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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Why Michel Aoun Trying To Silence MTV Is Beyond Unacceptable

Welcome to the land of political diarrhea.

A few days ago, Michel Aoun – head of Lebanon’s FPM – called on his supporters to go protest for their Jesus-given Christian rights. Some of those supporters immediately sported orange ribbons across their rearview mirrors, plastered posters on their cars, stood out of windows and took it to the streets.

The following day, a minimal number of those protesters decided to do what they ridiculed the Future Movement for doing back in 2012, and storm the Grand Serail. They failed. Some of Aoun’s MPs were pictured beating on the Lebanese Army – army love is only yet another entity in Lebanon’s spectrum of political diarrhea – and the army was pictured beating on some of Aoun’s protesters. A hilarious press conference, ensued, the highlight of which is the following:

Flash forward a day later, and the politician in question has banned MTV from covering his press conferences and any other political activity related to him in Rabiyeh.

Naturally, MTV replied:

The translation of MTV’s video goes as follows:

And on July 11th, of the year 2015, of the 21st century, Michel Aoun banned MTV from entering the Rabieh paradise. The General of Change & Reform hasn’t changed a thing in his behavior: he’s a military man when he’s supposed to be a politician, and he’s a politician when he’s supposed to be a military man. More than 25 years of this Aounist pattern has gotten Michel Aoun to make politics militia-like, while he’s seeking without success – and thank God for that – to politicize the military. The General is showing us with his stubbornness where he shouldn’t, and in him changing faces where he shouldn’t and in his constant bias to favor what’s specific over what’s general, and in his constant hate for the media, that he is not fit to become president of the republic.

He is always ready, however, to attack the Republic. As a reminder, the General has always resorted to the tactic of “après moi, le déluge.” That is how he ruined the first Republic and brought the Taef agreement on Lebanon’s Christians, and this is how he is now working on ruining the second Republic.

Regardless of how he has benefited from the Taef Agreement until the very last possible benefit that said agreement gave him, building on its ruins the Republic of the son-in-law, the son of the Republic and its president, on the struggles of all of FPM’s activists and their sacrifices. And now that the Taef Agreement has dried up, General Aoun is divisive, federalist, Christian, Syrian, Iranian, petrolic, electric.

You want us to talk to you in your language, and here we are ashamed to do so. A little bit of shame, General. The MTV can survive without you, but you were not alive for over 15 years if MTV hadn’t carried your cause and that of your persecuted activists until its own head was cut. But how can your selective memory remember us when you disowned the best of your army’s officers and your party’s activists, excluding them without batting an eyelid.

How can someone who can’t tolerate a question from a journalist to manage an entire country? If only General Aoun you liked your own activists as much as MTV did, and still does.

It’s a sad, terrifying moment when a Lebanese politician – regardless of who he is – tries to silence any form of media because the questions they’re asking are making him uncomfortable.

 

Michel Aoun is not a lone example of a politician who tried to silence people and media because the challenge got too much to handle. Every single Lebanese political party has a track record of squashing liberties, whether it’s Hezbollah apprehending bloggers when they visit Dahyeh, or the Lebanese Forces suing people for libel whenever Geagea is placed in a sentence, and the examples are endless.

The danger in these examples is that not only are they increasing, they’re also becoming the norm. We get used to our politicians telling us to shut up and stand in a corner. Nay, some people actually applaud a politician when they shout at others.

The country cannot function when our voices are being squashed slowly but surely by those in power, just because they can, after they’ve successfully squashed our democratic right to vote not once, but twice. The country cannot also function when any entity’s freedom of speech is not absolute, but relative and contingent upon that entity’s leanings.

The sadder part is that there are people today that side with their politician of choice in such a power struggle with news corporations, those same people that were complaining not very long ago about having their own freedom of speech squandered, and their liberties trampled on like cockroaches.

Michel Aoun banning MTV from covering him is ridiculous. In this neo-media age, any press conference of his is broadcast for everyone to see, criticize and even – gasp – make fun of. The danger, however, is when those people in power, like Aoun and his friends, think that them being in power places them beyond reproach, beyond critique and beyond questioning.

