Those Bomb Detectors Still Used In Lebanese Malls Didn’t Save 280 People In Iraq

Bomb detector fraud Lebanon

Security at Lebanese malls is like the ups and downs of alternative electrical currents. Whenever the situation in the country or around us becomes worse, if that’s even possible, you see them create all kinds of new methods to make sure your car doesn’t have explosives.

The common fixture, among all Lebanese malls, is those handheld detectors they keep on using. We’ve been saying for years that those detectors don’t work, and the horrifying tragedy of Iraq last year was proof enough: 280 people have lost their lives at a mall because those detectors didn’t capture an explosives-ridden vehicle.

And yet, Lebanese malls still use them like scripture.

The same detectors we are using have been the same ones failing to detect bombs all over Iraq for years. Vanity Fair reports that it was as early as 2009 when those pesky devices proved their uselessness as they failed to detect a van carrying 1800 kilograms of explosives, killing around 150 people next to a governmental building.

Those bomb detectors bought by Iraqi government, as well as security personnel from a dozen government around the world, were devised by American and British con-artists who made millions off of their sales. The gadgets started off as a game, and have been modified to look more security-appropriate, and given fancy names.

And yet, they still never worked. The device remained absurd and useless. Yet, it was bought like candy.

The list of apparatuses that bought the device include:

  • The Lebanese Army,
  • Mexican Army,
  • Belgian police,
  • Mövenpick Hotel group in Bahrain,
  • Romanian government,
  • Georgian government,
  • Various countries such as Jordan, Qatar, KSA, Syria, UAE, Iran, Kenya, Tunisia, etc…

The device was tested by the F.B.I, as well as British intelligence. Both declared it a fraud, and governments still bought it. The person that made them was convicted for fraud and sentenced to 10 years in prison. And yet, the devices he sold have proven to be extremely difficult to remove out of the market.

Was it piece of mind they gave? Perhaps people felt at ease thinking that their cars being “scanned” by an antenna that moved by gravity?

Despite of the mounting evidence against them, including an attack in Karachi just last year, those same devices, which have failed to save thousands of lives they pretend they should have saved, are still used en masse at Lebanese malls.

You go to ABC, and you go through a metal detector before you are met with that antenna. You go to LeMall, and it’s the same thing all over again. City Centre, CityMall, the list goes on.

I’ve also gotten the same security measures when I visited Amman around 8 months ago. It’s probably a Middle Eastern thing.

You go to those malls believing their measures will keep you as safe as you can be in a place as crowded, in a country as teetering on the age of a Middle Eastern political volcano. Few of us think we are endangering our lives by counting on those devices, and yet here we are.

Today, two hundred and eighty people in Iraq were in our shoes last week. They didn’t think going to a mall to buy gifts and clothes for Eid would get them killed, that it would be the last thing they did especially that they got searched, and their cars scanned, and everything that should have prevented that bomb from killing them actually took place.

So where do we go now? Public awareness is key. Those detectors are not protecting you. They are not detecting cars with explosives entering those malls you are visiting. The only thing they’re doing is take up your time for utterly useless reasons.

Lebanese malls, it’s time to invest in measures that actually work if you actually care about protecting your customers. Get on it.


Victims, Not Threats: The Massacred In Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, Syria, Yemen Are Not Terrorists For Hateful Rhetoric

Meet Adel Al-Jaf. He also calls himself Adel Euro, so you might know him by that. He was a rapper, a dancer and a man who tried to do the best that he could with what he had in his country. Last year, Adel said he was lucky enough to narrowly escape an explosion in Baghdad so he could dance again. This time, Adel was not as lucky.

Adel Euro Adel Al-Jaf

He is one of the 200 people in Iraq who, instead of buying Eid gifts these days as Eid el Fitr comes tomorrow, are buying coffins for their loved ones.

In the blink of an eye, an explosives-ridden van detonated itself through a busy shopping mall in Baghdad. Two hundred families, as a result, lay shattered, maimed, beyond repair, beyond the ability to heal.

It’s become way too easy to dismiss the deaths of those two hundred innocent people as just another thing that happens in *those* parts of the world, in a country (like Iraq) where suicide bombs are an every day occurrence.

