Mental Health: The Silenced Killer of Lebanese Youth – إلى نورهان المشاكسة

Nourhan Hammoud

Nourhan Hammoud was Lebanese girl in her twenties, from the South, full of life, her friends had never known her to be fragile, non-smiling or weak. She dreamt of the days when she would leave this country that brought her down, but the afterthought of her mother kept her here.

On August 29th, 2016 – the weights of this world proved too much for Nourhan Hammoud and she decided that ending her own life willingly was the easiest of choices.

Nourhan was not smiling all the time. She was wearing a veneer of strength in a society that viewed her ailment – depression – as nothing more than something of which one could “snap out” of. But depression is never something one could “snap out” of. It’s the weight of a thousand boulders on your shoulders, oppressing your chest, suffocating every breath out of your lungs, as your lips turn into the shadow of a smile to let your friends be fooled into thinking you are okay.

Our ad agencies make fun of anxiety. Our society makes fun of depression. We ridicule schizophrenia. We fear bipolars. We look at these people who are ill and call them “insane,” put them in a corner, chastise them, segregate them, drive them away instead of in.

Nourhan committed suicide not out of cowardice. There are no harder decisions. She did so out of necessity, out of feeling that there was nothing in this life worth living for anymore. We’ve fostered that kind of feeling in her and inside everyone in this country who has done so, or is suffering from a mental health ailment.

We are losing our own youth to our own prejudices in more ways than one. We’ve turned “mdapras” into a joke. We’ve let those who seek help feel ashamed of doing so in the clinics they seek.

Nourhan Hammoud, may you rest in peace.

I leave you with the words of her friend Aly Sleem:

هي من ابشع اللحظات التي لا نعرف ماذا نقول فيها، فنحن لا نحبّ الوداع ونكره الرحيل ونتعلّق بالذكريات. نورهان…. لم أتخيّل يوماً بأن أسمع “خبرك”، عادة لا يموت الا الكبار في السن، لم أتعود بعد على فكرة أن المفعمات بالحياة يُخطفن وهنّ ماضيات في حياتهن، غير آبهات بأحد… أتذكّر منذ اشهر قليلة، في مزيان، قلتي لي انك توديّن السفر، ربما تفكرين بتركيّا، لكنك تخافين فراق الوالدة، وفراق شارع الحمراء وفراق الأصدقاء، لكن أنانيتك أبت إلّا  ان تتخلى عنهم جميعاً، في لحظة، دون استئذاننا، دون تحضيرنا نفسيّاً، بلا حتى رسالة على موقع تواصل اجتماعي حقير وبائس كحالتنا.

لكن مهلاً، انت لست بقويّة، انت خدعتنا جميعاً ولا زلت يا جميلة، حتى برثائنا لك نمجّد قوتك التي لطالما افتخرتي بها، وهل القوة هي بإنهاء حياتنا بأنفسنا يا متمرّدة؟ أتذكرين كم مرّة اطلقتي السباب على السياسيين والوطن؟ لماذا رحلتي دون أن تلعنيهم مرة اخيرة؟

لكن ايضاً مهلاً، كيف كان يحصل كل هذا ونحن غير مدركين؟! كيف لم ندرك ان نورهان متألمة؟ أن مشهد الضحايا في سوريا أدماها، ان الأمل المتلاشي في بيروت خنقها، ان هذا الكيان لن يُكتب له أن يصبح وطناً؟ أن “كبار العيل” في البلد سرقونا ولن يرحمونا؟

كيف يمكن لنا ان نمجّد قرارها “الحر” بالموت؟ لا، هذه الثقافة غير مقبولة، نورهان وغيرها تمنوا لو لم يأخذوا هكذا قرار، لا يمكن لهؤلاء أن يقبلوا بتهليل دموع وصريخ الأحبة… هذا جنون، كان لا بد لنا أن نضع حدّاً لمشاكسة “زهرة الجنوب الصغيرة”، كل ما كانت تحتاجه هو بضعة من الأمل والأمان… نورهان بحثت كثيراً، لم تجدهما فمضت في رحلة بحث عنهما.

