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. 

 

 

2012’s Most Powerful Pictures

Buzz Feed has recently published a set of 45 pictures that they’ve called 2012’s Most Powerful Pictures. And the least that can be said about these pictures is that they’re chilling. Some of them are haunting, others will bring tears to your eyes. And they are all supremely striking.

Woman suicide Greece

A Greek woman’s suicide attempt as she’s told she would be laid off work

Bangladesh Riot Beating woman with baton

A woman from Bangladesh defies the police

Palestinian girl punching Israeli soldier

A little Palestinian girl tries to punch an Israeli soldier

Syrian Father saving daughter hospital Aleppo

A Syrian father trying to save his daughter’s life after his city, Aleppo, was shelled by regime forces.

Father begging Bangladesh soldier Myanmar

A father from Myanmar begs a border control officer from Bangladesh not to deport his family back to Myanmar

An American woman mourns her son on Memorial Day

An American woman mourns her son on Memorial Day

Check out the rest of the brilliant pictures here.

The Lebanese University… Of March 8’s Islamization

The Lebanese University in Al-Hadath has become a security zone for March 8’s political parties notably Hezbollah and Amal.

The entry to the university is filled with pictures of Hezbollah’s martyrs, Hezbollah and Amal flags and banners, pictures of Hassan Nasrallah and Nabih Berri. And the administration can’t do anything about it. They even have rooms which they only get access to for secret party meetings. Because Hezbollah and Amal need such rooms inside universities to control the future of the country – what they’re doing on the streets and in the government is not enough apparently.

Even the cafeteria at the university has been overtaken by known Shiite family “Zaaitry” who even run a cellphone shop from there, not allowing any outside food to be brought in to the cafeteria. They control everything that goes on inside the cafeteria, down to the overpricing of items and forbidding people from filming.

The cafeteria of the faculty of business was burned down and turned into a prayer room. And if you speak out against anything that goes on there, you are taken to a room that they call 109 where you are punished until you don’t dare to speak again. Praise Nasrallah day in, day out. Don’t you dare do anything else.

Their reach also extends from the logistic part of the university to its educational aspect. The liberal arts classes have been turned into Hezbollah’s Islamic arts classes. If anything doesn’t conform with Al-Khomeini teachings (he also has a picture at the university), it has to go. For instance, nudity drawing classes are absolutely forbidden because they violate “religion.” Drawing another human without something to cover them up is absolutely against the Sharia. Therefore, it has to go. Never mind that it is part of the official curriculum approved by the Lebanese state. Never mind that nudity drawing is an absolute necessity for any student who wants to to learn that art. No, it’s not acceptable for a woman to see a man’s private part. A female student actually dared to pose in a swimsuit for her colleagues to draw her. The teacher was punished. She was punished. And the students were also punished.

The administration sides with Hezbollah every time. They have their heads to keep. March 8 also has access to the exams that the university gets the students to sit down for – and they’re for sale. And don’t you dare refuse them when they’re offered or it’s room 109 for you.

There’s even a video and a whole article in Arabic about this, thanks to NowLebanon whose reporter was also threatened as she gathered her information to write this article. The threat is available on video too.

I thought the Lebanese university was for the entirety of Lebanon’s students. But it seems that it’s not the case. If you’re not a Shiite student who happens to be with Hezbollah and Amal, don’t you dare step there for a headache-free diploma. Even being FPM or any other March 8 party with predominantly Christian followers is not highly approved. Your liberties will be infringed upon. Your freedom will be limited. Your voice will be silenced. You won’t be able to speak up. Your body will be punished. Your intellect will be taken away… all for the greater anti-Zionist good.

Some people stand by Hezbollah because they’re supposedly fighting Israel. I wonder, how is it fighting Israel in a campus that has absolutely nothing to do with Israel whatsoever? How is this form of cultural terrorism against fellow Lebanese a form of resistance against an enemy we all agree upon? How is taking over a campus like this fighting the so-called Zionist project for the region?

And how is this part of the project of co-existence and protecting one self that some Christian parties, which are allied with Hezbollah, are championing?

