The Humiliation of Entering The United States As Arab

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters as he takes the stage for a campaign event in Dallas, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters as he takes the stage for a campaign event in Dallas, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

I was rejected the US visa for the first time when I was fifteen. I remember standing there, in front of the Embassy Consulate, unsure as to why I was being shut away, as just a young boy, from spending a summer abroad with his family. I was told I didn’t have an “extended enough travel history,” because as you know most 15 year olds have probably been around the world.

Ten years later, after months of back and forth with the Embassy and papers flowing in and out, I was finally given a visitor’s visa for 5 years on my third try, routine for Lebanese citizens who were granted the document as far as I know. A few months later, I visited the United States of America for the first time ever.

On my second visit, the border control officer said his system “couldn’t process” me, so I was taken into another room where, an hour and another interrogation later, I was permitted entry to come into the US to do my medical residency interviews. This happened again on my third entry, with longer waiting times. Entering the US has been the most invasive thing to my being, and I’ve survived medical school.

It’s also what has been happening to many of my colleagues and friends: doctors, scientists, researchers, humans. Just because they were unfortunate enough to be born in countries that are not worthy of enough of having their citizens treated with the minimum of human decency. I can tell you stories about physicians who were kept in those rooms for four hours, waiting for who knows what. It’s never easy to sit there and not know what’s going to happen to you, just because you dared seek entry of a foreign country that you’ve already been thoroughly vetted to be given a visa to.

This process that we go through every time we want to come here, that we know we have to willingly subject ourselves to in order for us to visit New York or some monument or even see some extended family is, apparently, not “rigorous” enough.

Today, on my third visit, with the news of president Donald Trump stopping visas and entries from countries he doesn’t like and even though my country isn’t on the list, I’m the most scared and the most unwelcome I’ve felt in a country whose history celebrates its diversity and its enabling of people from all kinds by giving them a chance at making it.

Not if your kind is Arab.

You’ll read plenty about illegal immigrants, but the fact of the matter is the United States scares me too much for me not to abide by its laws. It’s not about how it cracks down on illegals or how it’s managed to change the course of my region for centuries to come. It’s about how humiliated I’ve felt every single time I’ve applied for that visa.

Many of you wouldn’t think twice about the notion of a “tourist visa.” To most of you, the term is as foreign as that of the person demanding it, but every single time we apply for one – be it for the United States or any other country – we have to subject ourselves to the most rigorous of checks, be ready to provide every form of documentation imaginable. Just for a visit.

And this isn’t rigorous enough.

For a refugee to be granted entry to the United States, they must first apply through the UNHCR, which conducts its own interviews and documentation collection process. Those selected for re-settlement in the United States have their files referred to the State Department which puts the refugee through screening by the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI and DHS. More anti-fraud agencies come into play later as well as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services (USCIS), which interviews the refugees, fingerprints them, and runs those fingerprints through the FBI, DHS and Department of Defense.

If a refugee passes through all of that, they are given health screenings to make sure they’re not bringing in any diseases to the US, while being enrolled in cultural orientation classes as they wait, while their information is checked constantly against terrorist databases. On September 15th, 2016, the US House of Representatives also voted to add further screening steps that require the FBI director to sign off on every single refugee.

Over the past 15 years, the United States, also the world’s third largest country in size and population, has re-settled only around 780,000 refugees.

And this isn’t rigorous enough either.

The fact that my friends have to be told by their employers not to go home for fear of their visas not getting renewed, and have their families not be able to visit them because someone out there is so afraid of them existing is 2017’s reality for many. But we can’t say anything about it, because it’s their country and we’re just parasites in it.

Growing up, America was always a place of hope for me. It was from where, as a kid, my relatives visited with gifts. It was the place from which, growing up, my favorite musicians, series and movies emanated. It is the place, today, that I’m working diligently as a graduated physician to come train in. Today, that place gives me anxiety, just for coming from a certain country in a region whose entirety is on a blacklist, knowing that the most illegal thing I’ve done in my life was break speeding limits.

If history has taught us anything, it’s that selective targeting is never a good thing nor does it build better societies nor does it contribute to the betterment of countries. After all, isn’t one of the most shameful events in American history were the Japanese internment camps around World War II?

