Stop Blaming & Shaming Lebanese Army Freed Hostages For Thanking Their Captives “Al Nusra”

Lebanon Nusra Army

A few days ago, after more than a year and a half of stagnation, a major breakthrough in the case of Lebanon’s hostages with “Al Nusra” came through, culminating in their release in what can only be described as a shameful and despicable swap that paints this proud nation of ours as powerless, useless and utterly, irrevocably castrated.

It took our government more than a year and a half to get our captives home.
It took our government more than a dozen mediations to even reach a breakthrough.
It took our government to beg for the help of foreign nations – as usual – to make sure its sons returned home.
It took our government giving back terrorists, making sure those terrorists are provided for, for our hostages to come back home.

And we still have nine left with ISIS.

The aforementioned is horrific. In fact, the only good thing about the recent hostage swap is that our heroes have returned, that their families are whole again and that this dark, shameful chapter of the history of this nation can now begin to heal.

Most of us don’t even know their names, but here they are for everyone to know:

  • Nahi Abou Kalfouni,
  • Rayan Salameh,
  • Georges Khoury,
  • Ahmad Abbas,
  • Mohammad Taleb,
  • Georges Khazaka,
  • Pierre Geagea,
  • Ehab El Atrash,
  • Abbas Mshik,
  • Sleiman El Dirani,
  • Lameh Mzahem,
  • Rawad Abou Darhamin,
  • Wael Homs,
  • Maher Fayyad,
  • Maymoun Jaber,
  • Ziad Omar.

We also received back the body of Mohammad Hamieh, who was executed in front of his fellow captives on September 14th, 2014.

The release of Al Nusra’s Lebanese prisoners meant the potential for a bombastic field day for Lebanon’s media outlets, and they made sure to benefit as much as they could: Sixteen men freed from a terrorist group meant a whole lot of interviews and “scoops.’

Part of the media frenzy was a New TV interview with freed captive Georges Khazaka which you can watch in the video below:

The video translates loosely to the following:

Georges: I want to also thank “Al Nusra” for the good treatment they gave us.

Reporter: They treated you well? Someone who kidnaps you treats you well? *in semi-outraged tone.*

Georges: Yes, thank God.

Reporter: We used to say you were under pressure to say such things. Today, there are no more outside pressures on you to thank Al Nusra which is a terrorist organization that kidnapped you.

Georges: A terrorist organization, but they were okay with us. No one beat us, no one verbally assaulted us.

Reporter: But you were kidnaped for 16 months! You broke the heart of your families for 16 months. You thank Al Nusra for that?

Georges: Thank God.

The comments on Facebook are of the same outraged tone that reporter sported while interviewing this man who has been, as she said, held hostage for over 16 months in conditions that – so say the least – are much worse than anything that reporter or any of us has lived through in the past year and a half. Behold an exhibit:

 

You’d think that with the prospect of their release, after more than 16 months of captivity, that there would be some research into what to expect from ANY human being who has been in such conditions for such extended periods of time. You’d think they would know what to ask, how to ask it, how to handle such fragile creatures whose only fault really was to be citizens of a spineless country that couldn’t bring them back until 16 months later.

Yet again, expecting Lebanese media to actually do its job before crucifying people in the public eye is similar to expecting an owl dropping your Hogwarts acceptance letter at your windowsill.

In the mayhem of the freeing of these Lebanese prisoners, no one bothered to look up why these hostages had a sense of gratitude to their captives, and it all boils down to one concept in psychology called the “Stockholm Effect.”

 

The Stockholm Effect was discovered in Sweden in 1973 after captives at bank were held hostage for five days and then found to have developed attachment to their captors, rejecting governmental assistance at a certain point.

It’s a phenomenon in which people taken into captivity express empathy and even sympathy and could have positive feelings towards their captives. The feelings are considered to be irrational, emanating from the victims believing a lack of abuse at the hand of their captors is an act of kindness.

Research has suggested that hostages may exhibit the condition in situations featuring captors that do not abuse the victim, a long duration before resolution, continued contact between the perpetrator and hostage, and a high level of emotion. It affects around 8% of victims of kidnapping.

