From Beirut, This Is Paris: In A World That Doesn’t Care About Arab Lives 

When a friend told me past midnight to check the news about Paris, I had no idea that I would be looking at a map of a city I love, delineating locations undergoing terrorist attacks simultaneously. I zoomed in on that map closer; one of the locations was right to where I had stayed when I was there in 2013, down that same boulevard.

The more I read, the higher the number of fatalities went. It was horrible; it was dehumanizing; it was utterly and irrevocably hopeless: 2015 was ending the way it started – with terrorists attacks occuring in Lebanon and France almost at the same time, in the same context of demented creatures spreading hate and fear and death wherever they went.

I woke up this morning to two broken cities. My friends in Paris who only yesterday were asking what was happening in Beirut were now on the opposite side of the line. Both our capitals were broken and scarred, old news to us perhaps but foreign territory to them.

Today, 128 innocent civilians in Paris are no longer with us. Yesterday, 45 innocent civilians in Beirut were no longer with us. The death tolls keep rising, but we never seem to learn.

Amid the chaos and tragedy of it all, one nagging thought wouldn’t leave my head. It’s the same thought that echoes inside my skull at every single one of these events, which are becoming sadly very recurrent: we don’t really matter.

When my people were blown to pieces on the streets of Beirut on November 12th, the headlines read: explosion in Hezbollah stronghold, as if delineating the political background of a heavily urban area somehow placed the terrorism in context.

When my people died on the streets of Beirut on November 12th, world leaders did not rise in condemnation. There were no statements expressing sympathy with the Lebanese people. There was no global outrage that innocent people whose only fault was being somewhere at the wrong place and time should never have to go that way or that their families should never be broken that way or that someone’s sect or political background should never be a hyphen before feeling horrified at how their corpses burned on cement. Obama did not issue a statement about how their death was a crime against humanity; after all what is humanity but a subjective term delineating the worth of the human being meant by it?

What happened instead was an American senator wannabe proclaiming how happy he was that my people died, that my country’s capital was being shattered, that innocents were losing their lives and that the casualties included people of all kinds of kinds.


When my people died, no country bothered to lit up its landmarks in the colors of their flag. Even Facebook didn’t bother with making sure my people were marked safe, trivial as it may be. So here’s your Facebook safety check: we’ve, as of now, survived all of Beirut’s terrorist attacks.


When my people died, they did not send the world in mourning. Their death was but an irrelevant fleck along the international news cycle, something that happens in those parts of the world.

And you know what, I’m fine with all of it. Over the past year or so, I’ve come to terms with being one of those whose lives don’t matter. I’ve come to accept it and live with it.

Expect the next few days to exhibit yet another rise of Islamophobia around the world. Expect pieces about how extremism has no religion and about how the members of ISIS are not true Muslims, and they sure are not, because no person with any inkling of morality would do such things. ISIS plans for Islamophobic backlashes so it can use the backlash to point its hellish finger and tell any susceptible mind that listens: look, they hate you.

And few are those who are able to rise above.

Expect the next few days to have Europe try and cope with a growing popular backlash against the refugees flowing into its lands, pointing its fingers at them and accusing them of causing the night of November 13th in Paris. If only Europe knew, though, that the night of November 13 in Paris has been every single night of the life of those refugees for the past two years. But sleepless nights only matter when your country can get the whole world to light up in its flag color.

The more horrifying part of the reaction to the Paris terrorist attacks, however, is that some Arabs and Lebanese were more saddened by what was taking place there than what took place yesterday or the day before in their own backyards. Even among my people, there is a sense that we are not as important, that our lives are not as worthy and that, even as little as it may be, we do not deserve to have our dead collectively mourned and prayed for.

It makes sense, perhaps, in the grand sense of a Lebanese population that’s more likely to visit Paris than Dahyeh to care more about the former than about the latter, but many of the people I know who are utterly devastated by the Parisian mayhem couldn’t give a rat’s ass about what took place at a location 15 minutes away from where they lived, to people they probably encountered one day as they walked down familiar streets.

