In Case You’re Hesitant About Going Down To Martyrs’ Square Tomorrow

What promises to be Lebanon’s biggest secular and non-partisan protest is set to take place tomorrow in Downtown Beirut at 6:00PM under the slogan: YouStink, addressing all of Lebanon’s ruling class.

This isn’t to those of us who are protesting tomorrow; this is to those who are hesitant.

We should go because the trash is piling up in the streets of Beirut again:

Tole3et Re7etkom Protest - 2

You should go because that wall they built for 24 hours in Downtown Beirut is the clearest indication on how dissonant our political system is from us as a Lebanese citizens.

Picture via @DisgraceOfGod.

Picture via @DisgraceOfGod.

We should go because it would be disgraceful to have these heroes in the forefront of the protest, and not have us to back them up:

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We should go because every single politician in this country has has made us feel alienated, has made sure we felt that we didn’t belong in the confines of our own homes. All of them means all of them:

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This poster includes Hassan Nasrallah too.

We should go because our government is 3 degrees of barbed wire separation away from us:

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Picture via Lucien Abou Rjeili.

We should go because the Speaker of Parliament gave orders to kill on Saturday.

Picture via Elie Farah.

Picture via Elie Farah.

 

We should go because a system where neither politics nor institutions are working is not a system worth maintaining. 

Many of us are worried about the protests turning violent. But know this: there will be so many people tomorrow that the security forces will not do anything funny. I also have first hand confirmation from the Minister of Interior Affairs, Nohad el Machnouk, that Lebanon’s security forces have been instructed to leave protestors alone.

If you’re still worried that the protests might turn violent after that, know that there are measures you can take to ensure your safety:

  1. Stay in groups of 5-6 people,
  2. If you get apprehended shout your name at the top of your lungs,
  3. Have a scarf ready with you along with a bottle of water in case tear gas is used. You can also have a can of Coke with you to use (it’s more efficient than water).
  4. Wear long pants that are not jeans to make it easier to run in case water cannons are used.
  5. Do not wear open shoes. Running shoes are best.
  6. When the protest turns violent, you can choose to leave.

If you’re worried about the protests being hijacked by Aoun or Hezbollah, it makes it the more your duty to go down, hold slogans against every single politician in this country to let them know that they aren’t a part of the problem, they ARE the problem.

If you’re worried about the protest becoming too anti-March 14, it makes it the more your duty to go down and tell your leaders that they aren’t only fucking up the country, that it’s not okay to fuck up your life as well.

If you’re worried about the protests’ demands not conforming with your political code, it makes it the more your duty to go down and make sure that your voice is heard, that your demands are not kept in the confines of a room in front of a TV set or a computer.

Why I’m Going:

I’m going down because for the second time in this country’s existence, I’ve found that there is a political cause I can wholeheartedly believe in, NOT to overthrow the government  and NOT to overthrow Nohad el Machnouk.

I’m going down because for the first time in a very long time, I feel that there’s something in this country that’s inviting me in, that’s making me feel worthy as a citizen, that’s giving me value, that’s telling me I matter.

I’m going down because I’ve been let down over and over again by a political class that has proven again and again not to care about anything but itself, not to seek anything but its self-preservation.

I’m going down because it’s not okay not to have a president for more than 450 days, to have my voting rights stolen twice, not to have the basic rights that people across the World have in 2015.

I’m going down to shout for my basic right, as a Lebanese citizen, to live in a country where I can access power and have a say in how things are run. I’m going down to protest for my right to be represented, to have an electoral law that makes sure I get a say, that my voice is not squashed as it has been for the 25 years that I’ve existed in this country.

Odds are I will find many tomorrow who echo these same sentiments, and so will you. I’m not going down to bring the system down. I’m going to try and fix this bloody system. I do so not with hope, for that is a foolish thing to have in such things, but with enthusiasm fueled by the feeling that my voice finally matters.

If not tomorrow, then when will we stand up? When will we say enough is enough? When will we try to reclaim our own voice? It’s high time we do. See you in a few hours.

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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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Lebanon’s 2012 Picture of the Year

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They say a picture is worth a thousand words. The above picture is worth a few thousand more than that – but don’t worry, I won’t write them.

Antoine Zahra, LF MP of the Batroun Caza, sporting a Palestine solidarity scarf… on his trip to Gaza. Who knew there would come a day when such a sentence would actually be written?

As they say “3ish ktir, betchouf ktir.” I personally don’t know what to make from March 14th visit to Gaza. On one hand, some see it as an act of solidarity, on another hand others see it as absolutely useless act of propaganda.
I’m leaning more to the latter but people already think I’m overly negative lately so good on March 14th for going there.

However, Antoine Zahra, it seems, is sticking it to whoever is saying the LF hate all Palestinians. Now cue in those reminding the world of the “atrocities” the LF have done during the civil war because that is entirely the point here.