وكأن بي أسمعك يا نورهان الآن تقولين: الموت يحاوطنا كما تحيط الدائره بمركزها لكننا لا نشعر به إلا عندما تضيق الدائرة وتمسّنا فى أشخاص قريبة وسرعان ما تصل الينا، دون أن ندري… تشبثوا بالأحباب لا حب فيهم فقط بل لطفاً بعذاب الأمهات والأخوات والأولاد إن نووا الرحيل…

لنحسب أن نورهان نائمة اليوم، لنحسب أنفسنا استيقظنا قبلها لنصلح كل شيء، لنعطي أملاً بأن الحياة لن تله بنا بعد اليوم وتسخر، ثم نوقظها، نوقظها لتسامحنا….
كل الحب…

An event is taking place on Saturday September 10th to raise awareness for suicide. Check it out and go for Nourhan, and every other Lebanese whose conditions we’ve made intolerable.
Lebanon Suicide

The Day I Disappeared: Remembering The Lebanese Who Have Been Missing For Decades

Photo via ICRC.

Photo via ICRC.

Yesterday, August 29th 2016, I disappeared for a day. It was part of a campaign by the International Committee of the Red Cross that I felt compelled to be part of, almost no questions asked.

It started with one simple picture, on a white background on which the hashtag – both in Arabic and English – was emblazoned: #TheDayIDisappeared or #يوم_اختفيت. I shared that picture on my various social media platforms (example) then went radio silent for the most part of the day. 

A couple of hours later, my friends and family members began to get worried. What was that image I had posted? Why wasn’t I replying to their messages? Why wasn’t I chastising that Aounist video all over social media over the past two days?

The calls started pouring in. Is there anything wrong? They’d ask. We’re worried, they’d tell me. In that moment, it’s really beautiful to feel loved. But the fact of the matter is that I wasn’t in any danger. I was just going offline for a day – something that many people do frequently – trying to erase any trace of me from how people expect your behavior to be modeled in 2016.

I was not missing or disappeared. I was pretty much around. I was accessible. I was not an entity with an unknown fate. I was sitting in my office, working, willfully pretending not to exist for a day.

This simplification of what it is to be missing is a gross understatement of the lives of thousands of Lebanese families over the past few decades.

At a time when our war is over, theirs continues. They are at war every day: at war with their beings that long for their family members about whom they’ve heard nothing for tens of years, at war with the semblance of hope that rejuvenates in their souls every single morning, at war with a government that doesn’t care, at war with a country that more than readily wants to let go.

Over the weekend, I spoke extensively with a thirty two year old man named Jalal Kobtan whose father went missing at the same age Jalal is now thirty years ago. You can read Jalal’s story in my article for Al-Jazeera at the link (here).

There are many things we take for granted when our loved ones are around, the least of which is how they shape us. Jalal, for instance, never had his father teach him how to drive, or ride a bike or even swim. He told me how longing he was when he saw all the other kids with their fathers learn all of the things he had to rely on himself to learn.

Sometimes, you don’t know how big of a rock some people are to you until they’re gone. Thousands of Lebanese families haven’t only lost their rocks, but their entire pillars. Today is the day to tell them that we are here, that we care, and that their lives are more than just a hashtag and a Facebook profile picture.

There are fewer things in life that hurt more than the pain of not knowing, which I dubbed the pain of ambiguity. This is the daily life of all those families whose loved ones went missing without a trace all those decades ago. To wake up every single day not knowing what your father or son or daughter or mother’s fate is, to realize there’s nothing you can do but pray to whichever entity is listening, to have your soul torn apart by the fact there’s just so much you can do. There’s nothing worse than this. This is life to many of these people.

