Roy Hamouche’s Murder Is Horrific, But Calling For The Death Penalty Isn’t The Answer


The barbaric murder, at the hands of Mohammad Ahmar and this two friends, of Roy Hamouch, a 24 year old architect, has quickly trumped all other discussions taking place in the country as the entire nation reels from the state of lawlessness we’ve reached. The sad reality is that Roy’s murder isn’t the lone event we all want it to be. It’s become part of a pattern we have in this country, with lack of gun regulations and unbreakable wastas.

With some people being always above the law, and helping those that propagate their agenda be above the law with them, can we truly hope for justice to be served in any of these murders that are becoming more frequently?

As I said in my blog post on the issue yesterday:

In this land they call a country, rule of law does not exist. Some people here can do whatever they want – even kill – and still get away with it through the help of the many Lebanese that are always above the law, on whom there’s no accountability, who never face consequences for their actions.

How many times is the exact same scenario supposed to be repeated before we realize that the way they’re forcing us to live in this jungle is not acceptable anymore, that our lives are not at the mercy of airheads who are bolstered by the power of their wasta and the barrel of their gun.

As such, the more people talked about the horrific killing of Roy Hamouch, the more I’ve seen people demand for the death penalty to be reinstated in Lebanon. So I asked the following question, with a poll, on Twitter and – so far – I’m surprised to find that over 60% of people approve of the death penalty in Lebanon:

The main justification I got for people voting “yes” was that in this lawless nation, the only way to make sure Roy’s killers receive the punishment they deserve is through capital punishment. Some are even calling for reinstitution of public executions. But is calling for a death penalty when emotions are high and reason put on the back-burner the answer to such scenarios?

I’d be lying if I said that question hasn’t conflicted me. You see, my family was touched more than 18 years ago in a murder in the vein of Roy’s, which was all over the news for 3 days, and had everyone talking and coming up with all different kinds of conclusions.

While on a hunting excursion in my hometown, my uncle and his friend encountered an acquaintance of theirs who got out of his house and opened fire on them both. What followed was a night-long stand off with the Lebanese army, the Red Cross unable to collect the bodies of my uncle and his friend, and – ultimately – a call from then president Emile Lahoud to kill the man because capturing him had proved to be immensely difficult due to his Civil War training with a Northern Lebanese political party.

I’d like to think that if my uncle’s murderer hadn’t been killed back then, I wouldn’t want him to receive the death penalty today. Partly because I think death is the “easy” way out for people like him, and partly because I firmly believe that death penalty is a political ploy that serves no purpose and wouldn’t have brought my family closure.

To say the death penalty is a fair and unbiased punishment is delusional. For context, the last time an execution happened in Lebanon was in 1997, and even then the three men who received the death penalty were divided according to sectarian lines: one of them was Maronite, another was Sunni, and the third was Shiite. This is to say that even in such matters of punishment, our sectarian system interferes to make sure that sects don’t feel particularly targeted. Does that translate in a fair punishment when those who receive death are chosen based on how they pray?

The fact of the matter is, unpopular an opinion as it is, the murderers of Roy Hamouch are also victims of the Lebanese condition, as we all are: a country ruled by warlords who propagate this tribalism through allowing people like those who killed Roy to do what they do, and be protected in the process. They keep them poor, uneducated and helpless, with the only hope of a “decent” future for them being them under the wings of some patron as they do his bidding.

The simplest example to that is that Mohammad Hassan Ahmar, the murderer of Roy, being from a poor village in the Baalbak caza named Iaat. He has been in and out of the Roumieh prison before, and has a few more warrants against him. Our system has failed Mohammad. He is a victim of his own conditions, not that that justifies what he did in any way.

We can’t hope for a developed and civil country when we’re advocating for horrific punishments for equally horrific crimes. It’s hypocritical of us to complain about Lebanon not being “civilized” enough when we’re calling for “uncivilized” punishments.