With every passing day of Trump’s presidency, and at this rate it is daily, America’s image is getting distorted. Perhaps that is what those who voted for him want: for it not to remain a country of inclusiveness, and become a walled – literally? – state. But it’s also my belief that no country can ever truly be great through hate, fear, the refusal of anything that is different and the denigration of a people. A few decades ago, Anne Frank and her family were denied American visas. How many Anne Franks will be refused away because of fear today?

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13 Lebanese That Made It Big In 2016

As 2016 draws to a close, and you are overwhelmed by end-of-year lists, the only list that I wanted to make, as I also did last year, was one commemorating Lebanese faces that I believe did something in 2016 that made them stand out. Whether them standing out is positive or negative, especially those whose work was of a more political nature, is up to you.

Consider it as one of my rare non-nagging posts of the year, fitting to end 2016 on a more positive note despite it being the year that it was, hashtag #GoAway2016. The names I’m about to mention are in no particular order, and are chosen without wasta so please spare me the “you didn’t choose X so you must be biased for Y” comments.

1 – Rouba Mhaissen:

rouba-mhaissen

I had the pleasure of meeting Rouba way back in 2007 when we were classmates in an English course at AUB. Since then, she’s gone on to conquer the world – almost literally – after founding the NGO SAWA For Development And Aid, which has been at the forefront of dealing with the Syrian crisis, notably with the refugees. From being one of AUB’s youngest alumni to be honored by the university this year, to addressing UN assemblies, the UN security general, Prince Charles and other politicians from all around the world, the world is a slightly better place for having Dr. Mhaissen in it.

2 – Jamil Haddad:

jamil-haddad-colonel-beer

At a more local level, Jamil Haddad has helped put Batroun back on the Lebanese map, and in a big way, with Colonel Beer making it big onto the Lebanese scale in 2016. With it quickly becoming one of Lebanon’s top selling and best beers available, Mr. Haddad managed to maintain a niche for himself and his beer’s brand with a local brewery in Batroun that has hosted countless events over the years and has been a pilgrimage place for Lebanese mainstream and hipster individuals alike.

3 – Huda Zoghbi:

huda-zoghbi

Huda Y. Zoghbi is a Lebanese-born physician and medical researcher. She is a professor in the departments of Pediatrics, Molecular and Human Genetics, and Neurology and Neuroscience at Baylor College in Texas. This year, apart from receiving the Shaw Prize in May, for her work in research leading to discovery of genes and proteins involved in Rett syndrome, she was also awarded the Breakthrough Prize, which amounts to $3 million, for her neuroscience research that has laid the groundwork for promising therapeutic candidates for Alzheimer’s Disease and autism.

4 – Walid Phares:

walid-phares

I may not agree with almost any of his politics and find his choice of presidential candidates in the US presidential race to be abhorrent, as well as the way he writes his last name (why?), but Walid Phares, one of Trump’s top advisors managed to get his candidate elected president of the leading country in the world. That has to amount to something, right?

5 – Jeanine Fares Pirro:

jeanine-pirro

No, I’m not biased to people with my family name. Jeanine Fares Pirro is a Lebanese-American judge who has had an active political career with the Republican Party consisting of Senate and District Attorney runs during which she was the candidate of her party in New York state. In 2016, Jeanine Fares Pirro became one of the top influencers in the American Election through her Fox News TV show during which she was a vocal supporter of Donald Trump, leading her to become a household name across the United States.

6 – Beirut Madinati:

Beirut Madinati

Leading up to Lebanon’s municipal elections in May, there was probably no other political movement that got anyone as excited about it as Beirut Madinati. They were a bunch of educated people from all sectors, running to change the Beiruti status quo. Their great campaign was, sadly, unsuccessful in breaking Lebanon’s very decaying electoral system but their 40% vote share was a triumph in itself. Here’s hoping the change they put into motion can translate into results in 2017’s Parliamentary elections.

7 – Adeela:

adeela

There’s not been another social media figure this past year that has been as polarizing and omnipresent as the often-hilarious Arab satire on Adele. Adeela is inescapable. It’s become so influential in the art scene that its critiques and jokes have become material that newspapers and tabloids write about.

