Beirut’s Newest Tourist Attraction: A Wall of Shame To “Protect” Our Politicians

Picture via @SalmanOnline.

Picture via @SalmanOnline.

When you think Lebanon’s politicians couldn’t sink lower, they utterly and irrevocably surprise you.

Two days ago, when we peacefully protested to defend our right to have a country where their corruption doesn’t reign supreme, our politicians surprised us by orchestrating a military response that not only echoed that of Arab countries where suppression is a way of life, but paralleled it to the letter.

We were beaten. We were hosed. We were shot at. We were tear gassed.

Yesterday, our politicians sank to a newer low when they orchestrated another type of response to the YouStink protests as they sent their goons to infiltrate the ranks of peaceful protesters and make sure they wreck havoc.

The protestors had nothing on them; the insurgents had lasers, molotov cocktails and various other weapons. The protestors were chanting for their rights; the insurgents were chanting for their sect. The protest turned from shouting “revolution” to shouting their sect name in no time.

I don’t have proof of which politician ordered the infiltration, but his name is known. He’s been fastened to the same leather chair, stronger than super glue, since 1992.

Today, our politicians are so afraid of what could be from the Beirut Uprising that they’ve gone the extra-mile to make sure the psychological and military barrier that separated them from the people is re-inforced by yet another kind.

Today, in Downtown Beirut, across Riyad el Solh square, a concrete wall has been erected to separate our governmental seat from the people.

They had absolutely no idea what they were doing that they built it around a utility pole:

Lebanon Government Wall Downtown Beirut

Picture via @Mich_h.

As soon as it was built however, the youth of the country used the wall as a space to get our government to see what it’s worth every single time its members pass by the area to infuse the country with more corruption.

To bring the message of the wall home, each tile is now decorated by a figure representing every political party in the country:

This wall is a sad entity but it’s been turned to something beautiful.

Lebanon has now joined the very exclusive list of countries in the world where people are separated from each other by physical barriers existing solely for political reason, only this time the only entity separating itself from the people is the country’s political establishment.

The Lebanese system keeps digging itself in a hole. The more a system is disconnected from the people that make it, the more it’s afraid from those same people. This is why that same system fired at us on Saturday. This is why that same system tried to tarnish the protests yesterday. This is why that same system is barricading itself behind a wall today.

The Serail is not for a PM or a minister, it’s for the people. Nejmeh Square does not belong to the Speaker of Parliament or his MPs, but to the people. They can build as many walls as they want, but that doesn’t make our claims of wanting to live in dignity any less just, and their need to stay in power any less barbaric.

The Lebanese government is protecting itself from us by a wall. What they fail to realize is that their main problem isn’t the physicality of a protest. Their stench rises above the wall. Their failures rise above the wall. Their corruption is sinking an entire country, including their new wall.

Today, Downtown Beirut has a new attraction to add to the list of things that make it an obscene place to visit, a place that is not only non-Lebanese, but irrevocably hostile as well. Thank you Lebanon’s government for making sure I feel, with each passing day, more of a stranger in my own home.

If only they know, though, that any wall that goes up must eventually go down, not necessarily by force. There are some words that have the effect of wrecking balls.

Update: the wall is being brought down. This will go down in history as the shortest living separation wall ever.

When We Protested and The Lebanese Government Tried To Kill Us

At 6:00PM on August 22nd, 2015, around 10,000 Lebanese people gathered in Downtown Beirut to protest the country’s overwhelming garbage crisis and with it the corrupt political system that has allowed it to prosper unresolved over the past month, as it has allowed the country to disintegrate since its moment of inception.

I daresay it was the first time a Lebanese crowd gathered this substantially to protest in an apolitical way against a political system that’s affecting everyone. It was beautiful:

 

All pictures are taken by me unless noted otherwise.

All pictures are taken by me unless noted otherwise.

The crowd was immensely creative. They carried Lebanese flags devoid of the Cedar, a bunch of hilarious posters, and even Batman was there:

The people at the protest had one goal in mind: to tell anyone who’d hear us exactly how horrifying our political system has become, to the point where we’re drowning in garbage and no one cares. To the backdrop of “down with the system” chants, the following were roaming around:

And yet, despite the newly built gates to stop anyone from entering to the heart of Downtown Beirut where the very empty parliament resides, and despite the very heavily clad military presence, none of us thought the protest could turn bad.

We were just there, expressing our fundamental right for free speech, in a country that has long considered itself to be the beacon of free speech in the region. We were many, we were mighty. We were proud, we were excited. We chanted, we held our fists to the skies and shouted at a system that has tried to clench our hands and bring us down every single time. Around 6:30PM on August 22nd, 2015, we felt powerful.

Carte Blanche & Signal Jamming:

The crowds walked back from Riad el Solh square towards Martyrs’ Square. Naturally, every single opening that could lead to Nejmeh Square was closed off by armed personnel. The Lebanese Army was working hand in hand with the Internal Security Force (ISF) on closing off all the roads. As we passed them while walking back to Martyrs’ Square, we overheard a few saying they had a “carte blanche” for today. I didn’t give it much attention.

It was around that time that I first noticed my phone’s signal was getting jammed. My data connection kept dropping, and I failed to get my phone to connect to the 3G network even with restarts. I asked around, and I wasn’t the only one having that issue. There was a clear attempt to radio-silence the protest, but I didn’t give much attention to that either.

Gunshots Start:

The time was about 7:15PM. We were gathered around Martyrs’ Square chanting when the first bullets were fired. One round was followed by another, and then another. The armed personnel were firing, and shouting. A few moments later, they kept on increasing their perimeter, pushing protestors out of a region they had not secured before, beating them with batons until they cleared the area.

Children started crying. “Cowards,” there were many shouting. But if anyone thought that would be the end of it, we thought wrong. The most horrifying part of being shot at and beaten up isn’t that there were bullets being fired in the air, it’s the look of delight on that armed personnel’s face as he does it.

A “carte blanche” to keep order against protesters who did nothing but behave peacefully means many things. It means that you can decide that a peaceful protest is not one where you need to fire guns. It means you can decide not to beat up a woman who’s shouting at you. It means you can decide to be a civilized armed personnel, and not a savage.

Our country’s armed forces chose to be barbaric. They chose to be rabid dogs instead of being human beings.

Batman was the first to run.

How Tear Gas Feels Like:

We moved away from Martyrs’ Square and walked up Downtown Beirut. I daresay it was the most full that place was in ages, to the dismay of our government of course because this isn’t the crowd they wanted.

YouStink August 22 Protest - 9

On the way there, I saw a man with a cut across his scalp. I examined his wound. I told him what to do in order to clean in. There were two more like him on the way.

We gathered near the South entrance of Beirut Souks, the one facing the main entrance to Nejmeh Square. The crowds started chanting again. Bullets were fired in order to scare people, but the chants kept on growing louder.

A van for Beirut’s fire department then blazed its way through protesters. If we hadn’t made way, the van wouldn’t have had a problem in running us over. A moment later, they fired tear gas at us. If that first round of tear gas wasn’t enough, they fired a few more. One hit my friend in the head, another hit my knee before bouncing on the ground.

And we ran.

Tear Gas Beirut August 22 Protest YouStink

It didn’t start off as tears. It started as a constriction in my throat that tightened the more I tried not take a breath. It was so hard to hold it in when my lungs were aching for air.

It was then that I started coughing uncontrollably, each one followed by the next, making the ache in my throat worse, feeling like I was going to suffocate the more I coughed, the more I breathed, both of which I couldn’t control.

A few seconds later, my eyes started tearing and I was borderline blinded as I wobbled my way down from the main road as far as I can from the smoke. And they kept on firing. It felt like I was walking for endless meters, because my eyes wouldn’t let up and neither would my lungs.

I passed by a woman who had fainted on the side of the street. There was a little girl running away as well; she couldn’t have been more than six or seven years old.

The more I ran, the more I felt it was getting worse. I felt like I was going to faint a couple of times, but there was not time to think so I just kept going as my throat got tighter. I tried to use my shirt to bloc the gas, but I had no fluid on me to use as an insulator.

It started getting better when we reached CinemaCity. My friend fell to the ground and gasped for air. There was another woman lying at the side of the street, borderline unconscious being helped by her friends.

In case you’re wondering, this is how you look after being tear gassed by your government for protesting peacefully against its shit:

Tear Gas August 22 protest Beirut

The Classy Apathy Crowd:

Now that the crowds were dispersed, a few of us made our way through Beirut Souks. I walked by the cinema, and people were there. I walked by the shops and people were there. I walked by a local restaurant, and it had its doors shut because the people inside had gotten worried.

August 22 protest YouStink beirut

These people’s garbage is obviously not part of the Beiruti equation. It’s probably too classy. I couldn’t not take a picture of them. My aching lungs and throat demanded it.

It Gets Worse:

Meanwhile back in Martyrs’ Square, the crowds were gathering again. It was getting dark, the time was around 8PM.

With darkness falling, Lebanon’s armed forces found new strength in being able to do whatever they wanted without anyone knowing they did it. So they started firing bullets, both live ammo and rubber ones, at the protestors chanting against them. They hosed the protestors with water canons and fired tear gas again, but the protestors held their own.

It was then that Lebanese media took notice of what was happening in Downtown Beirut. Our tweets, Facebook posts, images and videos were aplenty, widely shared and immensely circulated. LBC and NewTV were the first on the scene, and even journalists were attacked:

When confronted, the armed forces – both army and ISF – told protestors that “they started it.”

The first serious injury of the night happened around that time. A teenager boy, aged around 14 or 15, got hit by a rubber bullet in his pelvic area.

August 22 Protest YouStink-

Picture via Joey Ayoub.

Then I started getting news from my colleagues that the ER at my hospital was beginning to receive injured protestors. Hotel Dieu was receiving them as well. The injuries, for the most part, were not severe, but some of those rubber bullets required surgical intervention:

 

After uploading a video showing the Lebanese Army – yes, that same one we’ve all been defending for years – attacking us barbarically, I had many people attack me for “wrongfully” tarnishing the army’s image. This is a picture that clearly shows the army attacking people:

Picture via Elie Farah.

Picture via Elie Farah.

What happened next involved more violence, wide-spread arrests of protestors who – again – did absolutely nothing violent. In pure propaganda attempt, the Lebanese ISF released pictures of its own members with bloody cheeks, eyes and bandaged heels to tell the world that the protestors were violent.

I had no idea water bottles and hands were a dangerous weapon to the country now while we were being attacked with batons, bullets, armors and military boots. The country isn’t only full of shit, it’s full of melodrama.

It Could’ve Been Worse:

I have to say, if the Lebanese media – hats off to LBC and NewTV – hadn’t covered the protest from around 8PM till after midnight, I’m sure the armed forces would have enjoyed both the radio and media silence to commit a true massacre in Downtown Beirut yesterday, but they couldn’t.

They couldn’t because the anchors of Lebanese channels that have, for the first time in years, provided the country with actual and decent news, made it their job to tell the whole country how the people protesting for their most fundamental rights in Beirut were getting beaten up only for speaking.

The couldn’t because there are still, much to my delight, media in this country that knows when to draw the line to an establishment that has, for years, enjoyed unchecked coverage.

Shame on FutureTV and Al-Manar for pretending that nothing was happening in Downtown Beirut, but at least now they agree on something. And I guess they didn’t bring in the fighter jets, so we can’t say that were *too* brutal.

Lebanon’s Politicians Start To Kiss Our Ass:

Because they needed to capitalize on us getting beaten up and almost killed in Downtown Beirut, Lebanon’s politicians – of all kinds and shapes – figured it made absolute sense to condemn the actions of a government of which they are ALL part.

First was Nabil Nicolas, the same one who posted a picture of his leader in the heart of Mary the other day (link) announcing that he condemned what was happening. Then came Elias Abi Saab, who is part of the government itself, also condemning what was happening.

Neither quit their position of course, because why would you do anything worthwhile if you can simply throw a few words of garbage here and there and save face? It’s so easy to condemn in words and so hard to do so in action.

Then came Gebran Bassil in a beautiful tweet about the political establishment of which not only is he part but in which he is now ascending. Mr. Bassil needed someone to tell him yesterday who was at fault for what was happening in Downtown Beirut, and the answer came promptly:

 

August 22 Protest Gebran Bassil Tweet

It was Walid Jumblat’s turn next to shower us with his hypocrisy. He was supportive of the movement, and he said that yes, he stank as well. But because there are no alternatives, he effectively told everyone that we were stuck with them and there was nothing we can do. Deal with it.

Nouhad el Machnouk, our minister of interior affairs, was on vacation. So naturally because he was outside the country, he couldn’t have ordered the armed forces to do what they did, he said. He only ordered them to use rubber bullets and tear gas canisters as they do in ALL civilized countries, he said.

Mr. Machnouk probably still thought that the Lebanese people have the collective IQ of a fish and that when we were getting beaten up by his forces we wouldn’t be able to see through all the bullshit, but we can.

If only Mr. Machnouk had imported something other than rubber bullets and tear gas from civilized countries. Maybe he will now as he unfortunately is forced to cut his vacation short?

Lebanon Is A Dictatorshit:

If you had any doubt that this country was not a democracy, yesterday was your overwhelming proof that this is not a dictatorship, no it’s a dictatorshit.

We were doing nothing wrong. Protesting against a system that’s so corrupt it can’t handle garbage is not wrong. Chanting against a government that has been nothing but dysfunctional since its moment of birth is not wrong. And yet, we were attacked. And yet, they tried to kill us. And yet, many of us are in hospitals now because our country is run by an establishment whose only goal in life is to self-persevere.

The use of riot police against us was a political decision. The carte blanche they were given was entirely pre-meditated. Those in power thought that flexing their muscles would silence the many voices in the country that are fed up with their lies, with their corruption. But they thought wrong.

The Lebanese establishment is only invested in one thing and one thing only: to maintain itself against all odds, against all logic and reason. Garbage in the streets? Who cares as long as I can get a few bucks off of it. More than $20 billion spent on electricity that gets cut 12 hours a day? Yes, that money funded my vacation well. No elections for two years in a row? The taste of power is grand.

Our political establishment is a parasite: it feeds off of us in order to grow stronger and keep itself in power. It sacrifices us to make sure it runs unchecked. It throws its armed personnel under the bus to make sure that nothing comes its way.

We were protesting for our basic and most fundamental rights and they tried to kill us. This is worse than when the Syrian regime did the same or maybe worse to protestors back in the days. Back then, it was a foreign presence trying to silence you. Today, it’s your own country’s people trying to kill you.

Not only did the Lebanese political establishment tell every single Lebanese that they effectively did not matter, but they tried to sugar coat it by breaking their own ranks and pointing fingers at each other; not only do they stink, they reek.

But Beirut Was The Most Beautiful It’s Been In Ages Yesterday:

The day after, I’m the most proud I’ve been in years. I’m proud of every single man, woman and child that went down yesterday to protest. I genuinely love every single one of those 10,000 people that gathered around in Beirut yesterday, even the smokers.

I’m proud of the people of Tripoli who went down to Beirut late at night to protest even when no one protested for them when their city was being burned again and again. I’m proud they were not deterred at the Madfoun checkpoint which was blocked by the army at 1:40AM to stop them.

You people turned Beirut into a city that’s worth being plastered across the world yesterday because you were amazing, courageous and wonderful. You got people all across the country to see the government for what it truly was: a rotten establishment that reeks of decay.

The day after, you are all heroes, with your cuts and scars and bruises and teary eyes. The government fears you. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have reacted this way. In a few years, when you have children in a country that’s hopefully become civilized enough for us to bring children into, you will sit down and tell them how you changed things. It’s a beautiful story to tell, believe me.

Why You Should Go To The #طلعت_ريحتكم Protest This Saturday

YouStink Protest 22 August - 1

The “YouStink” movement is the most important thing taking place in Lebanon today. It’s a movement of youth who are secular and critical and are trying to get this country to be better for everyone in it, even those who don’t want that.

Over the course of the past few weeks, YouStink started grassroots protests to try and involve a Lebanese street that essentially doesn’t care, even as the trash piles up outside its doors. Refer to the following pictures for more information:

You can also refer to this New York Times article for a bit of “bahdale.”

Also refer to this post about the state of trash of the country.

When I first wrote about the issue, I was convinced that the garbage crisis would be resolved as fast as it started because if there’s anything our politicians do and do really well it’s to put band-aids on gaping wounds. I was sure they’d find a way to gather around and make sure the issue was resolved as fast as possible.

I thought wrong.

A month later, not only has the garbage crisis not been resolved, but the horrifying details of how corrupt our entire institution is became more prominent than ever. Our politicians are so comfortable by the fact that whatever they do will fly by the masses that have learned to turn a blind eye to them that they couldn’t even manage to do the effort and pretend that they’re trying to address the issue at hand.

The cherry on top of the garbage mountains was the electricity and water situation also becoming catastrophic, as is the case every single summer.

Tomorrow, on August 22nd 2015, the YouStink movement is rallying in Downtown Beirut yet again to get the country’s voices heard, and this is why you should go:

1) Because they have a clear goal for you: They want to find a solution to the garbage crisis amid a political system that’s built on always ensuring that such crises are always sustainable. It’s that simple.

2) Because it’s not okay for our politicians to be this unchallenged: one month and the garbage is still on streets? Really?

3) Because some things are more important than happy hour at Mar Mkhayel on a Saturday: you can get your drinks afterwards.

4) Because even if you intend to leave, you can still help make the country a better place for those who want to stay: I don’t want to stay here; Lebanon is not where I envision my future to be, but I’ll be damned if I leave without at least knowing I tried.

5) Because our system is just not working: you can’t be okay with not having a president for a year, not voting for 2 years straight, not having any basic infrastructure, and living in garbage. It’s unacceptable to be okay with it all.

6) Because the country has police that beat up women who are expressing their fundamental right to speak: refer the following video:

7) Because even if the garbage crisis doesn’t affect you, the system has fucked you before: yes, the garbage crisis is a Greater Beirut problem, but Tripoli was under bullets for months and our government did nothing. The country has had terrorist attacks take place and the government did nothing; that is not okay.

8) Because not going is telling those governing you that they can get away with everything they do to you: now it’s elections and garbage, next it can be your other rights. If you stay silent now, why would they assume you can speak later?

9) Because this is not the time for apathy: you can’t not care about living in garbage, in a country on a slippery slope down anarchy, in a total disintegration of everything that makes a country a state.

10) Because our politicians are scared shitless: refer to the following link.

I rarely invite to protests, but tomorrow I will see you there.

How Lebanon’s Politicians Are Threatened By The #‏طلعت_ريحتكم‬ Movement

Over the past month, the most energetic and momentum-ful youth movement this country has seen over the past of the past few years was born and they called themselves طلعت ريحتكم or YouStink.

That movement was born because a portion of the Lebanese society, one that has a functioning head above its shoulders and one that can see through the whole spectrum of our politicians’ bullshit, was sick of the status quo that’s forcing every single Lebanese today, except a select few, to live in utter misery, in a state of non-existent rights and… in their own garbage. You’ve all seen those pictures.

That non-political movement has its only purpose to challenge a system that has gone for so long unchallenged and to expose the corruption that is so well-rooted in all our politicians that they’d rather let the country sink in garbage than threaten their bottom line. And that is scaring our politicians shitless.

The Future Movement:

When the protests started, the FM accused them, via its TV station Future TV, of being nothing more than “workers of the resistance,” which is to say that this movement against the trash crisis of which the FM and its corruption were central players for years is nothing more than a product of the imagination of Hezbollah.

The FM thought that such rhetoric would suffice to resonate with its crowds. Perhaps it did with some. But when it didn’t, the FM’s minister tried to divert attention from the protest by arresting a protestor who was “threatening the Sunni legacy” in the country by fighting for his right by suing the Sunni orphanage for sexual abuse and painting it as a threat to that minister’s well being. Oh well.

Michel Aoun:

In between his quest to reclaim Christian rights and to get himself to presidency and his son in law as army commander, Michel Aoun was also very upset that his very, very failed protests were, well, an utter failure and had security personnel oppose them.

To make a point, or lack thereof, he asked in a press conference the armed forces to go and cut roads and whatnot to the YouStink protesters.

The Kataeb:

Some Kataeb MPs, plenty as they are, considered the protesters in the YouStink movement to be “ridiculous,” or to use the arabic word for it “سافهين.” I guess so says the party that voted for the grandson of their founder to be their head after having his father be the head for so many years?

Hezbollah:

Hezbollah’s minister Hussein El Hajj Hassan asked Lebanese media to decrease and stop covering the YouStink protests. I guess Hezbollah’s reps think that protests against the government and establishment of which they are part, highlighting their grave shortcomings are a big no-no. Tell that to the FM please.

March 14’s General Directorate:

In their meeting, they accused the movement of being part of Hezbollah’s brigade, which is why I suppose anyone would want to oppose this government or the Lebanese establishment as it stands. The meeting also asked the government to hold its own in the face of such protesters.

And On 19/8/2015:

The following are a few pictures of what’s happening right now in Riad el Solh square, against the protesters of the YouStink movement:

When they went down to Riad el Solh today, the protesters of the YouStink movement found themselves faced with a full on onslaught by the Lebanese armed forces who hosed them with water, prevented them from protesting as the cabinet convened to discuss the garbage crisis.

The government failed, yet again, to find a solution today and postponed the problem, again, to a subsequent date. It must be so hard for our politicians to find a solution where they all get money from the handling of Beirut’s garbage. Hashtag: the tough life of a Lebanese politician who’s never satisfied financially.

So naturally, our government failing was met with wide arrests in the ranks of the protesters. Director Lucien Bou Rjeili, who recently did more work than the entirety of our political establishment in the Bab el Tebbeneh-Jabal Mosehn issue by coming up with a play bringing people from both regions together for the first time (link), was arrested.

Activist Assaad Thebian was also arrested; Imad Bazzi, known for his blog Trella.org, was injured and transferred to a nearby hospital. Activists Waref Sleiman and Hassan Shamas were also arrested.

The protesters were then threatened by our those armed forces to be arrested and referred to military court for further management, because this is how we function in Lebanon: people protesting for their fundamental civil liberties get a military trial. And we pretend we’re a democracy.

Not only have our politicians failed in the simplest form of governance and that is sorting our garbage, but they’ve also failed in maintaining a country with the minimum amount of liberties of being able to speak, of not feeling threatened to oppose, of not being beaten up and hosed down when we speak up.

How different is this government from those of the Syrian occupation period when protesters were arrested and threatened for simply protesting? It’s not.

Today, the heroes of Lebanon are those protestors in Riyad el Solh. To the country’s politicians, the most fitting thing to say is this:

11863225_1011379968895224_5433722513749259595_n

Jeish Lebnen… 3askar 3a Min?

It’s quite simple really. They flaunt their strength on the people who have no one to watch their back, no militia weapons in their arms and no wasta to clear their names. They dare to beat those people up for speaking. They dare to turn peaceful protests into matters of them flexing their muscles.

3askar 3a min? 3askar 3al d3if. 3askar 3a yalli ma fi bdahro 7ada. 3askar 3a yalli fiyon yesta2wo 3leih.

Lebanese Army

Photo by Bilal Jawich

Can we excuse them? Perhaps so. After all, the level of repression of power (as to not to say castration) in the picture below is too damn high. Something’s gotta give somewhere – and some Lebanese are the ones on whom that something is given every single time.

Picture courtesy of Naharnet

Picture courtesy of Naharnet

Armed forces that only use their power against the weak are not armed forces that can protect me. They are not armed forces I respect. They are not armed forces I feel any patriotism toward. They are armed forces that disgust me. And the latest protest wasn’t their first time at it recently. They also beat up students protesting Lebanon’s history book almost a year ago.

Can we expect otherwise from a country that is on the fast track to become an exemplary failure? Failure of governance, failure of politics, failure of a parliament, failure of mentalities and last but not least failure of an army.

I may not think the protests against the parliament’s mandate will get us anywhere – not when the country’s legal and judicial division is not even separate from the political debacle. Speaking of judicial power, let’s add another failure to the above list: the constitutional “joke” council. But it’s the damn right of the protesters not to get beaten up for protesting.

Do I live in a dictatorship? It’s sure feeling more and more like it with every single day. Teslam ya 3askar lebnen ya 7amina.

Syrian AUB Students Protesting For Gaza… Silenced and Beaten Up

The students who left their conflict-torn home in Syria to come get the best education in the region at AUB never thought they’d be silenced in a country which sports itself to be the beacon of free speech in the Near East at a university whose charter boasts about the importance of freedom especially that of speech.

Some AUB students gathered on Monday in support for the Palestinians of Gaza. The sit-in was organized by the Secular Club, the Palestinian Club and the Civil Welfare Club, which is the club of the SSNP at AUB. The protesters were joined by Syrian students from the AUB community who wanted to express their sympathy towards Gaza. A lot of them also happen to be members of the Secular Club.

The protestors held up banners. They shouted against the atrocities taking place in that sector of living hell. They shouted for ears that will not listen, hoping in vain that they do. “The people want freedom.” The students were talking about the freedom of the people in Gaza.

But it wasn’t understood that way.

The freedom that those students sought in AUB and which they thought they had was narrowed down by the narrow-minded hypocrisy of some of AUB’s political parties, representing the agenda of their national bigger heads, to what they believe speech should be about.

Some SSNP students, who were part of the protest, took it upon them when they saw the posters that those Syrian students held to make sure they were silenced for drawing similarities between their struggles as Syrians and the struggles of the people in Gaza… because the posters offended them. “Freedom blowing from Houran to Gaza” offended them. A poster from Deir el Zour offended them. Mentioning the Palestinians of Syria’s refugee camps bothered them. So they tore the posters off. And they beat up one guy and threatened others and ganged a professor whom they knew was with the Syrian revolution because they saw them as a provocation.

Some of the students are still receiving threats today. The same people who threatened a friend yesterday followed him around AUB today… up to the cab that was taking him home where they started shouting and tried to assault him. How longer should AUB students be forced to tolerate the hypocritical stupidity of others who believe only their version of the truth goes?

I don’t know the absolute truth about the politics of it all. I don’t pretend to. But neither do they. I do not think about zionist plans for the region when I think about the situation in Syria. But I don’t mind if they do. I do mind though that they have no problem with people getting killed when it works with their political agenda but have no issue whatsoever with others getting killed just because it serves a purpose they believe is righteous.

Those students seem more knowledgeable about the struggles of the Syrians than the Syrians and they sure as hell know more about the daily struggles of Palestinians than the Palestinians themselves.

Syrians at AUB today are not allowed to speak about the atrocities taking place in their own home without a Lebanese silencing them. They are not allowed to express sympathy stemming from their own struggles towards a place that they can identify with more than others.

Some people may not agree with what those Syrians and Palestinians have to say but they have every right as people first and foremost and as AUB students second to say it especially inside their own campus.

The security personnel at AUB, which is usually very active in stopping such quarrels, didn’t bother. The IDs of students, typically taken in similar scenarios, were never demanded here. The AUB administration which approved the rally that took place within its campus has to take disciplinary measures against those who believe they are above reproach. It is beyond vital for those who think they can silence others this way to face consequences for their mindless actions. It is beyond important for the AUB administration to let the students who were silenced that they care about restoring their voices.

Don’t Blame The Lebanese Sunnis – Blame What Got Them Here

Picture via Annahar

It’s very easy for Lebanese to get carried away. They do it way too often and way too dramatically. On the other hand, it only lasts for about a brief period before they move on from that theatrical moment.