But it’s not. And even if it is, the normalization of their tragedy makes the brutality of reality even more horrific. These were people, just like a regular American or European – because we all know your worth is higher the whiter your skin is – who could have been going to the Mall to buy their children and loved ones Christmas gifts.

And yet today, the Eiffel tower didn’t light up to remember them as it did yesterday to commemorate France’s victory in a football game. Even Burj el Arab, which remembered the victims of Brussels and Paris, while failing to remember the massacred of Beirut and Istanbul, couldn’t care less about the brutality of what took place less than 2 hours away. I guess keeping up with the westernized value of human lives is more befit of the image Dubai wants to give itself, so who are we to judge?

Today, those two hundred people that were brutally massacred as they went about their daily lives in Iraq are considered terrorists to be by many. The forty that died in Beirut almost 8 months ago are also considered as such. The hundreds of thousands that died and are dying in Syria are nothing but pests who have, thankfully, not encroached on the holiness of Western values, and so are the people of Yemen.

Good riddance, Donald Trump and his supporters would say. They had it coming, the far right across the world would point its finger and blurt out. And to those people, at the wake of my region being burned once again partly because of the repercussions of the actions of their people, I can’t but say: the only terrorist is you.

Sarah Sadaka, an Arab living in the United States, was going to a Best Buy store today. She went into that store speaking on her phone in Arabic, only to be circled by a woman who made it clear that her presence, her skin, her language made her uncomfortable. No one came to Sarah’s defense: she was just another sand nigger, breathing that free American air on the fourth of July. She did not deserve to have her right as a human being not to be violated that way taken away, she is, after all, only Arab.

Sarah, today, is the living embodiment of what it is to be the victim of terrorism in the United States, except this time it’s the brand championed by the likes of Donald Trump and the people with whom his rhetoric resonates.

When Omar Mateen went to a gay night club in Orlando and killed fifty people, mainstream American media only saw his name Omar as enough reason to justify his actions. He was just another Muslim. He was just another Middle Eastern offended by “our” way of life. Except Omar Mateen did not do so in the name of Islam, he did it in the name of his own insecurities, the insecurities of a man who is afraid of his own sexuality and who is so deluded in his own belief that he’d support two politically opposed factions in Hezbollah and ISIS as vindications for his action.

Omar Mateen’s characterization, and the repercussions that follow it, are a direct result of the kind of terrorism that Arabs and Muslims have to endure at the hands of people like Donald Trump, the Far Right across the world, and the minds that listen to them.

My mother tongue has become synonymous in people’s minds with death. If I speak it on a plane, I become an automatic threat, forced to undergo security checks, apprehended by officials because the words I utter from lips only resonate with fear, even if it’s to say: peace be upon you.

Victims, not threats. The more we are silent towards our murder, our decimation, and our characterization as people who do not deserve to live, the more we perpetuate the notion that people who think of Muslims, Arabs, Middle Easterners and those that live in the area are worth nothing is true. The more we are subdued in not demanding our deaths be remembered, be proclaimed, be cared for, the more our inherent value slips even further, even less than it already is, down an abyss in which the least valuable lives on this planet are Arab lives.

I should not be living in a world where I need to convince a friend of mine not to name his son Abdul Rahman because the name is “too Muslim.” I should not be living in a world where I have to defend myself at my own funeral. I should not be living in a world where the deaths of two hundred Iraqis is considered as just another bleb on the evening news, as they are just a waste of space.

We are people too, and we are worthy of life, one in which two hundred of us do not die at a mall buying new clothes for their children. We are victims, not threats.



Memories From Lebanese Christmases

The Christmas tree & Nativity Scene at my home
There’s a reason Christmas is the favorite time of the year of many people. I am one of those people.

No matter how hard life could be treating me – regardless of whether my problems can be considered grand or minute – I always find the Christmas spirit creeping up on me as soon as November turns its last page.

There’s just something about this holiday that transcends hardships, the division of religions… and there’s more to it than the glitter of Christmas decorations and gift purchases. To me, Christmas runs deeper than that.

My earliest Christmas memory is from back when I was three. I remember getting this present involving a “car” which ran on batteries that were recharged out of an electric socket. It was pretty high-tech back then. That same Christmas eve, it snowed in my hometown – the very first Christmas I remember was white.