8 – Mawtoura:

mawtoura

The founders of Mawtoura and Adeela are not the same person, but they’re best friends in real life – and both are quite nice people once you meet them. With Adeela being the police of Lebanon and the Arab world’s music scene mainly, Mawtoura provides as funny and poignant assessments of the Lebanese social scene and, occasionally, political life.

9 – Nadia El Cheikh:

nadia-el-cheikh

In 2016, Dr. Nadia el Cheikh became AUB’s first woman dean of the university’s biggest and founding faculty, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. A historian of the Abbasid Caliphate and Byzantium, she’s the holder of a Ph.D. degree in History and Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University. Dr. El Cheikh’s research interests focus on women and gender.

10 – Jimmy Keyrouz:

jimmy-keyrouz

Mr. Keyrouz is a young filmmaker whose movie “Nocturne in Black” was nominated and then won “Best Narrative Film” at the Student Academy Awards in 2016, organized by the same entity behind the Oscars. “Nocturne In Black” tells the story of a musician struggling to rebuild his piano in a war-ravaged Middle Eastern neighborhood. Keyrouz’s movie has already won Jury Selects at the Columbia University Film Festival, a National Board of Review Student Grant, the Caucus Foundation production grant, the Marion Carter Green Award and the IFP Audience Award. He was one of 17 winners out of a nearly 1800 movie selection.

11 – Charbel Habib:

charbel-habib

A vintage car enthusiast, Charbel Habib owns over 40 classic cars. With Walid Samaha as his co-driver, the duo took on the epic Peking-Paris Rally that saw them race from Beijing to Paris, or around 14,000km in a 1964 Porsche 365C. I daresay the biggest hurdle was probably their need for visas going across that territory, but they made it to Paris in one piece and were winners of a Gold medal, ranking second in their class, and being the first drivers to get a Porsche 365C to do that route.

12 – Fayha Choir:

Fayha Choir ChoirFest Middle East

They started off the year with their situation being as precarious as it gets. They were in financial trouble and fighting tooth and nail to try and keep their choir, Lebanon’s best afloat. Lucky for us, they were not only successful but Tripoli’s Fayha Choir went on to win Best Middle Eastern choir at the Choir Fest in the United Arab Emirates. I bet 2017 will be a great year for them too.

13 – Michel Aoun:

michel-aoun-president

After much debate, I figured the list can’t but be concluded by the man who, after more than a 2 year long presidential vacuum, managed to fulfill his life’s dream of becoming the Lebanese president. Sure, his election ceremony by parliament was as childish as it could get, but by taking up the highest governmental level in the Lebanese Republic, we can say that in 2016 Michel Aoun made it. He’s been in office for nearly 60 days and not much has happened (apart from a ministry for women’s affairs to which a man was appointed) but we’re still giving our president the benefit of the doubt to steer the country through next year’s parliamentary elections under a fair electoral law that could see those at #6 cause a dent.

Until 2017, everyone.

To The Lebanese Parents Celebrating Their Children Passing Brevet With Gunfire

Brevet

Dear Lebanese parents that couldn’t believe their son or daughter passed their brevet exam so they figured the best way to celebrate, in between the ten kilos of baclava consumed, was to fire a few rounds of M249 up in the air,

Yes, your child is special. I mean, how could your child not be special if he or she passed 9th grade and will continue to high school? In Neanderthal times, that’s akin to your child being ready for marriage or leading a life of his own! Yes, your child is unique, him and the other 75% of applicants that presented this year’s exam and passed.

Were you firing rounds up in the air because you couldn’t believe your child passed? You do know that doesn’t really reflect confidence on your part for your child’s capacities? I bet your child is going to grow up into such a terrific young man or woman knowing that his parents never truly believed in him or her and were utterly dumbfounded, a few AK4 rounds-dumbfounded to be exact, that they passed an exam that 3 out of 4 of those who take it actually pass it. If more information is needed, let me refer you to some good psychologists who will work on mending your child’s traumatized psyche from having his own flesh and blood not remotely believe he managed to pass an exam.

