Lebanon Bans Iranian Movie “Green Days”

I honestly do not get Lebanon these days – or maybe I do and don’t want to admit that our newly formed government is as uptight and horrible as we thought it would be, but the Iranian movie “Green Days” has been banned from being screened in the country.

What is the movie about? The 2009 Iranian protests against Ahmadinejad.

The movie “Green Days” was directed by Hana Makhmalbaf, aged 22, daughter of Mohsen Makhamalbaf, who is close to Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, whose followers led the 2009 protests. A General Security personnel in Lebanon said the ban was fulfilled after a request from the Iranian minister in Lebanon.

Since when does a request by an ambassador actually get fulfilled in Lebanon? Especially if it’s something as silly as them asking to ban a movie that details the regime they represent in a hideous light? It’s nice to see Iran’s main allies in Lebanon looking after their love’s interests over here. After all, why should Lebanese be allowed to watch a movie that details Iranian protests? I think that’s something Khamenei banned, no? Therefore, we should not be allowed to watch it! What an abomination that would be to our souls and to the good of the glorious nation of Iran!

But wait! Isn’t Lebanon a mutlicultural country where the say of one group or sect shouldn’t apply to the rest of the people? You’d think Mr. Orange, carefully looking out for the “best interests of Christians”, would stand up against such an atrocity. You’d think the “best interest of Christians” would be them exposed to all the different cultures the world has to offer. Guess now we know who’s truly ruling the country, regardless of how many ministers they have in our awesome new government.

I don’t know about you but I shall be downloading this movie (along with subtitles) and making a few copies to distribute just to spite the ambassador and the holy Lebanese resistance whose only job these days, by the looks of it, is to ban movies. How does that work against Israel again?

Bashar Assad And The Syrian Regime

I still remember what it felt like to be thirteen. Going to school every day, nothing on my mind but getting good grades and catching up with the latest Pokemon episode. Life was as carefree as it could be. Thirteen also happens to be my favorite number, not because I was born on the thirteenth, but because many people find the number to be an omen. Do I believe in all those things though? Absolutely not, but thirteen is a number that makes me happy.

However, that rule does not apply today.
I’m always saddened when I hear about youngsters passing away. It’s always sad when you know someone approximately your age going through an ordeal such as cancer. You pray for them and hope that the doctors (or whichever mystical power you believe in, I shall call it God) and God help that person out. And you’re always filled with joy when you hear the cancer has gone into remission.
For a young thirteen year old by the name of Hamza Khatib, the number thirteen was the last candle he would blow out on his birthday cake. Why so? Because he fell victim to a brutal tyrant known as Bashar Assad, the head of the Syrian regime in its current form.

Hamza Khatib was used as target practice. The bullets were not used to kill Hamza but to torture him. Imagine anyone being shot repeatedly in the arms and legs just because someone felt like it – now imagine that “anyone” be a frightened thirteen year old whose only fault was expressing, in the only way that he knows, his opinion in a country where that luxury is not given.
Hamza Khatib was castrated and his hands, feet, and abdomen were severely beaten. Overall, men in power who don’t care about him being so young and innocent subjected this teenager, for a period of well over a month, to most signs of abuse and torture imaginable.

This is how Hamza was returned to his parents.

Alas, we should know better. Hafez Assad, Bashar’s father, once proclaimed: “Lebanon and Syria… one people in two countries.” We all know the phrase. It was written, after all, on every wall around the barracks the Syrian army and security apparatus occupied in Lebanon for over thirty years. So, since we are “one people in two countries,” it is our right, as Lebanese, to demand the regime in Syria to fall. We’re only going by the teachings of the “great” Hafez Assad, after all.
I don’t want to bring up being Lebanese in every talk about Syria, but we Lebanese were subjected to what Hamza Khatib has been through but to a far worse degree and for a much longer period of time. How many of our men and women are handicapped today because of things the Syrian regime did to them? How many media outlets were intimidated, censored, or closed (anyone remember what happened to MTV in 2002)?  How many of our fine men and women are still missing today and how many martyrs have we buried because “brotherly” Syria stated that Lebanese security was tied to Syrian security?

