To The Lebanese Parents Celebrating Their Children Passing Brevet With Gunfire

Brevet

Dear Lebanese parents that couldn’t believe their son or daughter passed their brevet exam so they figured the best way to celebrate, in between the ten kilos of baclava consumed, was to fire a few rounds of M249 up in the air,

Yes, your child is special. I mean, how could your child not be special if he or she passed 9th grade and will continue to high school? In Neanderthal times, that’s akin to your child being ready for marriage or leading a life of his own! Yes, your child is unique, him and the other 75% of applicants that presented this year’s exam and passed.

Were you firing rounds up in the air because you couldn’t believe your child passed? You do know that doesn’t really reflect confidence on your part for your child’s capacities? I bet your child is going to grow up into such a terrific young man or woman knowing that his parents never truly believed in him or her and were utterly dumbfounded, a few AK4 rounds-dumbfounded to be exact, that they passed an exam that 3 out of 4 of those who take it actually pass it. If more information is needed, let me refer you to some good psychologists who will work on mending your child’s traumatized psyche from having his own flesh and blood not remotely believe he managed to pass an exam.

But how does this whole celebratory gunfire thing work exactly? I mean, you people seem to do it at every corner. Your child passes an exam, you bring out the riffles. Your politician goes on air, you bring out the machine guns. You manage to pass stools after a serious bout of hemorrhoids, you bring out the guns. Is there an algorithm you follow to delineate the mechanism behind this enigma?

Is it two rounds, for instance, for a simple pass grade? Three rounds in case all those “rachat points” were used as an “allahou akbar zamatna” hail Mary of sorts? What about those coveted “mentions” that were all the rave back in my old days? Did he or she get “bien” or “tres bien?” Did you fire thirteen rounds instead of six because your child got 230 instead of 196 points? I’m a doctor here who is more confused by the way your brain works regarding this, than by the diseases I have to address on daily basis.

Now tell me, what if your bullets end up killing someone? Is it okay because “fida hal brevet?” Or is it also okay because if God didn’t want him dead, he wouldn’t have died anyway? How do you convince yourself that your summer rains of shells are totally fine, wholly acceptable and utterly, irrevocably awesome to do?

Or maybe, just maybe, if you were a parent who felt the need to celebrate, for instance, their child passing an exam as stupid as a brevet exam, then you shouldn’t be a parent to being with? Maybe it’s the perpetuation of those genes that have a big contributory factor to why this country is a hell-hole, one round at a time?

I have so many questions that I hope you answer. Until then, see you in world war 3 next June when your other child graduates from kindergarten.

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Ramlet El Bayda, Beirut’s Last Remaining Public Beach, To Be Privatized and Turned Into A Resort

The whole “Beirut is for Beirutis” slogan that the winning Municipal board ran with is officially in full swing with them making sure Beirut is as such, for any Beiruti who can afford to pay $40 and above to spend a Saturday or Sunday at a beach that used to be the only place to unite the city’s residents, across their socioeconomic strata.

Images have surfaced yesterday of construction beginning to take place in Ramlet el Bayda, with the first step being destroying the places where the beach goers used to sip on their drinks or rest in between their swims.

Ironically, the facility being destroyed is also something that should not be there, given that it exists on public property and is most likely not regulated by any form of governance. But let’s not kid ourselves and pretend the above move is for the well-being of the beach, or for any other actual legal matter.

Rumor has it that Ramlet el Bayda will soon be turned into a private complex for cabins and chalets by Achour development. The project’s info could be found at this link.

For many, Ramlet el Bayda was the only beach in Beirut where they were able to take their children for a swim, with every single place around it becoming a location where people like them are often considered persona non grata.

They are doing to Ramlet el Bayda the same thing they tried to do to Dalieh: wall it off from us, the people, who have the right for this beach and land to become a place for everyone to visit, not just those who are able to afford it.

They want to turn Ramlet el Bayda from a beach for everyone, to a resort for the select few. As their plans start going into action, the city of Beirut bids farewell to its last free space to the Mediterranean. Everywhere else has been claimed by businessmen and politicians who know their power is always above the laws that say our shores are forever ours, and never theirs.

To make things worse, and even though these images have been online for around 24 hours, no media has discussed them or at least critically looked at the issue to unearth the deal behind it. Have we become to apathetic that this has become just another corruption entity for us to gulp down?

