Lebanon Panics As It Faces Wave of Pokémon Refugees

Pokemon Go

With the advent of “Pokemon Go,” Google and Nintendo’s latest advent into the mobile gaming industry, Lebanese were dumbfounded to find their home country becoming, overnight, a playground for creatures they had thought were long gone from their memory by now.

Home to around 4 million people, this small Mediterranean country now houses over 2 million refugees. As its boundaries are overtaken by Pokemon, security officials are scrambling to make sense of the situation, while calls to strengthen border control remain ever present. Lebanese minister of foreign affairs was overheard saying, according to sources, that the situation has become “unbearable” and that “heida yalli ken ba3d na2esna, ya ma7la yalli ablon.”

The sentiment is echoed in Lebanese streets. An Achrafieh resident who preferred to remain anonymous angrily breathed into my recorder saying “enough is enough! We dealt with those Syrians and Palestinians thinking that was it. But those colored things? What is this? Do they think we’re Japan? Thank God that Vogue reporter was here before those creatures arrived!”

Numbers indicate that most of the Pokemon in question have taken up residence in the area stretching from Downtown Beirut, up to around Jbeil, or what is referred to in Lebanese colloquial terms as “Jabal Lebnen, ard l soumoud wel 3onfouwen.”

“When will MTV or LBC or any other Christian outlet discuss this horrifying rampage?” Joseph, a resident of the Keserwani city of Jounieh, was heard saying. “The threat to our Christian areas is increasing by the moment. ISIS is at our border. You’ve seen what they just did in Nice! The Syrians are here and those leftists hang you if you say anything. But now those Pokemon are among us, and next thing you know those Pikachu will be taking our jobs in electricity, among other things. Is this acceptable? We fought all kinds of barbaric invaders to stay here, it’s like they want us to leave!”

His friend Georges agreed, further saying: “How will we keep our lands now? It’s been horrible enough to try and prevent sales to others. The Lebanese government needs to intervene, this is a matter of national security.”

Pokemon Go is an app whereby, using augmented reality, the real world becomes filled with those Pokemons we grew up watching. In order to catch them all, you need to walk around your neighborhoods and city, wait until those creatures contact you, and try to capture them. The goal is to become the master of all those Pokemon and to hold as many gyms for your team as you can.

“If Sheikh Saad wants us to host these Pokemon, then we will.” Omar from Tarik El Jdide commented. “Bass beine w beinak, l wad3 ma ba2a ye7mol.”

Beirut’s leftists, on the other hand, are having a field day trying to quench the Lebanese desire to assault the Pokemons and establish curfews. “Municipalities want to register them, enforce curfews upon them, and we’ve also received intel that some municipality officers have lined up those Pokemon for illegal questioning. Pokemon rights need to be respected above all. This kind of hateful attitude towards these creatures seeking refuge in our country is unacceptable,” Alaa Sabhani, a prominent activist went on record saying.

Alaa’s colleague, Ramez, further added to the aforementioned point saying: “We have to grasp and appropriate the level of horror that these minorities are withstanding in our communities. What have we become other than soulless creatures roaming around this capitalist corrupt imperialistic-designed piece of land they call a country?”

Further South, Hussein Nasrallah was adamant about Hezbollah’s readiness to fight this invasion: “If we need to go all the way to Japan to stop them from coming here, we will.”

The image up North is entirely different, however. While the majority of Pokemon decided to take up residence in Mount Lebanon and the Greater Beirut area, crossing the Madfoun towards Batroun and Tripoli reveals nothing more than a perfectly deserted land.

“Honestly, who gives a shit,” Ismail – from Tripoli – went on record saying. “But at least now people in the country are more worried about that than Tripoli’s municipal council not having any Christians.”

Indeed, similar to their real-life counterpart, North of the Madfoun is an area devoid of Pokemon or facilities in which those Pokemon could train, eat or do what it is that those Pokemon do. When Niantic, the Google subsidiary responsible for the app was contacted, their reply was as follows: “What is Lebanon and why are you concerned about its North?”