In the coming years, many of the parents of the Lebanese who went missing will be no more without finding any semblance of closure. Today is the day to remember those parents, those mothers who have kept their sons’ rooms as they are all these years, those fathers who long for the day when they can hug their flesh and blood and tell them that everything will be okay, even if everything isn’t. Hemostasis, however, is not in sight.

To Lebanon’s families of missing people, today we share your pain. May it not be ambiguous anymore.

From Bikini To Burkini, Or Why Lebanon’s Tripoli Is Awesome

A picture of two veiled burkini-clad women, and another bikini-wearing on one of Tripoli’s popular beach islands is going viral today across Lebanon’s internet-sphere. The last time this many people were interested in the city was to berate it for the way it voted in an election, but that election is now long past and so has those people’s attention from this great city up North.

In that picture, the two stark opposites represent this city that I love more than anything else. So I figured, in this small space that I have, that I’d try to tell you – kind reader – of why this city whose picture you’re so eagerly sharing is worth your time.

1) Bikini versus Burkini:

Bikini:Burkini Tripoli

Picture via @Jadgghorayeb

Over the years, many Lebanese have come to associate an image with Tripoli as that of a city that is ravaged by war, where Islamists reign supreme and where seculars – or anyone who does not want to live by the Sharia for that matter – is not welcome.

The constant and progressive decimation in the city’s reputation is slowly being reversed as of late, with many flocking to its pristine beach islands, to the growing safety of its streets.

The above picture, however, is not an anomaly. It’s the culmination of years in which the city’s varying components co-existed calmly, away from politics and hateful rhetoric, and here they are in all their glory.

2) Beirut’s food prices will have a seizure:

Hallab

You’ve all seen that infamous “Grand Café” picture over the past few weeks and the comparison (although inaccurate) to potential trips to Istanbul that that same bill would’ve covered. Many of you have complained about the price hike in diner chains you’ve loved for years. Now let me tell you a short story.

Yesterday, I took a group of my friends who hadn’t visited Tripoli but to do some necessary paperworks that people of the North have to do in it to one of the city’s restaurants. Their first reaction scanning the prices of that menu – one of Tripoli’s more expensive places, may I add – was to ask one question: how?

Four main courses, drinks, and appetizers later, our bill was less than half of what we would’ve paid for the same combination at any given place in our country’s capital. And the food was great.

In fact, the food is great everywhere. From the restaurants offering Lebanese to those offering mixed cuisine across the city, to the vendors selling cheese and kaak, to the many coffee places many of which I love – Ahwak for the win – to the sweets places and palaces that the city have become synonymous with, you can do no wrong.

3) Lebanon’s biggest old souk is there:

 

Everyone loves to go to Jbeil to see its “authentic” great souks. And while Jbeil’s old sector is awesome, it is dwarfed by what lies in Tripoli’s old city.

Not only is Tripoli’s souk one of Lebanon’s biggest, and is relatively well-kept, but it has retained a flair of authenticity with it being a melting pot of all of the city’s inhabitants, across their sociopolitical status.

The old souks are still divided based on the different services they offer, from khan el saboun to khan el dahab, to the many Ottoman-styled hammams inside them. They’re a must-visit if you’re in the city and in the mood for some meet up with Lebanese history.

4) Citadel St. Gilles is awesome:

Built by the Crusaders, Citadel St. Gilles in Tripoli’s Tebbaneh neighborhood is an extremely well-kept fortress that, because of its location, is rarely viewed as a touristic destination. But it is, and you’d be missing out by not checking it out.

It’s almost 900 years old, has been morphed over the years by the many occupiers of the city into what it is today, and the place being almost always not crowded gives you a visiting experience that view other touristic spots in Lebanon offer.

The entrance is also a simple: 5,000LL.

5) Rachid Karame Forum is spectacular:

Designed by the late Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, the Rachid Karame Forum at the entrance of the city is a vast space that’s probably the most accurate representation of the wasted potential of the city.

