Lebanon Protests: The Need For Change Doesn’t End With Hariri Resigning

Via Art Of Thawra

It took 13 days of the entire country being paralyzed for Lebanon’s politician to budge. In a statement in which he decried that “no one is above their country,” Saad Hariri – our now (former?) prime minister issued his resignation.

His resignation comes today to the background of plenty of Hezbollah and Amal thugs storming the downtown Beirut area, beating up protesters, women, reports, breaking down equipment, and the tents those protesters were using to demand basic human rights.

If anything, Hariri’s resignation can’t be more timely: he is resigning from leading a country he was not able to govern, as exemplified by our own security forces standing helpless as those goons came down on peaceful protests, bolstered by their impenetrable political shield.

But let’s not forget that this isn’t just about Hariri, or Bassil, or Aoun, or Berri, or any other politician who hasn’t been at the forefront of the protest chants. Kellon ye3ne Kellon means that Hariri’s resignation should be one of many, and it should be a wake up call for us that building the country we deserve doesn’t stop when someone resigns.

In 2005, the massive protests after the assassination of Rafic Hariri led to the resignation of the prime minister. A lot of people were satisfied with that development, and it was surely triumphant. But as the subsequent decade has shown us, it was not enough.

Hariri resigning is not enough.

Our politicians are symptoms of a syndrome. This syndrome is the sectarian rule of law that has enabled them to persist as parasites, leeching off the people from whom they’ve sucked all the will to survive.

It is not a surprise that, nowadays, criticizing Hariri – to many – feels as if you’re criticizing Sunnis. It is not a surprise that many think criticizing Hezbollah and Amal is akin to criticizing the foundation of Lebanese Shiism. It not a surprise that criticizing Aoun or Bassil or Geagea feels to a lot of people as if you’re attacking Lebanese Christianity.

This is because those politicians have been able to use our sectarian divides as walls that they’ve erected around their halos, in order to perpetuate the illusion of their sanctity, in order to let us think they are untouchable.

The mere notion of some politicians being red lines that should not be crossed in this country, or in any democracy, is a no-go. They should all be open for criticism, impeachment and – most importantly – removal from office.

But that will never happen if we continue to prioritize sect over country. If me, a Lebanese Maronite, will forever be clinging to my Maronitism as the scope with which I view my citizenry, then Lebanon will never be able to become a country that can inhabit all of its people. The same thing applies for people of other sects.

This means that moving forward, Hariri’s resignation is not enough to instill the change we need. Gebran Bassil becoming a “former” minister is not enough, despite how catchy his chants can be. Moving forward, cute chants of “mabsoutaaa3” are not enough to move this country forward.

What we need is a drastic overhaul of the Lebanese system that enables its citizens to be equal in the eye of a common law, not by the law of their respective sects. What we need is a for an electoral law that is not tailored to our current politicians or people who are like them, to enable different faces with the same bullshit to be brought back to office.

What we need is to start concrete steps towards the de-sectarianization of this country so that – in 10, 20 or 30 years from now – we can get to a place where a Lebanese citizen would not introduce themselves by how they pray.

Until then, I congratulate all of the protestors on this first much-needed ounce of change, and hopefully it is the bellwether of more change to come.

Lebanon Protests: It’s Too Late To Believe Any of These Politicians’ Promises

(Picture via Anis Tabet).

Nata2 badri, as my mom would say.

72 hours have come and gone. Aoun, Berri and Hariri have finally come out of their weekend long slumber to unveil their country saving plan… and they think we’re actually going to believe them this time.

The plan that Hariri unveiled today is offensive to every single Lebanese who had to suffer through their corruption for years. This so-called plan is an insult to the intelligence of the millions who have been starved over the years, and who were protesting in the streets over the last 4 days.

It’s ridiculous that it took millions of us protesting across the world for them to *finally* succumb and cut down on their salaries, on their benefits, on long standing black holes that siphoned public funds into their pockets.

What Hariri and the rest of Lebanon’s ruling class believe is that they can continue to fool people with the same empty promises they’ve given for years. If it was *this* easy for them to enact these changes, why hadn’t they enacted them months ago when they were scrambling to come up with a budget for a country that functioned without one for decades?

