When Beirut Was At Its Most Beautiful In Years

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 1

Beirut is its most beautiful when it’s alive. Over the past few years, it hasn’t been that way. No, parties at Skybar (RIP) don’t count.

Beirut is not beautiful when it’s a strange land to its people. It’s not beautiful when its center is always empty, when its heart is devoid of its people, when it’s forcibly maimed beyond recognition. No, Beirut is not beautiful when it doesn’t have us, when it’s full of flags that are not of the country which it represents.

On August 29th, 2015, Beirut not only had us, but it had enough of us to make it the most beautiful it’s been in years. Yesterday evening, Beirut was gorgeous. It was our own city finding its voice again, finding its calling again, finding its own identity again.

Beirut is nothing without its streets that should be filled with people. Yesterday, we filled its heart. Beirut is nothing without a beating center. Yesterday, Martyrs’ Square was beating in tachycardia. Beirut is nothing without us. Yesterday, we were Beirut.

Over 100,000 people gathered yesterday in Martyrs’ Square to say enough is enough. They chanted against the system. They chanted for their rights. They chanted with every ounce of voice they had in them for the causes they believed in.

This is how beautiful Beirut was:

 

And people had their hands intertwined to signal unity:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 25

The people also brought posters.

Some, like my friend Racha’s poster, were hilarious:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 10

She’s going to kill me for this going viral.

Youssef Nassar, inspired by Elissa’s now famous Twitter gaffe, brought out the big guns:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 21

#Best #Concert #Ever! #With #My #Besties.

My friend Izzie, meanwhile, compared our ruling class to her dog, “Funny.” Obviously, they wouldn’t amount to how adorable her puppy is:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 14

Pop culture also made an appearance in the form of “Game of Thrones.” What do our politicians have in common with Jon Snow? You guessed it:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 7

That wasn’t the only Game of Thrones-inspired poster around:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 24

Pop culture made another appearance in the form of a “Fifty Shades” pun:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 4

The whole “I kneel in front of you oh General” line that Bassil delivered recently now has an entirely different meaning.

And since we’re a very competitive country, our politicians had their report card released. Needless to say, it’s not very flattering:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 8

Because this protest was a BIG deal, Myriam Klink made an appearance:

By Ralph Aoun.

By Ralph Aoun.

But Klink will probably NOT approve of the content of this poster, zico zico and all:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 16

And because no protest in this country happens without foreign approval, this protest was under the auspices of North Korea. Thank you Pyong Yang!

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 9

Some people brought figurative coffins with them to bury the system that has been killing us for years:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 12

Some made jokes about our security forces:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 20

Some were not as polite:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 6

But at least they have good calligraphy.

This time around, Berri got a few jabs:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 13

Others, and this is the poster that resonated with me the most, wanted to remind everyone of how much we’ve lost being submissive to this system for the past several years, and how many innocent lives paid the price. May all the children of Tripoli rest in peace:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 5

 

And here are a few more:

All of this happened to the backdrop of the most ironic poster of them all:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 9

Beirut is its most beautiful when its people are this free, when they are this creative and when they finally find their voice that has been forcibly silenced for years, at times when we thought such a thing wouldn’t happen.

Yesterday’s protest was the BIGGEST manifestation of secular, non-partisan but very politically driven individuals in the history of the country. If August 29th leads to results in the coming few days, this protest will go down in history as another form of Beirut Spring, in the heart of a country that has long shown democracy to the region.

This post is not about what should have happened, what should happen next and what is expected of this movement. This is about how beautiful and glorious our sight was, and how beautiful we made Beirut in the process.

Cheers to everyone who made Beirut great again. Cheers to those who sang, and chanted and shouted. Cheers to hopefully saying one day: “I was there.” Cheers to us.

In Case You’re Hesitant About Going Down To Martyrs’ Square Tomorrow

What promises to be Lebanon’s biggest secular and non-partisan protest is set to take place tomorrow in Downtown Beirut at 6:00PM under the slogan: YouStink, addressing all of Lebanon’s ruling class.

This isn’t to those of us who are protesting tomorrow; this is to those who are hesitant.

We should go because the trash is piling up in the streets of Beirut again:

Tole3et Re7etkom Protest - 2

You should go because that wall they built for 24 hours in Downtown Beirut is the clearest indication on how dissonant our political system is from us as a Lebanese citizens.

Picture via @DisgraceOfGod.

Picture via @DisgraceOfGod.

We should go because it would be disgraceful to have these heroes in the forefront of the protest, and not have us to back them up:

Tole3et Re7etkom Protest - 1

We should go because every single politician in this country has has made us feel alienated, has made sure we felt that we didn’t belong in the confines of our own homes. All of them means all of them:

11954776_10153552564868770_4163497787365093159_n

This poster includes Hassan Nasrallah too.