But how does this whole celebratory gunfire thing work exactly? I mean, you people seem to do it at every corner. Your child passes an exam, you bring out the riffles. Your politician goes on air, you bring out the machine guns. You manage to pass stools after a serious bout of hemorrhoids, you bring out the guns. Is there an algorithm you follow to delineate the mechanism behind this enigma?

Is it two rounds, for instance, for a simple pass grade? Three rounds in case all those “rachat points” were used as an “allahou akbar zamatna” hail Mary of sorts? What about those coveted “mentions” that were all the rave back in my old days? Did he or she get “bien” or “tres bien?” Did you fire thirteen rounds instead of six because your child got 230 instead of 196 points? I’m a doctor here who is more confused by the way your brain works regarding this, than by the diseases I have to address on daily basis.

Now tell me, what if your bullets end up killing someone? Is it okay because “fida hal brevet?” Or is it also okay because if God didn’t want him dead, he wouldn’t have died anyway? How do you convince yourself that your summer rains of shells are totally fine, wholly acceptable and utterly, irrevocably awesome to do?

Or maybe, just maybe, if you were a parent who felt the need to celebrate, for instance, their child passing an exam as stupid as a brevet exam, then you shouldn’t be a parent to being with? Maybe it’s the perpetuation of those genes that have a big contributory factor to why this country is a hell-hole, one round at a time?

I have so many questions that I hope you answer. Until then, see you in world war 3 next June when your other child graduates from kindergarten.

13 Lebanese That Made It Big In 2015

As 2015 draws to a close, and you are overwhelmed by end-of-year lists, the only list that I wanted to make, as I also did last year, was one commemorating Lebanese faces that I believe did something in 2015 that was great.

Consider it as one of my rare non-nagging posts of the year, fitting to end 2015 on a more or less positive note despite it being the year that it was. The names I’m about to mention are in no particular order, and are chosen in a non-scientific way of course.

1. Abou Ali Issa & Adel Termos:

In the depth of horror and chaos emerged the two stories of true heroism in the country this year in the form of two men: Abou Ali Issa and Adel Termos. Both of them lost their lives months and kilometers apart, but in eerily similar scenarios: to the hands of disgusting terrorists who know nothing but destruction and murder. Both of these men risked their lives, leaving behind their families and everything they had built up to for years, tackled suicide bombers and saved hundreds. If there’s anyone to leave 2015 remembering, it’s these two names.

2. Yves Nawfal and Georges el Rif:

In early 2015, Yves Nawfal was brutally murdered at the hand of thugs who thought they were above the law. A few months later, a similar scenario took place and Georges el Rif fell victim to a horrifying stabbing in broad daylight at the hands of a thug who also thought wouldn’t face repercussions for his actions. This is Lebanon after all. But the thugs ended up in jail, and for the first time in years there was a nationwide outcry for the serious need of accountability that overshadowed wastas and politicians trying to circumvent the law to protect their henchmen. May Yves and Georges rest in peace.

3. Tol3et Ri7etkom:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 1

Speaking of accountability, the second half of 2015 was, at a certain point, the period during which a secular, non-partisan movement scared our government shitless because they put every person in power under the spot of their corruption and did so in such a glorious way (link) prompting our government to attack with tear bombs, anti-riot gear, build walls to barricade the protestors, etc…. Sure, the movement ended up fizzling out, as most things Lebanese end up doing, but in that moment, when over 100,000 people gathered in Downtown Beirut to shout for a new system, they were infinite.

4. Ely Dagher:

Ely Makhoul Cannes 2015 Waves '98

When it comes to Lebanese cinema this year, Waves ’98 by Ely Dagher takes the cake. This young Lebanese filmmaker not only did what many considered to this point to be near impossible for Lebanese cinema, but he did so with full acclaim, claiming the first win ever for a Lebanese at the Cannes Film Festival.

5. Rima Karaki:

Rima Karaki

There’s a lot to say about Rima Karaki, good and bad, but her shutting up the Islamist Hani Al Siba’i was definitely one of my personal highlights of 2015, and judging by the international response she received, the world’s. When Al Siba’i told her to shut up and that it was “beneath him to be interviewed by a woman” like her, Karaki cut him off air. She was the leader there, and it was glorious to see (link).