A resort at Ramlet el Bayda will probably also have lasting environmental impact on a city where public spaces are rarer than the tourists roaming its streets these days. Maybe they believe, after opening Horsh Beirut, that we have right to only one public space?

In the battle for Beirut to keep hold to an identity that makes it unique, one thing is for sure: we are losing. With each building they destroy, we lose. With each street they erase, we lose. With each beach they claim, we lose. When will their greed ever stop? I guess until Beirut has no more places for us to cling to.

Ramlet el Bayda is down, mayday.

That “Lebanese” President of Brazil You’re Proud Of Is Very Corrupt, Like Lebanese Politicians

Michel-Temer

In the surge of Lebanese pride that one of their “own” is now the president of Brazil, while the country celebrates its second year without an actual Lebanese president in Lebanon, not one outlet has bothered to look into Mr. Michel Temer, beyond the fact that his parents immigrated from Btaaboura around 80 years ago.

His interviews with Lebanese media during his first and last visit to his “motherland” a couple of years ago have been circulating like wildfire. Him proclaiming to have a “Brazilian heart” but “Lebanese blood” were on a loop. He probably couldn’t care less.

What is certain, however, is that Michel Temer is corrupt, semi-fascist, just like those Lebanese politicians we all love to hate.

He Screwed Over His Own President:

The only way Temer became president was by screwing over Dilma Roussef, the now-suspended president of Brazil, in a textbook Frank Underwood-esque plot.

Through a series of orchestrated leaks, which he “claimed” not to have anything to do with, he effectively managed to throw his president under the bus so he could rise to power. For instance, he leaked a statement to the press about how he was upset he was not involved in key decisions by his president… and then said he was outraged by the leak.

Then he leaked a Whatsapp message to Brazilian parliament members claiming they needed a “new government.” He was later “outraged” by that leak as well.

Through it all, he was the main orchestrator behind the scene of the coup against the president, and in bed with big money and right-wing-run Brazilian media to further make him inevitable.

He Is Corrupt As Hell:

Temer’s ascent to power means that a political party that didn’t win Brazil’s elections is now effectively taking power. Once he is in power, he will reportedly appoint Goldman, Sachs, and IMF officials to run the economy. Those are the same people that American politician Bernie Sanders is accusing of corruption and electoral campaign fraud.

Michel Temer also has his own saga with corruption. He was ordered to pay a fine only this week for violating campaigning regulations and is being prosecuted for it. He may be banned from pursuing further office later for up to 8 years.

During his campaign for vice president, Michel Temer was also involved in other campaigning scandal when he received up to $1.5 million from a company to whom he provided preferential governmental treatment in construction contracts.

He has also been accused of involvement in an illegal ethanol-purchasing scheme which has brought him back millions of dollars.

Michel Temer is also said to be involved in the “Petrobras Scandal,” a partly-governmental owned oil company that some Brazilian officials profited from by laundering some of the profit through a Lebanese-origin intermediary called Alberto Youssef, and transferring it to secure accounts in Switzerland.

To put it bluntly, Temer is accused of more corruption than Dilma Roussef. Only 2% of the Brazilian electorate would vote for him and over 60% believe he should be impeached also. The only reason his political career is not ending is because 1) he is a man, 2) he serves the interests of corporations that want to see someone with his agenda in power.

He’s Already Targeted Women, The Blacks and LGBT People:

Michel Temer’s upcoming government is rumored to be composed only of men, a long way down from a country that just had a woman president.

It doesn’t end here. He has also been active in closing many LGBT and black rights offices, and will reportedly continue on his rampage now that he’s ascending further up the power echelons.

Let’s Not Be Proud Of Everyone Who Happens To Be Lebanese Anywhere and Everywhere?

If any Lebanese politician were accused of what Temer has done, you’d be up in arms about how disgraceful, horrifying they are, how they’re ruining your country.

Can we not pretend this is any different just because that politician has ascended to power in Brazil?

There are times and places to be proud of entities pertaining to our heritage. This is not one of them. The world finally has a Lebanese president…. That’s not really a good thing.

How To Handle The Disgusting Smell and Mosquitoes Overtaking Beirut

Pic via Mawtoura.