Foreign journalists are flocking into the country to report on the matter as well. “I’m so glad to be given new material,” Justin Jones, a reporter for the New York Times was overheard saying at one of the overpriced pubs he was paid to visit in Beirut. “This Lebanese joie de vivre cannot be more correlated and exquisitely manifested than with these wonderful new additions to their country.” Rumors say he was romantically involved with a Jigglypuff.

Of course, the Lebanese joie de vivre is best exemplified by the lala-landers of the country who couldn’t remotely care. “Ben oui, j’pense que they aghe totally adoghable! Main’ant I have captured a Squirtle. J’aime squirting. C’est tres in!”

How will Lebanon handle the continuing influx of Pokemon into its land? Time will tell.

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The People Of Al Qaa Were Victims Of Terrorism… While The Government Didn’t Provide Electricity

Qaa Beqaa Lebanon terrorism

The town of Al Qaa in the Beqaa was the scene of a true horror show yesterday as 8 suicide bombers took to its streets to wreck havoc and spread fear among its people.

The town is home for around 2500 Lebanese, mostly Christians, and currently inhabits around 25,000 Syrians who came there seeking refuge from the war taking place in their homes. A few days ago, many didn’t know what Qaa was. Today, it is forever etched in our collective memory as the kind of mayhem that we can easily slip through.

 

Five people died in Qaa yesterday. Learn their names. Look at their faces.

Faysal Aad.

Georges Fares.

Joseph Louis.

Boulos Al Ahmarm.

Majed Wehbe.

Over and over again, the need to see these people as victims and not martyrs couldn’t be higher. These are men who had families they wanted to be there for. None of them wanted to die. The only cause they were partaking in was to live, let live and provide for their families in a town that is forgotten by the government, and by fellow Lebanese, at the outskirts of a country whose Northern border many believe is Kaslik.

Calling them martyrs absolves us of any guilt in their deaths, but we’re all guilty. We’re guilty of accepting areas like the North and the Beqaa to be as deprived as they are, and not bat an eye. We’re guilty of not demanding equality for every Lebanese, no matter how far from Beirut they are. We’re guilty of not demanding our own government take the security of its own people more seriously. We should do more than hashtag Je Suis Qaa or Je Suis Blom Bank and call it a day.

In a land of perpetual ironies, the biggest of those is definitely that Al Qaa was hit with terrorist attacks at night yesterday, four of them to be exact two of which were targeting the Church where many had gathered to plan the funeral of the victims, while the city was cut off the electrical grid.

Picture this: thousands of people in a small town that, a few hours prior, was witnessing the worst suicide bombing since the Civil War, not being able to see where the terrorists were coming from, who they were targeting or where they were fleeing to.

Picture this: thousands of innocent Lebanese, gathering in a town targeted by suicide bombers, who were not even given the prerogative of having their night of horror actually have a lamp light.

Maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise from a governmental system that has failed over and over again and keeps excelling at failing, but let me ask this: if Qaa’s day had been in Beirut or Jounieh or any other “more important” place for the Lebanese collective, would that place go the night without electricity?

How do we go from here? We need to demand more out of our government. The Lebanese army is not supposed to use flare guns at night in order to see where the terrorists were coming from or fleeing to. Our people are not supposed to beg for light in order not to die in pitch darkness. The fact that after the day it had yesterday, the town of Al Qaa still had no electricity is disgraceful. The fact that after being the victim of 4 terrorist suicide attacks, and security officials asking the people of Al Qaa to remain indoors and vigilant, our government did not think that something might happen after sunset is horrifying.

This is not the time for hateful rhetoric. We should not, as a country, sink to the level they want us to, start pointing hands at people whose only fault was being a victim. This is not the refugees fault. They are not those to blame. This is not their attempt to “turn Lebanon Muslim” as I’ve seen many parade around. This is also not your chance to “bring the Crusaders back” as many seem intent on doing. This is precisely the kind of talk we should avoid.