We can ask for the world to think Beirut is as important as Paris, or for Facebook to add a “safety check” button for us to use daily, or for people to care about us. But the truth of the matter is, we are a people that doesn’t care about itself to begin. We call it habituation, but it’s really not. We call it the new normal, but if this normality then let it go to hell.

In the world that doesn’t care about Arab lives, Arabs lead the front lines.


To Aylan Kurdi & Syria’s Children, I Am Sorry

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The most heartwarming story of recent days was when Abdul-Halim Attar had his entire future changed because of one picture. He was carrying his sleeping daughter on his back across the streets of Beirut as he tried to provide to her by selling BIC pens. His picture caught the world’s attention, but it was fleeting and momentary, like everything that catches the world’s attention these days.

Why Abdul-Halim Attar needed to go viral to make ends meet was never the issue. Viral pictures should not be how the Syrian refugee crisis gets handled, but this is how it’s becoming.

Abdul-Halim Attar Syrian Refugee BuyPens -

To Syria’s children, I’m terribly sorry it has come to this. I’m terribly sorry you need to be photographed in pictures sleeping on your fathers’ shoulders for someone to care. I’m terribly sorry you need to be photographed dead at a beach for people to feel sorry.

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I’m sorry you were born Arab.

I’m sorry that you were born into a region that doesn’t remotely care about you outside of the necessary formalities, where countries chastise others for not taking you in as their quota of you is still a big round zero.

I’m sorry that you have to die because of the hypocrisy of those Muslims who cry in the name of Islam at useless cartoons but fail to apply their own religion when it’s absolutely needed, when you are dying at the shores of Libya, of Turkey, of Greece.

I’m sorry you were born in a sea of leaders who care more about having their vacation in the South of France cut short because their once-public-turned-private beach wasn’t available anymore, and who care more about their shopping in SoHo, than about you having food once a week, or sleeping one night not to the sounds of bombs, or having a smile on your face that is not because your parents gave you the illusion of safety.

I’m sorry you are born to a leader who’d rather see you dead than to abdicate his inherited throne, and that you were born at times where your lives don’t geopolitically matter and where this very same statement will have people shake their heads in disapproval.

AYlan Kurdi  Syria Refugees Arabs

I’m sorry Dubai, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are pre-occupied with always building bigger, brighter, flashier, but never in doing something actually worthwhile.

I’m sorry you are not financially important enough for Arabs to care.

I’m sorry little Aylan that there are Arabs who think your death is warranted because you’re Kurdi.

I’m sorry for Europe.

I’m sorry Europe views you as lesser than animals as it barricades its borders in walls to keep you at bay, in lands torn apart by war, where you await your turn to die, like lambs waiting to be slaughtered.

I’m sorry Europe is so xenophobic that that it doesn’t see you as innocent beings trying to live, but as social burdens who should be stopped at whatever cost.

I’m sorry Europe is so Islamophobic it sees you as nothing more than a growing infestation of a religious following that they deem foreign to their land, a presence that should be contained.

I’m sorry Europe’s own politicians and their policies that got you to where you are today are the same people making sure you die.

I’m sorry Europe doesn’t see you as people fighting for a life that is worth living.

I’m sorry that your skin just so happens not to be white enough to matter.

I’m sorry for the world.

I’m sorry you are not as important as Cecil the Lion or some whale stranded on a beach somewhere.

I’m sorry that news of Apple’s upcoming iPhone are more important than your death.

I’m sorry that Donald Trump’s racism is more relevant than our drowning.

I’m sorry for my country.

I’m sorry that we can’t do more.

I’m sorry that my country is so messed up that we can’t remotely provide the basics that any person should have. I’m sorry that my country can’t even provide for its own people.

