From America, I’ll Be Voting For Kollouna Watani… And So Should You

In around a month, I’d have been what Gebran Bassil would like to call a “mountasher” for exactly one year. In a few days, this very same mountasher will be driving around 70 miles north of Philadelphia, to a smaller city called Easton where a big Lebanese American population resides. In one of Easton’s hotels, I will be casting my first ever ballot for Lebanese parliament.

On that ballot, for the North 3 district encompassing Batroun (my home district), Bsharre, Koura and Zgharta, I will be giving my vote to the brave list of independents who are trying to fight the status quo of political parties. On Sunday, April 29th, my ballot will be in favor for Kollouna Watani. And so should yours, be it that day or on May 6th back home.

I left Lebanon nearly 11 months ago. Leading up to my decision to leave were years during which I used this blog to vent about the many shortcomings that life in Lebanon entailed.

I’ve written about the garbage crisis, the government suppressing protests. I’ve written about their attempts at censorship, the horrible roads, horrifying internet, dying infrastructure, rising racism, disgusting homophobia, and xenophobia. I’ve written about young men being gunned or knifed down in the streets with next to no repercussions. I’ve written about our people dying left and right because they lack the most basic of necessities that any person in 2018 should have.

The common denominator to most of my blog posts that complained about the situation was always the same: Lebanon’s ruling class, in its varying forms, that turned the country into the rotting state it is today. Lebanon’s politicians, to varying degrees, have failed the country.

The Lebanon that I left is a country that doesn’t have constant electricity, and water supply despite having the resource aplenty. It’s a country where internet is mind-numbingly slow, where the security situation is as precarious as it can be. It’s a country whose passport is essentially worthless, where the system is so dysfunctional this is our first election in 9 years and where we stayed without a president for well over two years. It’s a country where homophobia, xenophobia and racism are a political tool, a way of life and rampant infestations.

The Lebanon I left is a country whose capital drowned in garbage for months, and whose garbage crisis has yet to be resolved. The Lebanon I left is a place whose second city Tripoli was ravaged for years with conflict because the city’s politicians were at odds, effectively killing the city’s reputation and straining its fragility. The Lebanon I left is a place where we are forcibly impoverished, starved, left without jobs and basic human rights… so that one day they can dangle those very things they’ve deprived us of, right in front of our eyes, and entice us to give them our trust again.

But no more.

I left for a reason. That reason is because the country I called home for most of my adult life so far was not offering me the prospect of the future that I knew I deserved. I was lucky and priviliged enough to have had the chance to leave, many others do not.

The famous Lebanese saying goes: إلي بجرب المجرب بكون عقله مخرب – if you try something you’ve tried before and failed, your mind is rotten. Many people my age back home are unemployed, struggling with the country they’ve grown up in, the same country that has been ruled by more or less the same political class since before the civil war. We’ve tried them enough.

Our parents have struggled enough to give us the best life that they can in a country that has made sure that process was as hard as possible for them. They’ve tried doing that enough.

Our entire system has made sure to bring us down whenever we tried. It has made sure to enable our politicians, while disabling the people at every venture, and every corner. In Lebanon, the system is not for the people, and by the people; it’s for our politicians and their henchmen – it’s their world and we’re just living in it, but no more.

Some of you may have had a parliament member provide you with basic human necessities: a job, for instance. That’s not their job. Their job is to provide you with a country where you wouldn’t need them for a job.

Some of you may be offered money to vote for this person or that come election day. I cannot judge. But there’s a reason why this tactic works – it’s because they’ve made sure you need them to the point where a few hundred dollars every few years is a treasure in your eyes.

Some of you may have family or relatives who are involved with this party of another. Some of you may even have parents who’ve asked you to vote for this person or another. In that polling booth, you should know that your choice is yours alone and it should be without any other person’s opinion of what they think you should or should not do.

I can go on and on about the situation back home, and what it lacks. But today, I stand before a very easy choice. On one hand, I am being spammed by a certain minister running in a region, on a phone number he got because of the expat data that was leaked. On the other hand, my region has a candidate named Layal Bou Moussa who is personally handing out her flyers to passing cars, holding town halls to discuss her electoral program.

