Why Did The UN, Canadian and French Embassies Know About The Explosion But Not Us Lebanese?

News of an explosion in the Verdun area of Beirut is currently the most horrifying thing to happen in Lebanon in a long time.

The positive aspect of things is that the damage seems to be only material with BLOM’s HQ being the apparent target. As of now, there are no casualties. The attack happening around Iftar time means that few people were around the area as well.

At a time when some entities want this to become a reality for us in Lebanon, no casualties is a sigh of relief.

One has to wonder though, how did the UN, Canadian and French embassies know that such a thing would happen over the weekend and we, as Lebanese, had no inkling or warning whatsoever?

The pictures at the top of the article are two statements issued by the UN and the Canadian authorities respectively to their constituents to avoid the specific area of Beirut that was targeted, and Hamra in general.

Two days ago, the French Foreign Affairs ministry escalated Lebanon’s security status and warned its citizens from visiting the country.

The above also applies to the instructions workers at international NGOs operating in the country received this weekend.

The question therefore begets itself: where was our entire security apparatus from all of this? Why is our worth as Lebanese always less than every single other nationality in our own country? If international agencies and foreign countries had suspicions that such a thing could happen, were our security forces not aware or were they not in the loop to begin with?

No casualties is no excuse for us to let such a thing pass by unnoticed. It is our right as Lebanese to live in our country with the utmost levels of security, not to be second class entities in our own land and in our own homes.

Right now is not the time to discuss the politics of such an attack and whether it occurring is obvious or not, or whether the context of such an attack and the bank it targets points fingers. Right now is the time to hope that no innocent life has been lost in this country for being at the wrong place at the wrong time once again, for us being perpetual victims of our existence in this land.

Stay safe everyone.

 

Advertisements

Sia Is Coming To The Byblos Festival On August 9th


A source of mine just sent me the line-up of this summer’s Byblos Festival, in an otherwise very quiet lead up.

This same time last year, the festival had already confirmed John Legend and I had leaked Alt-J performing. Many had thought the festival was out of big names for this summer, but it seems we’ve all been wrong.

Sia, the Australian super star behind songs such as Chandelier and Titanium, will be performing on August 9th. No words yet on whether she will show her face, but her voice will more than suffice either way.

This will be Sia’s first performance in the entire Middle East. It will be a recreation of her critically acclaimed showcase at Coachella. 

In a surprisingly disappointing line-up, Sia seems to be the main draw when it comes to international talent. 

Other acts that will also be in the festival are Mashrou’ Leila, Hishik Bishik and Carole Samaha as Lebanese performers and renowned saxophonist Kenny G as well as Grace Jones.

The full line-up is present at the above picture and ticket prices will be as follows:

Standing:

– Regular: $75,

– Golden Circle: $125.

Sitting: $70, $90 and $150.

What Beirut’s Election Results Tell: Lebanon Can Hope For Change

Beirut Madinati - bIERTE list 2016 2

This post was written with Ramez Dagher from Moulahazat

As promised earlier, this is the more detailed look at how Beirut voted, beyond the surprisingly great outing of the civil movement Beirut Madinati’s list, which even though it didn’t get actual seats, still has plenty to celebrate.

It is important to note that in the most optimistic of cases, the chances for any list other than the list of the political parties to win was next to zero. No this isn’t retrospective analysis. 

Despite the context of the trash crisis, rising corruption, overall voter discontentment, parliament extending its mandate twice, etc… the math of the Beirut electoral equation was never in favor of any non-political movement: the division of districts, the system, demographics, the sectarian propaganda – The Bierteh list had tried to attract voters – especially Christian ones – by proposing a 50-50 Christian/Muslim list, although Beirut Madinati had also kept the same quota.

So no, the cards were not the best that could be given for Beirut Madinati, or any other movement for that matter, simply because those cards were being played on a table that served only one side: the political establishment.

As a result of all of the above, the loudest of voters on Sunday was the low turnout.

20% Voted:

This is not a historically low number. In 2010, 18% of Beirutis voted. Beirutis simply do not vote in Municipal elections, and only do so at slightly higher numbers in parliamentary ones: 33% in 2009.

This is due to many factors. Voter learned helplessness is an important one, but so is the feel that there really isn’t a contest to begin with further increasing the sense of voter apathy. 