In short, for so many reasons, I guess it’s fair to assume the above picture cannot but be Lebanon’s 2012 picture of the year – by far.

Rest in Peace Lebanon’s March 14th

My name is Elie Fares. I will soon be 23 years old. I am a Lebanese citizen. I also happen to be born into a Maronite family. My registry number is 44. I vote in Ebrine, in the Batroun Caza.

I remember prior to 2005 when a friend asked me in class: “enta 3awne aw ouwwatje?”

I looked at him blankly. Both those words were foreign to me. I didn’t know what “3awne” or “ouwwatje” meant. So I just shrugged and said neither. Why didn’t I know what “3awne” or “ouwwatje” meant? Because we never discussed such things in my household. The only thing that got transiently mentioned among my parents was the need for the Syrian army to leave from my hometown back then. And that was my only political truth back then. Get the Syrians out of my country.

Up until 2005, I never believed in anything political. I never thought I’d be interested in politics. I remember getting the news of February 14th while my school bus drove me home. I looked at the driver worryingly: what would this mean to my country?

I didn’t like Rafic Hariri. He had been with the Syrians for way too long. But I had come to appreciate him switching sides over the past previous months and the hope I saw in my parents’ faces as they spoke about voting for the “opposition” in the upcoming elections, hoping to change things.

I watched the news like every other Lebanese. I saw hundreds of thousands go down to Hariri’s funeral. I saw the youth of Lebanon run to the streets every week. I saw the army trying to stop them from gathering. I saw people sit down in Martyr’s Square to fight for a freedom my country longed for. I saw more than a million Lebanese fill the streets of Beirut on March 14th 2005. I felt my heart fill with joy as I hugged two of my friends who happened to be of opposite political affiliations (one is ouwwatje, the other is 3awne). I felt on top of the world. I felt like I could change things. I felt empowered. I felt proud to be Lebanese – and nothing, to me back then, could change that.

The following day in an Arabic class at school we started discussing what happened with our teacher. My entire class had gone down to the protest. One of the two friends I hugged told the professor that the country seems to be heading in the right direction for the first time in a long time. Everyone was united in one cause – there was a “minority” which didn’t agree.

Our teacher said similar sentiments had surfaced before in the public but were short-living. My friend shrugged his words off. My teacher was right. The 2005 elections rolled around and I found myself taking sides. I decided then to become a supporter of the “ouwwet.” My friend was “3awne.” My parents, like so many other Christians that year, voted for Aoun. I had never seen my mom that resilient about voting for someone except perhaps when she voted the opposite way in 2009. I actually feel proud of that moment too – the fact that I came into my own political opinion independently of my parents, even opposing them. Therefore, I feel offended whenever someone infers that my political opinion was instilled in me by my parents due to excessive repetition.

The people, though, were not united anymore. My friends and I became on opposite sides. And years started passing as the divide grew bigger. The July 2006 war happened and we took sides then. Following the July 2006 war, March 8 set camp in downtown and I looked upon them in disgust. They were the “bajam” hurting our economy, damaging our reputation, working against the country I wanted to build. Their sit-in lasted two years during which my hate towards them grew. And my friends stopped talking to each other. But March 14th fought onwards, or so I thought, until a few months into 2008, the country’s real crisis began.

The May 2008 events happened and we also took sides. I was an AUB student who was forced to stop going to class for two weeks. I remember braving the protests on their very first day and going to classes, which were supposedly going to be held. My chemistry class had eight people. Our Jordanian teacher gave us a lecture about the importance of our country. That lecture was probably the most memorable one in my entire three years at AUB.

Starting with 2005, politicians got assassinated and innocent people got killed and we took sides. And with each March 14 politician dying, my resolve to support them grew stronger. How could anyone not see that they were the only ones being targeted? How could anyone not see exactly how wrong it was to support those “others” who were not suffering because of their love for the country?

The 2009 elections rolled by I had so many quarrels with family members because they wanted to vote for “the others.” I had heated debates with elderly people who reverted to civil war times in their talk, telling me I was “too young” to understand. But we won and I felt happy. I felt like we could now, possibly, take the country forward.

But then it started going down hill. Forming the government took such a long time. But I blamed Bassil and his father in law for not seeing the disgrace of his son in law’s loss in my region. The government eventually got formed but it wasn’t effectively ruling. It was all color by number – let us get the wheels of the country to move as smoothly as possible without damaging the very fragile equilibrium of sects that we so proudly paraded around to show our diversity as a nation. I started blaming Hezbollah for being armed and for not letting us rule. I blamed Aoun for spinning faster than a weather vane. I blamed Aounists for being so hateful to Geagea that they couldn’t see the many problems in their leader of choice.