We should go because our government is 3 degrees of barbed wire separation away from us:

Tole3et Re7etkom Protest - 4

Picture via Lucien Abou Rjeili.

We should go because the Speaker of Parliament gave orders to kill on Saturday.

Picture via Elie Farah.

Picture via Elie Farah.

 

We should go because a system where neither politics nor institutions are working is not a system worth maintaining. 

Many of us are worried about the protests turning violent. But know this: there will be so many people tomorrow that the security forces will not do anything funny. I also have first hand confirmation from the Minister of Interior Affairs, Nohad el Machnouk, that Lebanon’s security forces have been instructed to leave protestors alone.

If you’re still worried that the protests might turn violent after that, know that there are measures you can take to ensure your safety:

  1. Stay in groups of 5-6 people,
  2. If you get apprehended shout your name at the top of your lungs,
  3. Have a scarf ready with you along with a bottle of water in case tear gas is used. You can also have a can of Coke with you to use (it’s more efficient than water).
  4. Wear long pants that are not jeans to make it easier to run in case water cannons are used.
  5. Do not wear open shoes. Running shoes are best.
  6. When the protest turns violent, you can choose to leave.

If you’re worried about the protests being hijacked by Aoun or Hezbollah, it makes it the more your duty to go down, hold slogans against every single politician in this country to let them know that they aren’t a part of the problem, they ARE the problem.

If you’re worried about the protest becoming too anti-March 14, it makes it the more your duty to go down and tell your leaders that they aren’t only fucking up the country, that it’s not okay to fuck up your life as well.

If you’re worried about the protests’ demands not conforming with your political code, it makes it the more your duty to go down and make sure that your voice is heard, that your demands are not kept in the confines of a room in front of a TV set or a computer.

Why I’m Going:

I’m going down because for the second time in this country’s existence, I’ve found that there is a political cause I can wholeheartedly believe in, NOT to overthrow the government  and NOT to overthrow Nohad el Machnouk.

I’m going down because for the first time in a very long time, I feel that there’s something in this country that’s inviting me in, that’s making me feel worthy as a citizen, that’s giving me value, that’s telling me I matter.

I’m going down because I’ve been let down over and over again by a political class that has proven again and again not to care about anything but itself, not to seek anything but its self-preservation.

I’m going down because it’s not okay not to have a president for more than 450 days, to have my voting rights stolen twice, not to have the basic rights that people across the World have in 2015.

I’m going down to shout for my basic right, as a Lebanese citizen, to live in a country where I can access power and have a say in how things are run. I’m going down to protest for my right to be represented, to have an electoral law that makes sure I get a say, that my voice is not squashed as it has been for the 25 years that I’ve existed in this country.

Odds are I will find many tomorrow who echo these same sentiments, and so will you. I’m not going down to bring the system down. I’m going to try and fix this bloody system. I do so not with hope, for that is a foolish thing to have in such things, but with enthusiasm fueled by the feeling that my voice finally matters.

If not tomorrow, then when will we stand up? When will we say enough is enough? When will we try to reclaim our own voice? It’s high time we do. See you in a few hours.

North Lebanon Will NOT Be Turned Into Beirut’s Garbage Dump

In a stroke of pure “magic,” our politicians have “solved” the country’s garbage crisis. In the beginning there was Sukleen and the Nehmeh dump. Now, we have Sukleen again – yes, seriously – and the Nehmeh dump, in Beirut’s proximity, has been moved to a place that’s more than a hundred kilometers away from Beirut.

In a stroke of utter “genius,” the Lebanese government has decided that the Northern caza of Akkar will now be where the people of Beirut and its suburbs dump their garbage. In case you had your doubts before, be certain now: Lebanon does not have its areas equal. There’s Beirut and Mount Lebanon, a beacon of hope and love to the masses and the tourists and where all the money flows, and there are the peripheries, notably North Lebanon, where the only thing fitting is to give its people those other regions’ trash.

Sukleen will also be handling garbage again at the price of about $160/ton, that’s more than what they used to get paid before, and about 4 times the normal amount that any decent country in the world pays to handle garbage.

Akkar – The Real Tragedy:

Here’s how the situation is in Akkar today:

  • There are villages that got electricity for the FIRST time in 2013 (link).
  • There are villages that do NOT have road access yet. I remind you this is 2015.
  • The caza does NOT have any decent hospital in it. Its people have to make the trip to Tripoli to begin getting decent medical coverage, and a lot of them have to make the trip even further south to Beirut in order not to die.
  • The caza does NOT have any decent schools and universities. Its people have to make the trip to Tripoli as well or move to Beirut for better opportunities.
  • Akkar is the country’s poorest area on record, only paralleled in poverty by Tripoli’s Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen areas. The numbers are astronomical: 40% of the population is considered poor and more than 18% live below the extreme poverty line.
  • The “best” way for the people of Akkar to make a living is for its men to risk their lives volunteering in the army; hence, calling Akkar “the basin of the army.”

