

There are pertinent reasons as to why something like Ahmad el Assir existed. You can celebrate all you want that he was defeated and made to flee to who knows where because it makes you sleep better at night. You can extrapolate the battle with the army all you want to convince yourself that your hypocrisy towards the Syrian war is justified because it makes your brand of politics sound much nicer. You can call Ahmad el Assir and his gang terrorists and ridicule their existence as much as you like in order to further convince yourself that they are the only problem around this place.

I, however, am simply waiting for the rise of Ahmad el Assir 2.0 who, we can only hope, is not more extreme, not more prepared and better good-looking. Ahmad el Assir 2.0 is only a matter of time. At the rate things are going, the when may have just been given a catalyst because those same reasons that brought the original Ahmad el Assir into existence are still here, flexing their muscles left and right.

I remember when Ahmad el Assir first went on TV. He was portrayed as an irrelevant sheikh of some mosque in Saida no one had heard about. He had some serious allegations to say about Hezbollah. And the media listened. The second time he spoke, the media listened even further and decided they wanted others to listen as well. Slowly, he was given a halo. His life was turned into a reality TV show. His trips to the beach were documented. Journalists were taking personal tours around the city in his BMW X5. Even his outing to ski got turned into a national crisis.

Today, Ahmad el Assir is a lunatic – which he is – who dared to be the only entity in this country to attack our army, which he isn’t. The difference between Ahmad el Assir attacking our army and others is that the attack of those others comes with a big * to explain. It’s not all set in stone.

Samer Hanna was killed.*

*By an individual, not the party.

Nahr el Bared is a red line.*

*The civilians, not the armed men.

Excuses, excuses. Explanations, explanations. Ahmad el Assir’s abomination of an existence is simple: there is something else in this country that is even worse than he is and which most of the people panicking over the lunatic in question and the battle that took our infinitely-weak army one day to finish not only wholeheartedly accept but adore and chant for: Labbayka [insert name], labbayka [insert name]*.

*Name not inserted because.

Terrorism is not set in stone. It’s a matter of perception. Ahmad el Assir is a terrorist. Others who do similar actions are not.

Hezbollah is the main reason people like Ahmad el Assir exist in this country, the reason why his demented rhetoric resonates, the reason why he is able to find equally weak-minded people to recruit and the reason why he finds support.

When you have an entire party with arms in the country that are no longer used for their original purpose (in fact, they are being used for everything but that purpose lately), how can I tell someone like Ahmad el Assir who sees nothing but his sect being targeted that you’re not allowed to procure weapons?

How is the existence of Ahmad el Assir non-sensical when those arms are used to demolish the politics of moderate Sunnis and create a sense of Sunni weakness that is shared by moderate and extreme Sunnis alike, a weakness that the lunatics like him know how to milk?

What excuse can be given when those arms, supposedly being used to fight Israel, were employed in the clashes in Saida yesterday with a list of casualties that was propagated by news sources of different allegiances?

What excuse can be given when those arms are dragging the entire country to war in Syria because they’re somehow fighting Israel over there, a rhetoric their die-hard supporters eat up like a fat kid in a mountain of snickers, with a regime that decimated Lebanese for years, headed by the best anti-Israel dictator that Israel could hope for?

You want to stop Ahmad el Assir? You stop empowering the lunatics on all sides of the Lebanese equation. You stop using the argument that they are the only ones who can protect us from Israel as the status quo you don’t want to change and work on empowering our army so they become the only people to protect us from Israel. You stop being a hypocrite towards weapons that exist outside the jurisdiction of the state. You stop empowering the movements that disempower moderation and secretly empower extremism. You stop justifying the extremism that suits you.

Extremism is extremism. Terrorism is terrorism. You want a decent country for yourself and your children? Entities such as Hezbollah and Al Assir have to be removed. But, you know…*

*comes up with an excuse to justify the existence of one over the other and sleeps at night soundly.

The Lebanese Celebrities Running For Parliament

Even though Nathalie Fadallah running and Myriam Klink not running made the biggest splash (not the TV show) when it comes to the celebrities choosing to take on political life, Beirut.com has compiled a list of other famous people who decided to run as well.

Nathalie Fadlallah

Nathalie fadlallah parliament

As established, she is running for one of the Maronite seats in Tripoli. She runs a modeling agency and was a former model herself. She wants to bring her “revolutionary” ideas to parliament. If you know what I mean.

George Kordahi

Georges Kordahi

He used to be (not sure if he still is) the presenter of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and he’s running for one of the Maronite seats in Keserwan. His use of the Arabic language gives me the creeps. No one simply pronounces those letters that accurately. No one.

Toni Khalifeh

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????

The TV presenter who ridiculed the Ethiopian maid who committed suicide after abuse, who led a campaign against a Lebanese physician and accused him of malpractice leading to the death of a woman and whose show is a prime example in journalism is seeking the Maronite seat in Tripoli.

Jean Khoudeir

Jean Khoudeir

Despite reading the list of nominees in Tripoli, his name didn’t ring a bell at all. He’s running for the Maronite seat there (there’s something about that seat, no?) and is more known by our parents since he was more active around the time they were our age.

May Chidiac
May Chidiac

Not sure if she qualifies as a celebrity as she has been doing politics for a long, long time and is a staunch and outspoken supporter of the Lebanese Forces. She was the victim of an assassination attempt in 2005 and multiple slander campaigns recently targeting her disability. I may not agree with her rhetoric all the time but I personally like her. She is running for the Maronite seat in Keserwan.