The death penalty has been proven not to deter from horrific crimes, but is actually a tool used by governments to oppress. You can be certain that any Lebanese who receives it is one who doesn’t have a strong enough wasta to protect him from being hanged or shot or receive a lethal injection. Can you imagine the son or daughter of a politician who does as horrific a crime as the murder of Roy Hamouche receiving it?

Calling for death sentences means that we think the people in question are non-redeemable human beings who are not worth being given a chance at trying to better themselves – even if that occurs in a life sentence without parole. This is why reforming our prison system is paramount to enable people, like Mohammad, who have been incarcerated before to actually have a shot at rectifying their lives when they’re released, and not fall back on the only thing they know: being criminals.

Nothing can give back Roy’s family the precious person they lost. The death of my uncle’s killer wasn’t the healing closure that you’d expect in mending the gaping wound that his horrific death left in our family. We need to be more humane humans for us to maybe start healing.

Until then, rest in peace Roy Hamouche. May your parents find solace in you becoming a part of every Lebanese household, and touching the hearts of everyone in this country.

24 Year Old Sara Sleiman Was Killed In Zahle By Kassem Al Masri, And Her Wish To Donate Her Organs To Save Others Will Be Fulfilled

Over the weekend, a tragedy took place in Zahle that took the life of 24 year old Sara Sleiman whose only fault, like many before her, was being at the wrong place at the wrong time in a country that allows pests and disgusting abominations like her killer prosper unchecked.

Outside the local pub “Blue Bar,” a car accident took place that prompted Kassem El Masri to deal with the situation the only way his primordial brain knew how: fire a few rounds from his gun, one of which hit Sara and took her life soon after.

This is Sara’s killer. He’s the kind of brainless Lebanese men whose entire existence can be summarized with how they can express their manliness better, which is why you see him pose with guns and bazookas, because he can.

Kassem El Masri is also known as Tah El Masri (in Arabic: طه المصري). He’s a known drug dealer and criminal in the area. Despite his infamous status, authorities never bothered to apprehend him before, even though the aforementioned pictures were entities during which he boasted of the kind of arsenal he possessed.

Authorities have issued arrest warrants for the Kassem El Masri, but haven’t apprehended him yet. It’s not far-fetched to presume that such a man, who has been a criminal for such a long time without repercussions, to be protected by one of the many politicians that make sure our country remains a lawless land.

I hope that whoever is protecting Kassem El Masri today gives him up so he’d get what he truly deserves: justice for all his previous crimes and for what he did to Sara Sleiman, whose life was brought to a premature halt on what should have been a fun evening out for her and her friends.

Today, though, one of Sara Sleiman’s wishes is coming true. A few years back, in a Facebook message to one of her friends, Sara expressed how, through the words of another, when she would pass away, she wanted to be as helpful as possible to those who were still alive by donating her organs:

The message translates to:

“There will come a day when my body is laying on a carefully made bed in a hospital whose smell is that of life and death. At some moment, the doctor will announce I’m brain dead and that my life has ended. When that happens, don’t try to pump artificial life into my veins and use machines on me. Let my death bed be one of life so that others may have it better.

Give my eyes to who’s never seen a sunrise or the face of a child or the love in a woman’s eyes.

Give my heart to those whose hearts have only received pain.

Give my blood to a teenager who was pulled out of his car wreck, so he’d see his grandchildren grow up one day.

Give my kidney to that who needs a machine to keep him going from one day to the next.

Take my bones and every muscle and tissue and find a way to help a paralyzed child walk.

Take every cell of my brain and let them help a mute boy to shout, a deaf girl to hear the sound of the rain against her windowsill.

Burn what’s left of me, and if there’s anything you need to bury, bury away my sins and weaknesses. Bury my hate and give my soul to God.

And if you ever needed to remember me, do so with kindness onto others.

If you do all of this, I live on forever.”

Sara’s family will be doing just that, so she can live in others for years to come. Her family will be donating her corneas, kidneys, liver and heart to help the people that Sara wanted to help. (Link).

In death, Sara Sleiman therefore becomes a source of life for others who wouldn’t have had this chance if it weren’t for the person that she is, and the generosity of her family and the will for life that she has, even in death.