6. Karim Zreik:

Karim Zreik

Zreik is the man behind the latest Netflix Marvel sensation “Jessica Jones.” If you haven’t started watching that show, get on it. Zreik is a leading producer on “Jessica Jones,” a series that has been critically acclaimed and has gained a fandom in lightning speed. Season 2 is already on the way, and I bet his name will still be the one you see first as the credits roll by at the end of every episode.

7. Ziad Sankari:

Ziad Sankari

Founder of a pioneering medical technology called CardioDiagnostics to diagnose cardiac emergencies as they occur, Ziad Sankari not only paved the way of medical advances in 2015 but was also honored by Barack Obama as one of the year’s top entrepreneurs. As a medical doctor, I can’t wait to see what his invention can do in real practice and how it will affect our job.

8. Mia Khalifa:

Mia Khalifa

I debated whether to include Mia or not quite extensively. At the end of the day, how could I not? She single-handedly got an entire country either proud or massively riled up. She got so many death threats from a lot of people around the region who were offended by what she did, as if that pertained to them in any way whatsoever, and, at the end of the day, being the world’s top pornstar – even if the ranking is labile – is still quite the achievement. Mia Khalife made it big. Double D big, or something along those lines.

9. Gabriel Abi Saad:

Gabriel ABI sAAD

At an age of only 8, Gabriel Abi Saad managed to win the world championship in a math competition involving fast counting. It may not be a first for a Lebanese – Mohammad el Mir did the same thing last year in his category too – but an accomplishment of the sort cannot go unnoticed.

10. The NGO Kafa:

Kafa

After years of campaigning, Kafa successfully got Lebanon’s parliament to pass a law protecting Lebanese women from domestic abuse. Recognizing that the law our dear parliament passed had massive shortcomings, Kafa did not simply stop. They kept their momentum going throughout the year, highlighting as many domestic abuse crimes as possible, culminating in a video about child marriage in the country that resonated all across the world. Here’s hoping the state of Lebanese women is better in 2016.

 

11. Mashrou3 Leila:

mashrou3 leila

Among Lebanon’s bands, Mashrou3 Leila were the frontrunners this year. After holding concerts across the world, from the US to Europe to the Arab world, they released their latest album “Ebn el Leil” not only to critical acclaim, but also to raves from The Guardian who called them one of the world’s next big bands.

12. Amira Kassis

Amira Kassis

A nutrition graduate from the American University Beirut, Amira Kassis reached for the stars in 2015. Literally. With her team at Nestle, she innovated a menu that will be used by two pilots who will fly a solar airplane around the globe over a period of more than 5 months. The food had to be preservatives free and still be fresh even after 3 months. The menu also included quinoa tabbouleh. What she did was never done before.

13. Our Vacant Presidential Seat:

Empty Baabda Seat

Because a list about a country who hasn’t had a president for over a year and a half cannot be complete without a spot reserved especially for that has remained spotless so far. We thought 2015 would be the year our political establishment finally found a president. The joke’s on us. Throughout the year, that empty Baabda seat has been an ever-present reminder of how dysfunctional this country is. Eventually, the vacancy became comical, so here it is, at #13, for the joke that this has become.

To Aylan Kurdi & Syria’s Children, I Am Sorry

Aylan Kurdi -

The most heartwarming story of recent days was when Abdul-Halim Attar had his entire future changed because of one picture. He was carrying his sleeping daughter on his back across the streets of Beirut as he tried to provide to her by selling BIC pens. His picture caught the world’s attention, but it was fleeting and momentary, like everything that catches the world’s attention these days.

Why Abdul-Halim Attar needed to go viral to make ends meet was never the issue. Viral pictures should not be how the Syrian refugee crisis gets handled, but this is how it’s becoming.

Abdul-Halim Attar Syrian Refugee BuyPens -

To Syria’s children, I’m terribly sorry it has come to this. I’m terribly sorry you need to be photographed in pictures sleeping on your fathers’ shoulders for someone to care. I’m terribly sorry you need to be photographed dead at a beach for people to feel sorry.

