Minister Of Culture Allows Demolition of Beirut’s Iconic “The Red House” & Destruction Is Already Underway

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Almost a year ago, the story of Beirut’s “Red House,” near Bliss in Hamra, was spreading like wild-fire. Most of us had taken the place’s existence for granted, as we walked by it on our way to university or on our excursions around the area.

But back then, the iconic “Red House,” which housed Ras Beirut’s Rebeiz family for generations, was under threat from some parts of that same family who had inherited the house and wanted to use the plot on which it existed to build yet another high-rise.

Luckily for us, the Ministry of Culture, through former minister Rony Araygi, responded to the pleas of those who advocated for the house to be preserved for its cultural value and placed the location on its list of protected sites around Beirut.

That changed in February.

For absolutely no justifiable reason whatsoever, new Minister of Culture Ghattas Khoury decided that the house wasn’t worth being a protected site in Beirut and, through the strike of a pen, removed it from the list of protected buildings around the capital with decree #32 on February 3rd, 2017, with it becoming valid when it was published in Lebanon’s Official Gazette on March 16th.

I wonder, who are we supposed to entrust with our culture and heritage if the Ministry of Culture couldn’t care less about the history of the country it’s supposed to be preserving? I mean, if a house that is as old and as preserved as the Red House can’t find its way onto a governmental protected list, then what’s left for sites whose history can’t advocate for them as much?

Is it maybe because the current owners are probably friends with PM Hariri and lobbied him into getting his Minister of Culture to do this?

As a reminder, the “Red House” is more than 300 years old. It was the beacon of one of Ras Beirut’s main matriarchs throughout the 19th and 20th century. It had a pivotal role in the politics of the area for more than 5 decades. It was the house of Ras Beirut’s mokhtar for over 50 years. It was where Louis Armstrong had dropped by for a visit during his Beirut stay.

The owners cite family feuds in the struggle over the “Red House.” But the truth is they don’t want to take over the property simply to kick out their family member who was living there, which is something they’ve accomplished months ago. They simply want to destroy the property.

In fact, Michel Rebeiz, now 94, who grew up there and whose mother was one of the more important matriarchs of Ras Beirut, still goes there every morning to check on his childhood home before it is no more. Neighbors around the area tell of him leaving with his eyes swollen as he laments what all of his history is turning into.

The truth is, however, that the “Red House” was never protected. Even when the Ministry of Culture labeled it as a protected site, sources say that attempts to demolish it were still underway. In fact, the following pictures were reportedly taken BEFORE the new minister had allowed the demolition but before:

So much for governmental protection.

Following its designation as a protected site, police officers from the Hbeich precinct did a surveil of the place. Their report is invaluable to show the illegal activities that have taken place on the property even when it was under governmental protection. Unfortunately, as regular citizens we cannot access such information.

The good news is that it’s not too late, yet. We can still get our Ministry of Culture to overturn their updated decision and to protect the “Red House” once again. The collective history of our capital and the landmarks that still stand testimony to it is more important than the money some people can make through backroom deals and under-the-table agreements.

Beirut is being destroyed every single day by contractors and politicians as well as people who couldn’t care less about anything other than their bottom line. The solution for such entities is a strong governance that puts them in their spot. It’s high time we get that, and the city we deserve. The “Red House” is our history. It’s horrible that even our history can’t survive our current corruption.

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Lebanon’s Security Forces Which Stopped A Terrorist Attack in Hamra Tonight Are Heroes

A 24 year old Lebanese terrorist suicide bomber named Omar el Assi, from Saida, was apprehended moments before he detonated himself in Hamra, one of Beirut’s most bustling streets, right outside Costa Cafe, in breaking news out of Beirut right now.

The terrorist had an explosive belt strapped around his chest. It’s unclear whether he was targeting Costa or one of the many nearby bars. Hamra is one of the most liberal places in Beirut, and attacking it is a frightening precendent in Lebanon’s constant fight against terrorists. 

Uncovering the attack was a coordinated effort between Lebanon’s intelligence and Internal Security forces. Tonight, they are heroes. Plenty of people are safe because of them, and for that I am forever thankful.

This shows that when our security forces work together towards the one goal of keeping us safe, they can be as triumphant as this. I hope we learn from this lesson moving forward how valuable our unity is.

I hope that terrorist receives the worst of punishment from the state and that the level of vigilance that the security forces have shown over the past few months remains as high going into the new year. In the political turmoil overtaking the region, Lebanon’s stability has been the result of such work, and it shows.

Thank you for saving Hamra tonight, and for saving the country on those many occasions that don’t make it to the news.

Lebanese people out and about on this Saturday evening, stay safe and enjoy your night away. Don’t fall for the culture of fear that those Godless barbaric disgusting creatures want to instill in is. Facing their culture of death, let’s always rise above and show them that we are a people who will not be broken that way.