It’s because they’ve taken our silence for granted. It’s because they assumed they can do whatever they wanted to this people and get away with it. But that stops now.

No Mr. Hariri, your empty promises don’t fly here. Just look at workers at Future TV and Saudi Ogeh were promised for years, none of which was ever fulfilled.

No, these empty reforms don’t address the root of the problem which is that these same politicians who have failed to reform anything for decades cannot suddenly see the light and decide to enact much needed change.

No, switching one way for these politicians to steal money to programs called Elinor and Elissar is not reform. This is just another name for theft.

It’s too little too late for empty statements masquerading under the guise of change to be effective. We should be better than to believe such empty words.

I really hope that years of lies are enough to have us believe that more lies can never be truths.

Stay tuned, Lebanon. The revolution continues.

The Weekend When Tripoli Was The Icon of Lebanon’s Protests

I’ve been writing about Tripoli so frequently on this blog, not only because I loved that city, but because the preconceptions that many Lebanese had of it – mostly out of biased media whose job was to alienate fellow Lebanese from the Northern capital.

Those preconceptions varied from “tripoli is where ISIS is” to “there’s nothing to do there anyway.” Many Lebanese that I know have started their third decade of life without having visited the city.

As Lebanon ends its third consecutive day of massive protests, the like of which the country has never seen, one thing is abundantly clear, regardless of what amounts from the revolution: Tripoli has finally gotten its chance to show its true color to everyone, and it did so out of the sheer will of its own people.

From its world famous Fayha Choir singing a cappella, to Marcel Khalifeh going to this city to sing at a protest, to them turning the infamous “se7et l nour” to not one, but TWO full blown raves, to thousands of them singing the national anthem at the top of their lungs, to their world famous sweets maker Hallab giving away 10,000 knefes, to its people baking manakeesh for the protesters for free. Tripoli was the highlight of Lebanon’s protests as it tore down stereotype after stereotype that was thrown at it for years.

Each of those moments was so fantastic to behold there isn’t a person I know who wasn’t taken aback by them. But I was not surprised, nor were the people who knew what this city was capable of.

Think about how gigantic a step it is for a DJ to be blasting techno music from a rooftop into a square that has been associated with Islamists for years, as thousands of people bopped their heads and threw their hands up for life.

Think about how enormous of a step it is for this city who has been taken for granted by the countless politicians that have claimed it to tell every single one of them to fuck off.

This northern city is representative of the Lebanese spirit like nothing else. It’s been brought down so many times. It hasn’t even been a decade since it had a war that few outside of the North cared about. It suffered through years and years of harmful propaganda – sometime by the same media of current ruling parties… and still it rises.

From the middle of New York, to all those in Tripoli who showed the city in the best light possible, you’re all amazing. Thank you.

Lebanon Burned. And Now It May Rise

My heart broke two days ago when I saw my home country burn, quite literally, in front of our eyes. As firefighters and regular people alike risked their lives to save our forests and homes from turning to ashes, it seemed fitting that a country whose course was scorching earth culminated that way.

The fire was literal and figurative. The trees burned, but so did people’s savings. The shrubs erupted, but so did people’s patience. Homes burned, and so did the fragile foundation on which the semblance of the Lebanese state remained.

As the government botched yet another aspect of its job towards its citizens, as people died trying to save each other from the fire while our politicians watched, it felt like we were turning into the ashes from which the Phoenix that this country has been likened to can finally be reborn.

They raised taxes. We took it in.

They didn’t collect garbage. We took it in.

They didn’t provide security and didn’t protect our currency. We took it in.

They didn’t provide for our children and elderly. They broke our social fabric. We took it in.

They cultivated divide and hatred. We swallowed it in.

They turned us into expats. They killed us. We took it in.

And then we rise.

You can call it the WhatsApp revolution. You can call it what you want to. But whatever the name may be, what is happening across Lebanon today is exactly why a part of me will love that country.

It’s that moment where enough became enough. When the raised taxes, the higher fuel prices, the lack of electricity and water and decent internet, the lack of security, the depreciation of citizenry all culminated in what may be lebanon – finally – rising.