We, Lebanese have suffered from Syrian hypocrisy even when it comes to our land. Bashar Assad (and his father before him) made it their job to point out how our South was occupied by Israel, day and night. They made it their duty as well to arm Hezbollah and work on making it as strong as it is today, giving it an allure of grandeur that Hezbollah does not, honestly, possess. And yet, look at their land. They have an area that is about 17% the size of Lebanon occupied by the Israeli army for over forty years now and yet they don’t even dare talk about its liberation. Why is it that they are only feisty and defendant of this “glorious” thing called Arabism when it comes to our South and yet when it comes to their land, they’re ever so silent?

Israel occupied South Lebanon until 2000, yet a much worse form of tyranny occupied the rest of Lebanon. From handpicking the presidential candidates, to extending presidential mandates, to rigging elections, censoring media outlets, playing politicians off one and another (Hariri vs. Lahoud) and controlling the security apparatus, Syria dominated nearly every aspect of Lebanon as if it was its own personal fiefdom and all in the name of “brotherly” security. What is sad is that Syria still has its proxies in Lebanon today to fight its battles outside its borders. These proxies pay regular tributes to Damascus for protection of their own parliament seats and sect, all in the guise of “brotherly” relations and fighting Israel, all the while thanking Syria for its “presence in Lebanon”. They constantly threaten that instability in Syria would be no good for Lebanon. Even worse these proxies recently spat in the face of the Syrian protestors by supporting the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings while declaring that Syria is merely facing a Western backed conspiracy and that Lebanese must stand by this power hungry tyrant. But how different can those people be from the regime and person they support? After all, Assad brutally killed every Lebanese that stood in his path for the thirty years of Syrian occupation, without caring – even remotely – about human life. That makes him a war criminal.

The Syrian people are going through some of the similar events we went through for thirty years such as tanks shelling their towns and villages, and innocent civilians disappearing because they were crying out for liberty. They are making the same calls we made in 2005, calls for independence and freedom, and no to rigged elections and brutal security services. The Syrian people need to revolt, for the innocent souls of the likes of Hamza Khatib and the hundreds of other martyrs that have fallen victim for this tyrant since the protests started on March 15th.

Assad put forth the strategy of a minorities coalition, whispering in the ears of Lebanese and Syrian Christians alike that such an alliance is needed to safe guard minority rights against Islamic fundamentalists. His actions, however, proved otherwise. Look at what happened in the 1990s, Maronites were robbed of their political perogatives, with their major parties banned and political leaders jailed and tortured.The Syrian people need to speak now because now is the time for action and they will not get a better chance.

“The Syrian regime is dealing like the old-fashion Soviet regime, imposing the reign of terror.  When we talk about fighting for democracy, fighting for freedom, it isn’t only words.  We know the smell of blood, we know the smell of dynamite, we know what “gun” means and what “threaten” means.  They can only kill you…. And we know that sometime we’ll be assassinated.”   -Gibran Tueni

So for children like Hamza, their families, and the future of the Syrian people, the time to get Bashar Assad, his tyranny, and his regime to fall is now… after all, I was once thirteen too.

The following is a YouTube video of the brutality Hamza Al Khatib has been through. It is very graphic. So only watch it if you can take in brutal imagery of human torture.

Thanks to Ali Seifeddine and Boulos for their input.

Today… Proud To Be Lebanese.

As I followed my friend’s tweets on what he was going through in Tahrir Square in Egypt, today, I couldn’t help but feel proud to be Lebanese – at least for today.

I’m not going to start embellishing the life we lead in Lebanon for the sake of impressing a reader that might stumble on my blog. But today has proven the vital importance of something we’ve come to take for granted – at least in the last six years. Our freedom of speech.