Don’t blame the refugees. Blame those that made them as such. Blame those that maintain the status quo keeping them refugees. Blame those that made our country part of the Syrian war equation. Blame the government that can’t protect its own people.

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.

 

 

The Uncontrolled Influx of Syrian Refugees to Lebanon Must Stop

It’s very easy to be taken by enticing principles about humanitarian needs to keep allowing Syrian refugees uncontrolled entry to Lebanon.

It’s very easy to get angry at anyone asking that the influx of Syrian refugees into the country be stopped or controlled. How could you? The Syrians helped us in 2006. The Syrians are being murdered by their own regime in the thousands.

As if we don’t know.

This is not about Gebran Bassil’s recent “remarks.” This is about the people.

In the region of Bab el Tebbaneh in Northern Lebanon, a few tens of thousands of Lebanese live in stinking conditions – even worse than the living conditions of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon’s 12 camps. Are those Lebanese not living in non-humanitarian conditions as well? Shouldn’t those Lebanese be more important to us than anyone else, especially if we were to allocate non-existent resources to better life conditions?

Further north from Bab el Tebbaneh is Akkar, a region that few of us want to even include in Lebanon. Akkar has a lot of Syrian refugees living in horrible conditions. It also has many more Lebanese living in worse conditions. When the Lebanese state has washed its hands of its own people, what can we expect regarding people whose strife the Lebanese government has also washed its hands of?

The most recent numbers regarding Syrian refugees are troubling – 190,000 that include 15,000 Palestinian, adding to Lebanon’s existent population of almost 500,000 Palestinian refugees. I won’t go on and on about demographic changes and naturalization talk because they are 1) irrelevant and 2) not going to happen. Ever.

What needs to be talked about is our ability as a country which can’t take care of its own people to handle almost 700,000 refugees, 190,000 of which are very recent.

The answer is a succinct and quite honest: no way.

Lebanon’s ruling class either talks about closing off an undemarcated border – good luck with that – or about keeping our non-controlled borders in their regular state. They talk about the refugee situation ruining our elections and our society fabric. Frankly, I don’t think they have a clue what they’re talking about. My point of view is not that of Lebanon’s current ruling class which exudes racism with every single word spoken, it is that of one who thinks the families of those refugees deserve better.

Lebanon does not have the ability to handle the Syrian refugees entering its land. We don’t have the ability to give them a better life than the one in their country. We don’t have the ability to keep them safe against families that would kidnap them for negotiation purposes. We don’t have the ability to keep them safe from impeding storms and blizzards that are about to hit our country. We don’t have the ability to ensure their humanitarian rights in any way whatsoever.

So what’s the point?

Do we keep bringing in Syrian refugees into the country to let them die of the cold here? To let them die of thirst here? To let them die of hunger here?

Why are we the only country in the region where the regulation of refugees has to be an obscenely shocking manner while Jordan and Iraq have either shut off their borders completely or regulated the influx into their land? It seems we are the only country who must have everything turn into a controversy.

The Syrian refugees need to stop coming into Lebanon for their own good because we, as a country, will slowly kill them. The solution for the Syrian refugees is for other countries in the region that have no problem shoving Arabism down our throats to man up and host refugees as well – countries which have the resources to build camps and compounds, provide the refugees with shelter and food. I’m looking at the countries of the Gulf, those countries which can’t wait but “stand by their Muslim brothers and sisters” by speech only.

This is not a utopia as some of Lebanon’s politicians want you to believe. We don’t live in a country that can swell to accommodate whichever numbers you throw into it. We are a country that can’t take care of its own people. We are a country that can’t apply the basic laws that should be there to regulate our own lives. We are a country that can’t possibly host refugees. We are a country that’s slowly killing the refugees in it because there’s really nothing else we can do. Do you really want to bring more people in need to our toxic environment?

It is here that I remember the Syrian woman and her two children who died of the cold in Hamra, one of Beirut’s classier districts, a couple of months ago. May they – and all the Syrian refugees dying like them – rest in peace.