Chef Ramzi

Chef Ramzi

I’m pretty sure most parliament members would kill to have him win. Except the ones he’s running against for the Orthodox seat in Metn obviously. But yes, the famous cook who made a name for himself through his cookbooks, cooking show and through a brief stint on Celebrity Duets wants to be part of parliament too.

Maya Terro

Maya Terro

Maya Terro deservedly won New TV’s Al Za3im and is simply a breath of fresh air among all the nominees and among the “celebrities” who are nominated as well. She’s our age and I really feel this could be a person who truly represents our voice. She’s running for the Sunni seat in Beirut. Too bad I cannot vote for her under any of the proposed laws, if any actually see the light of day. But here’s hoping for an electoral law that would one day empower the Maya Terro’s and help them get to office.

Other:

Other Al Za3im candidates who did not win are also running. Malek Mawlawi is vying for one of the Sunni seats of Tripoli.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Now on to more “serious” things. I’m not sure what it is about that Maronite seat in Tripoli that keeps attracting people. Is it a rule of thumbs now that any Maronite who cannot find a seat anywhere can run for that Tripoli seat? None of those candidates, however, can beat the one named Claude Julius Ceasar Rizk. He’s not a celebrity but with a name like that, he should be.

Our parliament is extending its mandate tomorrow. I don’t know how it makes sense for a depute to extend for himself without referring to the entity that asked him or her to represent them (the people). I don’t know how this is fits under democracy, rotation of power, etc. I’m not even sure how the security that our MPs and their political parties worked on destroying for the past few months in order to reach this day can be used as a viable argument for the extension. And you want to know what’s the epitome of the irony at hand? Our only hope to revoke the extension, Lebanon’s constitutional council, has also had its mandate extended.

 

It’s a great time to live in the Parliamentarian Democratic Republic of Lebanon.

 

The Neo-Dictatorship of Hezbollah: Rami and Marwa Olleik

Hezbollah’s practices towards Lebanese citizens, whose protection theoretically justifies the party’s entire existence, have been nothing short of unacceptable lately, especially against Lebanese Southerners who became outspoken against some of the party’s practices.

Imagine the following scenario: you live in a town in Lebanon with a predominant political affiliation. The party in question decides to do something with which you don’t agree and you decide to speak out. The next thing you know, you are thrown out of your house and forbidden from returning to your hometown or even attacked on your way home.

This is Hezbollah’s did with two Lebanese Southerners Shiites who dared speak against its involvement in Al Qusayr or against the party in general.

The case of Rami Olleik was always baffling to me. He was a militant Hezbollah member, swiftly rising among the party’s rank, until he came to believe that the party’s entire ideology is wrong. He wrote a book about it, which I’ve read, and is now teaching at AUB. I always wondered how Hezbollah let Rami Olleik run wild for so long. Well, not anymore.

On his way back to his Southern town, Rami Olleik’s car was attacked by military men and he barely escaped to return to Beirut.

20130529-205127.jpg

Rami isn’t the only Olleik who was targeted recently. Marwa Olleik is a young 20 year old girl from the South who was banned from returning to her town by the same party that her some of her family members support and are even active in. All because she wrote on Facebook how she wasn’t represented by the party’s actions in Qusayr.

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She woke up to find the furniture on her house’s balcony burned. Fliers started spreading around town to boycott her dad’s business. Meetings went on till 3AM in order to get her to apologize took place. Facebook pages were started to tarnish her reputation. Slander against her started, all revolving around her and “Al Sayyida Zaynab.” Once she left her town, she got phone calls to stop criticizing Hezbollah and the Syrian regime so she could return home. This girl is afraid to go back home to see her parents. She’s even afraid to go back to class due to her university’s location.

And I’m sure there are some Lebanese out there who can only think one thing now: Kharjon.

It seems it is now forbidden for Lebanese Southerners to have an opinion that breaks away from the mold in their part of the country. It is forbidden for Lebanese Southerners to tell off Hezbollah’s practices in Qusayr for what they think they are. It is forbidden for Lebanese Southerners to have an opinion that isn’t supportive, glorifying, loving, adorning and forever grateful of the party of Allah. It is apparently also forbidden for Lebanese Shiites to have an opinion that is not conforming with the predominant opinion of their sect.

And what’s worse, there’s no one to really fight for the rights of Rami and Marwa Olleik because there’s no entity in this country that can really stand up for Hezbollah’s hegemony and power.

Your freedom of speech in Lebanon is contingent upon many things. Let’s add Hezbollah to the list of entities that Lebanese Southerners specifically, the same people this party liberated from Israeli occupation, cannot speak out against or else they’d have no home to return to. Behold the neo- dictatorship (as to not use the word terrorism) of the party of Allah against fellow Lebanese whose only fault was to speak their mind. How is this any different, exactly, from the practices of foreign armies occupying lands that isn’t theirs?

It doesn’t matter where you stand regarding Qusayr. It doesn’t matter whether you think what Hezbollah is doing there is resistance against المؤامرة على المقاومة or that it’s simple murder. It doesn’t matter if you think Hezbollah is the best there is or the worst form of existence in Lebanon today. What matters is your right not to have your life and sanctity threatened just because you have your opinion.

Here’s hoping the Hezbollah’s next liberation is that of its mentality. Allah sure knows how much that is needed today. And here’s to every single Lebanese Southerner who is forming his or her own resistance, a resistance for thought and freedom.