Intended to be the hub of an economic forum as plans to turn the city into a Lebanese economic capital were underway, the place is now almost a ghost-town of modern unfinished architecture and landscape designs that will surely blow you away.

6) The Palm Islands are amazing:

Pic via The Daily Star

Pic via The Daily Star

A natural reserve set forth by the Lebanese state, a section of the Palm Islands has been made available for beach-lovers to visit in order to exercise their favorite hobby. From clean sands to pristine waters, the islands are near-free to get to – unlike all the resorts in or around Beirut and its greater area.

Fun fact: the Arabic name for the Islands is rabbit islands. It is as such because during the period of the French occupation, rabbits were let loose on the island. What were two soon became hundreds, and therefore the naming occurred.

7) Timmy’s in El Mina is the pub to go to:

IMG_6535

When I say alcohol, Tripoli is probably the last place you’d think of. But there’s a pub in the old neighborhood in El Mina called Timmy’s that will help you change your mind a little. It’s an old traditional sea-side Lebanese house that has been turned into a massive space for those who feel like they need to wind down after a long day or week.

From sand-stone interior, to chandeliers dangling from the ceiling, to doors manned by a camera based on which the owner decides which clientele he wants to admit or not, the only adjective that could describe the place is exclusive but approachable.

When I was there, I had a discussion with the owner about why he adopted such a policy. He said that he wants to keep the place at a high enough level to attract people to his city. And attract people he does. For the moment, most of those who flock to Timmy’s are either from Tripoli or from the neighboring areas of Zgharta or Koura or sometimes Batroun. But that could change.

8) El Mina’s corniche is one awesome walk:

The same night when I had a few friends try out one of my favorite restaurants in Tripoli and they got shocked with how cheap and good it was, I took them on a drive around the sea corniche in Mina. Stretching for more than 3 kilometers, it is one of Lebanon’s longest and more authentic.

From vendors in small kiosks on the side, to kids flying around kites, to men praying in the heat while they fish, on that corniche you’ll see all kinds of kinds, in a city that has everything you’d see.

9) The people are the most kind-hearted you’ll find:

From close friends, to the people that would give you money for park meters when you’re out of coins, to the hefty portions you’re served anywhere you go, to the overall sense of welcome they infuse in the air of their city, the people of Tripoli are some of the most kind-hearted welcoming people you’ll meet in this country.

I’ve had the pleasure to know many of them, some of whom were like my family at a certain point, and I call myself lucky for doing so.

10) Life exists North of the Madfoun:

The Lebanese border does not end sligthly north of Jbeil. Venture out. Explore a little. Odds are you may be surprised – even if for a picture involving a bikini and a burkini. Suck on that Cannes?

To Burkini Or Not To Burkini: The Ages Of Men Deciding What Women Should Wear

When it comes to cultural assimilation, many parts of Europe have not been exemplary in the way they’ve dealt with the many minorities that have sought their land as refuge over the years, but none more so than France, whose problem with people who are lesser-white than the average they’re used to goes back to the time where it occupied much of Northern Africa and contributed to a mass exodus of people from those areas to serve as cheap labor for their home country.

The immigrants that flocked to France challenged the French about what it was to be as such: what is the French identity? What makes France as it is? How do we integrate such diversity into what we already know and take as scripture? Needless to say, the French model failed miserably.

Instead of integrating the laborers in French societies, they were settled along metropolitan areas with other destitute French, close enough to work but far enough from being part of actual French society, further widening the divide between “authentic” French and otherwise. Social programs, a hallmark of the French political system, also contributed to further encourage the differences between both population groups, further making the grounds for discrimination more fertile.

It is no coincidence, therefore, that in the France of today, and similarly to the African American situation in the United States, French jails have a much higher population of North African-origin inmates than of any other population, relative to their proportion of the general French populace.