Why don’t you hear about any of this? Well, I’ve tried to highlight how horrendous the condition in my region (the North) is on many occasions, but when it’s that *far* for the people of Beirut, as is anything north of the Madfoun checkpoint, nobody cares.

Another aspect of why you don’t hear about this is because no one, even Akkar’s politicians, care. The only time they do give a rat’s ass is come election time, in order to give the starving population a loaf of bread, a few sandwiches and a couple hundred bucks to sustain them through the coming four years (or seven).

Well, now we have another reason to give Akkar a second glance, so let’s spin this positively: Lebanon’s politicians have FINALLY remembered Akkar other than at the time of elections. Hurray!

How so? Well, our government and politicians want to turn areas of Akkar into the garbage dump for Beirut and its Greater Area’s garbage. Obviously, because they say no other region in the country can work, but it’s because the people there are so poor they can’t fight the decision of the government to kill them before their own eyes.

The details of the Akkar deal are as follows:

Ahmad el Hariri met several weeks ago with Tarek El Marhebi, the son of former MP Talal el Marhebi, who agreed to give him a land of around 1.4 million squared meters, to which was added another property culminating in about 2 million squared meters of area, in order to create a garbage dump to solve Beirut’s garbage problem, in an area is called Srar.

The Ministry of Environmental Affairs then studied the land and came to the conclusion that the type of soil used was NOT compatible with that required to do a dump, risking the toxins of the garbage infiltrating down to the underground water, which supplies the many villages of the caza since the government has NOT supplied the area with water as it is.

The Future Movement figures involved the aforementioned deal “denied” such claims a few weeks back. Today, with the news of such a dump being closer to reality than anyone expended, the claims they denied are not only true, they’re becoming a reality.

How is the government trying to buy the silence of the people in Akkar in order to effectively kill them with the waste of a region that is more than a hundred kilometers away? 100 million USD will be used to fund select developmental projects in the caza over the course of the next three years, money that is Akkar’s right and for which it does NOT have to reciprocate with receiving Beirut’s garbage. And to make things worse, the area will probably never going to see that development anyway.

This is governance 001 for the Lebanese system that doesn’t seem to care for an area unless it’s called Beirut and Friends:

  1. No, it’s not acceptable to silence the people of that area with money that you haven’t used for years to give them their rightful development, money that is rightfully theirs,
  2. No, it’s not acceptable to risk the health and lives of hundreds of thousands of people because you’re worried about the image that having your capital drown in garbage gives to the world,
  3. No, it’s not acceptable to risk the greenest region in the country’s environment because you’re too bloody corrupt to come up with a solution that limits your monetary return,
  4. No, it’s not acceptable and will not be accepted that Akkar ends up as Beirut’s garbage dump.

Akkar Isn’t The Only Northern Entity To Get Screwed:

If you thought Akkar was alone in getting screwed, you thought wrong. The entire North is under threat of being turned into Beirut’s waste disposal zone. Batroun’s areas of Hamat and Rasenhash have received a few shipments of garbage trucks from Beirut already. For reference, the area has your very lovable picturesque Nourieh convent.

Kefraya, in the Koura caza, also received a few garbage shipments, as did the city of Amioun before its people blocked roads and protested.

Tripoli is also having a true environmental disaster as it keeps getting shipments of Jounieh’s garbage, which are polluting its sea, soil and air. In the meantime, Jounieh’s mayor is bragging his city is the first to clear its garbage mess. How despicable.

North Pride:

I’m a son of the North. Batroun is my home. Koura is my home. Tripoli is my home. Akkar is my home. This is my land, and I will not have my land ruined, tarnished, maimed and irrevocably damaged just because I exist in a system that thinks I’m worthless for not having “Mount Lebanon” or “Beirut” stamped across my ID.

I’m a son of the North. My region is the country’s most forgotten, most ignored, most ridiculed and most stereotyped. My region is the country’s least developed and least considered (except when it’s for garbage it seems).

I’m a son of the North, and I will not have my home be filled with the garbage of those who not only couldn’t care less about it, but who will very likely not give a rat’s ass about where their garbage is heading the moment they don’t see it on their streets anymore.

I’m a son of the North and I say this: “Kell wa7ad yemsa7 kha*a b ido.” 