I’m sorry for the racism, for the curfews, for the xenophobia, for the Islamophobia even at the hands of my country’s Muslims.

I’m sorry for my country’s politicians using you as fuel to spark sectarian hate, and then use the pictures of your dying children to spread fear on what could have been hadn’t they been in power.

Aylan Kurdi

I’m sorry that we can’t fully let go of how your political establishment treated us, that we can’t separate person and politics and that we can’t just see you as people trying to live.

I’m sorry that I can only be sorry, that I can only write a few words that verge on sentimentalism, trespass on sensationalism be it in empathy or in utter horror, words that are not actually meant to you but to those who can read them and who can understand them and who can hopefully do something so you don’t end up drowning, face down, in the sands of a beach in Turkey, so you can end up more than just a viral picture.

People are more than internet sensations. Humanitarian crises are worth more than viral pictures.

This is because people need to see themselves in those parents’ shoes and because those children, drowning on beaches and forever lost under water, can be their children too.



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.


A Lebanese Tragedy: The Devaluation of a Life

Who gives a fuck? was the first thing I heard today when we were made aware of another Beirut explosion. It was just a bomb all over again. And people were dead, as usual, all over again. Typical and warranted was what I had heard.

On the other side of the room, a frantic woman was calling her parents to see if they were okay. If their house was intact. If she still had a roof to return to. Then she drew a sigh of relief. And I was relieved for her. But I was also disgusted.

There I was in a room of supposedly intellectuals with two drastically different reactions to an event that should have, at least, gotten everyone to feel sorry and disgusted and horrified. Pity the nation that was more upset at a cat being microwaved or a concert being canceled than at its own children, men and women getting blown to pieces because of retarded and narrow political calculation.

This is a reply to Qalmoun versus the reply will be in Qalmoun. Are you serious? Lebanese were using this tragedy to give some credibility to their demented politics, as mothers grieved their sons while sifting through the remains that our media were more than happy to show on their screens. Look! I’m holding an arm! Pretty cool eih? 

I guess it’s too redundant to talk about media professionalism, about not jumping to conclusions when news first start trickling in.

There’s a time and a place to die. But 2013 Lebanon on a random Beiruti street, due to a cowardly act of terrorism isn’t it. 2013 Lebanon where your death is meaningless, another figure in a growing number of casualties who will soon be forgotten is not it.

Do you know what the saddest part in all of this is? There are those who believe such deaths are “fida” whoever it is they follow. Perhaps I don’t get it. Perhaps I don’t understand how it is to be part of such a sociological following. But I’d hate for my life to be wasted for someone who couldn’t care less, sitting in a bunker twenty feet under or in a fortress in some mountain throwing accusations here and there before proceeding with la dolce vita once the poison stops dropping.

I’d hate for my life to end and be called  a martyr by entities who cannot not be politically correct in order for my mother to feel better about it while I’m just a victim of this country where everyone does as they please without any ounce of calculations of possible ramifications on all those people, like you and I, who don’t get a say in how things in their country should run, in their safety (or lack thereof) and in the way they should die: not in bits and pieces on a desolate Beiruti street.

Our lives are more important than to pretend it’s okay for us to die as a “sacrifice” for someone, whoever that someone is. My life is not “fida” anyone. Your life should not be “fida” anyone. Thinking that it’s okay for a life to be dispensable for someone is not okay. Thinking that it’s okay for your life to be dispensable means such tragedies will keep on happening as long as there are people who are willing to be collateral damage in a war that isn’t theirs, that doesn’t involve them and that doesn’t infringe upon them except in death.

There is no ulterior purpose being served. There’s no cause being championed. There’s no heavenly place awaiting the victors. There’s grief-struck parents being left behind. There’s a deeply split nation whose divide is growing wider. There are nauseatingly political individuals who have begun milking this for whatever purpose floats their boats. And there are those who are awaiting the next opportunity for their lives to be “fida” someone.