Aylan Kurdi f

I’m sorry you were born Arab.

I’m sorry that you were born into a region that doesn’t remotely care about you outside of the necessary formalities, where countries chastise others for not taking you in as their quota of you is still a big round zero.

I’m sorry that you have to die because of the hypocrisy of those Muslims who cry in the name of Islam at useless cartoons but fail to apply their own religion when it’s absolutely needed, when you are dying at the shores of Libya, of Turkey, of Greece.

I’m sorry you were born in a sea of leaders who care more about having their vacation in the South of France cut short because their once-public-turned-private beach wasn’t available anymore, and who care more about their shopping in SoHo, than about you having food once a week, or sleeping one night not to the sounds of bombs, or having a smile on your face that is not because your parents gave you the illusion of safety.

I’m sorry you are born to a leader who’d rather see you dead than to abdicate his inherited throne, and that you were born at times where your lives don’t geopolitically matter and where this very same statement will have people shake their heads in disapproval.

AYlan Kurdi  Syria Refugees Arabs

I’m sorry Dubai, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are pre-occupied with always building bigger, brighter, flashier, but never in doing something actually worthwhile.

I’m sorry you are not financially important enough for Arabs to care.

I’m sorry little Aylan that there are Arabs who think your death is warranted because you’re Kurdi.

I’m sorry for Europe.

I’m sorry Europe views you as lesser than animals as it barricades its borders in walls to keep you at bay, in lands torn apart by war, where you await your turn to die, like lambs waiting to be slaughtered.

I’m sorry Europe is so xenophobic that that it doesn’t see you as innocent beings trying to live, but as social burdens who should be stopped at whatever cost.

I’m sorry Europe is so Islamophobic it sees you as nothing more than a growing infestation of a religious following that they deem foreign to their land, a presence that should be contained.

I’m sorry Europe’s own politicians and their policies that got you to where you are today are the same people making sure you die.

I’m sorry Europe doesn’t see you as people fighting for a life that is worth living.

I’m sorry that your skin just so happens not to be white enough to matter.

I’m sorry for the world.

I’m sorry you are not as important as Cecil the Lion or some whale stranded on a beach somewhere.

I’m sorry that news of Apple’s upcoming iPhone are more important than your death.

I’m sorry that Donald Trump’s racism is more relevant than our drowning.

I’m sorry for my country.

I’m sorry that we can’t do more.

I’m sorry that my country is so messed up that we can’t remotely provide the basics that any person should have. I’m sorry that my country can’t even provide for its own people.

I’m sorry for the racism, for the curfews, for the xenophobia, for the Islamophobia even at the hands of my country’s Muslims.

I’m sorry for my country’s politicians using you as fuel to spark sectarian hate, and then use the pictures of your dying children to spread fear on what could have been hadn’t they been in power.

Aylan Kurdi

I’m sorry that we can’t fully let go of how your political establishment treated us, that we can’t separate person and politics and that we can’t just see you as people trying to live.

I’m sorry that I can only be sorry, that I can only write a few words that verge on sentimentalism, trespass on sensationalism be it in empathy or in utter horror, words that are not actually meant to you but to those who can read them and who can understand them and who can hopefully do something so you don’t end up drowning, face down, in the sands of a beach in Turkey, so you can end up more than just a viral picture.

People are more than internet sensations. Humanitarian crises are worth more than viral pictures.

This is because people need to see themselves in those parents’ shoes and because those children, drowning on beaches and forever lost under water, can be their children too.

 

 

When Beirut Was At Its Most Beautiful In Years

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 1

Beirut is its most beautiful when it’s alive. Over the past few years, it hasn’t been that way. No, parties at Skybar (RIP) don’t count.

Beirut is not beautiful when it’s a strange land to its people. It’s not beautiful when its center is always empty, when its heart is devoid of its people, when it’s forcibly maimed beyond recognition. No, Beirut is not beautiful when it doesn’t have us, when it’s full of flags that are not of the country which it represents.

On August 29th, 2015, Beirut not only had us, but it had enough of us to make it the most beautiful it’s been in years. Yesterday evening, Beirut was gorgeous. It was our own city finding its voice again, finding its calling again, finding its own identity again.

