From Lebanon To Saudi Arabia: Thanks For Declaring War On Us, But Can You Chill The Fuck Down?

In today’s episode of “The Bullshit Roaming The Kingdom of Saud,” Saudi Arabia has – through one of its ministers – declared war on the tiny country of Lebanon as it accuses of Hezbollah of launching a missile from Yemen on its capital, Riyadh, on Saturday, naturally without providing any proof of any sort to reinforce such an accusation.

While the premise of Saudi military action against Lebanon is far-fetched; after all, they are barely holding it together in Yemen against some rebels anyway, the mere notion of such a huge and capable country declaring war against Lebanon is horrifying.

What this means is that Saudi Arabia can turn Lebanon into another Qatar (minus the money) effectively barricading it both economically and strategically. As it stands, Saudi Arabia does not want Hezbollah to have anything to do with any form of governance in the country, effectively considering the mere presence of the party in any government a declaration of war. Dramatic much? Perhaps. But then again, a country that arrested 11 princes only 48 hours ago is not exactly one known to go out with grace.

Such a declaration of war can mean chaos to many Lebanese families and our entire economy, especially with politicians that have made sure over the years to interconnect our entire country’s fabrics to us being in the Kingdom’s good graces. Yes, Saad and family, we are looking at you.

I imagine that KSA’s demands will be very Hezbollah centric. As we all know, requests to halt any military activity by that specific party are near impossible for us as Lebanese to fulfill. Whether we want to or not, Hezbollah is stronger than the Lebanese state, is backed by a regime that is as strong as Saudi Arabia, and is influential enough to even terrify the mighty House of Saud.

What Saudi Arabia can do, however, is cause so much economical damage that Lebanon can take years to recover. Thousands of Lebanese families are dependent on work in KSA for their livelihood. Thousands of projects in the country are dependent on Saudi funding. Even more projects and economic dependency is illustrated once you factor in other GCC countries (minus Qatar) that also fall in line whenever Saudi Arabia orders them to.

Unlike Qatar, however, Lebanon does not have the financial or economic backbone to withstand an effective blockade against it from mighty countries that were, up until a few hours ago, “very concerned” about its well-being as a country. What could this mean for Hezbollah? The party has received such threats from Israel before, but where Israeli threats remain predominantly as such, Saudi Arabia could tangibly put a blockade into effect.

So dear Saudi Arabia,

We know it’s been hard for you. Trying to enable a new bratty prince is difficult, especially when his view of the world is so different from anything you’re used to that it’s sort of threatening everything you’ve known. Your clerics are angry, some of your ruling class are angry, a lot of your men are angry now that you’ve let your women drive (welcome to 2017). And then add in those low prices of oil. Have you tried a Prozac, perhaps? Xanax does wonders too.

We know you’ve been stretched too thin. A war in Yemen, a blockade that’s not working against Qatar, a feud with Iran that is not going your way, an American president who’s only concerned with wanting you to sell stocks in the New York Stock Exchange, but could you maybe have developed some hearing deficiency? I’m pretty sure you saying we declared war on you is way too similar to that kid in recess back during school days who’d beat up other kids and then go run to his mother saying it’s the other way around.

Look at the bright side though, you’re slowly becoming BFFs with Israel. Yes for new friends, isn’t that nice?

In the grand scheme of things, I wonder: are you okay? You seem to be more demanding than that ex we all have and despise. Do you want to talk about all those issues you keep piling up? Is letting women drive really causing your societies to unravel so much you can’t even get your shit together anymore and feel the need to declare war on small countries just so you can feel mighty?

You already have our prime minister in knots around your fingers. His allegiance is literally with you, and not his country. He escaped to you in the moment you declared war on the country he was governing. What more do you want from us? Is Saad not enough? I mean look at him! He looks so happy to be there, with his fancy smartwatch.

To put it blunty, can you chill the fuck down and mind your own business for once? Of course not, what a silly question.

P.S.: I hope you’re happy, Saad! ❤

Sincerely,

Lebanese citizens concerned for their families back home. 

A Love Story From The War-Torn Rooftops of Tripoli To Lebanon

Love and War on the Rooftop - a Tripolitan tale

Welcome to Lebanon’s Tripoli, the city most of the country loves to hate.

A few months ago, whenever Tripoli was mentioned in casual conversation, it would be surrounded by a spew of sectarian hate speech. That conversation you heard or maybe even pa
rticipated in probably lacked depth, was never in context, always judgmental and served to further deepen the chasm between this Northern city and the rest of the country.

There’s nothing in this country that’s a more heart-breaking story or tragedy than the current state of Tripoli. Boasting the country’s biggest old souks, richest people, most important architectural feats and second largest population, it is also the country’s poorest, least developed, least cared for and least acknowledged place.