33% voted in 1998, the first election since the Civil War, and the lower turnout since should be enough to tell you how much people lost faith.

Many partisan voters were also not willing to vote for the “zayy ma hiye” list but did not want to break lines.

Achrafieh El Bidayi:

Beirut Madinati won the Beirut 1 district with around 60% of the vote, a blow to the rallying calls of Christian parties in the area for their supporters to vote for the Bierti’s list. The 60% figure is not only exclusive to the mostly-Christian Beirut 1, but is also applicable to the Christian vote in the rest of Beirut.

This doesn’t mean the weight of the LF and FPM combined is 40%. Many LF and FPM leaning voters voted for Beirut Madinati more against Hariri, but it sets the precedence that politically affiliated people can go beyond their affiliations and vote in a way that breaks what they were instructed to do.

Boycotts from the bases of the FPM, LF, and Kataeb were also there on election day, as a sign of disagreement with the recent choices of their parties: The FPM electorate isn’t a fan of Hariri; the LF base isn’t a fan of an alliance with the FPM, and the Kataeb aren’t fans of anything.

This lack of enthusiasm was probably one of the causes of the lower turnout in Christian polling stations.

The context of such a vote, however, is probably not sectarian as is circulating. Achrafieh is one of Beirut’s higher socioeconomic areas, with higher income and education rates. You’ll probably see a similar phenomenon in the higher socio-economic districts of Beirut III. Those residents are more likely to vote for issues such as reform, transportation and trash sorting. Those are also the voters that are the less afraid of change.

Many if not all of Lebanon’s parties count on clientelism to widen their electoral base. In higher socio-economic echelons, the reliance of the electorate on the mainstream parties is less.  Those voters don’t need their political parties in the neo-socialist way that most parties in Lebanon function. In Achrafieh, for example, the LF and FPM do not provide medical services, free education, job opportunities for Achrafieh voters as much as other parties in other districts, so throughout the years, the electorate managed to develop an independence from traditional Christian parties.

The Example Of Tariq El Jdide: Anyone Can Be Reached

Sectarian talk is terrible, but is a necessary evil until the political system is not one where people go and vote in segregation based on how they pray. If you crunch Beirut’s numbers, you will end up with a rough figure of around 30% of the Sunni vote not going to Hariri.

This is probably as important, if not more, than BM winning 60% of the vote in Beirut 1.

I don’t believe we can call this a dissent from the Future Movement yet, but it is a continuation of the gradual and progressive Sunni dislike of the way Saad Hariri is running things, even with his rise of popularity after his return.

The reason the Future Movement won is not because voters are “sheep.” It’s because the Future Movement, through various governmental policies, has forced the people of many Sunni areas to always remain in need for their intervention to get the basic necessities that should be a right for every Lebanese citizen, which many in other areas have access to without needing their political parties: do not cut the hand that feeds you.

The political framework of the elections is important. They come at a time when Sunnis in Lebanon feel increasingly threatened by being categorized as potential-Islamists, to the background of a party in power fighting for a regime they do not approve of in Syria.

The need to not break rank was never greater. They may not approve of Hariri, but this was not the time to show it, and yet 30% did. The situation in the country is not one where sects have the prerogative to show cracks in their facade, or have we forgotten how Christians have also forced a seemingly unbreakable veneer over the past few months as well?

All of this makes the 30% figure of Sunnis who did not vote for Hariri all the more impressive and courageous. It’s the kind of percentage that breaks taboos.

Moving Forward:

The election’s overall results are telling. In Beirut I, the LF representative Elie Yahchouchi and the FPM’s Traboulsi lead their allies in the FM by around 800 votes (of around 6500 the list got). In Beirut II, with its important Shia and Armenian electorate, almost all of the winning candidates from LB are in the 9000 votes region. One candidate however, Amal’s representative, stands out as having 10000 votes. In the third district, Yahchouchi and Traboulsi are 5000 votes behind the FM’s candidates.

The difference between the first and the last of list is around 8000 votes for LB, and 3000 votes for BM. In other words, most of those who voted BM did not make major changes to their lists (“tochtib”) and were convinced with almost all of BM’s candidates, while the base of every single party in power was modifying the names.

