Ali Fakhri & Khodr Salameh: Two Lebanese Activists Arrested for Graffiti

Graffiti is not a crime? Really?

Two Lebanese online “activists” called Ali Fakhri and Khodr Salameh were arrested yesterday night while drawing graffiti at the Bechara el Khoury avenue.

The reaction to their arrest? Free Khodr and Free Ali online campaigns. Some are calling them the heroes of free speech. Others are calling their arrest a violation of freedoms.

Let’s get a few things straight.

It’s become very easy in Lebanon to confuse freedom with what is legal and illegal. In this case, drawing a graffiti is illegal. Other people do it? Other people don’t get caught as well. It doesn’t make it acceptable and it doesn’t make it allowed.

Ali Fakhri and Khodr Salami are honorable men, I’m sure. But we need to not get up in a fit every time someone is arrested and make online campaigns for their release and bash Lebanon left and right for persecuting people.

Just for comparison’s sake, the USA, a country we believe is the epitome of freedom in the world, considers graffiti as a punishable felony. I’m just saying.

If drawing on public property is your idea for activism, then be my guest. But you’ll have to suffer the consequences. Calling for a state of law cannot but begin with applying the law.

Graffiti is not a crime? We’d say anything to prove a point, don’t we?

32 thoughts on “Ali Fakhri & Khodr Salameh: Two Lebanese Activists Arrested for Graffiti

  1. i agree but if you follow other news of grafitti incidents, the security forces were lnenient and let the people go. I think that this escalated because the message was agaisnt the syrian dictatorship. Persistence and clear regulations do make everything easier.
    I do agree though that vandalizing public property is a crime and activists do escalate things to get attention.

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      • back to my political posters argument, it is not that hard to catch those who put the political posters. Yes it is not A politician who comes down and put them on walls, but we know their men do, and we know that they will come during the election period. They can put a daraki on each street, and catch those men and put them to jail. Applying the law should be on everyone, and until then we must question it when it only applies to those with no power. When the law is only decreasing their power even more, and when politicians can do even worse than putting posters to vandalize public spaces. Politicians ya 3ayni have gone way further, and now we have areas bi 7ala (public spaces that is) that are taken over, and banned from the public just because they live there..

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        • The law not being applied to everyone is not an excuse in my book. Our police need to do a better job? Sure. Other graffiti artists haven’t been caught? Definitely. Vandalism acts have gone unnoticed before? Of course.
          All of this doesn’t excuse anyone who gets caught.
          We go the whole “powerless people” route every time anyone gets caught doing something illegal. People can never be simply mistaken.
          I disagree with what politicians are doing. But just because they are doing it doesn’t mean the law can’t start getting applied.

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        • They say the law is ambiguous towards graffiti because they don’t think it’s classed under vandalism.
          What’s interesting in the article is that no one got up in a fit when that graffiti artist was arrested. Neis bsamne w neis bzeit 🙂

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          • these two people were very active bloggers and the blogging community and political activists who are their friends stood up for them….

            this is similar to any situation…
            people with more supporters and fans get more fame and support

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            • It doesn’t mean they’re better “activists” and that we should be eternally grateful to them as many decided we should be.
              And yeah, there’s obviously something wrong when people don’t care about someone who goes through the same thing but care about their “friends.”

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              • i agree elie…
                although i have to clarify that i did not say better activists, i described them as more active, of course in terms of their followers and the support they got, i do not know them personally..

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  2. Highly disagree with you in this post.
    There are so many heinous things that people do in this country that are considered illegal, and they do it in public, and nobody even charges them let alone arrests them.
    When it comes to self-expression, graffiti is like the only tool left for the lebanese.

    It’s a crime to take those men away for spraying on a wall when people are literally killing people and selling drugs and trafficking children BIL MAKSHOOF and getting away with it. It’s a crime.

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      • No. I’m saying Graffiti shouldn’t be illegal in the first place.
        And that police has better priorities than graffiti artists, like I don’t know, rapists and drug lords if they really want to “practice law”. But they don’t want to practice law. They want to limit free speech, that’s all what this is about.

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        • Graffiti is vandalizing property. It is illegal. I agree there are different priorities but if someone is caught breaking the law and the law is applied, we shouldn’t get up in a fit about it.
          No, it’s not limiting free speech. I wonder how free speech is someone spraying the wall of your house.

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      • Elie, if Grafiti is vandalizing property, then so is putting pictures of Politicians during elections all over. No? I’d like to see shaikh saad, or waleed baik, or shaikh jmayyel, or sayyid hassan, or il7akeem, or il general and many others get arrested. When you arrest those, who spread our walls with lies and fake promises, we will accept the prosecution of Graffiti ART

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  3. I totally agree with you. The way they were treated is unacceptable but people saying it’s illegal to arrest them need to get a grip.

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      • Graffiti *is* freedom of speech and it is much much more than just “spraying on a wall”.
        You don’t want to agree with that, that’s fine and nobody will force you to, but you don’t have to belittle “the fussy activists”. We study the history of graffiti in classes on end and its *rooted* in social messages and subcultures and communities.

        PS: the US is far far from being the “epitome of freedom”.

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        • Graffiti is you taking a spraying can and expressing yourself on someone else’s wall.
          That is illegal, regardless of whether it’s art or not. If someone took a spraying can to your house’s wall, odds are you wouldn’t be too pleased at them expressing their freedom of speech on your property.

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          • Except that they aren’t spraying on anybody’s house, rather public property.
            Can you honestly imagine Abdel Aziz without the graffiti that’s on it? Are you really “displeased” that they’re there?

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              • Please. The public property belongs to a community, and unless the community displeased and wants them removed, I don’t see how you can see things as black and white as “it’s public property and vandalizing it is even worse”. Since when were communities this reductive?

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                • Communities don’t care. And since when are things in Lebanon just “removed?” I still see 2009 election posters in some areas.
                  I’m not being reductive. I’m being realistic. We call for a state of law and yet when law is applied, we panic. Graffiti is illegal in everywhere but 10 countries around the world.

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                  • Communities *do* care. Your assumption that they don’t is exactly what is reductive. Do not reflect your own indifference about graffiti onto the rest of the country.
                    And don’t pull the “law-being-applied” card on me because I’m one of those girls who wait at a red light when everybody (including the darakeh) are asking me to keep going (Hold your applause please :P). So, no, I’m definitely not panicking.

                    And I don’t care if Graffiti is illegal all over the world. It shouldn’t be. Just like capitalism is legal all over the world and I believe it shouldn’t be. One century ago, marital rape was legal all over the world (still is in Lebanon), does this mean that that is okay just because that is what the law dictates?

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                    • You accused me of being reductive because I refuse graffiti. And no, I don’t think communities that tolerate having electoral posters that are now almost 3 years old is acceptable.
                      We apply the law? great. We are good citizens. When it comes to graffiti, comparing it to marital rape is a non-sequitur argument. I don’t see the relevance.
                      I see it illegal if a spouse forces him/herself on the other one. I also see it illegal when someone decides to draw a painting on a public wall expecting no retribution if caught.
                      Either way, this can go on forever so we can agree to disagree.

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  4. I was thinking about all of this while walking home a few days ago. A couple of months ago two “artists” decided to EXPRESS themselves on a wall in our neighbourhood. They made 4 giant drawings…really giant which we have to “enjoy” everyday of our life. Their drwaings conflict with their surroundings and for me are devoted of taste and “art”. Do they have the right to do this?

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