But what’s probably the highlight of that Christmas for me was not the very awesome gift I got or the snow that piled up outside my room’s windows. It was sitting with my parents, grandparents, uncles, aunt and baby brother, next to a fireplace as my mother chanted Christmas hymns.

My mother has a terrific voice, which she inherited from her father whom I never knew and her singing Majida El Roumi’s “Bilayli Berdani” on that night will forever be ingrained in my memory: the way this simple song was able to keep the light in the room when it was dark.

However, as one grows up, the joy that is brought by Christmas starts to lessen. You get more excited about the vacation you’ll get from school and the gifts you’ll receive from various family members much more about the obvious meaning of the holiday.

The Pope called this in this year’s Christmas sermon “superficial glitter” – and he’s absolutely right. We stop at the superficial regarding Christmas without ever going a little deeper than that. Even the word Christmas has a contracted form now in the form of X-mas. How hard could it be for anyone to type five extra letters, I have no idea.

Whenever Christmas rolls around, shops start to get their prices ready for the huge influx of shoppers that are there to spend their paychecks. And we’ve all done it. But I, for one, don’t do it because I feel like getting gifts is something I have to do, although I admit when the shopping gets horrible I begin to wonder why I’ve gotten myself into that mess. Why I get gifts is because I feel happy when I see my grandmother smile as I hand her a sweater or my mother have a tear in her eye as I give her the perfume I bought her.

The joy that comes from Christmas is not one from the materialistic. It’s a joy that flows around the air, that transcends the mundane motions that going through life entails. It is the happiness you feel when you’re at a shopping mall and you find a father carrying his toddler son on his shoulders and dancing to the tunes of Christmas songs blasting through the speakers. It is the unconscious smile you have on your face when you see an impromptu Christmas parade around the streets in Achrafieh, knowing that no matter how grim the situation might be, this a time for everyone to be happy.

The joy from Christmas comes from the warmth of your family all huddled next to you, sharing a meal, hoping that these people will be present at this same meal the following year. The joy from Christmas arises from the distinct memories you have of every Christmas eve you’ve lived through – and how even through the darkest places your family has gone through, you can still find smiles on that day.

Merry Christmas to all. And on the day where God gave the world His Son, whether you believe that happened or not, it is fitting that you also give back to those who are less fortunate. Donate to a charity, or a cause or anything you might see fit. Give and let live. Forgive those who have trespassed against you for that is the true meaning of Christmas.

And on this Christmas, my heart goes out to all the people in the world who are suffering because of their beliefs, especially the Christians of Egypt and Iraq. May they find the peace they need with the smiles they have on Christmas day.

Christians, The Middle East and a Whole Lot of Hypocrisy

I am not a Christian who would like to think I am of a persecuted religion in the Middle East. In fact, I’d much rather think that the situation I’m in is a byproduct of the political situation of the region, more so than a simple manifestation of hate.

But simply put, that is not the case.

It’s very easy to look at the situation at hand and say: Oh, it’s not that bad. But it is.  Recently a Pew Poll (one of the most highly regarded research polls) showed that about half of the Egyptian population have negative views towards Christians. But no it can’t be the truth that in Egypt, where Arabism has sprung from, has sectarian problems and practices discriminatory policies. It just can’t be that sectarian hatred exists in a country with so called “revolutionary youth.” Or is it that we can’t accept that Arab youth can have discriminatory feelings and that discriminatory policies are carried out in their own backyards?

I am not an atheist. And even though I am definitely understanding and tolerant to all other religions, there comes a point where, upon seeing people getting killed for protesting against their church getting burned down, you start to boil inside.

And that’s what happened to me on Sunday evening as I watched Egyptian Copts get murdered on the banks of the Nile, after a peaceful protest against the governor of the Aswan province for issuing an order to tear down what they called a church.

Many people think their struggles extend only for a brief period in time, not knowing that the Coptic existence in modern day Egypt has become synonymous with persecution.

Do any of you know that Coptic schools were nationalized by Gamal Abdul Nasser and never given back to them? Imagine Armenians in Lebanon being forced to give up their schools and not being able to teach their language.  And for reference, the Coptic language is one of the oldest languages in the world.

