To The Lebanese & Arabs Mocking The Siege On Madaya And Its Starving People

Huddled in the Anti-Lebanon mountains, Madaya is a Syrian village housing tens of thousands of innocent people who are being starved to death at the hand of a siege enforced by the Lebanese allies of the Syrian regime. Their strife is not new. They’ve been going through hell for months, eating whatever they can get: leaves, dirt, cats, dogs. International aid groups are calling the famine there the tip of the iceberg of the crisis taking place in that village of 40,000 people, and no one has been able as of now to fully grasp the picture of the human tragedy taking place there.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Forgive the shock value of the following pictures, but the victims in Madaya deserve to have their voices heard on top of those belittling them for being forced to protractedly die.

Today, some Lebanese and other Arabs are pioneering once again.

I didn’t think that there was potential for some aspects of my country to sink any lower, but color me surprised because not only have we done that, no, we have set the standards on how low you can go. Starting now, I beseech the entire world to consider us as a standard for being despicable, inhumane and revolting because it can’t get worse than this, because there can’t be people who are worse than those about whom I’m writing now.

As the news about Madaya’s humanity crisis broke, some people in my country and the region had the audacity not only to stand with the siege, but to mock the dying people of Madaya. Behold a few samples:

 

I don’t know if these creatures are people, because people cannot be so lacking of compassion, of humanity and of any ounce of civility to actually think that their own political agenda is worth advancing by useless social media posts over the frail, cachectic bodies of men, women and children.

I don’t know if these creatures are of the required intellect to be aware of the horror of watching your child die in front of you because you are not able to feed them.

I don’t know if these creatures grasp how horrifying it is to watch your parents waste away in front of you, and you in front of them, because all of you are not allowed to eat.

These creatures are savages whose existence is an abomination, who are not worthy of the air they breathe, the food they eat, the space their bodies are wasting by merely existing.

Ladies and gentlemen, we share the country with entities who cannot rise above their demented, twisted politics even when it’s as clear as the dying body of a child who has lost all color in their face and all the life out of their cheeks. They cannot grasp the notion that there are things in life far worthier than defending what you know at all costs.

Ladies and gentlemen, we live with beings who can fathom making fun of people who are being starved to death just for the sake of being funny.

It’s one thing to be apathetic to the plight of the people in Madaya, but to actively wish them further harm, to actively make fun of them is something beyond words.

I want to never wish them the hunger that the people of Madaya are feeling. I want to never wish them seeing their loved ones waste away in front of them not because of disease, but because of lack of food. I want to never wish them to see their pets being turned to stew. I want to never wish them what they are wishing to the people of Madaya. But I can’t, so here are their names, and their faces.

Do with them as you please. I may not believe, but I believe those people will one day face their reckoning: اللَّهُ يَسْتَهْزِئُ بِهِمْ وَيَمُدُّهُمْ فِي طُغْيَانِهِمْ يَعْمَهُونَ.

 

 

How Rain Will Make Lebanon’s Garbage Crisis Much, Much Worse

Beirut River

The political aspect of Lebanon’s Garbage Crisis has been discussed extensively. The protests around the issue and their underwritten goals have also been discussed extensively. What hasn’t been talked about in the media, however, is how this garbage crisis in Greater Beirut is affecting our health and how the first bouts of rain, set to come within the next few weeks if we go by Lebanon’s standards, will exacerbate this crisis into a full blown health crisis as well.

To be honest, this isn’t something I learned in medical school. We don’t have courses about garbage-crisis-related-health-issues. This is very short-sighted, I know.

So with a little help from my Infectious Diseases specialist-to-be friend Tala Ballouz, a little research was done and we’ve come up with the following.

So the Greater Beirut area today is essentially a very urban area that has its garbage being deposited basically everywhere. With rainfall that runs on this garbage, many of the extracts in our garbage will become dissolved and suspended in the rain, forming a liquid called leachate.

So what is leachate made of? Let’s list them.

  1. Aerobic and anaerobic bacteria (where is Abou Faour when you need him?),
  2. High concentrations of total dissolved solids, ammonia, nitrate, phosphate, chloride, calcium, potassium, sulfate, and iron,
  3. Numerous heavy metals such as zinc, mercury, cadmium, lead, nickel,
  4. Organic trace constituents: byproducts of decomposing solvents, pesticides, and polychlorinated biphenyls, a highly toxic environmental pollutant.
  5. High numbers of fecal bacteria.

Leachate occurs over landfills, dumps and essentially wherever garbage exists. In developed countries, their high level waste management systems prevent this substance from being anything worthwhile. Developing countries, however, don’t have it as easy.

How about if that developing country was a country like ours in our own garbage situation that consists of: 1) garbage being present on streets, next to rivers, next to the sea and on land where it shouldn’t be, 2) that same garbage being unmanaged and untreated for over 57 days now which means its level of decomposition is in the stratosphere and 3) when even our rivers are blocked by it?

With the formation of leachate with Lebanon’s upcoming rain season, the toxic water will do the following:

  1. Infiltrate into the underground water reserves that we have. This will lead to highly toxic water for us to use in various industries, be it in agriculture or even personal use.
  2. The rain, coupled with the fumes of the garbage along with leachate, will form acid rain. This will affect aquatic life, Lebanon’s already-fragile infrastructure and whatever plants we have left.
  3. The consumption of products that are this polluted (indirectly) with this many toxins (check the list above) serves as a massive hub for carcinogens, substances that increase the risk of cancer.
  4. The Beirut River will have unnaturally high toxic levels (remember when it was red? this will be worse), that’s if it doesn’t overflow, sending waste and toxins into the homes of those living around it.
  5. Illnesses that are not endemic to Lebanon will start surfacing, notably cholera, a bacteria that thrives on infected water.