That is the biggest proof that the ruling coalition is unstable, and that in 2017, even a minor split between the parties in power can lower that 60% and give way to an independent breakthrough. Check the results here.

But now is time to look ahead.

Our voting process needs to be modernized. 36 hours to go through Beirut’s voting results is a disgrace. There are no excuses.

The rhetoric we need to adopt should never call those who do not vote the way we want sheep or other varieties of animals. It is demeaning, and not any different than the system we want to change. Such horrific name-calling only alienates voters from your platform. The core of democracy is one where many will not vote the way you find is best.

Our rhetoric should also be more inclusive, and less elitist. Our bubble in which we believe our paradigm of Lebanese politics is scripture is exclusive to the people that are reached by our message, but the bulk of voters exist outside of that bubble. We need to be aware that what we know and believe is true doesn’t translate to others and work on reforming our message to make it holistic.

This means that calls to divide Beirut into smaller districts just because Achrafieh voted one way and Tariq el Jdide voted another are horrifyingly xenophobic. Beirut is a city that is 18 km2 with 500,000 voters only. It is too small to be divided. We need policies to bring people together, not segregate them into separate cantons.

Accomplishing so starts by championing policies to better the conditions of all Beirutis, especially those that exist in impoverished areas. Beirut Madinati did not, for instance, campaign as much as it should have in Tariq el Jdide.

Political parties in the country keep people at bay by keeping them afraid and hungry. Keep them as such, and they remain at their mercy. The first step in breaking this political hegemony is to make them need their political parties less: advocate for better schools, better and more comprehensive healthcare, fight economic inflation, raise the minimum wage, adopt a better taxing scheme, etc…

Such measures, however, cannot be done by simply complaining on Facebook. Modernizing our elections isn’t only about getting electronic voting machines, but also about having an electoral law that is fitting of the year 2016. The only law that can work to represent all different sections of Lebanon’s society is a law based on proportional representation. If such a law were adopted, for example, Beirut Madinati would have obtained 9 seats out of the available 24 on Sunday.

Proportional representation, as proposed during a cabinet meeting in 2010 tackling the municipal electoral law, is one of many reforms, such as electing the mayor directly from the people, and a 30% women quota, that are napping in parliament. The establishment is making it harder, but that shouldn’t mean that pressure should stop.

We also need to realize that, despite disagreeing with them, political parties are not going away. If we are to leave a mark, we have to find a framework in which we organize into a party that can compete better in elections, in politics and do so in unity: one of our biggest failings in this election was having like-minded people run on two different lists.

Today, we should be cautiously optimistic at what the future holds. Change in Lebanon is not a sudden process. It’s a tedious affair that needs planning over many years. Start planning for 2017’s parliamentary elections today and 2022’s municipal elections yesterday. Do not despair, and most importantly, always challenge the status quo regardless of how comfortable you are in it.

 

40% Of Beirutis Voted For Beirut Madinati: Yes, Change Is Possible!

IMG_3944

After more than 36 hours, Beirut’s results have been revealed and Beirut Madinati, the little list that could, ended up getting 40% of the Beiruti vote, in an election where the super low voter turnout was probably the loudest voter.

The race turned out to be much closer than the Future Movement’s electoral machine said it was. On the same day of the elections, they called victory theirs with a difference of 25,000 to 30,000 votes. The actual result turned out to be half that.

In fact, the difference between the lowest vote getter on Hariri’s list and the highest on Beirut Madinati is only 7000 votes.

The results per Beiruti region are as follows:

13165931_10154823413818294_8449035637678219607_n

This translates to the following:

Beirut 1: BM 60%, LB 40%;

Beirut 2: LB 65%, BM 35%,

Beirut 3: LB 64%, BM 36%.


This shows that change is possible. If 6 months’ work ended up with such a massive result, it shows that people are willing to go beyond their political lines to choose that they find would be better for their future.

As I said yesterday, Beirut Madinati are victorious even if they didn’t actually win. I will write a more detailed post about the numbers later.

Why Voting for “Beirut Madinati” Is Of Vital Importance To Get A Better Lebanon

Beirut Madinati May 8th vote

The first lesson we are taught back in our school’s civics class was the following: you, as a citizen, have rights and duties. Voting is a combination of both – it is the only way for you to hold those in power accountable.