Beirut’s Newest Tourist Attraction: A Wall of Shame To “Protect” Our Politicians

Picture via @SalmanOnline.

Picture via @SalmanOnline.

When you think Lebanon’s politicians couldn’t sink lower, they utterly and irrevocably surprise you.

Two days ago, when we peacefully protested to defend our right to have a country where their corruption doesn’t reign supreme, our politicians surprised us by orchestrating a military response that not only echoed that of Arab countries where suppression is a way of life, but paralleled it to the letter.

We were beaten. We were hosed. We were shot at. We were tear gassed.

Yesterday, our politicians sank to a newer low when they orchestrated another type of response to the YouStink protests as they sent their goons to infiltrate the ranks of peaceful protesters and make sure they wreck havoc.

The protestors had nothing on them; the insurgents had lasers, molotov cocktails and various other weapons. The protestors were chanting for their rights; the insurgents were chanting for their sect. The protest turned from shouting “revolution” to shouting their sect name in no time.

I don’t have proof of which politician ordered the infiltration, but his name is known. He’s been fastened to the same leather chair, stronger than super glue, since 1992.

Today, our politicians are so afraid of what could be from the Beirut Uprising that they’ve gone the extra-mile to make sure the psychological and military barrier that separated them from the people is re-inforced by yet another kind.

Today, in Downtown Beirut, across Riyad el Solh square, a concrete wall has been erected to separate our governmental seat from the people.

They had absolutely no idea what they were doing that they built it around a utility pole:

Lebanon Government Wall Downtown Beirut

Picture via @Mich_h.

As soon as it was built however, the youth of the country used the wall as a space to get our government to see what it’s worth every single time its members pass by the area to infuse the country with more corruption.

To bring the message of the wall home, each tile is now decorated by a figure representing every political party in the country:

This wall is a sad entity but it’s been turned to something beautiful.

Lebanon has now joined the very exclusive list of countries in the world where people are separated from each other by physical barriers existing solely for political reason, only this time the only entity separating itself from the people is the country’s political establishment.

The Lebanese system keeps digging itself in a hole. The more a system is disconnected from the people that make it, the more it’s afraid from those same people. This is why that same system fired at us on Saturday. This is why that same system tried to tarnish the protests yesterday. This is why that same system is barricading itself behind a wall today.

The Serail is not for a PM or a minister, it’s for the people. Nejmeh Square does not belong to the Speaker of Parliament or his MPs, but to the people. They can build as many walls as they want, but that doesn’t make our claims of wanting to live in dignity any less just, and their need to stay in power any less barbaric.

The Lebanese government is protecting itself from us by a wall. What they fail to realize is that their main problem isn’t the physicality of a protest. Their stench rises above the wall. Their failures rise above the wall. Their corruption is sinking an entire country, including their new wall.

Today, Downtown Beirut has a new attraction to add to the list of things that make it an obscene place to visit, a place that is not only non-Lebanese, but irrevocably hostile as well. Thank you Lebanon’s government for making sure I feel, with each passing day, more of a stranger in my own home.

If only they know, though, that any wall that goes up must eventually go down, not necessarily by force. There are some words that have the effect of wrecking balls.

Update: the wall is being brought down. This will go down in history as the shortest living separation wall ever.

When We Protested and The Lebanese Government Tried To Kill Us

At 6:00PM on August 22nd, 2015, around 10,000 Lebanese people gathered in Downtown Beirut to protest the country’s overwhelming garbage crisis and with it the corrupt political system that has allowed it to prosper unresolved over the past month, as it has allowed the country to disintegrate since its moment of inception.

I daresay it was the first time a Lebanese crowd gathered this substantially to protest in an apolitical way against a political system that’s affecting everyone. It was beautiful:

 

All pictures are taken by me unless noted otherwise.

All pictures are taken by me unless noted otherwise.

The crowd was immensely creative. They carried Lebanese flags devoid of the Cedar, a bunch of hilarious posters, and even Batman was there:

The people at the protest had one goal in mind: to tell anyone who’d hear us exactly how horrifying our political system has become, to the point where we’re drowning in garbage and no one cares. To the backdrop of “down with the system” chants, the following were roaming around:

And yet, despite the newly built gates to stop anyone from entering to the heart of Downtown Beirut where the very empty parliament resides, and despite the very heavily clad military presence, none of us thought the protest could turn bad.

We were just there, expressing our fundamental right for free speech, in a country that has long considered itself to be the beacon of free speech in the region. We were many, we were mighty. We were proud, we were excited. We chanted, we held our fists to the skies and shouted at a system that has tried to clench our hands and bring us down every single time. Around 6:30PM on August 22nd, 2015, we felt powerful.