Organ donation in Lebanon is still a topic that many would rather brush aside and not talk about. Our laws are very restrictive in this regard and religion plays a detrimental role in trying to propagate the practice further. Sara Sleiman, therefore, becomes a rebel – in death – in a country that saw her die before her time, as she gives life to others after her.

Sara Sleiman, may you rest in peace as your heart beats in the body of another forevermore.

You too can sign up to become an organ donor. Click on this link. 

#JusticeForGeorges: When Lebanon Is A Jungle, Not A Country

This is what I do when someone cuts me off on the road.

1) I honk at them as loud as I can,

2) I call them an asshole because that’s what they are,

3) I curse whoever taught them how to drive because, well, someone who knows how to drive should know right of passage,

4) I move on, turn up my radio and blast some song my friends agree I should probably not be listening to.

What happens, however, when a right of passage dispute happens with an asshole, who – like many Lebanese in this God-forsaken country, happens to be well-weaponized?

The answer is short: you die. This is exactly what happened to Georges El Rif, in the streets of Gemmayze.

His story is as follows:

Georges and his wife were driving on the airport road when they got into a right of passage dispute with Tarek Yatim. Tarek and the woman driving him, whose name is Lina Haidar, tried to cut off Georges who didn’t let them through. So they forcefully hit his car and kept going.

So Georges followed the man who hit his car to write down his license plate number. They called the ISF, gave them a description of the car and its license plate number. They were rebuffed by the ISF because no personnel were nearby.

They were eventually led to Gemmayzeh, where Tarek Yatim got out of his car, ran towards Georges and started stabbing him with the knife he had in his possession.

No amount of pleading from Georges’ wife, no amount of running away from Georges deterred Tarek Yatim from attacking the man, stabbing him repeatedly. Whenever the wife would try to help her husband, Tarek Yatim slapped her and pushed her away.

A few meters away from them was the house of Lebanon’s Minister of Energy Arthur Nazarian, who also stood on his balcony observing what was happening, not bothering to send his own bodyguards to help.

Georges was then taken to a nearby peripheral hospital where doctors could not resuscitate him. He had three episodes of cardiac arrest before he passed away, leaving behind him a wife and four kids.

Georges’ killer is a man of priors. He was involved in a shooting at the White House restaurant in Sodeco in February 2010, as well as drug trafficking and drug use. The question is: why wasn’t he in jail to begin with?

The answer is two folds.

He wasn’t in jail because this fucked up country is not a country, but a jungle where animals like Tarek Yatim run wild, unafraid of retribution because we don’t have a functional justice system and we don’t have a functional security apparatus to make sure such assholes are where they’re supposed to be: behind bars, away from people who just want to make a living, drive to work, go home to their kids and families, and just live.

Tarek Yatim wasn’t also in jail because he’s connected, because he’s a Lebanese politician’s, reportedly Antoun Sehnaoui, henchman: someone to do their dirty bidding while they sit behind podiums and preach “order” to anyone who listens, or govern us “legally” as they pass their illegal biddings without us knowing.

Tarek Yatim is the kind of “people” who are not afraid of retribution because they know they can get away with it. He’s the kind of animal who’s not afraid to kill someone in broad daylight because he knows how to get away with murder.

This is Tarek Yatim’s face. Memorize it. He may be apprehended now, but be sure he’ll be back on your streets as soon as his wasta allows:

Tarek Yatim - Georges el Rif #justiceforgeorges

The more heartbreaking side of Georges El Rif’s story is how the people around him stood there and watched. I’ve seen many videos of the incidence. They have different angles, but they all show the same thing: Georges el Rif being chased by his murderer, and people standing there idly watching. The only thing they needed, I suppose, was a batch of popcorn.

It’s hard for me to imagine that there was nothing the people standing there, watching Georges die, could have done. It’s hard for me to imagine that the cars circling that road, probably slowing for a few seconds to see what was happening, had no reflex to help a man thrown on the ground, getting stabbed to death, psychology’s bystander effect non-withstanding.