On one hand, I have the choice to try out the same status quo that’s been in my area for years. On the other hand, I have the chance to vote for change. Is the prospect scary? Perhaps. Will the change I want to vote for win? Doubtful. But every vote counts. Saying that giving those independent candidates our votes is a waste because they’re not going to win is amplified when it’s not only you who’s saying that, but thousands of others… and then you end up voting for the reason you think no change is possible anyway.

Dear Expats – there’s a reason you left. Remember it on April 27th and 29th.

Dear Lebanese friends, family, and readers back home – there’s a reason you’ve been reading this blog for years, there’s a reason you’ve been complaining about el wade3 l 3am for the past 7 years. There’s a reason why the country is what it is today. Remember that on May 6th.

Remember that those candidates who are spreading fake news, fear, using money to buy votes, using scare tactics to get votes before the elections will probably be worse after elections are over. Remember that those people pretending to care about your votes before the elections will not give a rat’s ass about them after. Remember that this decision will be yours to bear for the next four years.

As for me, on April 29th, in that small city in Pennsylvania, USA, I know what I’ll be voting for.

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When Lebanon Remembers #آخر_مرة_صارت_الانتخابات

In case you’re living under a rock, Lebanon’s parliament will renew its mandate for the third consecutive time tomorrow, on the anniversary of the Lebanese Civil War.

Of course, this doesn’t come as a shock. There’s been signs of it for months now, especially as elections are to be held in 40 days and our politicians have defined the word failure in their attempt to agree on an electoral law.

Mixed law? Proportional law? Majority law? The law of relativity? Orthodox law? Theory of quantum elections law? Never heard of any of that stuff.

What’s worse is that the collective Lebanese population probably couldn’t care less. You tell them that parliament is going to extend its mandate for an extra year, and that their right to vote which has been taken away since 2013 will be taken for a third time, and the reaction is a shrug, à la: did you expect otherwise?

It seems that our politicians have decimated our democracy so much that we can’t even expect its basic foundation, elections, to ever take place, or for our own people to be as outraged by this as they were by a silly music video where a woman paraded in tight clothes.

Of course there’s going to be protests, and of course a lot of people – even top political parties – will oppose the mandate extension. There’s even a protest scheduled for Thursday, to coincide with the promised parliament session to renew their mandate. That protest is also supported by the supporters of some political parties, especially those that actually want elections to take place.

However, as we’ve learned from all of our attempts to stop the first and second extension, such measures will always fall short, especially when you’re faced with a parliament that is so inept that it can’t even find a way for its mandate to end. It can’t get sadder than that.

So in response to parliament about to extend its mandate for a third time, Lebanese did as the Lebanese do best, which is to turn the depressingly bad situation into a joke. Because let’s face it, with the apathy regarding the mandate extension, it’s probably the only thing that can be done.

The joke, this time, was the hashtag: #آخر_مرة_صارت_الانتخابات, which translates to: the last time elections happened, affixed to a series of events that were “in” back in 2009.

The following Facebook posts and tweets are telling in how this country’s every ounce of “democracy” has been absolutely destroyed. Yes, they’re hilarious at times, but the subtext is horribly sad.

I’m a 27 year old Lebanese person who’s going to move out of the country soon without having cast a single ballot for parliament. That right has been taken away from me twice so far, with the third time coming up soon.

Food for thought: every single Lebanese between the age of 21 and 28 has never ever voted for parliamentary elections. Our current parliament will be nearly 10 years old by the time they’re supposed to hold elections again if the new extension goes through. We’ve never gone this long without elections since the Civil War.

Remember that when you post about #آخر_مرة_صارت_الانتخابات.

Lebanese Parliament Is Going To Extend Its Term A 3rd Time. We Last Voted In 2009. It’s 2017. Bass Hek.

Make sure you download this blog’s iOS app to stay up to date! (Link).

They want you to be busy with Myriam Klink, while they ignore the fact they should have come up with an election law 8 years ago.

They want you to be busy with their attempts to make you poorer, while they ignore the fact that they are demolishing the deadlines for the parliamentary election coming up this May.

They want you to be overwhelmed with all the hurdles they throw at you, so you are too preoccupied from standing up to the neo-dictatorship they’ve turned this country into by being so incompetent, so horribly bad, and so disgustingly unfit to serve you as citizens.

They want to blind you with them ordering delivery from apps, and bicycle lanes to feign modernity.