If there’s any proof about the ulterior motives of Hezbollah in the country in turning this piece of whatever co-existence we have into an state where only what they say goes, it’s their behavior at the Lebanese University. It starts at a small scale that might go unnoticed. After all, the students don’t dare to talk about it and reporters are afraid to report it. The party officials obviously know of it. They obviously approve of it. And good luck to you if you happen to be born into a family who cannot afford to send you to a university where you will actually get Hezbollah-free education.

And some people are actually appalled that there’s a rise of extremism among Lebanon’s other populations. What other “natural” response could the different segments of Lebanon’s societies have regarding this obvious transgression to every single fundamental right and freedom we were brought up believing in?

And some people are appalled that some Lebanese parties demand the dismantling of the weapons of the party of “God.” What’s the only thing letting Hezbollah dominate the Lebanese University in such a way? Yes, those arms that are there to fight our big bad neighbor to the South.

The Lebanese University is now branded LUI – the Lebanese University of Iran. It even has the picture of the Supreme Leader of Iran there for blessing. You don’t get an education there – you get a crash course with how it is to be an outlaw and to have a whole arsenal to support you on your side – down to every single component of your governing body.

Welcome to the republic of disgrace where your government can’t even guarantee you a proper crap-free education away from Hezbollah’s zealots. Oh wait. They are the government.

Message to the Egyptians

For 30 years, you have been oppressed. For 30 years, you have been lied to. For 30 years, your liberties have been taken away. For 30 years, you have been opinion-less.

But for a few days, you took back your opinions. You stood up for what you, deep down, believed in. You stood up and said no to a ruler who has been governing you for 30 years with an iron fist.

For a few days, you stood up for your rights. You stood up for all the electoral fraud this ruler committed, for all the injustice he inflected upon you, for all the poverty he has been leading you to…

And that ruler was afraid… he disconnected you from the world. He excised your country from everything and left you stranded. Yet you did not succumb.

I have Lebanese friends who are protesting with you today, fighting for your cause. And yet, after this tyrant addressed you, as a nation, yesterday, many of you believed him and abandoned the cause you lost men and women for.

I’d like to believe he will keep by his promises – because ultimately that’s what you’re all fighting for. But as they say: fool you once, shame on me. Fool you twice, shame on you.

This person has been fooling you for 30 years. It’s high time you learned.

Don’t leave my Lebanese friends stranded in Tahrir square, waiting for you to come back. Go join them. Keep on fighting. It is your cause, not theirs. If you’re not going to fight for your rights, do you expect the rest of the world to stand up for them?

The Domino Effect

It all started in a quiet Tunisian city named “Sidi Bouzid”. An unemployed college graduate was selling fruits and vegetables on the street when his cart was taken by the police due to lack of authorization. He rebelled. He lit himself on fire. And soon enough, his whole city lost its quietness and lit its rebel voice.

A mini-domino game followed. Neighboring cities starting protesting against the status quo in their country: political oppression, unfair elections, squashed liberties. In a matter of days, the whole country was rebelling. They wanted change. They were willing to die for this change. And change happened: the president, Ben Ali, succumb to his people’s demands and resigned.

I will not go into the details of what happened in Tunisia after that. The Tunisians have a long way to go in order to build the country that I believe they deserve.

Tunisia was a major domino piece. Soon enough, many in the neighboring countries of Algeria, Egypt, Mauritania… started to try to implement change in their countries by copycat acts of burning themselves. These didn’t work.

However, on January 25th, Egypt rose. Egypt, the country of the pharaohs, rendered in a near coma after years and years of even worse oppression, decided to stand up for what it is. The people started rebelling. They started to stand up for what they deserve, for the life they should be leading.

Egypt is a country of over 75 million inhabitants. Many of those live such a poor life that describing it is truly saddening. Imagine living with less than $1 per day. That’s not even enough money for a bottle of water in some places. Yet these people lived by.

But on January 25th, they decided their life’s standards were no more acceptable. The Egyptians are revolting. Hosni Mubarak’s 30 year rule is, hopefully, nearing an end. His speech yesterday made it clear that this is a very tired man who cannot rule a country as important as Egypt anymore. He cannot fulfill his people’s needs, regardless of if he ever actually fulfilled them.