We, as Lebanese, haven’t had the chance to hold those in power accountable for more than half a decade now. Starting this Sunday, and for a month, is our chance to do so.

Beirut Madinati is running against the “Beirutis List,” an agglomeration of 24 candidates that represent every single party in power. Yes, every one of them. The Tashnag are there. The Hanshak are there. The FPM and LF, in their new found love in a hopeless place, are there. Berri and the Future Movement are also there.

The Future Movement, which had up until a month ago accused Hezbollah of being the party behind killing their founder and Saad’s father, is now in bed with those same people in Beirut, not that that would stop them from using Rafik Hariri’s memory in all kinds of vote sympathy mongering.

The FPM which was a few months ago calling the Future Movement “Lebanon’s ISIS” is now in bed with them as well. All for one single reason: to kill a movement for the people, by the people, asking for change.

The reason why it is of VITAL importance to give your vote for Beirut Madinati on Sunday is to say that the current situation as is will not be tolerated anymore. As the saying goes: voting for it “zayy ma hiye” will keep the situation “zay ma houwe.” Their electoral tactics are zayy ma hiye: intimidation, fear, hate and sectarianism. 

Voting for Beirut Madinati is not a vote for a simple municipal election. It is our chance as a country, through Beirutis, to vote against the establishment that has been screwing us for years. It is our chance to say enough is enough. It is our chance to challenge the entire political establishment that is united in trying to bring us down, again, and our chance to start reclaiming our country, starting with its capital.

If you’ve forgotten, let me tell remind you of the situation you’re living in:

– The city of Beirut currently has no water. It’s only May, and it’s still raining. I literally bought water yesterday to be able to shower. I see this becoming a worse pattern as summer rolls by.

– The city of Beirut is stinking of garbage. Its people are going to hospitals with all kinds of respiratory problems because of the smell. The pollution because of the garbage crisis will take years to resolve.

– Many of the youth of Beirut not only don’t live in Beirut anymore, but have left the country, as is the case with many Lebanese, for better opportunities. Hashtag My Dubai. Maybe we should just keep calling Dubai Madinati instead so el sheikh Saad ma yez3al?

– The city’s Centre, Nejmeh Square, is currently off access to its people and all Lebanese. Why? Because our parliament that is not even working is present there. Spoiler alert: foreigners are allowed to enter.

– You, as Beiruti and Lebanese, are always under the mercy of whichever politician you have the displeasure of encountering. If you’re on the road driving and you come by one of their convoys, they will run you over to move ahead. It is the way things are when entities feel they are always above reproach.

– You, as Beiruti and Lebanese, are worth nothing more than $100 on Election Day for your politicians.  They don’t care about planning for a better future for you and your children. They only care about you voting for them on Election Day.

– The situation is so comically sad that clubs in the country are being forced to close the day before each mohafaza votes, which happens to be on the day those places make the most money: on Saturday. The system doesn’t even know how to function without killing your livelihood.

– The political establishment has worked tirelessly to sell your land to the highest bidder, to ban you from going to the beach that is your public property, to wall off Raoucheh from its people to turn it into a construction site, to destroy your heritage.

– The political establishment has made your economy such a mess that your child is born with $15,000 in debt.

– The political establishment has made your reality in such a way that you and your children are limited by where you are born, the sect you are born into, who you know, and how much money you have.

– The political establishment has not been able to give you a president. It’s been two years. It has stolen your right to vote two times so far to keep itself in power. It has not managed to come up with a decent electoral law.

– The political establishment tried to KILL you in August when you protested against their trash. They were not even sorry.

– The political establishment funds its own wars, as was the case in Tripoli, and you’re the last of their concerns. It takes tax money out of you but gives you nothing in return but hell.

Do you want to keep the status quo as it is? Do you want to give the politicians that have been ruining your life a free pass for more years to come? Do you want them to keep running unchecked, aware that no matter how horrible they are, no matter how badly they treat you, no matter how little a bug they see you, no matter how many times you curse them over the years, they can count on you falling in line when it counts, on Election Day?

Say no to keeping the country braindead, and vote Beirut Madinati.