They want to fool you with biometric passports thinking we’re going up.

They want you to be grateful they’ve maintained stability, grateful that you have them, as they take us as citizens for granted every single day.

So here’s our wake up call:

We have not voted for parliament since 2009.

The last time Lebanon went this long without elections was when we had a civil war. This time, there’s no war. There’s simply horrendous incompetence and corruption and utter disregard for the constitution and our rights.

People of my generation have never ever cast a vote for parliament. I can’t even hold my politicians accountable because they don’t let me under the guise of “fair representation.” Here’s a news alert for you, our disgusting politicians: representation will never be fair if, you know, elections are never held in the first place.

And parliament will extend its mandate for the third time in a row, because they can’t agree on an electoral law, because they don’t care about agreeing on a law in the first place, because us having the basic right to vote is the least of their concern.

But please, Lebanon, if they ever let you vote, just don’t vote for them?

Lebanon’s Parliament Ridicules And Votes Down Anti-Sexual & Racial Harassment Law

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If you needed anymore proof that the current batch of patriarchal parliament members are no good, look no further than their constant ridicule and systematic decimation of women rights. Even the law they passed to “protect” women from domestic abuse a few years ago was passed in a near stillborn form after decades of labor.

A few days ago, that parliament struck again when MP Ghassan Moukhaiber’s proposed law from 2014, aimed at criminalizing sexual and racial harassment, came up for a discussion and a vote. Instead of behaving in a civil manner and actually discussing the many merits of the law, which is of vital importance for the betterment of any society, our parliament members met the proposal with uproars and ridicule.

When MP Moukhaiber was reciting his proposed law, he was met with sneering laughs from other men in parliament who found him ridiculous. Among the things that were said by those in office whose job is to legislate and come up with laws to better our societies are the following, as reported by Rania Hamzeh:

  • You have too much free time on your hands, MP Moukhaiber,
  • We need a law to protect us from women,
  • What if a female employee wants to get revenge off her employer and accuses him of sexual harassment?
  • Are we going to consider every inappropriate text or whatsapp message as sexual harassment? We don’t want to open up such doors.

Needless to say, the law was then voted down and referred for further debate and deliberation among parliamentary committees, because, as you know, it’s so complicated apparently to consider sexual and racial harassment as illegal entities. Who knows when this law, which has been sitting in a drawer for the past 3 years, will be discussed or put up for a vote again.

Patriarchy and the sense of male entitlement that dictates our laws and that has infested the minds of most of our legislators strike again. It’s like our MPs don’t even care about any facet of society that is not them and what they represent in mentalities and in genders, knowing that they’re going to be voted in anyway because of how rotten our political system is.

Where were our few women MPs when such a law were discussed to voice outrage at having such basic human rights turned into jokes? Nowhere to be found.

If there’s a need for us to get rid of the current lot rotting away in our parliament, it’s now with the parliamentary vote (if it happens) that’s coming up in a few months. We can’t keep on voting for people in office who think sexual and racial harassments are jokes and who are more worried about where they, as men, stand in a society or how they might be affected by a law that criminalizes behaviors some of them have become way too used to.

Dear Lebanese MPs, if you are this disconnected with reality and this afraid for the disgusting privilege given to your gender through years of constant oppression of women, then you have no place to be legislators for the entire country in all of its people and its divisions.

The country doesn’t need people like you perpetuating a status quo that’s seeing it rot away and stagnate instead of moving with the times towards a more equal society. It needs people who are aware that women rights are human rights and that sexual harassment is not acceptable in any form, not open of “ifs” and “buts” and certainly not a matter of comic relief for you while discussing laws.

In any other “civilized” country, such a topic wouldn’t even be a matter of discussion and if what happened in Lebanon actually took place, it would end up being a scandal of unprecedented proportions. Instead, the session was closed and no film exists of it. We don’t even know which MPs were in attendance and which ones said what was mentioned previously.

I am ashamed that in 2017 my parliament has members who think the law proposed was a joke and actually managed to vote it down. I am horrified that someone who represents me towards my state has the audacity to make that timeless “we need a law to protect us from women” joke while working in an official capacity. This is the strength that our complacency has bestowed upon them: they can make fun of us and know they can get away with it.