Other infectious problems we might have are the following:

  • Amoebiasis –> causes fever, abdominal discomfort, bloating, fever, weight loss.
  • Infections with various tapeworms –> cause a wide array of intestinal disturbance and could even have neurologic sequelae.
  • Echinococcosis –> causes liver cysts, and can cause anaphylactic shocks.
  • Various bacteria that are not only cholera (C. jejuni, E. Coli, Salmonella, Shigella, Legionella) –> cause symptoms ranging from intestinal to pulmonary to neurologic symptoms.

As a country, we are not ready to handle many things, as is testament by the fact that our garbage has been on the streets for about two months. A health crisis due to this garbage crisis is also something that the country cannot remotely handle. The epidemics we can get are not fiction, but they are right around the corner.

What can you do?

Pressure your politicians to get the garbage off the streets… yesterday. And if not? Well, don’t drink the water.

To Aylan Kurdi & Syria’s Children, I Am Sorry

Aylan Kurdi -

The most heartwarming story of recent days was when Abdul-Halim Attar had his entire future changed because of one picture. He was carrying his sleeping daughter on his back across the streets of Beirut as he tried to provide to her by selling BIC pens. His picture caught the world’s attention, but it was fleeting and momentary, like everything that catches the world’s attention these days.

Why Abdul-Halim Attar needed to go viral to make ends meet was never the issue. Viral pictures should not be how the Syrian refugee crisis gets handled, but this is how it’s becoming.

Abdul-Halim Attar Syrian Refugee BuyPens -

To Syria’s children, I’m terribly sorry it has come to this. I’m terribly sorry you need to be photographed in pictures sleeping on your fathers’ shoulders for someone to care. I’m terribly sorry you need to be photographed dead at a beach for people to feel sorry.

Aylan Kurdi f

I’m sorry you were born Arab.

I’m sorry that you were born into a region that doesn’t remotely care about you outside of the necessary formalities, where countries chastise others for not taking you in as their quota of you is still a big round zero.

I’m sorry that you have to die because of the hypocrisy of those Muslims who cry in the name of Islam at useless cartoons but fail to apply their own religion when it’s absolutely needed, when you are dying at the shores of Libya, of Turkey, of Greece.

I’m sorry you were born in a sea of leaders who care more about having their vacation in the South of France cut short because their once-public-turned-private beach wasn’t available anymore, and who care more about their shopping in SoHo, than about you having food once a week, or sleeping one night not to the sounds of bombs, or having a smile on your face that is not because your parents gave you the illusion of safety.

I’m sorry you are born to a leader who’d rather see you dead than to abdicate his inherited throne, and that you were born at times where your lives don’t geopolitically matter and where this very same statement will have people shake their heads in disapproval.

AYlan Kurdi  Syria Refugees Arabs

I’m sorry Dubai, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are pre-occupied with always building bigger, brighter, flashier, but never in doing something actually worthwhile.

I’m sorry you are not financially important enough for Arabs to care.

I’m sorry little Aylan that there are Arabs who think your death is warranted because you’re Kurdi.

I’m sorry for Europe.

I’m sorry Europe views you as lesser than animals as it barricades its borders in walls to keep you at bay, in lands torn apart by war, where you await your turn to die, like lambs waiting to be slaughtered.

I’m sorry Europe is so xenophobic that that it doesn’t see you as innocent beings trying to live, but as social burdens who should be stopped at whatever cost.

I’m sorry Europe is so Islamophobic it sees you as nothing more than a growing infestation of a religious following that they deem foreign to their land, a presence that should be contained.

I’m sorry Europe’s own politicians and their policies that got you to where you are today are the same people making sure you die.

I’m sorry Europe doesn’t see you as people fighting for a life that is worth living.

I’m sorry that your skin just so happens not to be white enough to matter.

I’m sorry for the world.

I’m sorry you are not as important as Cecil the Lion or some whale stranded on a beach somewhere.

I’m sorry that news of Apple’s upcoming iPhone are more important than your death.

I’m sorry that Donald Trump’s racism is more relevant than our drowning.

I’m sorry for my country.

I’m sorry that we can’t do more.

I’m sorry that my country is so messed up that we can’t remotely provide the basics that any person should have. I’m sorry that my country can’t even provide for its own people.

I’m sorry for the racism, for the curfews, for the xenophobia, for the Islamophobia even at the hands of my country’s Muslims.

I’m sorry for my country’s politicians using you as fuel to spark sectarian hate, and then use the pictures of your dying children to spread fear on what could have been hadn’t they been in power.

Aylan Kurdi

I’m sorry that we can’t fully let go of how your political establishment treated us, that we can’t separate person and politics and that we can’t just see you as people trying to live.

I’m sorry that I can only be sorry, that I can only write a few words that verge on sentimentalism, trespass on sensationalism be it in empathy or in utter horror, words that are not actually meant to you but to those who can read them and who can understand them and who can hopefully do something so you don’t end up drowning, face down, in the sands of a beach in Turkey, so you can end up more than just a viral picture.

People are more than internet sensations. Humanitarian crises are worth more than viral pictures.

This is because people need to see themselves in those parents’ shoes and because those children, drowning on beaches and forever lost under water, can be their children too.