It’s that split second in which thousands of my people can gather on the streets to cry for their rights.

It’s that kick that that feisty Lebanese woman can deliver to an armed officer threatening her.

It’s that middle finger that a protester gives to a politician who has taken his support for granted.

It’s that anger at years during which those very politicians have turned living in Lebanon into an actual hell.

It’s the years in which they failed to provide what constitutes the essentials of basic human decency.

It’s that Sunni in tripoli who is finally tired of Hariri.

It’s that Shia in Nabatieh who tore down the picture of Nabih Berri. It’s that Christian in Mount Lebanon who finally told Gebran Bassil to shove it.

Those chants in the streets, the party flags torn up, the politician pictures burned down could all point to a new dawn for a country who has been needing daylight for so long.

Yes I am wary. I had hope when I still lived in Lebanon and we protested the garbage crisis. I had hope even before then when I was a teenager and part of the millions who took it to martyr’s square on March 14th. But my Lebanese experience has trained me not to get my hopes up sometimes. Yet this time seems different.

There’s another air to how the protests are. This is the first time we’ve seen this level of anger and angst, perpetuating across the political and sectarian spectrum, uniting people I’d never thought could be united.

This is the first time their attempts at attacking the validity of the protests has completely failed, and conversely fueled their legitimacy.

Today, I have hope for my country. I’ve never had this much hope since I was 15 years old, on March 14th. I have hope that finally Lebanon may rise, and become the country we deserve to have.

To all of those in the streets fighting for everyone’s rights, you are heroes. Thank you for the good fight, we are humbled by your bravery.

Lebanon Slipping To The Dark Ages: Charbel Khalil Wants To Start a Gay Conversion Therapy Group In The Name of St. Charbel

With each passing day, news transpiring out of Lebanon get more and more disheartening as the latest seems to be a wannabe “comedian” deciding it’s time for him to start a “conversion therapy group” for gay people in the country.

The comedian in question is Charbel Khalil. I forget when the last time this man dabbled with relevance, but he wants to be in the spotlight again as he launches hocus pocus, unethical and unscientific torture methods under the guise of his namesake saint.

In a series of tweets, Khalil announced his intention to quick start the “St. Charbel Project” to “help” gay men and women to get rid of their gayness. As he got criticized, he then amplified his homophobia by blocking anyone who opposed his message, calling them pejorative words and doubling down on his message. You can find his tweets here:

Charbel Khalil’s feeble attempt at relevance is something that has been deemed by scientists as inhumane, barbaric and obviously useless. The mere fact that, in 2019, something like this could be allowed or even started when any respectable scientific body has stopped recognizing homosexuality as a disease for around a lifetime, is horrifying.

It’s another step in that downward spiral of a country that is fast circling the drain in all the ways that matter.

You see, what Charbel Khalil is proposing is a violation of basic human rights. People will applaud him, because at a time when a lyric can upset millions, basic decency does not even register.

What Charbel Khalil wants to do is an affront to anything that is scientific and logical. But that’s not the kind of thinking people like him and those who like him dabble in. They’re probably the same kind of people who think global warming is a myth as their face melts off in the July heat.

And let’s not even forget that what Charbel Khalil wants to do is an insult to the saint whose name he’s plastering on his crime.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is not a laughing matter. I pity the LGBT people who will fall victim to this man’s actions because they live in a country that has permeated the notion that their sexuality and their being cannot coexist. Live and let live does not run in Lebanon circa 2019, looking more like 1472. How could they when they want to police how you pray, what you watch and listen to, and now how they think they can control your body’s urge to love?

I pity the children of these many figures who may one day end up gay, only to face the insurmountable rejection that is their own family denying them a safe space, in a Country that is anything but.

Today, what those tweets constitute is another nail in the coffin of the hopes of a modern Lebanese state. From attempts to ban Mashrou Leila, to now kick-starting a practice being banned everywhere in the modern world, how low do we want to sink?

From a failed economy, to a failed state, to failed freedoms and now to failed basic human decency, I wonder where Lebanon’s rock bottom will be?