Beirut is nothing without its streets that should be filled with people. Yesterday, we filled its heart. Beirut is nothing without a beating center. Yesterday, Martyrs’ Square was beating in tachycardia. Beirut is nothing without us. Yesterday, we were Beirut.

Over 100,000 people gathered yesterday in Martyrs’ Square to say enough is enough. They chanted against the system. They chanted for their rights. They chanted with every ounce of voice they had in them for the causes they believed in.

This is how beautiful Beirut was:

 

And people had their hands intertwined to signal unity:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 25

The people also brought posters.

Some, like my friend Racha’s poster, were hilarious:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 10

She’s going to kill me for this going viral.

Youssef Nassar, inspired by Elissa’s now famous Twitter gaffe, brought out the big guns:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 21

#Best #Concert #Ever! #With #My #Besties.

My friend Izzie, meanwhile, compared our ruling class to her dog, “Funny.” Obviously, they wouldn’t amount to how adorable her puppy is:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 14

Pop culture also made an appearance in the form of “Game of Thrones.” What do our politicians have in common with Jon Snow? You guessed it:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 7

That wasn’t the only Game of Thrones-inspired poster around:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 24

Pop culture made another appearance in the form of a “Fifty Shades” pun:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 4

The whole “I kneel in front of you oh General” line that Bassil delivered recently now has an entirely different meaning.

And since we’re a very competitive country, our politicians had their report card released. Needless to say, it’s not very flattering:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 8

Because this protest was a BIG deal, Myriam Klink made an appearance:

By Ralph Aoun.

By Ralph Aoun.

But Klink will probably NOT approve of the content of this poster, zico zico and all:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 16

And because no protest in this country happens without foreign approval, this protest was under the auspices of North Korea. Thank you Pyong Yang!

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 9

Some people brought figurative coffins with them to bury the system that has been killing us for years:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 12

Some made jokes about our security forces:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 20

Some were not as polite:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 6

But at least they have good calligraphy.

This time around, Berri got a few jabs:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 13

Others, and this is the poster that resonated with me the most, wanted to remind everyone of how much we’ve lost being submissive to this system for the past several years, and how many innocent lives paid the price. May all the children of Tripoli rest in peace:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 5

 

And here are a few more:

All of this happened to the backdrop of the most ironic poster of them all:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 9

Beirut is its most beautiful when its people are this free, when they are this creative and when they finally find their voice that has been forcibly silenced for years, at times when we thought such a thing wouldn’t happen.

Yesterday’s protest was the BIGGEST manifestation of secular, non-partisan but very politically driven individuals in the history of the country. If August 29th leads to results in the coming few days, this protest will go down in history as another form of Beirut Spring, in the heart of a country that has long shown democracy to the region.

This post is not about what should have happened, what should happen next and what is expected of this movement. This is about how beautiful and glorious our sight was, and how beautiful we made Beirut in the process.

Cheers to everyone who made Beirut great again. Cheers to those who sang, and chanted and shouted. Cheers to hopefully saying one day: “I was there.” Cheers to us.

13 Lebanese That Made It Big In 2014

2014 has been a pretty messed up year on the Lebanese scale, but amidst all of it, there were a few Lebanese whose news served as a diversion from all the mayhem. Their accomplishments made us happy, even if they didn’t pertain to us directly. As we saw some of them make it big on an international level, we were maybe reminded of our own hidden potential over here. Others caused ripples right at home. To those Lebanese, I came up with this to salute them.

This list is without any order.

1 – Fadel Adib

Fadel Adib

This 25 year old from Tripoli made it to MIT’s list of 35 innovators under 35. His innovation? A system that uses wifi signals in order to track people, their vital signs and other important components. The applications are limitless: from tracking elderly who are prone to falls, to new radiology methods in medicine to police application in criminal activity monitoring….

2 – Hind Hobeika

Hind_Hobeika

Hind was one of the most influential women of 2014 according to the BBC. She invented the Instabeat Goggles, a swimming monitor that tracks heart rate to offer real-time feedback. The device mounts on the straps of any swimming goggles, and reads the heart rate from the temporal artery.