My hopes for the Egyptians at this point is to not let their will down. Their army and police are fighting them back. But soon enough, these forces will let down. They are, at the end of the day, part of the people they are trying to keep at bay. These people want to be with the protesters on the other side. But they’re still afraid. So hang in there. I know it’s much easier to preach than to be there. But Egyptians, you are a great population of many, many numbers… use those numbers to your advantage. And know that you are not alone in your fight.

I’m worried, however, that in these countries where the political regime is changing, worse people would take over. It would be catastrophic if the people of Egypt and Tunisia did not go by true democracies now that they have the opportunity to change and instead went by Islamic rule. You might say it is unlikely but these movements are surging in more “open” countries than Egypt and Tunisia, such as Turkey. One would assume that countries where these movements are somewhat strong would have an even bigger surge now that the opportunity is there for them to do so – and ultimately get to power. Islamists arriving to power would be detrimental to the whole region. Now that you have the opportunity to change, let this change reflect positively on the region as a whole.

You might wonder why I chose my title to be “The Domino Effect”. The answer is quite simple. For the region around it, Tunisia was a “Sidi Bouzid”. The power the people of Tunisia showed radiated to their neighboring countries and filled the people of those countries with strength and hope that they could change their lives as well.

The domino effect might also be applicable to the presidents of the countries where this is happening. But presidents are not important. They come and go. They might stay for a while, as has been the case for Tunisia and Egypt. But what really remains is the people. The people are the catalyst of anything that goes on in a country. If they feel subdued, the country is subdued and those who take advantage of that will be happy. The presidents, whose reigns are nearing their end, were taking advantage of their peoples being conformists. But that is no more. Their people are revolting. They want them out. And soon enough, out they will be – along with their dynastic, uptight and oppressive mindsets.

Tunisia was the first chip in a giant domino game involving many countries. And this game was purely initiated by the people. Not other countries making it look like these people started it – but by a single man whose college degree was not getting him anywhere and who didn’t see any horizons in front of him. What I hope those in charge around the world would take out of this is to never take the people they are in charge of for granted. Those people got you where you are and even in the darkest of situations, this people will rise again.

Here’s hoping some other populations follow suit…

And these are pictures of the current protests in Egypt:

 

 

 

Burning Tires

I’ve read many people saying that what certain protesters did today, burning tires and blocking roads, is hypocritical seeing as these same protesters “defamed” similar protests, albeit on different grounds.

I have a few things to note regarding this. The protests Lebanon saw today were a spontaneous act by a group that saw its choice at how this country should be running, one it clearly expressed through national parliamentary elections a year and a half earlier, going down the drain. These people felt oppressed. They were scorned. For a whole day of demonstrations, which ironically falls almost on the same day the other protesters burned tires, no one died, property was not damaged and the expression of anger simply resulted in excessive traffic on certain roads.

On the other hand, when the “defamed” people protested, people died. I know of at least one man from my own district who was killed through a sniper’s job. The whole protest at that point was to prove a point against the government at the time by the opposition. Wouldn’t you think that people would be given a choice to participate or not in the “strike” as it was called at the time? The answer is no. The whole strike was shoved down our throats. Some people had to close down their business in order for them not to get trashed. People were forbidden from going to work. Some were banned from seeking medical help. I personally know of one woman they did not let pass to go to her chemotherapy. Her husband, a supporter of the movement at the time, pleaded but to no avail.

On that day, I was in my senior year of high school. The school gave us the freedom to do whatever they want. If you support the movement, you can not attend. If not, then come to class. Classes were supposed to be held. So I went to school. Imagine going on a side-road from my village and seeing tires burning there. I mean, what’s the point of burning tires on a road that’s not even that important? They simply wanted to have fun. I got to school. Classes were not held, simply because the headmistress, who incidentally announced this supposed “choice” we had, did not show up. This headmistress’s uncle was an MP with Aoun at the time. Another example of shoving the “strike” down my throat.

As far as I know, the people demonstrating today did not shove it down people’s throats. And I repeat, they did not kill anyone nor have they damaged property. The outer shell might the same. And I disagree with this outer-shell in all circumstances, meaning I refuse this way of protesting in absolute value. But the foundation is much, much different. It’s so different, in fact, that I believe a comparison based on the outer shell becomes null.

Let me conclude by saying something I shared with a friend today. Hell has no fury like a sect scorned.