Sectarianism, Hate & Fear: How Hariri’s List Is Fighting Beirut Madinati

Beirut Madinati - bIERTE list 2016 2

As a rule of thumb in the Lebanese political scene, you should know you’re doing something right when all kinds of political groups from all across the political spectrum rally against you and fight you in the dirtiest of ways, slogans and rhetorics.

The “Byerte” list, translating to the Beirutis List, with its slogan “Keep Beirut For Its People” was Hariri and the political establishment’s choice for the upcoming municipal elections on May 8th. Of course, the slogan “Keep Beirut For Its People” is nothing more than a simple variation of the equally xenophobic, horrific political rhetoric rising around the world today, championed by people like Donald Trump. If they had the audacity, they might as well run with “Make Beirut Great Again” and be done with it.

The fact of the matter is no area in the country is exclusive to “its people,” and certainly not the capital which houses 50% of the Lebanese population.

Of course, those politicians had no problem with making sure all investment is placed in Beirut only while forgetting other regions entirely. Those politicians had no problem spending billions of dollars in post war restoration that belonged to the whole country to rebuild Beirut’s heart, making it heartless in the process.

They also had no problem in entertaining the idea of taking Beirut’s trash to places like Akkar. Clearly, keeping Beirut for Beirutis does not extend to their garbage.

Those politicians had no problem as well in championing policies over years to make Beirut not remotely affordable to its own people, unless we now have plans to nationalize GCC citizens.

Those politicians had no problem in making sure Beirut sunk in garbage and stunk of its smell, of its streets being the scene of fights and death that happened not even 8 years ago – ironically on the day the elections are supposed to happen.

I can go on and on, but the epitome of it all is in the fact that Hariri isn’t from Beirut to begin with. Say hi to Saida for me, why don’t you?

Horrifying slogans aside, the Future Movement and the rest of political groups in that list are rallying people in the only way they know how: fear and sectarianism.

Behold a Hariri supporter’s latest magnum opus on Facebook:

Hariri list Beirut 2016

It’s precisely rhetoric like this that shows how despicable and afraid those in governance can get, in order to instill this sense of fear and hatred in those who support them, by getting them to fabricate silly, redundant and baseless arguments in order to main a status quo that just doesn’t work.

Omar Chebaro is not alone. Many Beiruti Sunnis as well as other sects or party enthusiasts entertain the notion that opposing Hariri’s list would be unwise simply because it means falling out of rank at a time when doing so is not in the better interest of their sect. What I heard repeatedly goes along the lines: “you can’t be secular in a sectarian environment.”

This is not a justification to support Hariri’s list of “same old same old” at a time when people are dying, suffocating, and getting poisoned from that same old same old. It is in municipal elections that you can stand up to those who have taken you for granted and whose entire message is not one that’s based in the future but in a past rooted in bigotry and brainwashing.

Dear Beirutis, Sunni and otherwise, Beirut Madinati is not the list of Civil Marriage. A list running for Municipal Elections cannot enforce Civil Marriage, regardless of what its candidates believe regarding that issue.

Dear Beirutis, Sunni and otherwise, Beiruti Madinati will not set Beirut on the path to become a haven for sin. Walaw? Don’t be fooled by hateful messages whose only purpose is to get you to vote the way a party that has failed over and over and over again wants you to on May 8th.

Dear Beirutis, Sunni and otherwise, your vote on May 8th is really, very simple:

You can vote for trash. You can vote for the garbage filling your streets. You can vote for the smell that has made you vomit every day for the past 3 weeks. You can vote for the city in which you can’t afford to buy an apartment. You can vote for the city whose downtown you cannot even enter. You can vote for the roads congested with cars at any moment of any day. You can vote for poisoned water, poisoned food, poisoned air.

If you vote that way, you’d be voting for Beirut today, Beirut the city that is dying because of the policies of that who wants you to believe you have no other choice because you’re Sunni, or Orthodox, or from Beirut born and bred, keeping Beirut for its people, because its people are not all Lebanese.

Or you can vote to change things. You can vote to those who are not taking your vote for granted, but going to your neighborhood to ask you: what do you need? You can vote to those who have taken the time to write a 32 pages program for you, not someone asking you to vote for them just because you should.

On May 8th, the choice couldn’t really be simpler. I hope you choose those who are good, not those who make you afraid of wanting better.