A minister stood there and did nothing. His bodyguards did nothing. A police station that’s a minute away did nothing. How is this acceptable? 

It is easy for me to imagine, however, those people that were there, rushing home to tell their family all about the very, very exciting thing they witnessed on the streets of Gemmayze that day. I have no idea how much further our apathy can rise.

Many in Lebanon keep weapons and knives in their cars. They roam our streets, threaten our security and our lives, aware that their threats will never be faced with any repercussions. A few months ago, Yves Nawfal was the victim of such people as well (link).

One day, someone you know or maybe you could fall victim to such people. I just hope our names don’t get turned into a hashtag just because our politicians are too comfortable keeping their henchmen out of order, our security apparatuses are too comfortable not making sure that anyone with finger can pull a trigger, and that the people of this country are apparently convinced that something happening to someone on the street can never happen to them.

Lebanon is not a country; Lebanon is a jungle. Deal with it accordingly.

Update: An IndieGogo campaign has been started to fund Georges’ family’s legal case. (link). 

#JusticeForYves: The Killer Has Been Caught & This Is How You All Helped

The story of Yves Nawfal has been one of the most striking pieces of news to shake the country over the past few days. If you haven’t heard of Yves or the cold and calculated way he was killed, check out this link (click) for all the details.

5 days after Yves’ brutal murder at the hand of Charbel Georges Khalil, it is with pleasure that I write that Justice for Yves has been (partially) brought to us. The killer has been reportedly apprehended by the police in Brital, in the Beqaa.
Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 9.57.04 PM

He was reportedly fleeing to Syria according to L’Orient Le Jour. It’s a good thing he got caught before he got there.

The arrest of Charbel Georges Khalil shows that even political covers in Lebanon can end. It shows that when they want to do their job, our security forces and intelligence can do a great one at that, bring justice to those who demand it and not let killers escape just because they can.

And I hope you all know that you were a big reason of why Charbel Georges Khalil was caught.

You were the ones who endlessly shared our blog posts about him, read them in your hundreds of thousands, were absolutely shocked at this taking place in the first place and even more shocked that the killer was getting away.

You were the ones who made the story stick over 5 days, who made sure no one forgot Yves as yet another Lebanese cause du jour, who made sure our security personnel don’t slack off and just let this go as yet another unsolved murder mystery to become urban legend.

You were the ones who raised your voice so loud that whichever politician was hiding Charbel Khalil not only had his name until today hidden from every media outlet, only existing in speculation, but also got that politician to let go of the person he was protecting.

You were the ones who organized sit-ins to make sure this doesn’t get forgotten.

Charbel Khalil is a very connected, and resourceful man. In a country like Lebanon, that gets you far. Sometimes, it gets you way too far. Money can buy you anything. Connections can get you out of anything. It is because of all our efforts that we’ve put a brick wall in front of Charbel Khalil and his resources. And hopefully that brick wall will now turn into a jail cell from which he will never leave, until the day he dies.

Tonight, we should all celebrate Yves’ justice, and I hope you all know that Yves’ justice doesn’t become whole with death penalties.

The story, however, doesn’t end here.

There are still people out there who helped in Yves’ murder and who should be caught. Charbel Georges Khalil did not act alone. He had accomplices. Their names are known. They are Charbel Moussa Khalil, Juliano Saadeh and Edwin Azzi – all of whom are also resourceful and connected and who are still out of reach. Those three people made sure Yves got ambushed. They made sure his car was blocked and made sure he was susceptible to have shots fired at him.

Even Myriam Klink thinks Edwin Azzi is scum:

MyriamKlink Edwin Azzi

I’m sure Yves’ family will sleep better tonight knowing that their son’s killer will spend his night behind bars. I hope his mother starts to at least find peace now that her son is one of the very few people in this country who have justice being given to their memory. I also hope Yves’ friends and loved ones find solace in the fact that have made sure this becomes 5 days’ worth of national news.

Covering this story has been humbling. Yves will always be remembered as the man whose memory challenged our entire political system. May he rest in peace.