And I saw March 14th start to go downhill but I still had hope that one day things might change again. I saw them make mistakes but I always deflected the criticism that March 8 people ran at me with: “Shut up, you’ve done much worse.” And to me, that was the absolute truth. They were ones to talk – ruining my country with their love for Iran and Syria, two countries that I despised.

So on March 13th 2011, I braved the cold of the snowstorm that had just subsided and figured it was divine intervention that the weather was that good when it was snowing the day before and I went down to Downtown Beirut to protest my right as a citizen to live. I went down in hope that being present there would reinvigorate the political movement I staunchly supported. I went in hope that being there would get the politicians I supported to man up and know that they have people who support them and who want them to take back the country from those who stole it by the force of their black shirts. I went down and felt proud doing so. But it was all in vain.

Nothing changed after that. The country only went further downhill. I continued believing that March 14th was the lesser of the two evils, the less hypocritical bunch out of the two, the saner one. But as I saw radical Islamists become part of their base supporters, I began to wonder where was the youth that was the heart of March 14? Was it replaced by bearded men who were enabled by some of March 14th’s politicians to enact out agendas that they were too cowardly to do?

I saw those politicians start leaving the country one by one, fearing for their lives. And I was here, struggling through everyday life because I did not matter. I was nothing more than an irrelevant individual compared to them. I still am. But I still convinced myself that it wasn’t all too bad. Our current problems were all to be blamed on the one-sided government that was making our lives hell with its inaptitude. I wasn’t getting neither electricity nor water in the heart of a capital that was losing its identity to foreigners who only visited it a few months per year. I was reaching the realization that my prospects in the country were as limited as they can get. I got to the realization that Lebanon is not the country I wanted to live in. I was broken.

I went to France. I saw how it is for people to truly live without worrying about the meaningless things that cause anxiety in us in Lebanon. I lived the life that I could have been living if my country hadn’t been such a mess, if my politicians truly cared about making my country better, if my country hadn’t been in the fancy geographical location we always brag about, if my country hadn’t been this chaotic mix of segregated people who had absolutely nothing in common among them except the ID card that they believe ties them together.

But I carried on with life because that’s what you do. I went to classes, working to leave one day to a place that would appreciate what I had to offer. And then Wissam Al Hassan got assassinated.

March 14th immediate reaction was to call for the government to collapse and to blame the prime minister. And I started wondering what good would that do. March 14th called on people to start going to Martyr’s Square to protest. They had no plan except to get the people there. I expressed my concern with the matter only to have their followers barrage me about living in high towers, behind a computer, blogging, while the country burned. I was used to getting criticism from both parts of the spectrum as I criticized parties in both (yes, even though I am politically affiliated, I still managed to criticize my party.) March 14th then called on their supporters to come down to Downtown Beirut in order to turn the funeral of Wissam Al Hassan into a national event for their rejuvenation. I refused to go. They had no plan. They didn’t know what they were doing except to get the people worked up. They only wanted Mikati to resign. They couldn’t answer the simple three-word question: And after that?

The funeral was supposedly a Lebanese matter. Few were the Lebanese flags there. There were Brazilian flags, some from Bangladesh and others from Uzbekistan. I failed to see the relevance. But the majority of flags there were of the Syrian revolution. The only thing Lebanese about the funeral were the people and the location. Its heart was entirely not there. The heart of it was not the man who was about to be buried.

As I watched the funeral on TV and saw Wissam Al Hassan’s boys weep their father, I felt sorry for what they were going through. What should have been a personal matter to them became a national event. What should have been Al Hassan’s family taking their time with what remained of their father became a televised event as politicians worked the crowds that were beyond angry. Then those people that were supposedly attending a funeral decided to turn Downtown Beirut into mayhem as some irrelevant journalist became relevant when he was given a loud voice.

I looked as people from the party I supported attacked barricades and fought to get to the Grand Serail. In order to do what? I had no idea. I looked in disgust as the funeral of a respectable man suddenly became a national circus. I looked in disgust as the politicians of March 14th turned the last memory of a man whom they were milking politically into what I was seeing in front of me. Then their supporters started using the same rhetoric that I had used before to justify what was happening. And those excuses didn’t work with my conscience anymore. It doesn’t mean we should do the heinous stuff that took place just because they excel at them. This is not how you build anything, let alone a country.

There was no justification for what happened. March 8 have done worse is not a justification – but I still refuse to see a March 8 person criticize what happened. They’re ones to talk.

