This is what I do when someone cuts me off on the road.
1) I honk at them as loud as I can,
2) I call them an asshole because that’s what they are,
3) I curse whoever taught them how to drive because, well, someone who knows how to drive should know right of passage,
4) I move on, turn up my radio and blast some song my friends agree I should probably not be listening to.
What happens, however, when a right of passage dispute happens with an asshole, who – like many Lebanese in this God-forsaken country, happens to be well-weaponized?
The answer is short: you die. This is exactly what happened to Georges El Rif, in the streets of Gemmayze.
His story is as follows:
Georges and his wife were driving on the airport road when they got into a right of passage dispute with Tarek Yatim. Tarek and the woman driving him, whose name is Lina Haidar, tried to cut off Georges who didn’t let them through. So they forcefully hit his car and kept going.
So Georges followed the man who hit his car to write down his license plate number. They called the ISF, gave them a description of the car and its license plate number. They were rebuffed by the ISF because no personnel were nearby.
They were eventually led to Gemmayzeh, where Tarek Yatim got out of his car, ran towards Georges and started stabbing him with the knife he had in his possession.
No amount of pleading from Georges’ wife, no amount of running away from Georges deterred Tarek Yatim from attacking the man, stabbing him repeatedly. Whenever the wife would try to help her husband, Tarek Yatim slapped her and pushed her away.
A few meters away from them was the house of Lebanon’s Minister of Energy Arthur Nazarian, who also stood on his balcony observing what was happening, not bothering to send his own bodyguards to help.
Georges was then taken to a nearby peripheral hospital where doctors could not resuscitate him. He had three episodes of cardiac arrest before he passed away, leaving behind him a wife and four kids.
Georges’ killer is a man of priors. He was involved in a shooting at the White House restaurant in Sodeco in February 2010, as well as drug trafficking and drug use. The question is: why wasn’t he in jail to begin with?
The answer is two folds.
He wasn’t in jail because this fucked up country is not a country, but a jungle where animals like Tarek Yatim run wild, unafraid of retribution because we don’t have a functional justice system and we don’t have a functional security apparatus to make sure such assholes are where they’re supposed to be: behind bars, away from people who just want to make a living, drive to work, go home to their kids and families, and just live.
Tarek Yatim wasn’t also in jail because he’s connected, because he’s a Lebanese politician’s, reportedly Antoun Sehnaoui, henchman: someone to do their dirty bidding while they sit behind podiums and preach “order” to anyone who listens, or govern us “legally” as they pass their illegal biddings without us knowing.
Tarek Yatim is the kind of “people” who are not afraid of retribution because they know they can get away with it. He’s the kind of animal who’s not afraid to kill someone in broad daylight because he knows how to get away with murder.
This is Tarek Yatim’s face. Memorize it. He may be apprehended now, but be sure he’ll be back on your streets as soon as his wasta allows:
The more heartbreaking side of Georges El Rif’s story is how the people around him stood there and watched. I’ve seen many videos of the incidence. They have different angles, but they all show the same thing: Georges el Rif being chased by his murderer, and people standing there idly watching. The only thing they needed, I suppose, was a batch of popcorn.
It’s hard for me to imagine that there was nothing the people standing there, watching Georges die, could have done. It’s hard for me to imagine that the cars circling that road, probably slowing for a few seconds to see what was happening, had no reflex to help a man thrown on the ground, getting stabbed to death, psychology’s bystander effect non-withstanding.
A minister stood there and did nothing. His bodyguards did nothing. A police station that’s a minute away did nothing. How is this acceptable?
It is easy for me to imagine, however, those people that were there, rushing home to tell their family all about the very, very exciting thing they witnessed on the streets of Gemmayze that day. I have no idea how much further our apathy can rise.
Many in Lebanon keep weapons and knives in their cars. They roam our streets, threaten our security and our lives, aware that their threats will never be faced with any repercussions. A few months ago, Yves Nawfal was the victim of such people as well (link).
One day, someone you know or maybe you could fall victim to such people. I just hope our names don’t get turned into a hashtag just because our politicians are too comfortable keeping their henchmen out of order, our security apparatuses are too comfortable not making sure that anyone with finger can pull a trigger, and that the people of this country are apparently convinced that something happening to someone on the street can never happen to them.
Lebanon is not a country; Lebanon is a jungle. Deal with it accordingly.
Update: An IndieGogo campaign has been started to fund Georges’ family’s legal case. (link).