No, dear MPs, you are not the gender who has to take in their employers’ sexual advances because they want to keep their job or who are too afraid to speak out about them being sexualized at any given moment because of fear of how society will look at them, not at the person harassing them, and – given this new information – because they have no law to protect them. You are not the section of our society that has been constantly marginalized and made sure to believe its place was as limited as it could be.

Human decency is more important than the laws that our MPs are always worried about, such as those pertaining to oil or even that electoral law they won’t pass. We can’t have a progressive society striving towards a better future if all of its components are not respected. Lebanon’s current parliament is making sure that such progression never happens. Simply, disgusting.

Article 522 Allowing Lebanese Men To Rape Women Then Marry Them To Be Abolished

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One of the many backwards thing in the Lebanese legal system is article 522, which allows a rapist to marry his victim (or at least propose marriage) which would clear him of any wrong-doing. Add it to the growing list of abuses to women and minority rights that our laws allow.

Over the past few weeks, a growing campaign, bolstered by a superb viral video about article 522, aimed at getting parliamentary committees and ultimately parliament to abolish this law from the Lebanese penal code.

Today, the parliamentary committee on Administration and Justice agreed to abolish the law, with another meeting set up for December 14th in order to come up with a draft to be submitted to parliament for its abolishing.

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Of course, because this is Lebanon and a ton of things can go wrong, this doesn’t mean that the fight should stop now. If anything, we should bolster efforts to keep the pressure going especially given that there’s bound to be more than a few parliament members who are entrenched in Lebanese patriarchy that they’re definitely going to have more than a few reasons to want to keep this law around.

Such a law existing in 2016 is a disgusting abomination and reflects negatively on every single Lebanese citizen regardless of gender. It exists in the framework of keeping the “dignity of the victim and her family,” because in the Lebanese patriarchal sense, the only meaning of dignity is virginity, because having both your body and then your rights violated in the most horrific of ways is the best way to keep your dignity, not – say – throwing the rapist and criminal in jail for a very long time.

I hope our parliament doesn’t send this law’s modifications into one of its many drawers of laws left to die, with the justification that there are things more important for them to debate. There isn’t anything in this country that’s more important – electoral laws and whatnot included – than the sanctity of our rights and our bodies.

To Lebanon’s women who have been fighting for years against this transgression to their rights, here’s hoping the fight reaches an ultimately satisfying conclusion. Congrats on the first step.

How Lebanon’s Parliament Was Worse Than A School Classroom In Voting For a President


Ladies and gentlemen, those are the people that represent us, the ones we voted for, the ones who then stopped us from voting for them again because we all know that’s what will happen anyway as you only need to look at the orange streets of Lebanon to see how engrained things are.

127 Lebanese MPs, a near full quorum, gathered for the first time since they were elected to vote Michel Aoun as the president of the Lebanese Republic, after 45 failed attempts to vote for a president, stretched over two and a half years of stalemate.

Attending the election process were ambassadors and dignitaries from all around the world who were invited to be there. I bet most of those attending were just there to watch our parliament and the people who are our face to the world show everyone exactly how ridiculous they are, and how abysmally pitiful this country they’re representing has become.

The first round starts. Yes, parliament is equipped with electronic voting but who needs technology anyway? It’s pen and paper. The vote count is underway. One vote is for Myriam Klink, another is for Gilbert Zwein. Those two votes rob Michel Aoun the opportunity to gloat in winning the presidential vote from the first round. Of course, this was intentional.

But let’s take a moment to let the idea that our MPs believe casting ballots for women is a joke. 

To note, parliament has 4 women members out of 128. 

To continue the humiliation of Aoun to the presidency, some other MP figured it would be a good idea for them to drop two ballots inside the voting box instead of one.

If in naivety one would think the first time was a mistake, leading the second round to be canceled in order to go to a third one, the same thing then happened again. Childish? Silly? You name it.  

Cue in the ruckus. How is it that a parliament is failing so irrevocably at doing the only thing it’s been meant to do for the past two years?

Hear an MP here shout for ballots in different colors. Hear an MP there demand for a voting booth because that’s what will fix things. Hear them all be so disorganized, so all over the place, so loud and unaware of what they are doing they you might as well have been observing a kindergarten agglomeration of toddlers, and even that would be slightly more civil.