It is my right as a Lebanese as a Lebanese citizen to ask questions. It is my right as a Lebanese citizen to get answers. It is my right as a Lebanese citizen to challenge those that call themselves my leaders without having my arms bent, twisted and broken. It is my right as a Lebanese person to live in democracy, and democracy cannot prosper in the shadows of a forced silence. It is my right as a Lebanese citizen to be critical, of not being forced to fall in line whenever push comes to shove, of not being co-erced to applaud just because.

No politician in the country has the right to ban any form of news outlet. No politician in the country has the right not to answer a question that bothers them only because that question bothers them. No politician in the country has the right to get away with being a new-age dictator, and get applauded for it by a bunch of “za22ife” that would cheer beyond critique.

I’m not an MTV fan, but Michel Aoun banning them from covering him is disgraceful, disgusting, horrifying. Yet again, this is not unlike Lebanese politicians who think they are God.

PS: This is the same man who is now sporting a crusader flag for Christian rights as his new political existential cause. 

 

 

The Cost of Running An Ad on Lebanese TV During A Lebanese Politician’s Interview

MTV hosted Michel Aoun on Walid Abboud’s show “Bi Mawdou3iya” yesterday and he discussed the current debacle in the country regarding the electoral law and whatnot.

So because we live in extremely sensitive times, Lebanon’s main political foe for Michel Aoun is, naturally, going to seek out airtime as well. Samir Geagea will be on “Bi Mawdou3iya” as well tomorrow, all to MTV’s delight.

This isn’t about what both politicians want to discuss (or not discuss). It’s not about their propositions and constant tug-of-war leading nowhere. In order to announce the episode, I stumbled on the picture that follows.
The most interesting part of the picture to me was the cost to run an ad on MTV during Samir Geagea’s show. Two 30 second ads can cost you up to $5000.

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Every single second of commercial break is probably sold by now. This is how much audience our politicians bring in. Too bad there’s absolutely no tangible and efficient measures that are brought with them and the income they bring to the TV stations they appear on.

The October 13th Coward

“They knew it was a martyrdom mission,” he said on a recent talk show. “Those army men knew they were going there to die for their country.”

And that’s what happened on October 13th.

They all died. All of them. Except him. I guess this certain martyrdom mission has somehow eluded him. I guess declaring he’d stay to fight regardless of consequences was a marketing sham – he sure is a pro at those. Some of the bodies of those men who died for our country twenty three years ago were poured down under the concrete of the ministry of defense. Others were never returned to their families.

Some families still have hope that their sons would come back. They still have hope that somehow they escaped the atrocities of that day. Some of them hope their loved ones are sitting in a jail in the country of the army that killed them, praying for a resolution. Some mothers still run to the door whenever they hear footsteps. And it’s all because of him.

I can attest though that Paris is a very nice place to live in. If my government is willing to send me there, I’d go willingly. No questions asked. So I wonder how anyone would think a decade’s stay in Paris is punishment. My idea of a punishment is rotting in jail, getting tortured by a foreign army in a prison cell on their territories, not seeing your family ever again.

But I may be too morbid when it comes to punishments. Maybe the Parisian weather, under the Eiffel Tower, at Montmartre and passing by les Champs-Elysées, is really harsh, especially for older individuals.

And then he has the decency to commemorate the memory of those men every year. And he has the decency to speak on their behalf while he’s figuratively sleeping with the people that killed them. Defending them. Telling everyone that the regime that massacred those men whose only fault was to believe that their commander would stay with them is something that we can trust. Telling everyone that this regime is something that will protect us.

And he also has the decency to call himself the protector of Christians in Lebanon. The only form of official protection that they’ve ever gotten. An army general. Little does he know that he’s single handedly terrorizing Christians daily and bringing them down by setting up the scenarios that he conjures up like a magic spell: be afraid. Be very afraid. They’re out there to get us. He’s on a mission: demoralize the Christians until the only solution they see is his. Bring them down. Tear their spirit apart. He’s always been good at that.

Paranoia is not treatable in old age.

Those conjured up scenarios are always in full swing – even when it comes to the memory of martyrs whose deaths are on his hand. The latest is him accusing his bonafide political rivals of causing their deaths. Add that to the thesaurus definition of political bankruptcy. If you can’t beat them in a political debate in 2012, start telling lies that infringe upon morals and convictions the way you see please and the way some people would more than gladly believe.

After all, isn’t it of the qualities of those rivals to kill and kill and kill? When the shoe fits, why not make them wear it?