Meet The Candidates Of Beirut Madinati

Beirut Madinati Candidates

Beirut Madinati, the independent and refreshing campaign overtaking the Beirut political establishment, has just announced its list of candidates for the upcoming Municipal elections of the city, set to be held on May 8th.

As I wrote yesterday, the work to get to this list at hand was not, in typical Lebanese fashion, a who’s who along the echelons of a political party. It was more than 80 active participants in the movement gathering and discussing for months on ends the wide array of possibilities that they could offer the city. The result is as follows: a list that is equally men and women, 12 members each, representative of all the city’s neighborhoods and communities, and consisting of people who have made a name for themselves in their respective domains.

Not only is the list equally balanced between men and women, but 6 out of 24 are considered of the youth group, 16 are middle aged candidates and 2 are seniors. Compare this with an average age of more than 60 in our cabinet, and the contrast is striking.

The candidates are as follows:

Ibrahim Mneimneh: president, architect and urban planner (Mazraa).

Tarek Ammar: vice president; He’s the CEO of a researching company with over 16 years of experience in the field. (Achrafieh).

Iman Ghandour: Private sector worker, former deputy head of the “IC alumni association,” member of the board of many festivals around Beirut and Lebanon (Bashoura).

Mona Hallak: Architect, Executive committee member of the Association for the Protection of Sites and Old Buildings in Lebanon. Was an activist in the protection of Rawcheh movement and the reason behind “Maison Barakat” being saved. (Mazraa).

Rana Khoury: Advertising creative director and a board member of the Samir Kassir Foundation (Bashoura).

Nada Doghan: Historian and member of the Civil Society. CEO of the Arab project “Kitab fi Jarida” in cooperation with UNESCO. (Msaytbeh).

May Daouk: Interior architect, supporter of Skoon and the Samir Kassir foundation, as well as activist for women rights in Lebanon. (Msaytbeh).

Najib el Dik: Head of the Beirut fishers associations in Ain el Mreisseh and former head of Beirut’s fisherman syndicate, (Minet el Hosn).

Marwan Al Taibi: Journalist, head of the “Al Yawm” newspaper and consultant (Bashoura).

Walid El Alami: Cardiologist who graduated from AUB, the University of Oklahoma and Baylor. He returned to Lebanon in 2012 and is part of the “IC alumni association.” (Ras Beirut).

Levon Telvizian: Architect, professor at the Lebanese University, was head of the urban planning program there. He’s currently an advisor for multiple development NGOs and works with UNESCO for housing in Lebanon. (Rmeil).

Yorgui Teyrouz: Phamacist and founder of Donner Sang Compter (Rmeil).

Abdul Halim Jabr: Architect and urban design expert, as well as part time university professor. Activist against the Fouad Boutros highway and in many other conservation fights in Beirut. (Msaytbeh).

Mark Geara: Real estate developer (Achrafieh).

Houssam Hawa: Agriculture engineer, AUB graduate with a Masters degree from Holland. Activist in many environmental causes. (Achrafieh)

Carole Tueini: Media sector, was an anchor on MTV before joining Disney MENA, where she eventually became an executive producer. (Achrafieh).

Amal Cherif: Art director and advocate for people with disability (Zkak al-Blat).

Nada Sehnaoui: an artist and painter, founding member of the Civil Center for National Initiative (Achrafieh).

Farah Kobeissy: Political science expert and human rights activist (Zkak al- Blat).

Ahmad Kaabour: Renowned singer, songwriter and composer (Mazraa).

Nadine Labaki: Leading Lebanese director, behind movies such as “W Halla2 la Wein” and “Caramel” (Achrafieh).

Maria Manok: Lower school head of division at Ahliyyah School (Msaytbeh).

Rita Maalouf: Expert in forensics, returned to Lebanon from the United States in 2008. She’s the first forensics expert in Lebanon’s Ministry of Justice. (Ras Beirut).

Serge Yazegi: Architect, urban planner and lecturer at ALBA (Achrafieh).

Good luck to these people on May 8th. Change is possible. Change needs you – if you can vote in Beirut – to go down to your precint on May 8th and choose those that have fought for you for years, choose those who know how it is to lead the city in the proper direction, choose those who are not the status quo.

Write down their names.