Do any of you know that Copts are not allowed to build churches except by going through drawn out bureaucratic hoops, most of which end up failing? Contrast this with an Egyptian law that states having a Muslim house of prayer in your building exempts you from paying taxes on that building.

Do any of you know that Copts have witnessed many massacres at the hands of fundamentalists, most of which people outside their community have no idea about?

Do any of you know that in Egypt you must write your sect on your ID card, which can lead to discriminatory policies?

It’s very easy to look at the predicament of the Copts in Egypt and turn a blind eye. But turning a blind eye is no longer acceptable.

When the Copts were protesting on Sunday and they started getting killed for doing so, Arab news outlets portrayed them as terrorists. They were portrayed as low lives whose only cause of existence is to stir trouble, which is far from the case. As people who have been burned, killed, tortured… all for the sake of their religion, they sure have put up with a lot. But there’s just so much that a people can take.

And if you thought the portrayal of Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera was bad and thought it might be justified due to their overwhelming ignorance, why don’t we look at how those Copts were portrayed in their country’s state TV. The reporter compared them to the Israeli army and called upon Muslims to defend their country against “them.”

But who are “them”? Aren’t those Copts the reason those Muslims actually have a country to defend?

I don’t want to go into history. But there’s something that is quite simple and clear. Copts are the heart of Egypt. They are the founders of that nation. They are the people that gave Egypt its name and a direct link to its past. Copts are the Ancient Egyptians. That is a fact that cannot be debated.

Yasmine Rashidi, an Egyptian journalist, tweeted the following on Sunday: “Insulted for being Copt. I’m not, but with hair uncovered I’m a target. There is blatant persecution here. Never seen it in this way before.”

She may not have “seen it in this way before” but it was always there.

The problem, however, is not confined to Egypt.

Christians all around the region have been persecuted for a long time just because of their religion. And in the 21st century, is that really acceptable? Is it really also acceptable for everyone to act as if nothing was happening?

If we take a very quick glimpse at Iraq today, it’s very easy to see who is the greatest victim of the country’s current situation: the Christians.

Persecuted and decimated, only very few remain in their country today. The rest of them? Stranded in the land of nowhere, hoping to return to the country they cannot call home anymore.

It is also very easy to look at what many Syrian Christians consider as arguments to keep their political system the way it is and be “persuaded” into thinking it is really the best thing for Christians in the region.

But I respectfully, categorically, utterly and totally disagree.


It is strange though how so many people in the region are silent about such important issues like that of Christian persecution.  For many so called “leftists” and “activists” in the Arab world, and outside, the trend is to fight the big bad evil “West” which is seen as “Christian”, constantly stating it is they who oppress.  Yet many of them fail to bring up the Middle Eastern Christians’ plight because it is shows hypocrisy in their own cause: Arab society also carries out oppression.  “Leftists” and “activists” hold rallies in support of Palestinians, brandishing flags and slogans, yet when Iraqi Christians were driven from their homes “activists” remained silent.

When Copts watched their churches burned and their people massacred, why did they not cry out for them?  Why were there not huge rallies in support of these people demanding their equality?  Aren’t they suffering the same as Palestinians? Being driven from their homes and their places of worship being destroyed?

People cry and curse every time an Arab is treated poorly in the West, but when people in our own backyard have their houses destroyed or families killed we remain silent. In the West many shout in protest about their Arab identity, yet in the Arab world it is near blasphemy for Copts and other minorities to identify as the way they wish.  Western societies are not the only xenophobic or discriminatory societies in the world.

One thing, however, is clear. The ONLY source of protection for Christians in the Middle East – in any country of the Middle East – is political power. There is no way us sitting around waiting for some dictator to protect us, for some tyrant to give us mercy, is a good enough measure of self-preservation.

As a Lebanese Christian, I have seen what the Syrian regime has done to me. I have seen how its tanks ran over our men and women just because they defied it. I have seen how it killed everyone that spoke up against it. I remember how, with my most basic instincts I realized that having this foreign army in my land is wrong, and my parents telling me not to say so in front of anyone. I remember it as if it were yesterday.

And I also remember that it was us, Christians, who asked for their protection – not knowing that it would be the reason we are in our predicament today, not knowing that their greed in our land would take away of our political power and turn us into weaklings.