As the French general public failed to grasp the fundamental problem at hand, the political rhetoric started to mirror the growing dismay from those immigrants. From having the French symbol “La Marianne” in a veil on the cover of Le Figaro, to tell people that France would become Muslim in 30 years, to people like Jean Marie Le Pen painting those immigrants as violent, uncontrollable, and who breed like rabbits.

It’s no wonder, therefore, that in 2004, the French state decided to ban the public use of the veil, much to the outcry of many Islamic and human rights group who saw the move as a gross encroachment on the rights of those women. The argument back then was that France, being a secular state, did not tolerate any signs of religiosity. The underlying tone, however, was that this secular state with an Christian undercurrent would not tolerate an apparent Islamization in its PR.

The rift between “immigrants” – French like everyone else but always viewed as lessers – and French continued to grow through the years, between attacks on Charlie Hebdo, to the terrorist attacks that overtook Paris and Nice, to the increasing rise of the Front National. Today, the clash of culture is taking place in a different way: French statesmen want to ban a conservative swimwear colloquially called the “Burkini” – a term merging both Burka and Bikini – in their attempt to preserve the semblance of the “liberated” image of France.

Introduced in Australia by a Muslim woman who tried to merge her religious and Australian lives, the piece of clothing soon became global. With the French bans, many people are purchasing them around the world in solidarity. The outcry against the French ban is deafening. The question of the matter, however, is why would such a ban be conceived in the first place?

This is a continuation of the French problem in trying to assimilate different parts of what makes France as it is into a modern identity that is holistic and inclusive. The French revolution slogan “equality, liberty, brotherhood” seems to only be applicable as long as you fit within the code of such a statement.

The ban is equal part Islamophobic and an attack on a woman’s freedom of expression. Would French police arrest a nun, for instance, who is wearing her religious clothing on a beach just because she is covered up? Would they arrest a swimmer clad in their sport clothes? Would they arrest any woman whose clothes attire conflicts with what they deem acceptable enough to fit within the narrowing, rather than broadening, confines of French culture of 2016?

Burkini - 2

The ban of the Burkini can be summarized as follows: men trying to impose a dress code on women who have already had a dress code enforced on them by men elsewhere who view their chastity as directly proportional to how much skin they cover up, never knowing that maybe, just maybe, the problem isn’t in the skin that is exposed or not, but rather in the minds that look at that skin in the first place.

Before Arabs and Muslims can be upset about France banning Burkinis, ins’t some introspection into what is happening in our own backyards warranted? How many of our cultures and countries coerce our women into covering every inch of them, whether they want to or not? How many of our cultures and countries treat women as second rate citizens just because they were not born men, limiting them with what those who were born men believe those women should be entitled for? How many of our cultures and countries have made women feel insecure just by walking down the streets with eyes that ravaged their bodies regardless of how covered up they were?

How many of our cultures and countries have stopped women from even going to the beach for fear of being viewed as nothing more than meat? How many of our cultures and countries have made wearing the hijab, and consequently items of clothing such as the burkini, as an indication of the woman wearing them – whether she wants to or not – essentially being a better person than the woman who decided not to? The fact of the matter is that women are more prone to be sexually harassed on our beaches, whether they were wearing a Burkini or a bikini, than in the beaches of France, even if they’re wearing nothing.

Tackling the abhorrent rise of Islamophobia in France cannot therefore occur without looking inside our own homes for once. Do we allow our women to wear whatever they want without conferring moral judgement on them for doing so? Do we give our women the freedoms that we believe they are being robbed of in France or elsewhere? Do we not pass judgement on those women who decide to go to the beach wearing a Bikini just because they felt like it, categorizing them as everything we believe women should not be?
The answer is no.