Pic via Mawtoura.

Here it unfolds, the worst chapter in the non-ending story of the Lebanese garbage crisis. Don’t be fooled, the crisis is far from over. The governmental “solution” is so short-sighted and non-sensical that the crisis is bound to be repeated if not in 60 days, then in a few months or years. This is how we do things in this country: we put band-aids on gaping wounds, without making sure that the wound itself has actually been stabilized enough to be managed with band-aids; we do makeup coverups for problems that need hardcore fixes.

Perhaps nothing exemplifies how short-sighted and lala-landish our government is than the Minister of Environment tweeting (then deleting) a few days ago that the wave of mosquitoes and flies the likes of which this country has not seen in recent memory is due to nothing other than the heat. He then subsequently blocked everyone who told him off or otherwise.

Mohammad Machnouk tweet

Ignore the fact that our Minister of Environment’s credentials don’t come anywhere near the science of the environment, and ignore the fact that we’re not actually experiencing waves of heat that could bring this much mosquitoes to our cities, what remains is a minister in a government that is trying to repeatedly fool you: the mosquitoes are due to the garbage, not just the weather.

As they stacked up the garbage in various locations around Beirut over the past several months, from Karantina to the Beirut River, the organic matter in that garbage underwent fermentation and decomposition leading to a wide array of toxins and bacteria. For months, those toxic materials were just lying there, unperturbed. However, the moment those poor garbage handlers started removing it, the chemicals were “freed” allowing them to move up to the Beiruti atmosphere and give you the absolutely horrible smell that feels inescapable.

The smell will remain there as long as they’re removing the garbage. The more time they take, the more we’ll have to endure, so let’s hope the poor fellows handling it physically can sustain the effort it takes before temperatures become higher and work conditions become too horrifying for the to manage.

Many people have reported unable to prevent vomiting many times a day because of the stench. Some have reported feeling ashamed of not being unable to vomit in public. I tell those people, your vomit is more honorable than the faces of those in governance who have inflicted this upon us. Wear it – not literally – like a badge of honor. If you’re having multiple episodes of vomiting, however, make sure to stay hydrated. Use anti-emetics, like primperan or motilium, to try and prevent such episodes as much as you can.

The disgusting smell has the worst ramifications on those with already present pulmonary disease. If you’re asthmatic or have an underlying lung illness and are feeling more out of breath than usual, consult your pulmonologist on adjusting your inhaler dose.

But what can be done about the smell and the mosquitoes and flies other than essentially sucking it up? We have to make sure our homes are safe for us and our children.

The mosquitoes and flies are a huge problem because 1) they exist in huge amounts, 2) they are caused by the garbage crisis, 3) they carry toxins with them as they travel, 4) they might carry infectious vectors from one person to the next and 5) they will bite.

So here’s a step by step process over how to handle things to the best of your capacity.

  1. Use face masks while going out if the smell is too much for you to handle. They’re present at most pharmacies and will help to a certain point.
  2. Before leaving your house, close the windows and doors to make sure mosquitoes and flies don’t welcome you back home. You can also use low dose insecticide, which will dissipate over the day, to keep the house free of the pests.
  3. Make sure to have cleansing hand gel with you at all times. Use it abundantly.
  4. If you or your children are bitten by a mosquito or flies, many of which are specific to this kind of fermentation process, clean the bite with a little bit of antiseptic, which will help in relief and cleaning.
  5. You can also use antiseptic sprays around the house. Those are a bit expensive, but there’s a cheaper DIY method that Ziad Abi Chaker shared on Facebook yesterday, consisting of mixing mouthwash with equal parts of water (1 cup mouthwash to 1 cup of water), putting the combo in a spray bottle and spraying the house.
  6. Maintain proper hygiene, not only of yourself but also of your house. The cleaner it is, the safer it is for yourself and your family.
  7. Every time a wave of nausea hits you or a mosquito/fly bites you, curse the hell out of this country and its government for making you go through this.

While our politicians live in lala-land and pretend that the only thing happening in Beirut is basically #Live and #Love, we are dealing with things that no civilized country has to ever deal with. Except the only notion of civility we have is what we propagate to those poor tourists to whom we now have to find an explanation as to why it just smells so bad in the city they’ve been duped to visit. If only odors can be carried over to Instagram posts.