A prominent example is that of the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847. Shortly after takeoff from Athens, two terrorists stormed the cockpit and demanded the diversion of the flight to Beirut. After capturing the plane, the perpetrators released the women and children. Two sailors and a group of wealthy American businessmen remained on the aircraft, and the captors held them for 10 days.

During the incident, the terrorists threatened the hostages with guns to their heads and in their mouths. They also beat one of the victims to death and dumped his body out of the tail section of the plane.

After the eventual rescue, reporters interviewed the captives as they disembarked. When asked to describe the captors, one hostage stated, “They weren’t bad people; they let me eat, they let me sleep, they gave me my life.”

 

There are certain Lebanese media using Georges Khazaka’s interview to showcase ‘Al Nusra’ in a positive light, in the sense of “oh look, they’re not that bad,” and those media are as bad, if not worse, then those who are outraged at what Mr. Khazaka said.

Al Nusra is a terrorist organization. They took soldiers and policemen hostage for over a year. They beheaded some of them for political and theatrical purposes. They are not human. They are animalistic barbaric entities that, like ISIS, should be annihilated. Period.

As some of you mighty keyboard clicking Goliaths click away at your Facebook, YouTube and Twitter profiles to shame our freed soldiers and policemen because of their statements, none of you had to go through what they went through for the past year and a half.

None of us had to be separated from our loved ones.

None of us had to take each day one step at a time hoping we wouldn’t die the next.

None of us were forced to watch as our colleagues were decapitated in front of us.

None of us had to go through what they’ve been through, and yet here are many of us belittling them.

This can be a political ploy. In the political chess game overtaking the region, these soldiers are mere pawns being manipulated by those who are far higher up. And isn’t the following picture the clearest indication of that?

Lebanon AL Nusra - 13

Our soldiers kneel while higher powers rise above. Isn’t that the truth everywhere?

Before being soldiers, our hostages are people. And they are people who lost everything they knew for more than a year. They’ve been broken, humiliated and decimated.

Before being soldiers, our hostages are people. Understanding that they might be prepared to fight terrorism in Arsal, where they were placed probably because they don’t know someone who knows someone who can assign them to less risky areas, but were not ready to be taken into captivity for more than a year is key.

Before being soldiers, our hostages are people. Wearing a police suit does not mean they are exempt from being human beings who can be hurt, changed and maimed too.

I’m not saying Stockholm Syndrome is a certainty. I’m saying it’s a possibility. Asking our soldiers to move on from their ordeal just because they’re freed is akin to asking a depressed person to snap out of it. We will never get it. We will never know. Whether psychology or politics, everything that we do will remain nothing more or less but speculation.

But when it comes to me, I look at Georges Khazaka and see a man whose humanity comes first and who breaks my heart at him being nothing more than a scarred pawn in a game of nations that is much bigger than him, than me or any of us will ever be.

 

Jeish Lebnen… 3askar 3a Min?

It’s quite simple really. They flaunt their strength on the people who have no one to watch their back, no militia weapons in their arms and no wasta to clear their names. They dare to beat those people up for speaking. They dare to turn peaceful protests into matters of them flexing their muscles.

3askar 3a min? 3askar 3al d3if. 3askar 3a yalli ma fi bdahro 7ada. 3askar 3a yalli fiyon yesta2wo 3leih.

Lebanese Army

Photo by Bilal Jawich

Can we excuse them? Perhaps so. After all, the level of repression of power (as to not to say castration) in the picture below is too damn high. Something’s gotta give somewhere – and some Lebanese are the ones on whom that something is given every single time.

Picture courtesy of Naharnet

Picture courtesy of Naharnet

Armed forces that only use their power against the weak are not armed forces that can protect me. They are not armed forces I respect. They are not armed forces I feel any patriotism toward. They are armed forces that disgust me. And the latest protest wasn’t their first time at it recently. They also beat up students protesting Lebanon’s history book almost a year ago.

Can we expect otherwise from a country that is on the fast track to become an exemplary failure? Failure of governance, failure of politics, failure of a parliament, failure of mentalities and last but not least failure of an army.

I may not think the protests against the parliament’s mandate will get us anywhere – not when the country’s legal and judicial division is not even separate from the political debacle. Speaking of judicial power, let’s add another failure to the above list: the constitutional “joke” council. But it’s the damn right of the protesters not to get beaten up for protesting.