Carte Blanche & Signal Jamming:

The crowds walked back from Riad el Solh square towards Martyrs’ Square. Naturally, every single opening that could lead to Nejmeh Square was closed off by armed personnel. The Lebanese Army was working hand in hand with the Internal Security Force (ISF) on closing off all the roads. As we passed them while walking back to Martyrs’ Square, we overheard a few saying they had a “carte blanche” for today. I didn’t give it much attention.

It was around that time that I first noticed my phone’s signal was getting jammed. My data connection kept dropping, and I failed to get my phone to connect to the 3G network even with restarts. I asked around, and I wasn’t the only one having that issue. There was a clear attempt to radio-silence the protest, but I didn’t give much attention to that either.

Gunshots Start:

The time was about 7:15PM. We were gathered around Martyrs’ Square chanting when the first bullets were fired. One round was followed by another, and then another. The armed personnel were firing, and shouting. A few moments later, they kept on increasing their perimeter, pushing protestors out of a region they had not secured before, beating them with batons until they cleared the area.

Children started crying. “Cowards,” there were many shouting. But if anyone thought that would be the end of it, we thought wrong. The most horrifying part of being shot at and beaten up isn’t that there were bullets being fired in the air, it’s the look of delight on that armed personnel’s face as he does it.

A “carte blanche” to keep order against protesters who did nothing but behave peacefully means many things. It means that you can decide that a peaceful protest is not one where you need to fire guns. It means you can decide not to beat up a woman who’s shouting at you. It means you can decide to be a civilized armed personnel, and not a savage.

Our country’s armed forces chose to be barbaric. They chose to be rabid dogs instead of being human beings.

Batman was the first to run.

How Tear Gas Feels Like:

We moved away from Martyrs’ Square and walked up Downtown Beirut. I daresay it was the most full that place was in ages, to the dismay of our government of course because this isn’t the crowd they wanted.

YouStink August 22 Protest - 9

On the way there, I saw a man with a cut across his scalp. I examined his wound. I told him what to do in order to clean in. There were two more like him on the way.

We gathered near the South entrance of Beirut Souks, the one facing the main entrance to Nejmeh Square. The crowds started chanting again. Bullets were fired in order to scare people, but the chants kept on growing louder.

A van for Beirut’s fire department then blazed its way through protesters. If we hadn’t made way, the van wouldn’t have had a problem in running us over. A moment later, they fired tear gas at us. If that first round of tear gas wasn’t enough, they fired a few more. One hit my friend in the head, another hit my knee before bouncing on the ground.

And we ran.

Tear Gas Beirut August 22 Protest YouStink

It didn’t start off as tears. It started as a constriction in my throat that tightened the more I tried not take a breath. It was so hard to hold it in when my lungs were aching for air.

It was then that I started coughing uncontrollably, each one followed by the next, making the ache in my throat worse, feeling like I was going to suffocate the more I coughed, the more I breathed, both of which I couldn’t control.

A few seconds later, my eyes started tearing and I was borderline blinded as I wobbled my way down from the main road as far as I can from the smoke. And they kept on firing. It felt like I was walking for endless meters, because my eyes wouldn’t let up and neither would my lungs.

I passed by a woman who had fainted on the side of the street. There was a little girl running away as well; she couldn’t have been more than six or seven years old.

The more I ran, the more I felt it was getting worse. I felt like I was going to faint a couple of times, but there was not time to think so I just kept going as my throat got tighter. I tried to use my shirt to bloc the gas, but I had no fluid on me to use as an insulator.

It started getting better when we reached CinemaCity. My friend fell to the ground and gasped for air. There was another woman lying at the side of the street, borderline unconscious being helped by her friends.

In case you’re wondering, this is how you look after being tear gassed by your government for protesting peacefully against its shit:

Tear Gas August 22 protest Beirut

The Classy Apathy Crowd:

Now that the crowds were dispersed, a few of us made our way through Beirut Souks. I walked by the cinema, and people were there. I walked by the shops and people were there. I walked by a local restaurant, and it had its doors shut because the people inside had gotten worried.

August 22 protest YouStink beirut

These people’s garbage is obviously not part of the Beiruti equation. It’s probably too classy. I couldn’t not take a picture of them. My aching lungs and throat demanded it.

It Gets Worse:

Meanwhile back in Martyrs’ Square, the crowds were gathering again. It was getting dark, the time was around 8PM.

With darkness falling, Lebanon’s armed forces found new strength in being able to do whatever they wanted without anyone knowing they did it. So they started firing bullets, both live ammo and rubber ones, at the protestors chanting against them. They hosed the protestors with water canons and fired tear gas again, but the protestors held their own.

