How Lebanon’s Politicians Are Threatened By The #‏طلعت_ريحتكم‬ Movement

Over the past month, the most energetic and momentum-ful youth movement this country has seen over the past of the past few years was born and they called themselves طلعت ريحتكم or YouStink.

That movement was born because a portion of the Lebanese society, one that has a functioning head above its shoulders and one that can see through the whole spectrum of our politicians’ bullshit, was sick of the status quo that’s forcing every single Lebanese today, except a select few, to live in utter misery, in a state of non-existent rights and… in their own garbage. You’ve all seen those pictures.

That non-political movement has its only purpose to challenge a system that has gone for so long unchallenged and to expose the corruption that is so well-rooted in all our politicians that they’d rather let the country sink in garbage than threaten their bottom line. And that is scaring our politicians shitless.

The Future Movement:

When the protests started, the FM accused them, via its TV station Future TV, of being nothing more than “workers of the resistance,” which is to say that this movement against the trash crisis of which the FM and its corruption were central players for years is nothing more than a product of the imagination of Hezbollah.

The FM thought that such rhetoric would suffice to resonate with its crowds. Perhaps it did with some. But when it didn’t, the FM’s minister tried to divert attention from the protest by arresting a protestor who was “threatening the Sunni legacy” in the country by fighting for his right by suing the Sunni orphanage for sexual abuse and painting it as a threat to that minister’s well being. Oh well.

Michel Aoun:

In between his quest to reclaim Christian rights and to get himself to presidency and his son in law as army commander, Michel Aoun was also very upset that his very, very failed protests were, well, an utter failure and had security personnel oppose them.

To make a point, or lack thereof, he asked in a press conference the armed forces to go and cut roads and whatnot to the YouStink protesters.

The Kataeb:

Some Kataeb MPs, plenty as they are, considered the protesters in the YouStink movement to be “ridiculous,” or to use the arabic word for it “سافهين.” I guess so says the party that voted for the grandson of their founder to be their head after having his father be the head for so many years?

Hezbollah:

Hezbollah’s minister Hussein El Hajj Hassan asked Lebanese media to decrease and stop covering the YouStink protests. I guess Hezbollah’s reps think that protests against the government and establishment of which they are part, highlighting their grave shortcomings are a big no-no. Tell that to the FM please.

March 14’s General Directorate:

In their meeting, they accused the movement of being part of Hezbollah’s brigade, which is why I suppose anyone would want to oppose this government or the Lebanese establishment as it stands. The meeting also asked the government to hold its own in the face of such protesters.

And On 19/8/2015:

The following are a few pictures of what’s happening right now in Riad el Solh square, against the protesters of the YouStink movement:

When they went down to Riad el Solh today, the protesters of the YouStink movement found themselves faced with a full on onslaught by the Lebanese armed forces who hosed them with water, prevented them from protesting as the cabinet convened to discuss the garbage crisis.

The government failed, yet again, to find a solution today and postponed the problem, again, to a subsequent date. It must be so hard for our politicians to find a solution where they all get money from the handling of Beirut’s garbage. Hashtag: the tough life of a Lebanese politician who’s never satisfied financially.

So naturally, our government failing was met with wide arrests in the ranks of the protesters. Director Lucien Bou Rjeili, who recently did more work than the entirety of our political establishment in the Bab el Tebbeneh-Jabal Mosehn issue by coming up with a play bringing people from both regions together for the first time (link), was arrested.

Activist Assaad Thebian was also arrested; Imad Bazzi, known for his blog Trella.org, was injured and transferred to a nearby hospital. Activists Waref Sleiman and Hassan Shamas were also arrested.

The protesters were then threatened by our those armed forces to be arrested and referred to military court for further management, because this is how we function in Lebanon: people protesting for their fundamental civil liberties get a military trial. And we pretend we’re a democracy.

Not only have our politicians failed in the simplest form of governance and that is sorting our garbage, but they’ve also failed in maintaining a country with the minimum amount of liberties of being able to speak, of not feeling threatened to oppose, of not being beaten up and hosed down when we speak up.

How different is this government from those of the Syrian occupation period when protesters were arrested and threatened for simply protesting? It’s not.

Today, the heroes of Lebanon are those protestors in Riyad el Solh. To the country’s politicians, the most fitting thing to say is this:

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Maskhara At USJ: A Sum-Up of What’s Wrong With Lebanon

They say our country’s future resides on our generation. You know, the generation that supposedly doesn’t have illiterates, that has people going to our country’s universities to get the education that the people before us did not get to have. We were supposed to be brighter, more aware, more critical and less extreme.

We are anything but.

One of Lebanon’s universities, USJ, will close its doors tomorrow because its students decided to express civility today. It was not enough, for instance, for Hezbollah supporters that the entire country has to deal with their party’s reckless practices and their consequences and not get a say in the matter or that their hypocrisy has redefined the definition of terrorism in Lebanon. No, let’s not talk about any of that. Let’s talk about how some of their supporters decided it was a brilliant idea to remove the pictures of an infamous politician in the area where Huvelin exists and to plaster the thug that assassinated him around the place while chanting his name.