A lot can be said about that city, and I have over, and over, and over again. One thing for sure, however, is that the potential that Tripoli has is gigantic, if only we can tap into it. Lebanon’s NGO March, which you’d know from the popular Stop Cultural Terrorism in Lebanon page, have done just that. 

Over the past 4 months, director Lucien Abou Rjeili gathered together 16 young men and women from Tripoli’s Bab el Tebbeneh, Ebbeh and Jabal Mohsen neighborhoods and embarked on a conflict resolution project with them, in order to build bridges and see what can come out of it.

Those men and women were, prior to those 4 months, on opposite sides of Syria Street, witnesses to the bullets and rockets being fired by people they perhaps know, convinced that the person across that green line was their enemy until Kingdom come. Well, kingdom came.

Through acting exercises with the likes of Nadine Labaki, Georges Khabbaz, Rafic Ali Ahmad, those 16 men and women found themselves not looking at each other as enemies, but as friends. Instead of being wary of going to the sessions, they became excited. They’d want to go, see their friend from Jabal Mohsen or Bab el Tebbaneh, and maybe even hang out with them afterwards.

In the midst of that, those 16 men and women got threats. What they were doing did not sit well with higher up forces who know that their true power can only be fed by hate being present all the time between Jabal Mohsen and Bab el Tebbaneh: friendship, amicability and humanity should not be allowed.

Those young heroes stuck through it anyway. They knew what they were doing was more important than threats: they were setting an example, coming up with a beautiful story for their city and the country, a story that had to be told.

The result of those 4 months was a play called “Love and War on the Rooftop – A Tripolitan Tale,” featuring every single one of those 16 men and women in roles that tell the story, in satire, of their lives on the rooftops of their neighborhoods, as they try to be friends to the backdrop of bombs, snipers, death and inter-sectarian love.

Meet the cast:

In the play’s one hour duration, those young men and women, through their humor, their Northern accent, their interaction and the sheer passion with which they performed showed a jam-packed room a side of Tripoli that those people had probably never seen before: a city whose youth just want to have fun, be friends with each other, love each other and give you something to laugh at in the process.

This Tripolitan cast is not a bunch of professional actors, but they might as well have been. They gave it their all on stage, so much so that when the crowds gave them a standing ovation, many of them were in tears. They couldn’t believe what they were seeing, that there were people applauding them.

As the play ended, the main actor Khodor, who plays the play within a play’s director, had a few words to say. He probably meant what he said as a joke, but they resonated with me because his words were the embodiment of my deepest convictions about his city, and what the country fails to grasp.

He said: “I think I speak for all of us when I say we never dreamt, in our whole life, of watching a play. And now we’re acting in one.”

Behind the apparent joke that people cheered for is the true problem facing Tripoli. The problem is not just Sunni versus Alawite, Syria-lover versus Syria-hater. It’s a clash that stems from the lack of prospects and opportunities that the youth of Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen call every day life.

“After practice,” Khodor continued, “I’d feel a hollowness inside as I ached to see my new friends again, people I’d never dreamt of being friends with. My favorite guy of the bunch Ali (the main protagonist in the play within a play) became my best friend. I’d call him up, ask him where he was. He’d say he’s in Jabal and I’d visit and we’d go wasted. The following day he’d call me and ask me where I was. He’d visit me in Tebbaneh, and we’d get wasted too.”

Can you believe it? Those people that many in the country readily dismiss as neo-terrorists or extremists are people just like everyone else? Could it be?

Following the play, people went down to congratulate those “actors” on a job well done. Some gave them a hug. Others gave them a tap on the back to tell them how great they were. Khodor, Ali, Fatima and their friends were in tears. They never thought, not in a million years, that they’d be where they were that night, and that they’d have strangers coming to them to tell them how great, beautiful, bright and shining they all were.

Yesterday, as Lebanon’s Beirutis cheered, I felt happy that maybe, just maybe, they could finally see the Tripoli I see: a wonderful city, with kind-hearted people whose only fault in life was being born in a place that is forcibly forgotten, and ignored. But still they live, and tell stories and laugh at their own misery.

I congratulate March on a job truly well-done.

Today, those 16 young men and women are heroes we should all be talking about. Unlike everyone else in Lebanon, they rose beyond their sects, beyond their neighborhoods, beyond everything they know and took a leap.

If there’s anything that can make anyone hopeful in Lebanon today, it’s “Love and War on the Rooftop.” It’s the story of how yesterday’s enemies are today’s best friends, of how actually knowing someone you’ve been forcibly taught to hate can alter your entire perception towards that person, of how all the burned bridges in this country can be repaired if only we were open enough to the possibility, of how up north, in that forgotten land beyond the Madfoun checkpoint, is a city with a heart that’s still beating, still fighting, and only asking you to keep an open mind to it.

“Love and War on the Rooftop” will tour the country post Ramadan. The following are some pictures from the play: