Lebanon Protests: The Need For Change Doesn’t End With Hariri Resigning

Via Art Of Thawra

It took 13 days of the entire country being paralyzed for Lebanon’s politician to budge. In a statement in which he decried that “no one is above their country,” Saad Hariri – our now (former?) prime minister issued his resignation.

His resignation comes today to the background of plenty of Hezbollah and Amal thugs storming the downtown Beirut area, beating up protesters, women, reports, breaking down equipment, and the tents those protesters were using to demand basic human rights.

If anything, Hariri’s resignation can’t be more timely: he is resigning from leading a country he was not able to govern, as exemplified by our own security forces standing helpless as those goons came down on peaceful protests, bolstered by their impenetrable political shield.

But let’s not forget that this isn’t just about Hariri, or Bassil, or Aoun, or Berri, or any other politician who hasn’t been at the forefront of the protest chants. Kellon ye3ne Kellon means that Hariri’s resignation should be one of many, and it should be a wake up call for us that building the country we deserve doesn’t stop when someone resigns.

In 2005, the massive protests after the assassination of Rafic Hariri led to the resignation of the prime minister. A lot of people were satisfied with that development, and it was surely triumphant. But as the subsequent decade has shown us, it was not enough.

Hariri resigning is not enough.

Our politicians are symptoms of a syndrome. This syndrome is the sectarian rule of law that has enabled them to persist as parasites, leeching off the people from whom they’ve sucked all the will to survive.

It is not a surprise that, nowadays, criticizing Hariri – to many – feels as if you’re criticizing Sunnis. It is not a surprise that many think criticizing Hezbollah and Amal is akin to criticizing the foundation of Lebanese Shiism. It not a surprise that criticizing Aoun or Bassil or Geagea feels to a lot of people as if you’re attacking Lebanese Christianity.

This is because those politicians have been able to use our sectarian divides as walls that they’ve erected around their halos, in order to perpetuate the illusion of their sanctity, in order to let us think they are untouchable.

The mere notion of some politicians being red lines that should not be crossed in this country, or in any democracy, is a no-go. They should all be open for criticism, impeachment and – most importantly – removal from office.

But that will never happen if we continue to prioritize sect over country. If me, a Lebanese Maronite, will forever be clinging to my Maronitism as the scope with which I view my citizenry, then Lebanon will never be able to become a country that can inhabit all of its people. The same thing applies for people of other sects.

This means that moving forward, Hariri’s resignation is not enough to instill the change we need. Gebran Bassil becoming a “former” minister is not enough, despite how catchy his chants can be. Moving forward, cute chants of “mabsoutaaa3” are not enough to move this country forward.

What we need is a drastic overhaul of the Lebanese system that enables its citizens to be equal in the eye of a common law, not by the law of their respective sects. What we need is a for an electoral law that is not tailored to our current politicians or people who are like them, to enable different faces with the same bullshit to be brought back to office.

What we need is to start concrete steps towards the de-sectarianization of this country so that – in 10, 20 or 30 years from now – we can get to a place where a Lebanese citizen would not introduce themselves by how they pray.

Until then, I congratulate all of the protestors on this first much-needed ounce of change, and hopefully it is the bellwether of more change to come.

Lebanon Is Not Egypt

The title is stating the obvious. Sadly, it’s not that apparent.

It was 2011. The Egyptians took it to the streets. They removed Mubarak. A sense of pride swept around the Middle East. The “Arab Spring” they called it. Freedom this way comes. Everyone wanted to be Egyptian. Everyone was proud of Egypt.

But none so more than Lebanese.

We felt more involved in what was happening in Egypt than whatever was happening back home. Fun fact: January 2011 was our own mini coup happened. Many Lebanese wished they could become Egyptian – patriotic opioids sure run across borders.

A few months later, as the events in Syria raged and the promise of an “Arab Spring” started quickly running down wintery lanes, Egypt disappointed as well. The Lebanese sentiment quickly turned to “Morsi” et au revoir. We had gotten over it.

It is now 2013. The Egyptians took it to the streets again. They were protesting the Egyptian “winter” they had voted their country into. And Lebanon was involved anew. Nothing was wrong here at the time again. Fun fact 2.0: The army was fighting Al Assir only a few days ago and Hezbollah is still fighting in Syria. Morsi was uprooted very fast, with the help of the Egyptian army. And fireworks erupt in Lebanon in celebration. The same sentiments of people who wish to be Egyptian rose to the surface. Egypt, the beacon of democracy. Egypt, the torch of hope. Egypt, making us proud. Bigadd kan el manzar mofre7 awi awi. 

Then, naturally, you get those many, many people who want whatever happened in Egypt to happen here. If they did it, why can’t we?

Well, here’s why.

Egypt is 100 times Lebanon’s size. It has 20 times its population. That population in question is divided in the following way: 90% is Muslim and 10% is Christian. Official positions in Egypt are not divided according to sectarian lines. The president, for instance, doesn’t need to be Muslim. He just happens to be every time by power of probability and mentalities.