To say that in voting for a president Lebanon’s parliament has shown exactly how inept it is at running the country is an understatement. 

Those are the same people entrusted to agree on an electoral law in the next few months, and they couldn’t even vote for an unopposed candidate that nearly 2/3 of them supported. A process that should have taken 30 minutes ended up taking 2 hours plus, and then you hear them nag about how the process is taking longer than you thought.

I didn’t think I’d see the day when even voting for a president that the country hasn’t had for two years would turn into a joke, but it did.

The sad part is that this maskhara doesn’t even matter. A few months from now, we will vote for parliament and most of those 127 faces whose names we had to hear repeated at us 4 times because they were so efficient will be back in those same seats, and it’s just so unfortunate. They make alliances however it suits them personally, not how it suits the country best. They attend sessions whenever they’re free not every single time because that’s what they were voted to do. They play with our future like a yo-yo and then make a fool out of themselves and the country they’re representing in doing so. And they’re always above reproach. 

Until then, congrats to Michel Aoun. Here’s hoping he ends up being a better president than his political track record has shown him to be. 

Lebanese MP Elie Marouni Blames Lebanese Women For Getting Raped

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She was asking for it is the excuse of every sexual predator out there to justify his insatiable thirst in violating the body of a woman who was not asking for it.

She was wearing a skirt too tight or too short. Her blouse was too revealing. She was flirting. Anything a woman does that can be interpreted in that rapist’s brain as an advance is considered as her “asking for it” without her being as such at all.

Now how about that mentality perpetuating in the mind of yet another misogynistic Lebanese who not only  has a wide platform to speak from, but also has the job to make sure women are a protected entity in society by legislating the laws for that purpose.

Zahle Kataeb MP Elie Marouni decided that standing up for women rights was not something on his agenda nor was it something he’s probably willing to entertain. Keep in mind, this man is responsible for making sure women are protected when they are raped, when they’re victims of domestic violence, just to name a few.

In a recent press conference (link), Marouni was not a fan of allowing Lebanese women to grant their nationality to their children. Why? Because we have a lot of Palestinians and Syrians (also known as very scary Muslims) who would “change the country’s demographics.”

That wasn’t the best part, however. When asked about the Lebanese penal code law that stipulates that a rapist can marry his victim whereby absolving him of his crime. His reply was as follows: “In some instances, one has to wonder about the woman that pushes a man to rape her. Thank you!”

He was thankful for the applause he got. Some of that applause was probably out of women as well for that horrifying statement. Yes, because it’s that unfathomable for Marouni apparently that a man should probably keep it in his pants until the woman “pushing” him says yes.

A feminist activist rose up to the occasion on the spot and chastised him for his statement, saying she was “ashamed” to have someone like him represent her in parliament. Marouni was then “offended” that she was ashamed.

“If only that woman whose name I don’t know and I don’t want to know who objected in such an offensive way had waited until the end of the conference to see how many women had taken their picture with me.”

Yes, because people posing for pictures with you is exactly the standard by which one judge’s your sexism and misogyny. That sad moment when a Lebanese MP is more taken aback by the fact that someone challenged his backward dogma than by the fact he thinks it’s okay in some cases for men to rape women in 2016.

Dear Mr. Marouni, I’m also ashamed to have you as a Lebanese MP, legislating (or not) on my behalf in any function, being a person who does not understand that people’s sanctity is holy. Also, being ashamed at you is not “offending” you. It’s probably the most courteous thing one could tell you at such a statement given the circumstances.

Why don’t you think about your female relatives for once? Put yourself in their shoes if only for a moment to see how despicable it is for their brother, their son, etc.. to say that them being violated can sometimes be justified or that they can sometimes be blamed for having a man force himself on them.

Mr. Marouni, this is the discourse in which you are taking away a woman’s right to her own body away from her, like almost every other right in this God forsaken country that has been taken away from those same women you believe can be sometimes blamed for being raped.

I fail to see how anyone such as you can be trusted to come up and defend laws that defend every single Lebanese person in any aspect. Granted, you are doing none of that, but in the hypothetical scenario that you might, how am I supposed not to be ashamed that the laws of my country are being ratified by men with such a mentality?

But please, by all means, keep on thinking women posing for pictures with you is enough justification for you thinking they’re open season.