But the time to regain our political power is here. We cannot accept any politician who thinks that our best interest is with that of a tyrant just because that tyrant is of a minority. We, as Christians, cannot accept the status quo of things anymore because it is obviously not working.

The Copts in Egypt had their say on Sunday. It was bloody. But their word is out there. And it sure feels much better, I’m sure, than to bottle yet another burned church in like it’s nothing. The time to act is now.

Thoughts On Weinergate


The latest “scandal” to hit US politics has been named Weinergate, a play on the infamous Watergate scandal, involving president Nixon.

For those who don’t know what Weinergate is, here’s a brief description of the events.

Anthony Weiner (that’s his real last name, not a pun) is a democrat representative in the state of New York. A picture of a man in underwear got sent from his twitter account to some woman. Weiner said his account got hacked. A couple of weeks later, cropped pictures of a shirtless Anthony Weiner, which were meant for another woman to see, got leaked also. That afternoon, a press conference was held in which Anthony acknowledged that he had, in fact, sent out those pictures, as well to other more explicit ones. He added that he had been in six inappropriate relationships using social media, that he wasn’t going to resign his seat and that he had his wife’s full support. She’s “the good wife” isn’t she?

Well, soon enough, this whole thing exploded in the US news and media circuit. Everyone was bashing Anthony Weiner, up and down. Parodies about the situation were made and calls for his resignation started (the most recent of which is US president Barack Obama).

What started out as tabloid gossip has turned into an American cultural frenzy, up for discussion whenever by whomever.

But should this whole “scandal” be as big as it is?

I believe not. What Anthony Weiner did is, after all, something that everyone does. Granted, it is a representation of indiscretion and dishonesty, but don’t we all do that? Why the hypocrisy? Haven’t those people, who are bashing Weiner today, sent similar pictures before, except those pictures did not come back to haunt them yet?

With the current cultural atmosphere and political craze, Anthony Weiner was also portrayed as a harasser. I don’t understand that as well. Not only did he not have any power over the women he was sexting (they could have ignored/deleted him anytime) but I believe those women had the upper hand in their virtual relationship. If Weiner was a harasser, then what do you say about he millions who send dirty pictures and receive them?

So as Weinergate gained momentum and attention shifted to it, it also shifted away from things more important than a congressman’s nakedness. After all, how messed up does the American economy need to get before people focus on how badly the current administration is handling it? Or how long do the Americans want to go without a decent healthcare plan before they cry wolf? Or when will Americans notice more intently that their troops haven’t left Iraq?

Sometimes the most hip thing in a political scene is not the one you should be discussing. And weinergate needs to die already – enough overanalyzing a horny man’s behavior.

Buried – Movie Review

Buried - Movie Poster

Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) is a U.S. contractor based in Iraq. He wakes up and finds himself buried six-feet-under in a wooden crate, with nothing to soothe him except a phone that is set in a language he doesn’t understand and a zippo lighter that’s consuming the very air he’s breathing.

To say this movie is every claustrophobic’s worst nightmare is an understatement. The movie runs for over 90 minutes and features nothing but Paul Conroy inside his coffin. The only hint of an outside world comes in the form of many phone calls that are made, to help move the movie forward, and provide Paul Conroy with a way to seek salvation.

You cannot but draw similarities between this movie and 127 Hours. After all, they both rely heavily on one lead, the rest of the actors/characters being only very secondary to the overall picture. And similarly to 127 Hours, Buried features a very strong performance by Reynolds. I had no idea he had it in him, to be honest, after the series of romantic comedies he was in. However, to say that he comes within a remote distance of Franco’s epic performance in 127 Hours is a gross overstatement. If anything, Buried further cements the idea that not every actor/actress can handle this type of movies, which makes Franco’s feat even more impressive.

Buried is a movie that drags its main character to the depths of fear and despair and drags you down with him as well. And although it doesn’t rely on taking the settings of the movie outside the box it’s set in, the movie wouldn’t have gone anywhere except for the interactions between Paul Conroy and the people he calls, similarly to 127 Hours’ use of flashbacks and imaginative sequences. It is, however, an out-of-the-box movie, for all matters and purposes.

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