Blocking Downtown Beirut From The People Is Unacceptable; This Is The True #AbouRakhousa

Lebanon wall Downtown Annahar Le Grey #YouStink

The Lebanese Government has no idea what it’s doing. If you thought it had an inkling before, be certain now that it’s essentially an establishment that only functions on reflexes; their latest reflex is blocking Downtown Beirut at its main entrance near Le Grey in order to prevent entry to protests to those streets to which not only should they be allowed access, but to which they have a fundamental right.

A couple of weeks ago, our government build a big concrete wall near Riyad el Solh square to block protests from having a 1% access – even less – to the Grand Serail. The Beirut Wall lasted 24 hours at the time before it was brought down. Every single minister declared that the wall in question was not their doing. Yeah, right. One thing became clear, however, that wall – as irrelevant a barricade as it was – signaled the massive divide between governance and people.

Any political system that wants to self-sustain should not be afraid of its people. It should be from the people, to the people. Our government is squarely against us. They beat us, they humiliate us, they rob us of our fundamental rights and still have the audacity to play victim.

That concrete wall was then replaced by massive barbed wires, which are now adorned will all kinds of slogans berating those hiding themselves behind such barricades, cowering away from the people demanding they be held accountable. But even that slide.

On Sunday, the #YouStink movement held a march with several thousand people all the way to Downtown Beirut, at the gates of Nejmeh Square. The march was to demand access to parliament, to demand fair elections to try and replace the current governing body we have (or so I think). The protestors were met with riot police adamant about not letting them pass. The entrance to Nejmeh Square was barricaded, of course, and it still is until this day.

Our government, however, decided to take this a step further yesterday night and block the entirety of Downtown Beirut from all kinds of people, protestors or not, by erecting concrete blocks at its main entrance, near Annahar – Michelle Tueini should be happy – and Le Grey – Nicolas Chammas would be happy too.

Check out the pictures via Abir Ghattas:

A few days ago, Nicolas Chammas – the head of Beirut’s commerce syndicate – was “worried” that the protests taking place in Downtown Beirut now at the hand of protestors he called were “communists,” because clearly only leftists and communists would have an issue with the current establishment, were turning his beloved Downtown area into a cheap market which he dubbed “Abou Rakhoussa.”

Little does Mr. Chammas know, however, that in its current form Downtown Beirut is not only “abou rakhoussa,” it’s cheaper than cheap. As the Lebanese popular saying goes: “bteswa franc b iyyem l ghala” and no amount of Hermes, Chanel, Aïshti shops and fancy hotels or restaurants can change that.

They wonder why Downtown Beirut is not popular with the Lebanese populace.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the average Lebanese income is nowhere near the one needed for minimum purchase power there? Or that the area was built by raping the property of common Lebanese folk who were not able to challenge the system back then to give them their right?

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that there’s a security zone every other meter there, or that there’s someone in it that feels threatened every single waking moment of their life so they feel the necessity to draw endless perimeters around their holy being to stay safe from people who just want to have a good time?

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the entire area is not meant for us but for tourists who are not even coming here anymore because they have much nicer places to go to elsewhere?

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that cheapness is not a measure of how cheap the area is, but how lifeless, dead, horrifying, without charm and character an area actually is?

Downtown Beirut fits those to the letter.

That new barricade they built at its main entrance to keep us out is a disgrace. They want Downtown Beirut to remain their area, the place where they feel exclusive, the place where they can sit and chastise the average Lebanese about not being “western” enough to care about fancy facades and empty cores, the place where they can make sure the average Lebanese they fear always feels excluded, not-belonging, ostracized and shut out.

Nejmeh square is not a property of our politicians. The Grand Serail area is not a property of our politicians. None of the streets in Downtown are their property, but they sure act like it all the time. Beirut is not their city alone; it’s also ours. They’ve robbed it and claimed it enough.

I’d like to see them running tourist-attracting ads now. Come to Beirut, see our state of the art walls and empty streets. We promise you’ll love it; no Lebanese are allowed here. There’s nothing more disgraceful and despicable than a government that thinks it’s more important than its own people.  You see that barricade they’re building to keep us – the people – out of their exclusive area? It’s not keeping us out, it’s locking them in.

This is the real Abou Rakhousa: an area worth billions, but is being rendered uninhabitable, foreign with total shutting out of anything and everything Lebanese. The area’s worth is not its buildings and empty streets, but the people. Without us, your billion dollar projects are worth nothing.

This is apartheid, Lebanon-style. Someone pass the lexotanil pills to Nicolas Chammas, please.

 

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Michelle Tueini, Your Father Would Be Ashamed

The sad circle of life dictates that we are all going to end up inheriting something one day. Most of us inherit a piece of land, or a house, and maybe just a business.

Others, like Michelle Tueni and her sister, inherit a newspaper, and a political career in the making on the strength of their name alone. The sister is already a member in parliament, and an utter and irrevocable disappointment at that; Michelle seems to be well on that track as well, as exemplified by her latest op-Ed in her family’s newspaper Annahar, in a continuous quality decline that’s making Lebanon’s once most prestigious newspaper borderline tabloid trash.