March 14th became a hypocritical movement. It became a movement that I didn’t want to be associated with. It’s no longer a movement that wants to build a country. It’s no longer a movement I feel as comfortable voting for as I did a couple of days ago. It’s no longer a movement of youth that make me feel proud, it’s that of youth that make me feel nauseous. It’s no longer a movement of people who got to believe in it on their own accord, but that of people who either grew up hearing their parents ramble on about it or people who support it out of pure sectarian principles. It’s no longer a movement that can drive Lebanon out of its stillbirth. It’s no longer a movement that can make Lebanon a free country by design as opposed to the free result of a lucky break in a neighboring country. March 14th is no longer there. It is a shell of what it used to be. The dream of it is dead. March 14th is dead. And this is its obituary.

The Kourah July 2012 By-elections: What It Is & What It Isn’t

In about 7 hours, the citizens of the Northern caza “El Kourah” will head to the polls to choose between basically two candidates: Walid el Azar (SSNP) and Fadi Karam (LF) to replace Farid Habib (LF) who died back in May.

This isn’t the first time I write about this issue. A previous post of mine dealt with the SSNP’s serious lack of understanding of the basic elements of the democratic game with them turning the whole elections into a matter of life and death only because the LF nominated someone from a place they consider as their “fortress.”

Check out that post here.

On Friday, LF leader Samir Geagea held a press conference during which he declared that voting for his candidate means voting:

– For the Lebanese state.

– For the improvement of Kourah as a caza.

– Against Bashar el Assad and his regime.

– To overthrow the Syrian regime.

And the list goes on.

Sorry Mr. Geagea but your electoral rhetoric, while enticing, is simply full of it. A person casting a ballot for Fadi Karam won’t lead to the Syrian regime crumbling. An extra MP for the LF won’t change the balance of powers in the country. It won’t lead to a brilliant future nor will it change the fortunes of the Koura Caza.

It’s understandable that political leaders need to charge up people before heading to the polls for maximum results. The sad thing is people believe this.

On the other hand, the SSNP is still beating around the same old story: the LF are threatening our existence in an area that we’ve historically been the strongest in, etc…. That is also useless.

The fact remains that the Kourah elections will not change things. It will not do anything worth mentioning except have the party that wins celebrate for a few days, declaring how the tides have “turned.”

However, the Kourah elections is an indicator of what we could expect in 2013 especially if the results are read from sect to sect. It will be an indicator for the Future Movement to see exactly how much popular support they still have and how much they have lost. It will be an indicator for Christian parties to check their popular tracking with different sects. It will serve as a platform to base 2013 electoral hopes upon.

The clearest proof to that is both Farid Mekari and Nqoula Ghosn (the caza’s other two MPs) maximizing their electoral machine’s yield to help the LF candidate. They want to prove that they exist, that they can bring out the vote and that they should have a say in what happens in 2013.

How many people will vote tomorrow fully thinking it’s a vote against the killers of Bachir Gemayel, against the allies of Bashar, against the allies of America and for their own view of the Lebanese “state”? I would assume the absolute majority. Will anything change come 2013? I hardly think so. I can imagine the slogans from now. Depending on whether the Syrian regime falls or not, they will range from votes against Bashar and the Islamic state in Lebanon to votes against the zionist agenda and against corruption.

But the truth remains that those claiming change and reform haven’t done that one bit. And those claiming fighting for freedom are as powerless as the poor Syrian children getting massacred in their homes. Who cares, though. Let’s go vote. And win. And celebrate. And live in bliss. And then realize that we’ve accomplished nothing.

Did I mention you should vote for Fadi Karam? Yeah, I get to bring out the vote as well. Shou we2fet 3laye? 

Hassan Nasrallah… Why So Silent?

Anyone else wondering why the head of Hezbollah is abnormally silent these days regarding almost everything going on?

I mean, a week into the Egyptian revolution and we had already gotten a speech about the greatness Egypt was going through. And yet, a week into the Syrian revolution and the Hezbollah camp is more silent that a mute person.

This takes me back to a point I made earlier, about the hypocrisy of said party and leader. When things are going their way, it’s very easy for them to come on TV and issue a speech about it. But when their second most trusted ally in the region is under fire, the same arguments given to support what was going in Egypt and Tunisia and Bahrain suddenly go down the drain.

Aren’t the Syrian people deserving of life and freedom and everything that you said the Egyptian people deserved? Aren’t they deserving of democracy and a leader that doesn’t bash them left and right? Or is that only applicable when the leader is loyal to you?

Moreover, Al Manar TV, also known as Hezbollah’s TV, said yesterday that the March 14 camp might be behind the Syrian uprising.

Syrian TV said the protests are filmed in Tripoli, Lebanon and March 14 is behind them as well.

I have a few questions to ask:

1) Do you really think this makes sense?

2) Do you think that if it did make sense, the March 14 camp has the resources to do a whole uprising in Syria?

3) Do you think if the March 14 camp even had the resources, they’d be able to use them in Syria? They’re struggling to get themselves together in Lebanon, let alone a country that is as hostile to their existence as the Iceland volcano?

Too many questions… too little answers and one whole load of bull.