It was then that Lebanese media took notice of what was happening in Downtown Beirut. Our tweets, Facebook posts, images and videos were aplenty, widely shared and immensely circulated. LBC and NewTV were the first on the scene, and even journalists were attacked:

When confronted, the armed forces – both army and ISF – told protestors that “they started it.”

The first serious injury of the night happened around that time. A teenager boy, aged around 14 or 15, got hit by a rubber bullet in his pelvic area.

August 22 Protest YouStink-

Picture via Joey Ayoub.

Then I started getting news from my colleagues that the ER at my hospital was beginning to receive injured protestors. Hotel Dieu was receiving them as well. The injuries, for the most part, were not severe, but some of those rubber bullets required surgical intervention:

 

After uploading a video showing the Lebanese Army – yes, that same one we’ve all been defending for years – attacking us barbarically, I had many people attack me for “wrongfully” tarnishing the army’s image. This is a picture that clearly shows the army attacking people:

Picture via Elie Farah.

Picture via Elie Farah.

What happened next involved more violence, wide-spread arrests of protestors who – again – did absolutely nothing violent. In pure propaganda attempt, the Lebanese ISF released pictures of its own members with bloody cheeks, eyes and bandaged heels to tell the world that the protestors were violent.

I had no idea water bottles and hands were a dangerous weapon to the country now while we were being attacked with batons, bullets, armors and military boots. The country isn’t only full of shit, it’s full of melodrama.

It Could’ve Been Worse:

I have to say, if the Lebanese media – hats off to LBC and NewTV – hadn’t covered the protest from around 8PM till after midnight, I’m sure the armed forces would have enjoyed both the radio and media silence to commit a true massacre in Downtown Beirut yesterday, but they couldn’t.

They couldn’t because the anchors of Lebanese channels that have, for the first time in years, provided the country with actual and decent news, made it their job to tell the whole country how the people protesting for their most fundamental rights in Beirut were getting beaten up only for speaking.

The couldn’t because there are still, much to my delight, media in this country that knows when to draw the line to an establishment that has, for years, enjoyed unchecked coverage.

Shame on FutureTV and Al-Manar for pretending that nothing was happening in Downtown Beirut, but at least now they agree on something. And I guess they didn’t bring in the fighter jets, so we can’t say that were *too* brutal.

Lebanon’s Politicians Start To Kiss Our Ass:

Because they needed to capitalize on us getting beaten up and almost killed in Downtown Beirut, Lebanon’s politicians – of all kinds and shapes – figured it made absolute sense to condemn the actions of a government of which they are ALL part.

First was Nabil Nicolas, the same one who posted a picture of his leader in the heart of Mary the other day (link) announcing that he condemned what was happening. Then came Elias Abi Saab, who is part of the government itself, also condemning what was happening.

Neither quit their position of course, because why would you do anything worthwhile if you can simply throw a few words of garbage here and there and save face? It’s so easy to condemn in words and so hard to do so in action.

Then came Gebran Bassil in a beautiful tweet about the political establishment of which not only is he part but in which he is now ascending. Mr. Bassil needed someone to tell him yesterday who was at fault for what was happening in Downtown Beirut, and the answer came promptly:

 

August 22 Protest Gebran Bassil Tweet

It was Walid Jumblat’s turn next to shower us with his hypocrisy. He was supportive of the movement, and he said that yes, he stank as well. But because there are no alternatives, he effectively told everyone that we were stuck with them and there was nothing we can do. Deal with it.

Nouhad el Machnouk, our minister of interior affairs, was on vacation. So naturally because he was outside the country, he couldn’t have ordered the armed forces to do what they did, he said. He only ordered them to use rubber bullets and tear gas canisters as they do in ALL civilized countries, he said.

Mr. Machnouk probably still thought that the Lebanese people have the collective IQ of a fish and that when we were getting beaten up by his forces we wouldn’t be able to see through all the bullshit, but we can.

If only Mr. Machnouk had imported something other than rubber bullets and tear gas from civilized countries. Maybe he will now as he unfortunately is forced to cut his vacation short?

Lebanon Is A Dictatorshit:

If you had any doubt that this country was not a democracy, yesterday was your overwhelming proof that this is not a dictatorship, no it’s a dictatorshit.

We were doing nothing wrong. Protesting against a system that’s so corrupt it can’t handle garbage is not wrong. Chanting against a government that has been nothing but dysfunctional since its moment of birth is not wrong. And yet, we were attacked. And yet, they tried to kill us. And yet, many of us are in hospitals now because our country is run by an establishment whose only goal in life is to self-persevere.