I can’t believe it’s the year 2016 and we are discussing the ways to handle a putrid smell taking over our capital. What will be equally horrifying is the fact that the people in Nehme and other areas in the country where landfills reined supreme had to deal with such things for an extended period of time while no one cared. There’s a reason those people protested the landfill in their area, closed roads leading to it and refused to receive garbage in it again, only to be faced with army men and tanks forcing them to open it up.

In a short period, when the Burj Hammoud landfill opens up, this smell and everything that comes with it will become customary for Beirut. Keep that in mind.

 

Lebanese Are Forbidden From Accessing Nejmeh Square in Downtown Beirut, But Foreigners Can

Nejmeh Square No lebanese

Picture this.

Downtown Beirut, home of the city’s flashiest and most expensive, the place housing essentially all forms of worthwhile Lebanese governance, which also happens to be the heart of the Lebanese capital, is a Lebanese non-grata region: we are not allowed entry to the area’s most important area, Nejmeh Square.

Even prior to the YouStink protests, the area had been a nuisance to enter: you had to be interrogated by army personnel, get your IDs checked out and sometimes even searched before they let you through the barricades. And people wonder sometimes why some parts of Downtown Beirut are empty.

Soon enough, entering Nejmeh Square was no longer a procedure, but an impossibility. The clocked-square housing our country’s parliament became off limits when the people giving that same parliament every ounce of legitimacy it has, or doesn’t, were forbidden from entering. Why? Because we posed a threat to a building that is, for the better part of any given week, month or year, without any official or parliament member not doing their job in its halls.

And yet, the security concern does not apply to everyone it seems because foreigners, regardless of their nationality, only need to flash their better-than-ours passports to enter and enjoy the sight of heartless emptiness behind the barricades, in the heart of Beirut.

Earlier today, a Facebook post circulated, by a man from Tripoli called Rashed Merhabi who was visiting Downtown Beirut when he decided to try his luck and enter Nejmeh Square.

I spoke to Rashed extensively to get the whole story, and here’s how it went down:

Rashed approached the security personnel manning the barricades on the main entrance to Nejmeh Square and he was denied entry, being told that “a decision had been taken to make the public square non-public.” When Rashed insisted that it was his right as a Lebanese to enter the place especially given that there was no parliament meeting taking place, he was rebuffed once more.

So he carefully made his way to the other side of the square where he was told that entry is only possible at the main entrance, which is basically the place he had just come from. So he returned there where that same security officer told him: “What part of you are not allowed entry don’t you get?”

It was then that same security officer allowed two foreigners entry while a family of four from the UAE were leaving. When Rashed asked for an explanation to what he had just seen, the security officer replied: “Yes, foreigners are allowed entry but you’re not. Now get the hell out of here.”

Rashed then tried to reason with the security officer who decided to use the following glowing argument: “Do I have the right to enter your house whenever I please?” Upon being told that his argument didn’t make sense and that they wanted to go to the Starbucks beyond the barricade, they were told: “Those running this particular Starbucks told us not to allow anyone except the ten Starbucks employees entry.”

Seeing that Rashed and his friend weren’t going away easily, another security officer in civilian clothes joins in and says: “we are Parliament security and we’ve taken over this Square. Only foreigners are allowed, now leave.”

The following day, Rashed tried to call Beirut’s Municipality which told him he had to take up his issue with Parliament which then transferred him to the ISF, which ended up being a dead end.

So yes my fellow Lebanese, not only is our nationality detrimental to our potential in any place around the world, but it’s also a hurdle coming in our way in the middle of the place we are forced to call home. Live love Lebanon indeed.

This saga isn’t exclusive to Nejmeh Square. Almost every single orifice in Downtown Beirut that might lead in one way or another to a governmental building, big or small, is blocked off from every single Lebanese that might wander there.

Remember the Roman Baths we used to take tourists to once upon a time? Blocked. Remember the Wadi Bou Jamil area where Beirut and Lebanon’s only synagogue is present? Blocked.

Every single one of us is a subclass citizens in our own country, at the mercy of politicians who think of us as nothing more than bugs infesting “their” spaces, encroaching on the things they hold dear, as we face their henchmen who marvel in the power they are bestowed by the fact that they wear a uniform.