Do I live in a dictatorship? It’s sure feeling more and more like it with every single day. Teslam ya 3askar lebnen ya 7amina.

Pierre Hachach (El Ma2da7) Arrested

For those who don’t know Pierre Hachach, he’s the man from Batroun behind the “ma2da7” posters in the 2005 parliamentary elections: neyeb l akhdar wel yebes. He has since ventured into many other domains, such as singing.

Pierre Hachach was battered by rifles on his head and taken to the police with no legal warrant yesterday where he was refused medical care. His sister was also attacked and thrown on the streets as she demanded he be administered medical help. He has been held in prison since.

The charge? He insulted the head of the army on his Facebook profile. So as our army general heads the festivities of today’s independence day, Pierre Hachach bleeds on the floor of the HQ of Lebanon’s military police to which he was transferred today.

Last time I checked, it was the army’s duty to protect us not drag us to military court for stuff we post on our Facebook profiles. What harm did Kahwaji receive from Hachach’s supposed insult? What’s next? Round up anyone who dares speak up about any shortcomings in this nation, particularly when it comes to the army, and throw them in jail?

Besides, since when is it the job of the army to check people’s Facebook profiles for offenses against army general Jean Kahwaji? Don’t they have better things to do than stalk people’s profiles all day searching for things that could be held against them in court? And since when should we tolerate these laws that put some figures in power on a pedestal from any form of criticism, be it positive or negative?

Army general Jean Kahwaji may not know about what’s happening to Pierre Hachach and odds are he will ask for Hachach’s release when he knows. But the problem is with the arrest in the first place – we have resources to arrest people randomly but not the resources to enforce security on the entirety of the country.

So let’s focus on Facebook and those on Facebook who stray from the correct path and forget about every other thing taking place in this country. Allah ye7mik ya watan w allah yse3dna kamein. 

Update: It seems that Hachach was arrested not because he insulted the army commander but because he got into a personal feud with someone that led to the army arresting him. Hachach then innundated the army with a slur of swear words. 

Either way, I am against the arrest and especially against dragging him to military court.

Kataeb and Ahrar “History Book” Protest Turns Bloody – Reminiscent of Syrian Occupation Days

No, the above picture is not from the long gone anti-Syrian protests. No, the above picture is not out of a history book, which might never be written.

The above is a picture from a few hours ago, in Downtown Beirut, of Kataeb and Ahrar supporters getting beaten up by Lebanese armed forces, during a protest against the proposed history book, drafted by Lebanon’s unicolor government.

The differences between then and now are striking. The ultimate scene, however, is quite the same: Lebanese protesting flagrant violations of their rights and armed personnel beating them up for speaking up. The difference? The order to beat up the protesters was Syrian back then. This time, however, it’s Lebanese – or as “Lebanese” as it can get.

The Lebanese army was present. It did not interfere. After all, what’s the Lebanese army doing these days except sitting on the sidelines setting up checkpoints in irrelevant places, doing nothing to protect the people it should be working hard to keep safe?

The students were stopped by the armed forces on their way to the Grand Serail. As a result, 14 of the students were injured and transferred to nearby hospitals.

In a country with no victors, how could the current government expect people to forget about their history, their struggles, their own revolutions and be subdued to its version of a history which glorifies events that shouldn’t be glorified and forgets about other incidents that should never be forgotten?

In a country with no victors, how could the Lebanese armed forces take a side against the protesters in such a way, when if the other “team” protested, the only thing they’d be doing is cower away in their barracks eating tawouk? For our armed forces, a bunch of university students protesting a book is far more dangerous than hundreds of men dressed in black shirts roaming the streets of Beirut in obvious display of tactical power. Where were the armed forces then? Or do they only know to stand against those that are “weak” in Lebanese society?

In a country with no victors, what warrants a select group of unqualified people to write a book where they highlight the struggles of people from “down under,” while neglecting the struggles of every single other portion of Lebanese society?

I am sick and tired of being treated as subclass citizen by the state of Lebanon because:

1) I did not live under Israeli occupation.

2) I do not support a political party which flaunts its weapons.

3) I am not of a certain sect, which is protected by some “un”holy parties.