The use of riot police against us was a political decision. The carte blanche they were given was entirely pre-meditated. Those in power thought that flexing their muscles would silence the many voices in the country that are fed up with their lies, with their corruption. But they thought wrong.

The Lebanese establishment is only invested in one thing and one thing only: to maintain itself against all odds, against all logic and reason. Garbage in the streets? Who cares as long as I can get a few bucks off of it. More than $20 billion spent on electricity that gets cut 12 hours a day? Yes, that money funded my vacation well. No elections for two years in a row? The taste of power is grand.

Our political establishment is a parasite: it feeds off of us in order to grow stronger and keep itself in power. It sacrifices us to make sure it runs unchecked. It throws its armed personnel under the bus to make sure that nothing comes its way.

We were protesting for our basic and most fundamental rights and they tried to kill us. This is worse than when the Syrian regime did the same or maybe worse to protestors back in the days. Back then, it was a foreign presence trying to silence you. Today, it’s your own country’s people trying to kill you.

Not only did the Lebanese political establishment tell every single Lebanese that they effectively did not matter, but they tried to sugar coat it by breaking their own ranks and pointing fingers at each other; not only do they stink, they reek.

But Beirut Was The Most Beautiful It’s Been In Ages Yesterday:

The day after, I’m the most proud I’ve been in years. I’m proud of every single man, woman and child that went down yesterday to protest. I genuinely love every single one of those 10,000 people that gathered around in Beirut yesterday, even the smokers.

I’m proud of the people of Tripoli who went down to Beirut late at night to protest even when no one protested for them when their city was being burned again and again. I’m proud they were not deterred at the Madfoun checkpoint which was blocked by the army at 1:40AM to stop them.

You people turned Beirut into a city that’s worth being plastered across the world yesterday because you were amazing, courageous and wonderful. You got people all across the country to see the government for what it truly was: a rotten establishment that reeks of decay.

The day after, you are all heroes, with your cuts and scars and bruises and teary eyes. The government fears you. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have reacted this way. In a few years, when you have children in a country that’s hopefully become civilized enough for us to bring children into, you will sit down and tell them how you changed things. It’s a beautiful story to tell, believe me.

Why You Should Go To The #طلعت_ريحتكم Protest This Saturday

YouStink Protest 22 August - 1

The “YouStink” movement is the most important thing taking place in Lebanon today. It’s a movement of youth who are secular and critical and are trying to get this country to be better for everyone in it, even those who don’t want that.

Over the course of the past few weeks, YouStink started grassroots protests to try and involve a Lebanese street that essentially doesn’t care, even as the trash piles up outside its doors. Refer to the following pictures for more information:

You can also refer to this New York Times article for a bit of “bahdale.”

Also refer to this post about the state of trash of the country.

When I first wrote about the issue, I was convinced that the garbage crisis would be resolved as fast as it started because if there’s anything our politicians do and do really well it’s to put band-aids on gaping wounds. I was sure they’d find a way to gather around and make sure the issue was resolved as fast as possible.

I thought wrong.

A month later, not only has the garbage crisis not been resolved, but the horrifying details of how corrupt our entire institution is became more prominent than ever. Our politicians are so comfortable by the fact that whatever they do will fly by the masses that have learned to turn a blind eye to them that they couldn’t even manage to do the effort and pretend that they’re trying to address the issue at hand.

The cherry on top of the garbage mountains was the electricity and water situation also becoming catastrophic, as is the case every single summer.

Tomorrow, on August 22nd 2015, the YouStink movement is rallying in Downtown Beirut yet again to get the country’s voices heard, and this is why you should go:

1) Because they have a clear goal for you: They want to find a solution to the garbage crisis amid a political system that’s built on always ensuring that such crises are always sustainable. It’s that simple.

2) Because it’s not okay for our politicians to be this unchallenged: one month and the garbage is still on streets? Really?

3) Because some things are more important than happy hour at Mar Mkhayel on a Saturday: you can get your drinks afterwards.

4) Because even if you intend to leave, you can still help make the country a better place for those who want to stay: I don’t want to stay here; Lebanon is not where I envision my future to be, but I’ll be damned if I leave without at least knowing I tried.

5) Because our system is just not working: you can’t be okay with not having a president for a year, not voting for 2 years straight, not having any basic infrastructure, and living in garbage. It’s unacceptable to be okay with it all.

6) Because the country has police that beat up women who are expressing their fundamental right to speak: refer the following video:

7) Because even if the garbage crisis doesn’t affect you, the system has fucked you before: yes, the garbage crisis is a Greater Beirut problem, but Tripoli was under bullets for months and our government did nothing. The country has had terrorist attacks take place and the government did nothing; that is not okay.