3 – Mohammad El Mir

Mohammad el Mir

This 11 year old from Tripoli won a competition in Germany earlier in the year that found him being named the world’s junior genius. He beat out participants from 40 other countries. He deserves more recognition than what he got, but the future looks bright for him either way.

4 – Amal Alamuddin

Amal Alamuddin

She was the most ubiquitous Lebanese around the globe this year. As far as the globe is concerned, it’s all because Amal now has Clooney as her last name. But Amal is one of the world’s most brilliant lawyers. Her list of client includes people like Julien Assange and former Ukrainian PM Yulia Tymoshenko. She has also lately been chosen to represent Armenia in the European Court of Human Rights. She has charmed people across the world, standing not only as equal to Clooney, but sometimes being the more interesting of the two.

5 – Aya Bdeir

Ayah Bdeir

She was also on MIT’s 35 innovators under 35 list. Her invention is LittleBits, a library of modular electronic units that can be connected to build many different things ranging from a sound machine, a night light, or even a lifelike robotic hand. She has sold hundreds of thousands of units so far in over 80 countries. And I bet she’s not stopping anytime soon.

6 – Rand Hindi

Rand Hindi

He was named by MIT as one of the top 35 innovators under the age of 35 for his work in a company he founded called Snips, which analyzes data in hopes of making city living more efficient. To put that into effect, Snips partnered with the SNCF to create an app that predicts three days in advance how crowded trains would be on a certain day. In a world that’s increasingly built on algorithms, data, and numbers, analyzing such input is becoming not only essential, but vital.

7 – Jackie Chamoun

Jackie Chamoun

It all started when Jackie’s photoshoot for a calendar surfaced through a video that showed her nude. The news passed under the radar, until Sports Minister Karami saw her behavior as “insulting.” All online hell broke loose. From “I’m Not Naked,” to “#StripForJackie,” the country saw a tangible liberal movement rooting itself in the collective mindset of everyone. Debates about women, feminism, body image and sex became the talk of the moment. Jackie didn’t end up winning an Olympic medal, but she became a household name almost overnight.

8 – Yasmine Hamdan

Yasmine Hamdan

She first became known with Soapkills. Today, however, Yasmine Hamdan is on a whole other trajectory of success, having made it to Hollywood all by herself through her music. On “Only Lovers Left Alive,” she sings the song “Hal.” That song is on a shortlist to the Oscars this year.

9 – The People Behind Sakker El Dekkene

Sakker El Dekkene

They were the country’s first NGO to truly break into the mainstream when it the issue of corruption. For that, they devised an app that lets people pinpoint where they saw a corrupt act taking place and report it. They also set up base at various locations around the country to raise awareness. In a country where almost anything is at a price, shedding a light on this cancerous aspect of our society is very important.

10 – Bushra El Turk

Bushra El Turk

This Lebanese composer was featured by the BBC as one of the 100 most influential women of 2014 for her music. Her compositions have been played by orchestras such as the London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Opera House, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de Lorraine, among many others.

11 – Manale Daou

Manale Daou

Most of you know her as the clerk that MP Nicolas Fattouch attacked for telling him to stand in line. Soon enough, she was spear-heading a campaign against Fattouch, who had managed to weasel his way out of every tough spot in his career. But not this time. The Beirut Law Syndicate decided to disbar him soon after he got caught up in another scandal. Daou filed a lawsuit against him. Who knows where all of this will lead, but at least she was able to do something.

12 – Bahia Chehab

Bahia Chehab

She’s an associate professor of practice of art at The American University in Cairo, and was featured by the BBC as one of the 100 most influential women in the world for the past year. Her influence comes from her tangible work in the Egyptian revolution(s), by orchestrating the most widely used graffiti consisting of the Arabic word “No.” She explains it all in her widely popular Ted Talk.

13 – Wael Abou Faour

Wael Abou Faour

At a time when his predecessors did nothing of the sort, him doing his job becomes big news. His methods may be unorthodox – announcing restaurants in a weekly Star Academy-like nominee style is odd, and open to much criticism, but his work in the late months of 2014 on food safety in the country has shaken establishments.