The resources France is putting into banning the Burkini are completely unnecessary. It’s a legislation that has become a farce: that of armed police officers assaulting decent women at the beach to strip them of their clothes. By coercing them out of a Burkini, the French state is doing to those women something that’s as bad as forcing them into one in the first place. It’s unfortunate that while standing as such a crossroads, France and the rest of Europe decide to make a U-turn rather than advance further into creating an environment where women can be free to choose whether they want to wear a Burkini or not. Instead, you have a bunch of men deciding they know, once more, what women want and what they should do. When ISIS tells Muslims they’re nothing but second class citizens in the West, one wonders, when does the West realize that its practices play right into ISIS’ hand?

When a Berri “Journalist” Covers an Anti-Berri Protest

Throughout our careers, whether advanced or just at their beginning, we are all exposed to scenarios which challenge everything that we know. How we deal with such scenarios defines whether we can actually be deemed professionals in our respective fields or not.

For instance, as a physician, I am responsible to treat every single human being, within the confines of my capacities, regardless of who that person is, what atrocities they may or may not have committed, the insults they’ve hurled at me or their overall demeanor. All of this becomes second-rate information next to the job and vocation that I’m supposed to accomplish.

Journalists and reporters have an equally important job towards people: theirs is to educate, expose, inform, and shape opinions in a way to challenge the status quo. It is not ironic, for instance, that the more American culture veers towards what is more viral and what is more eye-catching, that more people are infatuated with a creature like Donald Trump.

But I digress. Today, Nawal Berri, you have failed.

Yesterday, supporters of the YouStink movement were commemorating the one year anniversary of the protests that rocked Beirut last summer, got the government to come down on us with guns and tear gas bombs, and led to Downtown being blocked for almost a year from Lebanese.

The protests, which aimed at getting the government to tackle a growing garbage crisis which they have failed to do to this day, morphed into something bigger and ultimately beyond the capacities of such a movement leading it to succumb under its own weight, much to the pleasure of someone like Nawal Berri who sees the current status quo, where her family’s patriarch has been the head of Lebanon’s parliament for more than 24 years, as a status quo she would very much love to maintain.

So while “reporting” from the protests, Nawal Berri had slogans targeted against Nabih Berri, the patriarch and speaker of parliament in question, leading her to decide that she couldn’t cover the protests anymore saying: “Since they have no respect, I won’t be covering this anymore, and they call themselves a civil movement. Thanks.”

The chants that upset her had said: “The head of the family starved us; he robbed us; he’s a thief.”

 

She then proceeded to leave the camera’s frame before taking it to her Facebook page where she had the following masterpiece to provide the Lebanese population with:

“What happened is something silly. I got around 20 individuals without manners or culture berate me about “the head of my family” being a thief. So of course I decided that giving their airtime was too much for them. What is this civil movement that knows nothing about segregating journalism from personal issues.”

When one of the protestors approached her to say that the chants don’t represent the movement, her reply was: “I will bury anyone who talks about the head of my family. He is the crown on their heads.”

I’m not a reporter nor am I a journalist. But I am under the understanding, Ms. Berri, that those in the civil movement are not exactly supported to segregate journalism from personal issues. The person who is supposed to do so is you, and you’ve utterly and irrevocably failed.

Reporting from the scene of the protest, your job is not to editorialize, it is to carry over the information as it is occurring for the viewer, such as myself, to be exposed to the most information possible in order for me to formulate an opinion. It is my right not to have you censor the information that I can receive, whether positive or negative, just because you were personally offended. Your feelings have no bearing on a national issue. You are not covering your family’s newsletter, you are covering a Lebanese protest.

It is clear that Nawal Berri’s priorities are not to do her job, but to keep her feelings intact. If she’s this upset by a chant, then how am I supposed to trust her in reporting bigger, possibly more controversial issues that may arise later on in her career? Clearly we can’t, but she has the biggest of wastas so no one cares. No one else would have dared to do what she did on air. Let her check her privilege.

Was chanting against Berri in front of Nawal Berri the most mature move by the YouStink protestors? Probably not. We need to rise above her pettiness to show her that the narrow-mindedness she is exhibiting only exists in the confines of those who are too insecure to deal with it. But that doesn’t matter, because those protestors were silenced anyway, regardless of what kind of image they were portraying.