8) Because not going is telling those governing you that they can get away with everything they do to you: now it’s elections and garbage, next it can be your other rights. If you stay silent now, why would they assume you can speak later?

9) Because this is not the time for apathy: you can’t not care about living in garbage, in a country on a slippery slope down anarchy, in a total disintegration of everything that makes a country a state.

10) Because our politicians are scared shitless: refer to the following link.

I rarely invite to protests, but tomorrow I will see you there.

How Lebanon’s Politicians Are Threatened By The #‏طلعت_ريحتكم‬ Movement

Over the past month, the most energetic and momentum-ful youth movement this country has seen over the past of the past few years was born and they called themselves طلعت ريحتكم or YouStink.

That movement was born because a portion of the Lebanese society, one that has a functioning head above its shoulders and one that can see through the whole spectrum of our politicians’ bullshit, was sick of the status quo that’s forcing every single Lebanese today, except a select few, to live in utter misery, in a state of non-existent rights and… in their own garbage. You’ve all seen those pictures.

That non-political movement has its only purpose to challenge a system that has gone for so long unchallenged and to expose the corruption that is so well-rooted in all our politicians that they’d rather let the country sink in garbage than threaten their bottom line. And that is scaring our politicians shitless.

The Future Movement:

When the protests started, the FM accused them, via its TV station Future TV, of being nothing more than “workers of the resistance,” which is to say that this movement against the trash crisis of which the FM and its corruption were central players for years is nothing more than a product of the imagination of Hezbollah.

The FM thought that such rhetoric would suffice to resonate with its crowds. Perhaps it did with some. But when it didn’t, the FM’s minister tried to divert attention from the protest by arresting a protestor who was “threatening the Sunni legacy” in the country by fighting for his right by suing the Sunni orphanage for sexual abuse and painting it as a threat to that minister’s well being. Oh well.

Michel Aoun:

In between his quest to reclaim Christian rights and to get himself to presidency and his son in law as army commander, Michel Aoun was also very upset that his very, very failed protests were, well, an utter failure and had security personnel oppose them.

To make a point, or lack thereof, he asked in a press conference the armed forces to go and cut roads and whatnot to the YouStink protesters.

The Kataeb:

Some Kataeb MPs, plenty as they are, considered the protesters in the YouStink movement to be “ridiculous,” or to use the arabic word for it “سافهين.” I guess so says the party that voted for the grandson of their founder to be their head after having his father be the head for so many years?

Hezbollah:

Hezbollah’s minister Hussein El Hajj Hassan asked Lebanese media to decrease and stop covering the YouStink protests. I guess Hezbollah’s reps think that protests against the government and establishment of which they are part, highlighting their grave shortcomings are a big no-no. Tell that to the FM please.

March 14’s General Directorate:

In their meeting, they accused the movement of being part of Hezbollah’s brigade, which is why I suppose anyone would want to oppose this government or the Lebanese establishment as it stands. The meeting also asked the government to hold its own in the face of such protesters.

And On 19/8/2015:

The following are a few pictures of what’s happening right now in Riad el Solh square, against the protesters of the YouStink movement:

When they went down to Riad el Solh today, the protesters of the YouStink movement found themselves faced with a full on onslaught by the Lebanese armed forces who hosed them with water, prevented them from protesting as the cabinet convened to discuss the garbage crisis.

The government failed, yet again, to find a solution today and postponed the problem, again, to a subsequent date. It must be so hard for our politicians to find a solution where they all get money from the handling of Beirut’s garbage. Hashtag: the tough life of a Lebanese politician who’s never satisfied financially.

So naturally, our government failing was met with wide arrests in the ranks of the protesters. Director Lucien Bou Rjeili, who recently did more work than the entirety of our political establishment in the Bab el Tebbeneh-Jabal Mosehn issue by coming up with a play bringing people from both regions together for the first time (link), was arrested.

Activist Assaad Thebian was also arrested; Imad Bazzi, known for his blog Trella.org, was injured and transferred to a nearby hospital. Activists Waref Sleiman and Hassan Shamas were also arrested.

The protesters were then threatened by our those armed forces to be arrested and referred to military court for further management, because this is how we function in Lebanon: people protesting for their fundamental civil liberties get a military trial. And we pretend we’re a democracy.

Not only have our politicians failed in the simplest form of governance and that is sorting our garbage, but they’ve also failed in maintaining a country with the minimum amount of liberties of being able to speak, of not feeling threatened to oppose, of not being beaten up and hosed down when we speak up.

How different is this government from those of the Syrian occupation period when protesters were arrested and threatened for simply protesting? It’s not.

Today, the heroes of Lebanon are those protestors in Riyad el Solh. To the country’s politicians, the most fitting thing to say is this:

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