I wonder what kind of government has the audacity to forbid its own people from accessing their own city. It’s the kind of government that is too terrified for its own existence that it becomes paranoid from the reason it should exist in the first place. And they call themselves as servants of the people.

This Is North Lebanon That Our Governments Don’t Give A Shit About

A couple days ago, MTV Lebanon posted a controversial Christian-arousing report about how Lebanon’s Christian areas do not get funds for public works that its Muslim areas get, especially its Shiite ones. They threw around numbers for Baalbak and Hermel and compared them with the total of Batroun and Bsharre, called it a day and did what MTV does best: be more melodramatic about Christians in Lebanon than the Pope and the Patriarch will ever be combined.

Keep that report in mind (link).

Yesterday, Lebanon’s Ministry of Tourismreleased a beautiful video to promote tourism in the country called “Rise Above Lebanon” filmed using a drone over several Lebanese territories. I sat there through those 5 minutes, marveling at the perfect-angled footage of the place we call home.

And then the video was over before showing almost any footage of the place I call home, the North of the country.

What you got instead was a scene where some kid was playing happily in Nejmeh Square when people are NOT even allowed to Nejmeh Square anymore. A good part of the drone footage was also reserved for Zaitunay Bay. Because why not? #LiveLoveBeirutiCapitalism.

I enjoyed the video. Some of the footage shown is beautiful, diluting away the little big things that drive us mad about this country. Still, I didn’t know if it was my I-love-to-nag gene kicking, so I decided to test out the waters by voicing my thoughts about the North’s omission publicly. Many agreed. I was not being a paranoid northern regionalist holding out a pitchfork fighting for the land beyond the Madfoun.

It was then that I decided to go back and look at the data presented by MTV’s article to try and come to a different conclusion than the sectarian one they reached: what if you took those numbers and just added them up by mohafazat? What picture would it show then about how our government likes to spend our tax money?

These are the numbers grouped by Mohafazat. Amounts are in billion lira:

North:

  • Tripoli: 1.1
  • Bsharre: 0.1.
  • Batroun: 1.6.
  • Zgharta: 2.2.
  • Koura: 1.2.
  • Akkar: 3.3.
  • Menieh + Denniyeh: 2.4.

Total: 11.9. Per caza: 1.7.

South:

  • Sour: 5.
  • Jezzine: 0.35.
  • Saida: 5.

Total: 10.35. Per caza: 3.45.

Nabatiyeh:

  • Marjeaayoun: 4.2.
  • Bent Jbeil: 4.9.
  • Nabatiyeh: 7.1.
  • Hasbaya: 0.2.

Total: 16.4. Per caza: 4.1.

Mt. Lebanon:

  • Jbeil: 2.6
  • Baabda: 2.2.
  • Metn: 3.5.
  • Keserwen: 3.
  • Aley: 3.4.
  • Chouf: 3.7.

Total: 18.4. Per caza: 3.07.

Beqaa:

  • Baalbak: 12.8.
  • West beqaa: 3.4.
  • Rashaya: 1.5.
  • Zahleh: 5.4.
  • Hermel: 3.9.

Total: 27. Per caza: 5.4.

If you merge Nabatiyeh and the South mohafazats together, becoming an area that is more similar to North Lebanon when it comes to surface area and population, North Lebanon becomes the area receiving the least amount of investment from our governments, and it still applies when you adjust the amount per capita or per surface area.

Bsharre, the land that gave us the Cedars and Gebran and is the heart of Christianity in Lebanon for our Christian zealots, got less money in 2015 than what Issam Fares paid for his daughter’s wedding, or what our politicians spend on their lavish vacations in Mykonos or elsewhere.

And, clearly, we can’t make it for more than 20 seconds in a video to promote tourism in the country. I guess our governments think there’s nothing there to offer and there’s no point to put any effort. Is that way they wanted to turn Akkar into Beirut and Mount Lebanon’s garbage dump?

People in other areas nag about their infrastructure being subpar. Some areas in the North don’t have infrastructure to begin with. Some areas in Akkar don’t have road access yet and have only received electricity from our government recently. Do you know how they were going to sell Akkar’s garbage dump to the Akkaris? By giving them a highway.