Because the country needed such a thing happening in it now. Because there’s absolutely nothing else pertinent taking place currently, the least of which is dealing with the ramification of an explosion that happened in Hezbollah HQ less than a week ago. Because someone figured: Jeez, we lost the elections a few days ago there so wouldn’t it be fun to do such a thing? I’ll get away with it anyway because, you know, I’m a Hezbollah supporter and I never, ever get into trouble. Never. This is my country and all of you just have to deal with it.

The counter reactions were not at a better level.

USJ is a Christian university. Because employing sectarian rhetoric is precisely what is needed in such conflicts, precisely what the country needs right now and precisely what is required to diffuse the tension. Let’s just bring it right into the fold and make it part of the debacle. Let’s not make it a battle of politics anymore. Let’s give our constituents exactly what they crave and what they itch for. Let’s give them what resonates with them at this very moment of a Lebanon that has fundamentalism on the rise. Let’s make this a battle of us versus them, of them trying to control us and to take over our campus.

What campus, you ask? The campus of Bashir, referring to Bashir Gemayel, the former Lebanese president around whom the current debacle took place. The campus of those who believe in his ideology and who follow in his footsteps. So is everyone else not welcome? Perhaps such an argument is tough to swallow but just because someone attended a university, however important that person is, does not turn that university into his property or into something that should always pay homage to him, regardless of who that person is.

Hezbollah’s aggressions are unacceptable and are bordering thug-like behavior. But the replies to those aggressions, even if only verbal, do not a point make. They do not even advance the situation or try to resolve it. Instead, we are left with kids playing, unaware that their actions in the Lebanon of today can have ramifications that none of them, I suppose, would want to see. But let them play. And let the politicians who support them and are defending them in the closed circles meetings taking place as we speak play. Or perhaps I was just being optimistic that my generation would be more mature than this. I guess not.

Replying to Samy Gemayel

I never thought I’d reach a day where Samy Gemayel gets on my nerves. I thought he represented a future of young MPs who could possibly get our voice across. He had stood up to his family establishment and established his own movement. He had his own voice. Now, the only thing I hear is some very nasal rhetoric that presents absolutely nothing new, is completely unfounded and that people obviously eat up.

He was the MP who advocated the most apparently to increase Lebanon’s MP total to 134 (click here). And he took it to Facebook (click here) to explain his point of view.

Here it is:

Good evening dear friends,
I just wanted to explain my point of view regarding the creation of a seat in the parliament for Lebanese syriacs.
1-This community has 26700 voters and are not represented in the parliament while others like Alaouites (26100) have 2 seats and protestants (11000) have one seat… So as long as the sectarian system is still in place, this Lebanese community deserves to have a seat in the parliament. That is why I proposed to add a seat for them to be represented. I hope one day we will be able to get rid of this sectarian quota in the parliament which can only be achieved through a reform of the Lebanese system. Decentralization, creation of a Senate, neutrality and some reforms of the constitution are our only way out of this corrupt sectarian system. Till then we need to have the best representation of all the Lebanese groups so everyone will feel represented as he should and we will be able to move forward in reforming our political system.
2- The problem is not that we have too much MPs but that most of these MPs are doing nothing for the people. It is normal for a country like ours to have 128 or 134 MPs. What is not normal is that most of them are inactive! They are inactive because they were elected just because some “Za3im” sectarian leader took them on their list and not because people wanted them in the parliament to achieve something. That’s why few months ago I officially proposed a draft law proposing to take off 250.000 LP from an MP salary for every committee meeting he doesn’t attend. So if they don’t want to work people shouldn’t pay them any salary. This way, taxpayers will pay for MPs who are really working.
3- We will keep working for an electoral law that can provide the best representation for all the Lebanese groups and individuals. There are a lot of good solutions. I’m sure it will be a happy ending for all 🙂
Good night
SG

I felt at I, as a Lebanese citizen who is irrelevant compared to Mr. Gemayel, should reply to this utter none sense. I am lucky to have a relatively read platform to voice my opinion and I hope this speaks to those who share the same frustration.

1) Dear Mr. Gemayel, one moment you proclaim that it is detrimental to Christians in the country to go around using the numbers game because we have officially stopped counting with the whole “equal division” affair. One moment you’re using those numbers to show support for “minorities.” Should the sects that got new representatives be represented? Perhaps so. But definitely not through new MPs. Let’s talk a few numbers. The country currently has 700,000 Maronite voters who are represented by 32 MPs. The country has around 900,000 for each of the Shia and Sunni sects. Each one is represented by 27MPs. Maybe those new Christian MPs should have been given out from the Maronite share to bring it closer to what it should be given the over inflation it currently poses? But of course not because that wouldn’t work at all with those many MP voters. For instance, Tripoli currently counts 4000 Maronite voters. Those 4000 voters have an MP to represent them. Isn’t that overdoing it? Why not give that seat to Syriac Orthodox? I’m sure you can find two other seats all over the Lebanese map which you can re-allocate as well.