MTV, you have an obligation towards your viewers to make sure such things never happen again. Until then, provide your most sensitive reporters with the best anxiolytics around.

 

For Omran

Omran Daqneesh

I see you sitting there, at an age where your biggest woe should be whether your little toy car would beat your friend’s in an artificial race, your tiny legs barely extending beyond the ambulance seat, and you break every piece of my heart in doing so. There’s nothing more I want to see you do than sit in a swing set, using those small legs to kick the ground with all the strength you could muster to go as high as you possibly could.

With your eyes transfixed on a childhood that has been long-stolen from you, you’ve reminded the world that the war that’s becoming synonymous with your upbringing involves people too, that those numbers they see ticking up in their news feeds are not mere figures, but people who are someone’s entire world.

In that moment when you were shell-shocked at everything you’ve lost, you also shocked the world. There has been no stronger emotion. But emotions are fleeting, and they rarely cause change. You and Aylan Kurdi will become symbols, and once they move away from you, once you stop bringing them the hits, you will only remain engrained in the memory of those who care beyond the span of a news cycle.

I’m sorry you grew up Arab. I’m sorry you grew up in a region that has only known conflict, that your childhood is that of war, like the childhoods of all of your people, where you are nothing more than a number, where your tragedy and worth are only as important as the viral picture that emanates from them.

I’m sorry you grew up knowing nothing more than fragility of a status quo, where one moment everything you know is the completeness of your family, and the next everything that you know is buried in rubble, and you’re in the back of an ambulance with the only common denominator is you being alive.

I’m sorry that many only see you as a potential threat, unaware that the horrors you’re going through will leave a scar lasting beyond the attention they bestow upon you, as they go back to the confines of their safe bubble, pointing fingers at your kind, while their children are safe and sound, and will hopefully always be as such, never knowing the meaning of what it is to be in your shoes that are buried under the rubble of everything that you once knew was home.

I’m sorry you have nowhere to go. I’m sorry the places where you’d be safe are places whose people don’t want you, afraid of you talking to their children, going to their schools, breathing their air, drinking their water. I’m sorry that you’re damned if you stay, and damned if you leave. I’m sorry you live in a world where justice is as fictive as books about magic, witches and wizards.

I’m sorry that to them you’re nothing more than a meaningless pawn in their chess game.

Omran - Aylan

Because there are no words in any language that can portray the heartbreak that you’ve witnessed, as a picture of you in sheer shock makes headlines, only to get people like me shaken for a minute or two before they go about their normal daily life, and you go back to yours where you might have a second or third of fourth or thirteenth photo-op but no one to see your shell-shocked face.

Because we have failed you. As a human being, I have failed you. As human species, we have all failed you. As countries around the world, we’ve failed you.

Because you’re not supposed to be sitting in the back of an ambulance, blood streaking down one side of your face, covered in dust, not aware that in that moment you were forever changed, instead of playing with little toy guns with your siblings, in a playground somewhere, like kids your age should be doing.

Because you’re not supposed to be going viral for being traumatized and because your trauma is not supposed to be a discussion topic for us today.

Because I couldn’t hold back my tears when I saw your face while you never did.You’re precious, beautiful, important, loved and this is for you.

American Xenophobic Racist Murders Lebanese Man Because He’s “Filthy Lebanese Ay-rab”

Dear American media, I’ve fixed the news title for you. I mean, why not call things the way they are, instead of beating around the bush of trying to lighten the news in proportionality to the skin color of those making them?

I know it’s hard to think of someone whose genes gave him less melanin as somehow possible of being evil. I shudder at the thought as well. But it might happen – unlikely as you think it could be.

No, Vernon Majors did not kill Khalid Jabara because he had an “unusual fixation” with his Lebanese neighbors. He killed them because he was a xenophobic racist terrorist murderer.