I am sick and tired of not being able to trust any of Lebanon’s armed forces and them not doing anything in any way whatsoever to bridge the gap of bias they have created across Lebanon.

I am sick and tired of loving a country so much when with each passing moment they make me feel like I have no place here – even when it comes to talking about a history book.

But I’m sorry to break it to them – students and real activists who were not deterred by the brutality of the Syrian regime will not fear a government whose only reason of existing is the “un”holy backbone it has. And a history book, which is as biased as the one currently written, will never pass.

After all, if a history book was irrelevant, why were those students beaten up?

Dear Egyptian Woman

Yes, that’s it… sit down on this chair.

Don’t be afraid, I’m not going to hurt you. After all, this is a necessary check-up because this is how low I have decided to sink.

Don’t be nervous. I know it’s not the most normal thing for someone in my position – no pun intended – to do, but after all that happened, this is a must.

Don’t be shy. It’s not like I haven’t seen one before.

Now, here’s what you should do. Spread them. Yes, your legs, spread them. It’s my duty to check if you’re still pure.

Why so? Because I am simply perverted. I don’t want you to accuse me of raping you and somehow in my twisted mind, you not being pure means you were not raped.

Will you be uptight if I try to touch it? Like right there? Does it feel good?

Don’t cry. I don’t want you to cry. This is just a formal procedure.

But damn it, this is seriously turning me on… do you think I could probe in some more?

It won’t be counted as rape, even if you said no. After all, you are not pure – for that is the only measure I can think of.

So what do you say? are you in or out?

Out? Don’t be so rude now. I need this. I need you. I want you. You don’t want me too?

No? Are you serious? Do you really want me to take you on this table like the slut you really are? Yes? You’d like that?

It’s not rape after all.

Sincerely,

Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) in Egypt.

Source Code – Movie Review

U.S. Army captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up on a train. He doesn’t know how he got there. He doesn’t know who the girl in front of him is and why she’s calling him Sean. He’s disorienteted. He says he’s not Sean. He’s a U.S. Army captain whose last mission was in Afghanistan… and soon enough, the train blows up and Colter Stevens wakes up in what looks like a capsule, being talked to by a woman named Goodwin (Vera Farmiga).

Colter Stevens is told he’s inside the “Source Code”, a program that takes him back to Sean Fentress’ last eight minutes of life, before he died on the train heading to Chicago that morning. He’s supposed to find the bomber because a second attack is planned, one that would take the lives of millions of people. And so Stevens is taken back to the train many times, each time discovering that the sequence of events isn’t necessarily the same as before and thinking that maybe he could change the events altogether.

 

The intricacies of “Source Code” are not the main mystery about this movie, nor is the bomber. It’s Colter Stevens himself and having figured it out way early in the movie did not forbid me from thoroughly enjoying this.

Jake Gyllenhaal is the movie’s greatest asset. He fuses together the movie’s action side with a sensible side that is, with most action movies, hard to come by. I’ve been very impressed lately with many of his movies, notably Love and Other Drugs, and I thought he doesn’t let down here.

Vera Farmiga is great as usual also, even though her role is sort of limited as the behind-the-screen Goodwin who starts to communicate with Colter Stevens on a deeper level than just a military personnel directing a mission. Her role in this is more toned down than Up In The Air but it’s still great.

And Michelle Monaghan, in portraying Christina, the girl on the train, and despite the limited number of lines she was given (I mean, she does repeat the same sentence over and over again), I thought she was great as well, making you believe that Stevens could actually fall in love with her in the eight minutes they have together.

“Source Code” is not your regular sci-fi action movie. I would categorize it more as a thriller because it’s deeply more engaging than any other action movie I have watched lately. Not only do you get to connect with the characters but you really hope that, somehow, they get to be saved.

Moreover, Source Code is not void of emotions. While most of these emotions are tucked away in the end, you can’t help but be hit with them when they appear on screen. I will not spoil the center theme upon which they revolve but you will definitely feel them when you watch this.