We have gotten accustomed to saying anything that comes to our mind that we don’t really think about those who cannot do so.

Look at what happened in Egypt today… the government cracked down on those who tried to defy it. A bloodbath ensued in Tahrir Square.

Can you imagine what would have happened if the government cracked down on those that tried to topple it in 2006? They protested and had a two-year long sit in. And no blood was shed because of the protest directly.

Even more so, can you imagine what would have happened if March 14, which is very similar to what happened yesterday, on February 1st, in Egypt, was followed by a similar crackdown by the authorities to the one that took place in Egypt today?

So for all matters and purposes, I am proud to be Lebanese today. I am proud to be able to decide on a cold Wednesday in February to protest against the government and expect no one to beat me up in return. I am proud that I can support causes that most people frown upon and still expect nothing to happen to me. I am proud that I can criticize most top politicians in my country and be able to sleep soundly at night. I am proud to be from the country that is lightyears ahead of the whole region in everything that counts.

So do remember from time to time that there are things more important than super-fast internet, a booming economy and a fragile political peace… sometimes, being free is what matters the most.

Et Tu, Egypt?

As I’m writing this, everything is going haywire in Tahrir Square.

Egyptians have cracked. They are no longer a united front.

Blame it on whoever you want… money, poverty, Mubarak’s influence… it all comes down to this: Change has been betrayed.

I was honestly optimistic that Egypt would be the major catalyst in the reaction of change in the Middle East.

I remember a very wise Chemistry professor at AUB telling me, when I attended class amid the May 7th protests in Lebanon, about one of his visits to the Arab League Summit.

He was sitting there and a man approached him and told him: “Who’s the odd-one in this group of leaders?”

My professor looked at him questionably. The man answered, “Amin Gemayel”, the Lebanese president at the time.

“Why’s that?” my professor asked. The man replied: “He’s the only one who won’t be here in five years”.

This little story shows how it’s all been the same since the 1980s in this region: same people governing, same people doing the same things all over again. This region needed this reaction of change.

But with one speech from one of those people, everything went wrong. The catalyst is now working for the reverse reaction: status quo.

This is where we are heading back. Mubarak has definitely showed other leaders around the region what he’s capable of. He single-handedly contained a massive two-million-plus protest in one day and reversed everything it did.

People in Egypt are now fighting each other. Molotov cocktails are being thrown, bricks from the roads are being torn apart to be used as projectiles, bricks are being thrown from rooftops, boiling water being poured on protesters… a massacre is starting on the streets of Tahrir Square. The army is apparently beginning to fight the protesters. Activists are being hit with rocks. They are bleeding on the streets. Nurses and doctors are nowhere to be found. Even Anderson Cooper was punched in the head 10 times. Thugs are infiltrating the peaceful protests and a bloodbath is forming.

My Lebanese friends are reporting that they are afraid for their lives now. They are trying to escape but the army is blocking all the exists. The protesters are surrounded. There’s no way to go. I am afraid for them and I can’t even begin to imagine the fear they must be feeling right now. What civilized country in the world turns protests into an event where your life is threatened? Into an event that is slowly turning into mass-killing?

Long gone are the days when we thought January 25th is a sign of hope for the region. Long gone are the days when we thought there’s even hope for hope in this region.

And for what? for this man, who contrary to what he announced yesterday, is still, 30 years later, starving for even more power. Mubarak, you are a coward. You are not a man. A man would respond to his people’s concerns. He wouldn’t resort to killing those who rise against him. He would hear what they have to say. You are not worth of your country. You are not worthy of life.

And the ironic thing is… what will tomorrow’s headline be?

Egypt Protests Contained

What will the American stance from this be?

We support whatever the Egyptian people want

And where will the Egyptians be? Either dead on the streets of Tahrir Square or back in their stinking poverty.

Change to Egypt: Et tu, Egypt?