Titled “كتير طلعت ريحتكم” which roughly translates to “You Stink Too Much” in reference to the #YouStink protesters, Tueini is upset. Check it out.

Why?

Because according to her, those useless protests are doing the following:

  1. Blocking roads,
  2. Paralyzing Downtown Beirut,
  3. Hijacking the country,
  4. Preventing those who work in Downtown Beirut to go to work easily,
  5. Affecting the stability and prosperity of the country.

She also wants security forces to crack down on protestors to prevent the above 5 points from happening.

People, I did not know we were living in a shining beacon of prosperity. Ivory towers have a nicer view of Lebanon it seems; isn’t Michelle Tueini just lucky?

When barraged on Twitter about her article, Michelle Tueini replied in ways that are not remotely reflective of the last name she holds. It was her “point of view.” She was expressing her “freedom of speech,” also known as the most useless arguments known to man to defend a point of view that just doesn’t fly.

Today, Gebran Tueini is probably rolling in his grave as he sees how his daughters are using his name and how his newspaper is publishing articles like the one his daughter wrote, an article bashing a movement he would have been the FIRST to support. Wasn’t he the man who thought the country could only work with youth taking power?

I’m terribly sorry Michelle Tueini has problems getting to work. That must be so hard and distressing for her I’m sure. I mean, can you imagine how horrible it must be to have trouble getting to work every morning? After all, that is such an anomaly in Lebanon because who EVER has trouble getting to work in this country?

I’m also terribly sorry she’s so upset Downtown Beirut is so paralyzed. Yes, this is affecting the economy tremendously because as we all know, a couple of weeks ago Downtown Beirut was Mahnattan of the Middle East, visited by millions daily with businesses turning away customers due to overload. I guess this is why the Washington Post wrote an article only a few months ago about how FULL Downtown Beirut was, and this is why all Lebanese feel right at home when they visit the Downtown Area, right next to the Chanel and Hermes shops and the very Lebanese-oriented organization of the area, and the very welcoming army-less, barb-wire-less streets.

With her article, Michelle Tueini has shown how disassociated she is from the country she lives in, how she is nothing more than another manifestation of this system we are trying to change, of people and entities who live in their own version of lala land and who think this country is absolutely peachy with minor hiccups along the way. Isn’t that just sad?

She thinks the #YouStink movement is paralyzing the country. Yes because the country was a full blown force of nature a few months ago, with no president, total economic standstill and no democratic cycle taking place. What a lovely place.

She thinks the #YouStink movement is blocking roads, except the only roads that have been blocked were when protests were taking place by the security forces that I’m sure Michelle Tueini would be more than glad to see beat up peaceful protesters, fire bullets at them, tear-gas them, and do as she requested and “crack down” so the nuisance the protests are posing on her daily life can be prevented.

Michelle Tueini probably loved seeing this yesterday.

She thinks the #YouStink movement is tarnishing the image of Downtown Beirut, the area that was built on top of the properties of average Lebanese who were forcibly evicted to make way for Solidere, the area that was built to Saudis but not to Beirutis, the area of security zone within a security zone within a security zone, the area that feels the most disassociated in the country, the area that is the least visited “touristic” area in Beirut, the area where ancient ruins are pillaged to build hotels, the area that is a symbol of rape of Lebanese society whole. But that doesn’t apply to Tueini of course.

Ladies and gentlemen, there are people in the country whose garbage is classier. They are to whom the current garbage crisis is a foreign existence with a “c’est quoi ca?” attitude as they look at the barbarics trying to rectify a cause they are just not affected by.

I do not support everything the #YouStink movement does, especially lately. I think they’re losing ground as they lose focus. But, even with their shortcomings, they are the only entity in the country today trying to change things, trying to make this uninhabitable land we live at least human enough for us to call home. Criticizing them is allowed. But the least I can do is not paint them as pseudo-terrorists like Annahar would more than gladly paint any of its political adversaries.

It’s a new era for the Tueinis, a new age for Annahar. If only Gebran Tueini were here to see this.

Michelle Tueini on Lebanon’s Smoking Ban

Finally.

We have someone talking without having a history of sarcastic plays that resonate true today with a staunch following. Just because your foot is in sewage doesn’t mean you can’t wipe the dirt off your mouth – and Michelle Tueni says so very eloquently in her piece in Al Nahar. Check it (click here – Arabic).

She says and I translate:

“Those who say the law is being applied at an inappropriate time and that Lebanon has bigger problems should know that Lebanon is a country that faces frequent tensions and if we were going to think that way we won’t move forward. And even if Lebanon has bigger problems, we can’t ignore the smaller issues because that is how we effectively hit rock bottom.”

In other news, I invite you to check this awesome Thai ad to fight smoking. I think it’s very smart.