Overall, Source Code is a thought provoking and engaging thriller. Directing in it is great as well by newcomer Duncan Jones, who doesn’t seem affected by the much dreaded sophomore slump. Are the memories that are being relived read-only data or can they be altered? Some people will not appreciate the confusion that this movie poses at certain times, especially since continuity is an issue that is very difficult to follow in movies like this (a la Inception), but overall, while watching it, Source Code will make you submerge in it. After you get out, however, and start thinking about the movie, you realize there are some plot-holes they left unanswered. Was it intentional? Perhaps so. But this is definitely one of the better movies of 2011 so far, one that I think every movie enthusiast should consider watching.

The Domino Effect

It all started in a quiet Tunisian city named “Sidi Bouzid”. An unemployed college graduate was selling fruits and vegetables on the street when his cart was taken by the police due to lack of authorization. He rebelled. He lit himself on fire. And soon enough, his whole city lost its quietness and lit its rebel voice.

A mini-domino game followed. Neighboring cities starting protesting against the status quo in their country: political oppression, unfair elections, squashed liberties. In a matter of days, the whole country was rebelling. They wanted change. They were willing to die for this change. And change happened: the president, Ben Ali, succumb to his people’s demands and resigned.

I will not go into the details of what happened in Tunisia after that. The Tunisians have a long way to go in order to build the country that I believe they deserve.

Tunisia was a major domino piece. Soon enough, many in the neighboring countries of Algeria, Egypt, Mauritania… started to try to implement change in their countries by copycat acts of burning themselves. These didn’t work.

However, on January 25th, Egypt rose. Egypt, the country of the pharaohs, rendered in a near coma after years and years of even worse oppression, decided to stand up for what it is. The people started rebelling. They started to stand up for what they deserve, for the life they should be leading.

Egypt is a country of over 75 million inhabitants. Many of those live such a poor life that describing it is truly saddening. Imagine living with less than $1 per day. That’s not even enough money for a bottle of water in some places. Yet these people lived by.

But on January 25th, they decided their life’s standards were no more acceptable. The Egyptians are revolting. Hosni Mubarak’s 30 year rule is, hopefully, nearing an end. His speech yesterday made it clear that this is a very tired man who cannot rule a country as important as Egypt anymore. He cannot fulfill his people’s needs, regardless of if he ever actually fulfilled them.

My hopes for the Egyptians at this point is to not let their will down. Their army and police are fighting them back. But soon enough, these forces will let down. They are, at the end of the day, part of the people they are trying to keep at bay. These people want to be with the protesters on the other side. But they’re still afraid. So hang in there. I know it’s much easier to preach than to be there. But Egyptians, you are a great population of many, many numbers… use those numbers to your advantage. And know that you are not alone in your fight.

I’m worried, however, that in these countries where the political regime is changing, worse people would take over. It would be catastrophic if the people of Egypt and Tunisia did not go by true democracies now that they have the opportunity to change and instead went by Islamic rule. You might say it is unlikely but these movements are surging in more “open” countries than Egypt and Tunisia, such as Turkey. One would assume that countries where these movements are somewhat strong would have an even bigger surge now that the opportunity is there for them to do so – and ultimately get to power. Islamists arriving to power would be detrimental to the whole region. Now that you have the opportunity to change, let this change reflect positively on the region as a whole.

You might wonder why I chose my title to be “The Domino Effect”. The answer is quite simple. For the region around it, Tunisia was a “Sidi Bouzid”. The power the people of Tunisia showed radiated to their neighboring countries and filled the people of those countries with strength and hope that they could change their lives as well.

The domino effect might also be applicable to the presidents of the countries where this is happening. But presidents are not important. They come and go. They might stay for a while, as has been the case for Tunisia and Egypt. But what really remains is the people. The people are the catalyst of anything that goes on in a country. If they feel subdued, the country is subdued and those who take advantage of that will be happy. The presidents, whose reigns are nearing their end, were taking advantage of their peoples being conformists. But that is no more. Their people are revolting. They want them out. And soon enough, out they will be – along with their dynastic, uptight and oppressive mindsets.

Tunisia was the first chip in a giant domino game involving many countries. And this game was purely initiated by the people. Not other countries making it look like these people started it – but by a single man whose college degree was not getting him anywhere and who didn’t see any horizons in front of him. What I hope those in charge around the world would take out of this is to never take the people they are in charge of for granted. Those people got you where you are and even in the darkest of situations, this people will rise again.

Here’s hoping some other populations follow suit…

And these are pictures of the current protests in Egypt: