Kollouna Watani’s Joumana Haddad & Paula Yacoubian Are Now Parliament Members

Update: Somehow, since the writing of this post Joumana Haddad ended up losing. No comment.

On a more than depressing electoral day, a glimmer of hope that started two years ago with Beirut Madinati in Beirut –  1 translated into both Joumana Haddad and Paula Yacoubian becoming parliament members tonight, the first two ever civil society candidates to enter Lebanese parliament.

Joumana Haddad’s win for the minorities seat also makes her the first openly atheist member of Lebanese parliament, and possibly the entire Middle East, where atheism is still considered a crime in many countries.

The win of Kollouna Watani in Beirut – 1 comes at the heel of very poor turn out almost uniformly throughout the country. In fact, depressingly enough, the win of Kollouna Watani is because turnout in Beirut – 1 was the poorest in the entire country, a shame when you take in consideration that the last time we voted was 2009.

Both Joumana and Paula deserve their win. They worked tremendously over the past several months to raise their profile, scream for the change they want, and they did not take any vote for granted as many political parties seem to have done.

Change for the country started in Achrafieh, even if on the overall this election leaves me with a tinge of disappointment.

What I discovered today, after voting for Kollouna Watani last week in North 3, and then having all the Civil Society lists not even make the count on TVs because they were thrown into irrelevant is that 1) we live in a bubble, and 2) I don’t think our fellow Lebanese really want the change that we want this country to have.

To be sitting in front of my computer thousands of miles away and be utterly flabbergasted at how people just didn’t care was mind-boggling. Why was I, the Lebanese who already left, more interested in how things went than those who stayed? This sense of apathy, this mind-numbness that we’ve all exhibited is just sad, and it’s quite literally across the board, across all parties, across all regions.

And yet, I was proud of my hometown giving nearly as many votes for Layal Bou Moussa as they did to the Kataeb candidate, and proud that my candidate was the top candidate on the Kollouna Watani list in North 3. Those 90 votes in Ebrine are worth hundreds in my eyes.

Today, the Lebanese people are tired everyone and everything, that’s what these elections have shown. From the poor performance of El 3ahd’s lists, to even the performance of civil society lists outside of Beirut 1. Today showed that even our pleas for change were not enough for most of the Lebanese population to go and do something about it.

Some had their reasons, I bet. But others just sank in the complacency of thinking things will always be the same. This abhorrent freak of an electoral law, whose sole purpose it seems is to have Gebran Bassil become a representative for Batroun, didn’t help either. For the record, #NotMyNeyeb.

Instead, we settle for cheering for the least of evils. We go back to basics, but I did what I can.

A bunch of good people made it to parliament today, as well. Of those, I mention Ziad Hawat – the former Mayor of Jbeil who turned his city into a top Lebanese destination. I also mention Antoine Habchi whose victory in Baalbak-Hermel was truly the other highlight of these elections. A lot of women made it to parliament today as well, other than Paula and Joumana. The list includes Sethrida, Bahia el Hariri, and Inaya Ezzedine in the South. Hopefully even more female candidates will end up as winners once the tally is done.

On the other hand, Jamil el Sayyed who was the right hand of Syria’s occupation of the country, and whose real place is in jail, also gained a parliament seat thanks to the Shiite duo whose electoral performances truly strengthened the nature of the thoughts they’re perpetuating in the country. Their “either you’re with us or you’re a traitor” mantra, their “it’s your religious duty to vote for us” slogans are cancerous.

Another thing that today showed is that, when you try to have “modern” laws the least you can do is provide a modern voting experience. Everyone was complaining about how slow the process was, something I had spoken about last week here:

And yet, despite that no measures were made to make sure that people didn’t stand in lines for hours to cast a vote. We needed more booths at each polling place, the process has to be streamlined, and more importantly the law had to be explained to the average voter much more efficiency. But then again, it’s been nearly 8 hours that they’ve closed the polls and we don’t even have results yet.

Setting aside the romance, today Lebanon’s civil society has managed to get only about 20-30,000 votes across the entire country. This is not enough. And I frankly don’t know where to go from here. Perhaps the work of Joumana and Paula will get people to wake up to what they should be demanding of traditional parties, which puts more pressure on them.

Or perhaps we’re just too far gone as people, too entrenched in our ways to really learn that this candidate who’s providing us with a job today only does so because their policies deprived us of jobs for years, or that this candidate giving us food or money today is doing that because they made sure we were poor and starving leading up to that point.

Today, I’m proud of the choice I made. I don’t regret it at all, even if it’s going to be taken out of their equations, thrown into a bin never to be looked at again. And I hope that me going beyond my traditional party lines is proof that we can all do it if we believe that we deserve the changed country that befits us.

Tousbi7oun 3ala watan. Or not.

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Lebanese Mothers Who Make Lebanon Proud Today

Like every year, when Mother’s Day turns up, your social media channels get flooded with pictures of your friends with their mothers, Facebook statuses to announce unending love and gratitude (before they go piss off their mother the following day), and endless messaging among siblings to find that perfect gift.

I’ve written many of those posts on this blog before. You can check those here and here in case you feel like it. This year around, however, I figured the best way to increase the relevance of Mother’s Day is to highlight Lebanese mothers who have shaped the country as we know it today.

The list is not extensive nor is it exhaustive.  The following women are from different domains and are on this list for different reasons, but they all share something in common: they’ve proven that motherhood serves to add, not define who women are, especially in a region that tells them the former is all they’ll amount to be.

Joumana Haddad

Joumana Haddad

Around these parts of the world, it is usually believed that a woman getting married and having children signals the beginning of the end of her productivity as a person. That’s what social norms say, but not if you follow the Gospel according to Joumana Haddad. One of Lebanon’s leading women when it comes to public opinion, she never shied away from controversy. She defends the sexual liberation of women, their right to do whatever they want, sleep with whoever they want whenever they want. She defends the role of women in societies. She abhors the effect that religious establishments have on women rights in our societies. She was very recently considered by Bahrain to be worse than terrorists as they banned her entry for being an atheist. And for that, she can’t not be on the list.

Lena Gebrane

Lena Gebrane

She may not be a household name, but the NGO that she founded certainly is. Following the death of her son Hady in 2006 at the tender age of 18, Lena Gebrane turned her grief into action and pioneered the way to create one of Lebanon’s most prominent NGOs “Kunhadi,” which has worked tirelessly since its creation to create awareness over road safety in Lebanon, especially among its youth. Her goal is to not let any Lebanese mother feel what she has felt. Sadly enough, many still do. But how many mothers today owe their family’s wholeness to Lena Gebrane’s sleepless nights? She has shown that being a mother extends beyond just having a child.

Dima Sadek


Dima Sadek

Dima Sadek is the kind of women who make it look all too easy. She manages to host LBC’s news, arguably the country’s most watched. She also has her own daytime political talk show where she has never shied away from talking tough stances and getting her guests to listen to a healthy dose of truth, even if it means them storming out. Good riddance. She has also managed to become a fashion role model for many women across the country in the very brief time since she became a household name, all while being a great role model to the young girl she’s raising.

Mona Abou Hamzeh

Mona Abou Hamzeh.

She hosts one of Lebanon’s most watched primetime shows. It is as such not because of its “light” nature, but because of her. She made “Talk of the Town” into what it is today, a viable competitor to the veteran show “Kalam Ennas” at the same time-slot on a different TV station. A woman running a TV show solely on primetime is not a rare thing in these parts of the world, but to have a show as successful as Abou Hamzeh’s is. Her demeanor, charm and presentation skills aren’t the only reasons she’s great. The bravery with which she handled her husband’s falling from grace over the past year as well as the support she provided her family while their entire status changed showed how strong Mona Abou Hamzeh is as a woman and as a mother. She didn’t succumb to the scandal that caught her off guard, like society usually asks of women here, but braced through it and emerged victorious.

Nancy Ajram

Nancy Ajram

She sells out arenas, conjures one chart-topping hit after the next, produces one music video after the next, churns out super-selling albums every other year, and still finds time to support the Lebanese army, women and children across the region through various charities, be the regional ambassador for several brands, judge on Arab Idol and be the Arab artist with the most video views on YouTube, ever. Long gone are the days of Nancy Ajram being synonymous with sultry. Many wondered if Ajram’s motherhood would stop her upward trajectory of fame. She proved them wrong by continuing to be one of the region’s most influential and well-known singers, as well as a full time mom to two gorgeous young girls.

The Mothers of Lebanon’s Kidnapped Soldiers

I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it must be for a mother to lose a son, but to have her son’s life be stuck in the balance of a political game for months now and still manage to get up in the morning to tend to the rest of her family must be a whole other level of achievement. They’re not famous. I don’t even know their names. But I know they’ve been working tirelessly to try and get their children to safety, to get our government to do something, anything, even as news kept becoming more and more dismal. And for that, Mother’s Day cannot pass without saluting those mothers too.

Your Mother, Too

This can’t end without a section about your mother as well. Once a year, the country stands to salute our mothers, which is something it should do every day. By being proud of us in spite of our faults, they push us to be better and strive for better. By raising us the best way they can, they are the catalyst towards a, hopefully, better future for the country and for ourselves. She’s the one who, when there isn’t enough food at the table, would rather you eat while she goes to bed hungry. She’s the one who, when there isn’t enough money, would rather you get new clothes than replace her worn out shoes. She’s the one who, despite being incapacitated beyond belief through one illness or the next, would still get out of bed to prepare you lunch. She’s the one you call “weinik/ak” on your phone, the one who’s always first to comment on your picture with “to2borne/to2brine nchallah,” who gushes with joy whenever she thinks about you and whom you won’t be able to repay.

Yes, this is to your mother, too.

Arab Porn?

I was linked to this YouTube video by a friend:

After watching it, I was like: Ok, this is funny and the girl is hot but that’s pretty much it. Then I looked at the view and it had 160K.

Then I glanced at the comments and saw ones that went like this:

–  i just got a boner :O – by alyehab

– omg this video causes two things:

1- hard work to the right hand.

2- I have to wash my p>. – by abufaisal1980

– the more appropriate title would be ” how to make a lebanese girl give you a BJ extremely fast” – by lifesnojoke333

There are far more comments of this nature on the video. The thing in common between the users? they’re from the Arab Gulf and they are so sexually deprived, it’s getting ridiculous.

According to my friend Paul Gadallah, Arabs would “find a bar in Beirut to be porn” – and I never thought I would agree to that until I saw the comments on this video. Fine, the girl has shown cleavage – big deal. Why don’t they ask for change in their countries so seeing cleavage doesn’t become this “OMG, I JUST SAW A PART OF A BREAST” moment.

Until then, it’s our sad fate, dear Lebanese, that whenever one of our women wear something even slightly revealing, it would automatically become the jerk off material for some (yes, I’m aware this doesn’t apply to everyone so spare me the comments of you not being like this) Arabs across the Middle East.

Arabs often stereotype Lebanese women as “easy” merely because they show some skin.  Is it their fault for such a stereotype? Absolutely not.  Although Lebanon still has a long way to go in terms of gender equality, regionally speaking it is much more open and is one of the few countries in the region where women can dress up, go party, and in have a regular boyfriend.  Lebanon even hosts the region’s first sexuality magazine, Jassad, owned by the famous Joumana Haddad.  In many Arab countries, especially the Gulf, women are seen as docile creatures and in Saudi Arabia, they still cannot even drive.  To them women going out showing some skin, could only mean that they are sinners; wanting sex bad and are akin to whores, but men going out and partying is perfectly fine, cementing the prevailing hypocrisy and justifying the ever prevalent sexual harassment in the region.

We, Lebanese, are proud of our women – as corny as it may be – just the way they are. Whether they choose to show skin or not, it’s not anyone’s business. And it certainly shouldn’t turn into a repressed Arab’s material for some good time.