It is sad that a civil war event of the magnitude of what took place on October 13th becomes yet another opportunity for him to use as a platform to make himself into a victim, an innocent saint whose only fault was trying to make things right, of being never wrong.

The bodies of the army’s martyrs that died on the day are already decayed under the concrete. Their souls are shrieking for justice, for retribution against their killers. But that’s something they will never get from him as he plays cards with their killers, laughing over their fates over a cup of coffee whilst thinking about what he’ll be lying about the day their anniversary rolls around.

Here’s to more October 13th of cowardly hypocrisy.

The Hypocrisy of the Lebanese Forces

Some LF supporters protesting against the visit in Elige yesterday

Michel Aoun is visiting Elige. A headline that, in any normal setting, would just be that: something to get the press to talk.

But this is Lebanon and Michel Aoun visiting Elige, a convent in Jbeil where many Lebanese Forces martyrs are buried, sparked immense controversy among Christians first and foremost.

He is not allowed to visit and desecrate the place VS he’s going there ghasb 3annkon.

Mante2 bila33e men l meyltein.

My readers already know that when it comes to how I lean, Michel Aoun doesn’t get my vote. And I’m definitely not voting for his party next year. But regardless of me preferring the Lebanese Forces over his party, there’s something that I felt gnawing at me yesterday as I contemplated the Elige dilemma. And it is hypocrisy.

The Lebanese Forces are hypocrites when they ask everyone to put their war crimes where they belong – in the past – but they cannot do the same for the war crimes of others. I, for one, am sure Michel Aoun did not kill most the martyrs buried in Elige and I’m also sure he wasn’t a civil war saint either as his supporters would love to potray him. Michel Aoun may have spoken harshly against those martyrs before. He may have humiliated their memory and he may have been a “Michel Aoun” about them. But that’s on him. And if he wanted to visit their graves to pay tribute and maybe – just maybe – apologize for what was said against them (you know that would work well with his electoral plan), then what’s the harm in that?

Lebanese Forces supporters should know how well Samir Geagea’s apology played out. He’s the only politician so far to have spoken in such a way about the civil war.

The problem with many Lebanese Forces supporters is that when you speak out the words Michel Aoun to them, their blood pressure starts to rise. It’s the same with those who support Aoun when you say those two syllables… Geagea. You see them throw a fit even worse than that of an Lebanese Forces supporter. You see them shiver and inundate his supporters with all kinds of stereotypes. According to them, I am an illiterate high school dropout .

The divide between the supporters of both groups is way too great and it has never been more obvious than with Aoun’s “planned” visit to Elige. However, the Lebanese Forces cannot simply ask everyone to get over the “Geagea is a murderer” stereotype (one that I, for the record, do not agree with) while they have no problem hanging the dirty laundry of others for everyone to see if it serves some purpose that they think they have.

He who lives in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

The Lebanese Forces are also hypocrites on another front: had one of their allies, say Walid Jumblat, decided to visit the martyrs at Elige, would they have reacted in the same way? One would say Jumblat’s party has killed way more Christians than Aoun. But I’m not a civil war expert so take that with a grain of salt. And for the record as well, I want to keep my civil war knowledge as limited as possible for the time being. Odds are the Lebanese Forces would have saw Jumblat’s visit as a great step towards national unity. But not Aoun’s.

And let’s assume in a hypothetical scenario that in the coming few months Samir Geagea decided to have an electoral tour in Zgharta. The Lebanese Forces supporters there, fewer than those who support Sleiman Frangieh, would want that visit to happen. And yet the same outrage that was sparked with Aoun’s planned visit to Elige would happen. The Lebanese Forces supporters would be on the other side of the debate right now. Now, ponder on this: would you have wanted Geagea to go there or not? If yes, why can’t you extend the courtesy to someone else?

The Lebanese Forces are proud of going “7asyou la yajro2 l akharoun.” They should have done that regarding Elige and actually did what others wouldn’t do unto them: let it pass and let the people judge.

It is sad that in 2012, almost all parties are still ready to use up civil war arguments to prove a point to their supporters. The Lebanese Forces supporters are now proud that they stopped Aoun’s visit. The Aounists now hate those war criminals even more. The idea that those “ze3ran” are the reason the country is ruined is at all time high in their minds. It is said the civil war has become in the past. Elige would most definitely disagree with those who say so.