Our turn is next week, a friend of mine from Tripoli said. I couldn’t tell her she was mistaken.  

Meanwhile, life around where I was went on normally. People had no worries on their mind as they shuffled through their daily motions, seemingly indifferent that the other part of their capital was going to cry itself to sleep tonight.

Rest in peace to all those wasted and forcefully devalued Lebanese lives we have lost and we will lose to bombs, explosions, suicide bombers and ruthless politics, those lives that are more important than to be wasted “fida” anyone.

Farewell Wadih el Safi

We only appreciate our artists after they die.

Wadih el Safi, one of the three remaining giants of Lebanese music, bid this world farewell today at the age of 92. Perhaps it’s easier to mourn the loss of this man, the national symbol that he is. I choose instead to reflect on the life that he has lived, not on the last days of weakness that we tend to remember those who leave us by.

Wadih el Safi, in a career that has spanned almost seven decades, has put a mark on Lebanese music and culture that is tangible and unshakeable even to those, like me, who were not exposed to him growing up. My memories with Wadih el Safi are not those of a typical Lebanese who associates him with rousing patriotism. Whenever I think of him, I think of the songs about family that he would sing, about being a father talking to his son, a father having a discussion with his daughter… I remember how the people around me feel whenever they listen to those songs and how vulnerable he makes them, in the space of a few minutes, with his melody and voice.

They called Mr. el Safi the voice of Lebanon as he sung about this piece of heaven that he called home. It’s a shame that the voice of Lebanon is leaving this country while his piece of heaven is probably anything but. You may be wondering why someone like me, who’s the last person you’d imagine would write about such a thing, is actually doing so. But with Wadih el Safi’s demise, Lebanon has lost a key pillar in the little that remains in the culture that is truly honorable and decent of this country we call home.

Wadih el Safi’s death isn’t just that of a singer that the Lebanese population likes because they feel they must, out of respect. His death takes us one step closer to the full realization of the cultural demise that we are heading to, especially when it comes to music and arts.

Farewell Wadih el Safi, the man who has lived and has done so abundantly.

Lebanon, Screw This

It’s been one week since our news broadcasts last cut out regular useless programming to let us know that a part of our country was burning to the ground following an explosion, that people were dying, that terrorism had struck yet again.

It’s been one week since innocent people lost their lives just for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Last week, those people were shopping. This week, those same people were praying. How many more wrong places and wrong times are we supposed to accept as a justification to the absolute hell we are living through?

What is the current situation in Lebanon? I don’t really know. There’s no diagnostic criteria to follow to really ascertain how deep this goes. There’s simply a sense of “if no one I knew died then it’s sad but forgettable” that’s roaming around. Till when are we supposed to be happy that someone we know didn’t die just because he was at the wrong place at the wrong time?

Till when will our media worry first and foremost about the explosion being in the proximity of a politician’s house, one that he barely uses, then after making sure that politician was okay turn around to examine the possibility of other irrelevant casualties like you and me and then parade their burnt corpses for sheer shock value left and right – except those pictures don’t even shock us anymore?

What is this country in which you are forced to worry about doing the most mundane of things just because you might die doing them? What is this cause that needs to target people who are praying? What is this cause that needs to target people who were shopping?

Why are these causes and wars entering our country through open wide doors? Why is my country always getting screwed, always in a state of violence?

What is this need for people to start throwing blame on those who satisfy their rhetoric of choice just moments after an explosion, while the wounded are still bleeding and the victims have still to be found?

What is this life in which our mothers waste all their tears away, worrying for our sakes, while the only thing that we might have done is drive past a street that ended up becoming ground zero a few minutes later? Till when will our fathers regret not leaving and establishing our families in countries where they don’t have to worry about their sons and daughters meeting their demise on the blown up tarmac, resting on blown up concrete?

How further can our cities handle being ripped apart this way? How much more can the people of Tripoli take in a city that has not only been destroyed by gun violence but now has an affinity for explosions as well?