If the tables were turned and Khalid had been the person to whom all those criteria apply, you wouldn’t have hesitated to apply them. You’d have even decided what his entire background was judging by his name, the color of his skin, and the country where he came from.

That’s not different from what Vernon Majors did. It’s not “unusual fixation,” it’s him making sure Khalid’s family knew they were: ‘dirty Arabs,’ ‘filthy Lebanese,’ ‘Aye-rabs,’ and ‘Mooslems,’ as he told them repeatedly to make sure they knew their place in his world. Not that it matters in the grand scheme of things, but the Jabara family is Christian.

The story goes back to last year when Vernon Majors willingly ran over Khalid Jabara’s mother trying to kill her. Unfortunately for him, she did not die, and he ended up in jail, but like the good white American that he is, Vernon Majors saw himself out of jail a few weeks ago, back to the same streets, neighboring the Jabara family, and wanting to take out his revenge on them.

Picture this: a man who willingly ran over a woman trying to kill her ends up in jail for one year, with no conditions on his bond — no ankle monitor, no drug/alcohol testing. It was as if he never entered.

The Jabara family learned of his release. They also knew he had a gun. They also notified the police who informed them they couldn’t do anything, because second amendment and all. Minutes after the police left, Khalid went outside of his house to get the mail, and he was fatally shot by Vernon Majors, who has since been apprehended.

All of this was an “unusual fixation” at his Lebanese neighbors, according to the Tulsa police department, a fixation that goes back to him complaining to that same police department that they were “Ay-rabs, and Mooslems and filthy Lebanese.”

I wonder, how many racial and xenophobic and Islamphobic slurs does a white man have to do to in the United States to cross from “unusual fixation” territory into being a downright disgusting space-occuping lesion of a creature who also hated black people and other foreigners?

If the tables were turned and Khalid had been the person to whom all those criteria apply, this wouldn’t have been someone with an “unusual fixation.” The limits of “unusual fixations” stop when someone’s skin ends up in a different shade of blonde, and when their name maybe just maybe indicates them not praying inside a Church.

Khalid’s sister, Victoria wrote the following Facebook post, and the only way their story made it to the media in the first place:

I ask that you share this FB post throughout the community for the murder of my brother, Khalid Jabara so you can be outraged, just as we are outraged. I want to shed light and bring awareness to the negligence that occurred from the first moment the neighbor..this monster.. called our family ‘Dirty Arabs’, to the time he ran over my mother with his car, to the two Protective Order violations,and our constant vigilance to communicate and be proactive with the DA’s, to the fact that they let him out of jail after 8 months, to the fact that my brother called the police to explain to them that we were scared because we heard he had a gun, to the fact that the police left, saying they could do nothing, and, 30 minutes later….the fact that the criminal walked up to my brother and shot him on his front porch.

At the end of the day, my beautiful brother had a heart like no other. Sensitive to the core, he loved others so much and wanted to be loved back. I’ll miss his jokes (I stole all my jokes from him!), his love for all things electronic, his love for my mom and dad, Rami, and his tenderness towards his nieces. This angel will be missed. Love you, Khalid.

This is the vermin Majors:

Vernon Majors

How many more of “filthy Lebanese” is the diaspora supposed to handle? This is the tip of the iceberg. How many more hate crimes are Arab Americans, be it Muslim or not, supposed to withstand before someone – anyone – realizes that this is just not right, that this is exactly how you push people away, that this is how minorities get radicalized?

This is nothing but a specimen of Donald Trump’s America. So dear Lebanese Americans, this is what you get when you help perpetuate the mere idea of an entity like Donald Trump. There’s no beating around the bush here: his message of xenophobia, hate, racism, Islamophobia includes you too, whether you like it or not, whether you think you’re at a whole level of immigrants or not, you will always remain just another immigrant group that people like him, and those that think like him, can do without.

You will be people they can dispose of, call filthy and end up as nothing more than people with “unusual fixations.”