And to that terrorist, and those that support that horrifying ideology, fuck you. Take your culture of death and shove it up the darkest orifice in your body. Nothing about you is welcome here.

A Rape Attempt in Hamra

A 20 year old girl recently suffered through a rape attempt while going back to her apartment in Hamra. The man followed her to her apartment where he attacked her and ordered her not to scream. But she did scream. So he beat her up and she kept on screaming until the neighbors and people on the street ran towards her.

The man was given to authorities. The man was a married man with children and who worked with our army, an entity theoretically tasked with making sure our women and children are protected from the travesties that living in Lebanon entail.

I salute that woman’s courage. Not only for standing up to her rapist and shouting her lungs out despite him threatening her life, but for having the courage to stand up to him when he was taken into custody and tell her story for the world to hear.

A friend of mine was sexually assaulted in Gemmayze almost a year ago (her story). It wasn’t as physical as the story in question but what my friend and that woman are is lucky Lebanese women.

How many more stories that are similar or worse than this should we propagate and hear before we get a law that makes sure that, if the worst case scenario were to happen, the rapist in question wouldn’t roam the streets with the least repercussions possible?

How many more times should I hear the phrase “you’re lucky you’re a guy” from friends who happen to be girls and who are afraid to walk certain streets alone at night? Till when are our women supposed to live in legal and protective dark ages while the country boasts liberalism that is truly anything but?

And till when should the violation of our women be a matter of taboo that should rarely be discussed through public means?

The Problem With Banning Pork and Alcohol At Some Lebanese Restaurants

Gino Raidy’s encounter at ZWZ’s Hamra Branch went viral across Lebanon’s internet community very fast. His shock that a restaurant like ZWZ, infamous for his Halloumi bacon sandwiches, would actually have a branch that wouldn’t serve anything non-conformant with Islamic sharia sparked some huge debate as is evident by the extensive response to his post which you can read here.

It is beyond perfectly understandable that such an issue would be considered by many as infringing on their basic freedom of eating whatever they want to eat. It is also beyond ironic that ZWZ Hamra might as well be the go-to restaurant for Lebanese pub-goers who drink themselves away a few meters away in Hamra’s infamous alleyway and other pubs.

So why would Islamic sharia be up and running in one place and completely shattered in another place? ZWZ’s diplomatic reply to the matter alluded to their leasing conditions: the person from whom they got their lease doesn’t allow pork and alcohol on the premises of his building and ZWZ had to conform.

The question, therefore, asks itself: couldn’t have ZWZ opened elsewhere?

The answer is: most probably not.

It’s easy to preach regarding the matter but the fact of the matter remains that landlords have the upper hand in cosmopolitan places like Hamra (despite what Homeland’s producers want you to believe) because of the extremely high demand for property and the low supply. Whatever a landlord wants, a landlord gets. And most companies have to deal with is as such despite their better judgement.

The fix for this is, obviously, stricter governmental regulations. But in a country where such an issue comes at possibly the lowest of importance in woes, such regulations will not be enforced anytime soon.

The issue, though, is not in disassociation with the general mood of the country.

This vigilante sharia applying is unacceptable. I’m not entirely sure if it’s legal as well. Is it allowed for someone to enforce something on their own property that is not legal across Lebanon? My gut tells me no. But Lebanese law has these sporadic eccentricities that make it baffling. And regardless of whether it’s legal or not, what is actually legal in Lebanon and is actually applied?

The only urban planning law that I know of pertaining to this matter is banning alcohol sales within a certain radius of any prayer house, including Churches. Christian areas do not conform with it while places like Tripoli apply it to the letter. You would be lucky to find a place in Tripoli with a carton of booze under the counter which they dispense to their most loyal customers only.

What is sure, however, is that this vigilante sharia is creating an even bigger divide in a country that doesn’t need more divisions to begin with, even among Muslims themselves because it’s not really about religion but about ideology. Banning alcohol and pork, which slowly turns places in a country that falls more on the liberal side in this deeply conservative region, slowly disassociates regions from each other: turning some more extreme while others become more liberal, the cultural and sectarian divide growing even bigger. The conservatives, subsequently, become more conservative. The less conservative folk become less so and the merry goes round. The clash between these ideologies would grow stronger.

Perhaps it is ZWZ’s right not to serve alcohol and pork on some of its premises. But when there’s no regulation to dictate this, the question asks itself: what’s the limit for this sort of “freedom” for restaurants? When does imposing restrictions on others, even those who share your religious views, crosses the line of freedom? And is it truly permissible to say that, due to the presence of alternatives, discussing the presence of Sharia-abiding restaurants should not be allowed?

 

A Flashmob in Hamra, Beirut To Commemorate The Lebanese Civil War

You know what’s funny? The guy with the iPhone thinking he was filming a fight he’d be sharing with his friends afterwards. I’m sure he didn’t know he’d end up with something even better.

Check it out:

Also the look on that guy’s face in the car… priceless.

This was organized by the NGO CityAct.