What is this life in which a strange car on your home street can cause you insomnia? What is this life when your own home doesn’t feel safe anymore?

How is this any different from the times they want us to believe are long gone, “tenzeker w ma ten3ad?” How further down the abyss will every single one of our politicians take us now that they have yet another opportunity to get their rhetoric to sink further, to let their anger seep to surface even more, to let people hate each other more than they already do?

All the words resonate emptily. All of our mothers’ tears fall down on useless surfaces. All of our worry won’t change a thing. All our anger won’t make a dent. All of the victims will soon be forgotten. All of the explosions are to be replaced by the next explosion which takes center stage. All of the people are to mourn in days that are becoming way too many. Nineteen have died in Tripoli today as a first estimate. Nineteen men and women and children died just because they felt like being closer to the entity they worship on a day of worshipping. If there’s really a God, He must have left this land a long, long time ago.

It’s just a bomb, again? Should we be “resilient” again? Lebanon, screw this.

It’s Just A Bomb

I was watching a movie today.

What a mundane and worthless sentence to start anything with. But I was watching a movie today.

It was a quiet afternoon. I had seen a dear friend whom I hadn’t seen in a while. We spoke about our lives. We didn’t talk about politics. I drank minted lemonade. She drank coffee. The time passed.

But yes, I was watching a movie today. And it was a theatre full of people who were watching the movie with me. And less than five minutes from where the movie was taking place, part of my country was getting blown up to pieces, people were getting blown up to bits.

And there I was, watching a movie.

The theatre doors closed behind us as we made our way out of the complex. Look, an explosion happened nearby, my friend told me. Make sure you make your way out calmly. I looked around and people had no other care in the world. Those who were shopping were still going about their chores meticulously. The people hoarding the escalators were still doing so extravagantly.

And there I was, pissed beyond fury, trying to see if my other friend was home and if anything had happened to her.

She is 23. In statistical terms, her life is well ahead of her. In real terms, she is terrified by a window slamming, fireworks going off or anything that reminds her of the bombs she has endured for years. I was relieved to know she hadn’t gone home today. I was glad she was okay. What a fucked up country, I told her. Yes, she replied. Is there anything more redundant to say?

I checked the news on my way to my car. Many were dead. Many more were injured. No officials were targeted. It was an attack simply against people like me who decided to spend their afternoon off, courtesy of the Virgin Mary’s ascension, to shop with their kids, with their mothers, with their families or friends, just like me.

The drive home was uneventful. People were still going around their afternoon business like it was nobody’s business. Life was sluggishly going on. It was bound to pick up its pace tomorrow. I was sure all would be forgotten by next week. This is our span. I guess that’s how it rolls.

As I neared residential areas of my country’s torn capital, I could hear the news blasting off balconies as people huddled next to their TV sets. Tripoli was joining the game as well because that city doesn’t like to be left out of the big celebrations. Politicians were salivating over their upcoming TV opportunities to express their condemnation while secretly insinuating that this party’s interference here and there led to this or that other party’s condemnation of some party’s actions has led to this, while people’s flesh still burns on the asphalt and cement. But don’t you be mistaken, sympathy supersedes policy.

The people were expressing sympathy. There was a tinge of unity as so happens in the face of true national tragedies. I figure it would only be a matter of time before someone parades this. Those who wanted to express sympathy figured stating their sect at the start of their sentence would give it some credibility. Others were more worried about the potential day off tomorrow. It was, after all, a day of national mourning. Aren’t those getting way too many and springing up way too often? But what would a day do to the mother who will mourn all her life?

It’s just a bomb. We tell it to ourselves like it’s nothing. A bomb. An explosion. Destruction, rubble, death. We’re getting way too used to it. We’re getting too comfortable with the way we live around it. We’re getting too subdued in the way we just take it, brush it off and long for the day when we forget. It’s just a bomb.