#JusticeForYves: When Lebanon Is A Jungle, Not A Country

Yves Nawfal was celebrating his 26th birthday at a pub called Powder in Faraya on Friday when he got in an altercation with a guy named Charbel Khalil and his friends over a girl. Normally, as is expected in such a familiar setting at a pub, the fight was supposed to be broken up by the pub’s owner – which he thought he did – and everyone goes home with a bunch of stories about their testosterone-high adventures to tell their friends.

Except that wasn’t the case and Yves Nawfal, who had texted his mother that same evening saying “je suis comblé maman, je t’aime,” is not okay and is dead, because he was unfortunate enough to live where the concepts of justice and accountability are foreign.

What happened was the following:

Charbel Georges Khalil, from the nearby village of Hrajel, who knows his way well in such scenarios, was not satisfied with the resolution the bar owner enforced. Instead, he got his men: Charbel Moussa Khalil and Juliano Saadeh to block the road for Yves and his friends. Soon enough, the road got opened through both groups’ connections, and they went on their way.

Instead of stopping at that level of intimidation, however, Khalil decided to ambush Yves and his friends as they left. He held out his semi-automatic gun and, along with his accomplices, fired at Yves’ convoy of two cars 17 times. Yves and his friends were unarmed. He hit Yves with 4 bullets, severely injuring him, and also injured Yves’ companion Saba Nader, whose father owns Bankers Insurance.

That same evening, calls on social media were up in flames to provide 12 units of O+ blood for Yves Nawfal, for an urgent operation in an attempt to stabilize him and possibly save his life. In medical terms, Yves would have been for anesthesiologists and physicians a class 6 patient whose surgical intervention was the only hope for him to live. Yves did not make it.

His killer, Charbel Khalil, is now nowhere to be found. He has sought refuge with one of Keserwan’s very influential figures, whose name is unknown yet, and who is keeping Mr. Khalil away from the cops that are actively searching for him. Clearly, the only way Charbel Khalil is to be found is by the politician hiding him to give him up.

The following are two pictures of Khalil, whose face is circled in red in one of them, posing with a gun next to some church because that’s how someone like him goes about his days:



And the following is a video of the assault via LBC:

We live in a jungle where rule of law does not exist, where you can do whatever you want – even kill – and still get away with it through the help of the many Lebanese that are always above the law, on whom there’s no accountability, who never face the consequences of their actions.

Charbel Khalil, who’s only 27, already did a similar thing to another victim last year and was not arrested for it. He was not thrown in jail, in which case Yves would have still been alive and his mother wouldn’t be grieving now, and social media wouldn’t be seething over such a heinous crime taking place just because the murderer is so influential he could get away with murder.

What happened after last year’s assault was probably also something similar to what took place this time: political intervention, silencing of the victim, media blackout, everyone goes about their days normally.

But not this time. How do you get away with murder in Lebanon? You need connections. How else would someone with a criminal past of assault like Khalil still be around to drink at pubs and get into altercations and kill?

The problem here isn’t just Khalil. It’s that there are those Lebanese that are above the law who can get you away with murder, hide you from justice until people forget.

But there comes a time when your face is plastered across every social media platform, news service, and blog that your connections should fail you, they should give you up, and you should face justice for the young life you took, whose entire future you took and whose family you just bereaved.

16 years ago, my family went through something similar. It was also in the news. My uncle was shot by a lunatic in our hometown. We were bereaved. I remember my grandmother weeping, my mother wailing, his children oblivious. The only solace we got back then wasn’t the many people that came to the funeral, the many who wished mercy on his soul and the support the family got. No, it was that my uncle’s killer – also influential, also well connected and also a psychopath – faced his own justice too.

Yves’ family, friends, and loved ones not only need but demand justice. Charbel Khalil has to be given up. The Keserwani influential person protecting him cannot hide him anymore, and shouldn’t be allowed to hide any killers and criminals from justice. It’s high time Mr. Khalil faces retribution for what he did.

Rest in peace Yves. I didn’t know you, but your loved ones have made sure everyone knows that you were very loved.