Poverty rates in Tripoli and Akkar are among the country’s highest at around 50%. That’s basically half of the population in two of the country’s most populous areas living in conditions that everyone else in the country cannot even remotely begin to imagine. It’s not like extremism and poverty are linked in any way. It’s not like poverty can be tackled by investing in those people’s future. I guess they don’t deserve a second glance either.

This reality extends to the rest of the North. It seems the poorest Mohafaza in the country doesn’t need the attention. People in North Lebanon are embarking to Europe on boats, similarly to the Syrian refugees, to escape their horrid reality back home. Ponder on that thought for a moment.

There’s not much I can do to get our governments to care about our country’s areas that need it the most. It feels like beating a dead horse every time the topic is brought up. But know that every time you perpetuate the media they diffuse that ignores those areas, you’re also helping in maintaining the status quo, even if in a simple tourism video.

But I can show you what you’re missing on.

 

Lebanon’s Government Is Destroying A Phoenician Beach In Adloun To Build A Port

  
About 15 minutes south of Saida is a small coastal Lebanese town in the South called Adloun. Most of us hadn’t heard of it before, but it’s actually one of the longest inhabited areas in our country with evidence pointing to human activity there around 70,000BC; it’s a little town filled with prehistoric caves and Phoenician ruins.

And those are not even what make it special.

Being a coastal town, Adloun has one of the few remaining beaches in the area that have not been privatized yet, and is now being actively destroyed by Lebanon’s government.

According to this study, the governmental project will affect the following areas of the beach:

  • The location of the prehistoric caves,
  • The location of an ancient Phoenician port,
  • The location of ancient Phoenician ruins and ornaments.

And, because that is not enough, our government will also do a little of land reclamation, effectively killing off one of the last remaining habitats for sea turtles in Lebanon, as well as affecting the ecology of the entire area with its diverse plants.

What is this governmental project that our government has been hell-bent for years to do, and are currently doing as you can see by the following pictures?

They are building a port that is bigger than that of Saida and Sour, in a town that houses far less people, none of whom are fishermen who operate boats in the first place.

So what will the purpose of that port be? It’s going to be turned into a “touristic” yacht docking site for those who can afford yachts in the first place and who want to come to the area for visits. The town’s mayor says that is not the case. What is true, however, is that the port is officially named after “Nabih Berri.” Maybe our speaker of parliament wants a place closer to home to dock his boat?

As it is with Lebanon, the project is also riddled with corruption. The bidding process for the project was canceled once because the initial prices were deemed unacceptable before finally hiring Khoury Contracting at a fee around 1.66 million dollars higher than the one they offered in the initial bidding. I guess the ministry in question felt generous?

On January 15th, 2016, Khoury Contracting sent its bulldozers to the beach and started work without prior notification. They’re currently establishing access to the beach by digging up a road for more bulldozers to come and finish what’s already started.

Who Cares About Sea Turtles And Phoenician Stuff Anyway?

Good job Lebanon’s government. Those sea turtles can always find another country to go and become unwanted pests in. Those plants? Who needs them. It’s not like ecology or the environment matter anyway. Phoenicia? Do we really want some Lebanese to further cling to that unwanted part of our history?

Keeping a free beach for the people of the area to visit? Who’d want that as well, bring in the money!

Let them destroy the beach. Let them destroy everything as they’ve done to the country for years now. They’ve actively destroyed countless similar sites before, why not this one too? It’s not like anything is relevant when you have the prospects of a port named after a politician!

Let them destroy the beach. It’s better for that beach and for that heritage not to see how abysmal the country our ancestors called home has become à la famous saying: عين لا ترى، قلب لا يوجع.

For a government that has shown repeatedly how apt it is at failing, it should come as no wonder that they’d not only do such a thing but also make sure that it passes by unnoticed. 

For a government and people that went up in a fit about the destruction of heritage at the hands of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, how is this any difference? Or does our own history not matter enough because it’s not called Palmyra?

There has been no back to back coverage for Adloun’s heritage. Is it not juicy enough for Lebanon’s media because it cannot be spun into attractive بالصور and بالفيديو headlines?

Among the many travesties taking place in the country today, this is a massacre of heritage and environment. The sad part is? It’s too late to do anything now.

Say bye to the turtles; say bye to that ancient site. They were present in a country that didn’t deserve them anyway.