The recent events in Egypt were bolstered by a catalyst that sped up the process remarkably: the Egyptian army. Roadmap or whatnot, it is the presence of a strong army with centralized military power that helped the 30 million or so Egyptians who protested get to where we want. Which army will help us in Lebanon if we were to have similar coups? The Lebanese army with its 60,000 personnel many of whom have ammo-less weapons while militias roam the country freely, protected by their weapons and popular support?

Moreover, I don’t believe the issues in Egypt are as politicized as they are over here. Case in point? Let’s examine the following scenarios:

What do you want to protest about in Lebanon? Electricity? I’ve just made the issue political right there. Half of the Lebanese population won’t go to my protest, even if the demands are true, simply because they’ll see it as a protest against their poster child. Let’s say I want to protest against slow internet. That same 50% of the Lebanese population will turn a blind eye to my protest for those same reasons. Now let’s say I want to protest against people like Ahmad el Assir. I’ll be joined by that same 50% which boycotted my last 2 protests while the people that attended the first two will not. In case my protest doesn’t have some undertone supported by one of the main camps of the country, good luck finding ten people to attend it – regardless of what the activists that pop up right before elections every four years say. And God forbid I try to protest against militias and arms that exist outside the jurisdiction of the Lebanese state, which brings me to my next point.

There are no issues in this country upon which enough Lebanese agree in order to cause change. Hezbollah’s weapons? Half of the country hates them. The other half adores them. The weapons stay. It’s that simple. The regime? the governing half doesn’t want it changed because the people it likes are in power. The other half wants it changed just because the people it likes are not. What alternative regime do we want? I’m willing to bet I can’t find a sizable portion of this country that can agree on a format. You only need to go back to the electoral law discussions and how very, very few Lebanese branched out from the rhetoric being spewed by their political party of choice (especially Christian parties) when it comes to the electoral law they see best. Party say, person do.

Egypt not being as divided on sectarian lines as Lebanon means the sectarian sentiment that is overflowing here doesn’t exist as much there. Sure, many Egyptian Muslims hate the Copts (and vice versa) but the same exists in droves over here while we pretend otherwise. The sectarian sentiment overload doesn’t only cloud people’s judgement regarding so many things in the country, it also limits whatever actions they would be willing to do to what’s best for their sect. Sect say, person do. Case in point: the amount of non-religious Christians who wanted the Orthodox law, of non-religious Sunnis who believe their sect is being threatened and of non-religious Shia who’d be the first to take weapons if you approach Hezbollah.

Moreover, many of those same people who want Lebanon to become Egypt would, in case elections happened next week, vote for the same people all over again. I’m not saying they shouldn’t vote for whoever they want to vote for. It’s their vote, their choice, they can do whatever they want with it. But it is downright hypocritical to preach for change and not act out on it when the going gets tough just because some people cannot fathom not voting for the people they’ve liked for years.

What I thought people learned back in 2011 is that the models of the countries in which revolutions happened cannot be applied here: you cannot extrapolate Egypt onto Lebanon. And yet people seem to want to do it anyway. The fact that Egypt and Lebanon are incompatible doesn’t mean one is better than the other. It simply means that if any change were to be done in this country, we need to find our own formula. As of now, we have none. Lebanon is not Egypt and I, for one, don’t want it to ever be.

More Pictures from the Syrian Houla Massacre

I had a few people ask me if I had more pictures of the Syrian Houla Massacre where over 106 people were killed, including 49 children and 20 women.

The new ones are a follow-up to this post and contain images that verify the location (last one), as well as ones showing the presence of UN-individuals at the location.

I will refrain from political commentary. The only thing that can be said: I see lots of humans but no humanity.

A bulletin hung at the premises where the body were put. The caption on top is Arabic for: the people of Houla

This is Not A Movie – This is Syria

To affix to the previous post about a year in the life of a Syrian revolutionary, I found this video fitting to showcase the struggle of the Syrian people – politics aside.

Your stance regarding the Syrian matter cannot be how it reflects on your country. It should be a reflection of your humanity because you cannot see such a video and not be shaken to your core.

And if you still feel like nothing’s wrong in Syria, then you are simply blinded and lack basic human compassion.


A Year in the Life… Of A Syrian Revolutionary


This is a guest post by a Syrian friend who wishes to remain anonymous. The purpose of such a post is to showcase the side of the Syrian revolution that none of us stop to think about. We all go into the political rhetoric of what the Syrian revolution means to us. We never stop at what the revolution means to its people. 

This is a story of one of them.

I opened my room’s window today, just like every other day.

But today had a different taste, a different vision, even a different sound.

I sat and tried to write something. I couldn’t. I wrote and wrote but was never convinced in what came up on paper. So I left the writing process simmer as usual. I had no idea what I could say after 366 days.

It’s been a year on the revolution of a people, a revolution on tyranny, on underdevelopment and poverty.  It is a revolution on a barren life, with all the intricacies entailed. We’re sick of dryness – the land has to breathe. The bodies of our sons will open up like the most beautiful of flowers and glow in sublime colors under the sun.