2) Are you serious, Mr. Gemayel? We are a country of less than 4 million. We have now 134 MPs that represent us in parliament. That’s a ratio of 30,000 people per MP. Let’s consider the United States. Their population is, according to the latest census, 316 million. Their congress and senate combined have over 535 members. That brings their ratio to almost 600000 person per MP. And since the United States may not be a sufficient example, let’s look at other countries. Switzerland has 200 MP for 8 million people. That’s 40,000 people per MP. And Switzerland has arguably similar “diversity” to us. France, a country of 65 million, has a combined congress and senate of 925 members which translates to 70,000 voters per representative. I can go on and on with examples. But I guess this suffices to make the point quite clear: yes, part of the problem is that we have too many MPs. Another part of the problem is that none of the MPs, including you Mr. Gemayel, are doing their job at legislation. And your proposal to remove less than $200 from a salary of several thousand dollars for MPs who don’t attend the many many numerous meetings that our parliament has is not only laughable, it’s you insulting our intelligence. Those extra MPs will cost taxpayers much more money than any of your sanctions would bring back. But that’s not a very appealing idea for voters now, is it?

3) It would have been more honorable, Mr. Gemayel, if you and your MP friends had actually agreed on an electoral law to elect those extra MPs and the original 128 before you actually increased the number. You keep talking, Mr. Gemayel, about elements to be applied of the Taef agreement while that agreement specifically called for much less MPs than we currently have. Wasn’t the number 108? Let’s not hide behind our fingers and say that everything will have a happy ending for us, the people, because it won’t. The only thing you and your MP friends are attempting to do is come up with a formula to bring you back to power, to enable you to turn your speeches into an auction to attract people by making them believe you are fighting for their rights and to make us pay for more people who have nothing better to do than fight with each other, racing the country in a Maserati down a dead end street.

Good morning.
EF

I find it sad that an MP as educated and young as Mr. Gemayel cannot come up with better arguments as to the increase of the MP number. What a hopeless future we have ahead of us.

Kataeb and Ahrar “History Book” Protest Turns Bloody – Reminiscent of Syrian Occupation Days

No, the above picture is not from the long gone anti-Syrian protests. No, the above picture is not out of a history book, which might never be written.

The above is a picture from a few hours ago, in Downtown Beirut, of Kataeb and Ahrar supporters getting beaten up by Lebanese armed forces, during a protest against the proposed history book, drafted by Lebanon’s unicolor government.

The differences between then and now are striking. The ultimate scene, however, is quite the same: Lebanese protesting flagrant violations of their rights and armed personnel beating them up for speaking up. The difference? The order to beat up the protesters was Syrian back then. This time, however, it’s Lebanese – or as “Lebanese” as it can get.

The Lebanese army was present. It did not interfere. After all, what’s the Lebanese army doing these days except sitting on the sidelines setting up checkpoints in irrelevant places, doing nothing to protect the people it should be working hard to keep safe?

The students were stopped by the armed forces on their way to the Grand Serail. As a result, 14 of the students were injured and transferred to nearby hospitals.

In a country with no victors, how could the current government expect people to forget about their history, their struggles, their own revolutions and be subdued to its version of a history which glorifies events that shouldn’t be glorified and forgets about other incidents that should never be forgotten?

In a country with no victors, how could the Lebanese armed forces take a side against the protesters in such a way, when if the other “team” protested, the only thing they’d be doing is cower away in their barracks eating tawouk? For our armed forces, a bunch of university students protesting a book is far more dangerous than hundreds of men dressed in black shirts roaming the streets of Beirut in obvious display of tactical power. Where were the armed forces then? Or do they only know to stand against those that are “weak” in Lebanese society?

In a country with no victors, what warrants a select group of unqualified people to write a book where they highlight the struggles of people from “down under,” while neglecting the struggles of every single other portion of Lebanese society?

I am sick and tired of being treated as subclass citizen by the state of Lebanon because:

1) I did not live under Israeli occupation.

2) I do not support a political party which flaunts its weapons.

3) I am not of a certain sect, which is protected by some “un”holy parties.

I am sick and tired of not being able to trust any of Lebanon’s armed forces and them not doing anything in any way whatsoever to bridge the gap of bias they have created across Lebanon.

I am sick and tired of loving a country so much when with each passing moment they make me feel like I have no place here – even when it comes to talking about a history book.

But I’m sorry to break it to them – students and real activists who were not deterred by the brutality of the Syrian regime will not fear a government whose only reason of existing is the “un”holy backbone it has. And a history book, which is as biased as the one currently written, will never pass.

After all, if a history book was irrelevant, why were those students beaten up?