The latest Lebanese moment has been going on for more than a week now but it’s escalating. Some Lebanese have taken it to the next level by proclaiming that another civil war is upon us. Blame the short memory span for this – they seem to have forgotten worse has happened on May 7th, 2008 and we still got out of it. They seem to have forgotten a very similar thing took place on January 2011 when Hariri’s government was toppled. A reminder should be in order, just in case.

So today blaming the Sunnis for the situation in the country has become the way to go – how better are they than those who burned Beirut on May 7th, 2008? What’s the whole purpose behind burning tires and closing roads?

The answer is simple. Anger.

The Sunnis of Lebanon are angry. They are angry because:

  1. The prime minister who supposedly represents their sect doesn’t do so one bit.
  2. The political leader who realistically represents their sect is nowhere to be found. He’s possibly eating croissant in Paris, lecturing via twitter – and not doing a good job at that as well.
  3. How the person mentioned in 2 went out of power and the person mentioned in 1 got to power is due to a threat by their fellow Muslims, Hezbollah, who threatened to use weapons – and burn Beirut again – in case their demands aren’t met.
  4. Prominent Sunni figures get killed, the latest is Sheikh Ahmad Abdul Wahid in Akkar, and they can’t do anything but watch the news as a response.
  5. Their image, especially in Lebanon, has been distorted to showcase them all as a bunch of Salafists who want nothing but to establish an Islamic republic in Lebanon. The fact that Salafists are irrelevant politically in the Sunni community has escaped some people who just love to carry the idea around and shout it from any platform they can get.
  6. With every passing day, their position as one of the main sects in the country is being compromised. Think the Maronites in the 1970s. Wouldn’t you be worried?

As a reflex anger response to the killing of the Sheikh, the Sunnis have taken it to the streets. They are closing roads and burning tires, which is the maximum they can do. It still beats doing worse just because the government threatened to remove an officer from the airport. Whether you want to admit it or not, they don’t have the weapons arsenal that Hezbollah possesses. The amount of destruction they can do is far less reaching and disastrous. But who cares, right?

BeirutSpring has described how the protests are coming off to Lebanese people and he hit the nail on the head:

But their protests, even if cathartic, are creating three big headaches for their community:

  1. They are angering the rest of the Lebanese by inconveniencing them and reminding them of the war. Sunnis are coming across as irresponsible and dangerous.
  2. They are not achieving anything. Even if the point was to establish deterrence (to make others think twice before upsetting the Sunnis), it’s not working. It’s just a loud and costly tantrum.
  3. They are establishing a reputation that the Sunnis are an excitable bunch that can easily be provoked.

But here’s why the way the Lebanese population is responding cannot but be hypocritical at best.

  1. Why wasn’t the anger at what’s happening today also present back in May 2008? Because when some sects and parties burn down Beirut, it’s because they are fighting Israel, when others do so it’s because they are fighting Lebanese. You gotta love Lebanese logic.
  2. On the long run, they aren’t achieving anything because this type of action gets you nowhere. The Sunnis have done something very similar last January. Did that get them anywhere? No. In fact, I’ve heard many ridiculing their “day of anger.” The sentences I’ve heard? “They should come to us to teach them how to be angry.” I suppose you can tell who’s meant by “us.”
  3. In a country where a fragile peace is kept by miraculous measures, where the situation is like a yoyo rocking backwards and forwards between peace and no peace, I think the Sunnis have shown lots of restraint especially with everything they’ve been dealt. If they want to be portrayed as an excitable bunch, what does that say about those who get excited because of much less and react much much more than this?

Am I with what the Sunnis are doing? No. I’m against all forms of violence because they lead nowhere except springing more fear and hate. But is the panic about the situation justified? Definitely not. It has happened before in Lebanon and it will happen again as long as not everyone in the country is on equal footing. Is the judgement against those protesting justified? Perhaps so. After all, you can’t but look down on burning tires and blocking roads. But people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

Developing thick skin for all sects is needed. Some have it more than others. But in a country where the major player doesn’t have skin, how is skin thickening for everyone else remotely possible?