It’s been a year and I still hear of cities and villages I had no idea existed on a map. It’s been a year and we’ve started to know Syria anew, as if we were newly born. Throughout this year, we were surprised by some regions that we always considered irrelevant such as the Syrian countryside, which we always considered beneath us, which we always misjudged along with its people. The revolution started and grew out from the countryside and spread to all the regions of my country, leading to beautiful protests with their fiery slogans and chants.

We are revolting on misconceptions and false convictions. It is a revolution to correct our sight – to remove the film that has blinded our eyes and hearts.

Syria needs compassion… before freedom.

If we were not compassionate towards each other, the purpose of the revolution becomes null.  But that isn’t possible. After all that I’ve lived through for the past weeks, when my hometown became a home for all the families leaving their homes seeking fragile safety, I touched compassion in the eyes of everyone I saw. My grandma’s house, which always welcomed people in happy occasions, now fits entire families seeking shelter. I felt that compassion has been reawakened after a long sleep and I’ve lived the diversity that people have carried from their various regions: different cultures, different opinions, different dialect.

But what surprised me the most was their resiliency and how fast they got accustomed to their new situation – not only because we helped them but because they wanted to.

Syria – that painting that had dust settle on its stones, so meticulously built one top of the other, for years is now dusting it off… finally.

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

The original arabic version is as follows:

 ..فتحتُ نافِذةَ غُرفَتي اليومَ .. كَما كُلِّ يَوم
 ..وَلكن لِليومِ شيءٌ , طَعمٌ , رُؤيَةٌ , و حتى صَوتٌ مُختَلِف
جَلَستُ لِكِتابَةِ شيءٍ ما .. لَم أَستطع .. كَتبت وَ حَذَفت .. وَ تَركتُ مُشيرَةَ الكِتابَةِ تَنتَظِر وَتَنتَظر كَعادَتِها .. لا أَدرِ مَا الذي يُمكِنُني كِتابَتُهُ بَعدَ 366 يَوم ..؟! 

 .. مَضى عَامُ عَلى ثَورَةِ الشّعب .. ثَورَةُ عَلى الظُلمِ .. عَلى التَخَلُف وَ الفَقر إنَّها ثَورَةُ عَلى الحَياةِ القَاحِلة .. بِكُلِ مَا تَحمِلُهُ فِي تَفاصِيلِها .. لَقَد سَئِمنا القَحطَ وَالجَفاف .. وَ آنَ لِلأرِضِ أَن تَرتَوي ..  سَتَتَفَتَحُ أَجسادُ أَبناءِنا شَقائِقَ نُعمانٍ شَديدَةِ الحُمرة .. 

َعام مضى وَ أنا مازِلتُ أَسمَعُ بِأسماءِ مُدُنٍ وَ قُرى جَديدَةٍ .. لَم أَكن أَعرِفُ أَنّها مَوجودَةٌ عَلى الخارِطة .. عَامٌ مَضى وَ بَدأنا نَتَعَرَفُ عَلى سُورية مِن جَديد وَ كَأنّنا ولِدنا تَوّاً .. 
خِلالَ هَذا العام تَفاجَئنا بِتلكَ المَناطِقِ التي لَطالما اعتَبرناها مُتَخَلِفة .. كَالأريافِ السورية .. وَ التي لَطالَما ظَلمناها وَ ظَلمنا أَهلَها .. لأنَّ الثورة انطَلَقت وَ نَشَطت فِي الريف .. وَأَبدَعَت مَناطِقُهُ المُختَلِفة الممتَدة عَلى رُقعَةِ هذا الوَطن .. فِي هُتافاتِ المُظاهَراتِ وَ لافِتاتِها .. 
ثَورَتُنا هِي ثَورَةُ عَلى المَفاهيم وَ المُسَلَمات وَ المُعتَقَداتِ الخاطِئة التي تُطلَقُ جُزافاً ..هِي ثَورَةٌ شَامِلة لِتصحيحِ البَصر .. وَ إزالَةٍ لِتكَ الغَشاوةِ التي أَعمَت لَيس فَقط أعيُنَنَا بَل قَلبَنا ..! 

 .. سُـــورية بَدها حِنيّة .. قَبلَ الحُريّة
إذا لَم نَكن نَملِكُ مِنَ الحَنانِ ما يَكفي عَلى بَعضِنا .. فَإنَّ الغايَةَ مِنَ الثورة تُساوي صِفر .. وَلكن هذا لَيس مُمكِناً وَ ذلك لما لَمَستُهُ فِي الأسابيعِ المَاضية فِي مَدينَتي التي استَضافَ أَهلُها كَباقي المَناطِقِ الهادِئة عَائِلاتٍ مِن المَناطِقِ الساخِنة .. فِي بَيتِ جَدّتي الذي لَطالَما اتسَعَ لِلكَثير مِنَ النّاس فِي المُناسَباتِ الفَرِحَة .. اتسعَ الآن لِعائِلاتٍ لا أَدري كَم .. عَدَدُ أَفرادِها .. أَحسَستُ أنّ المَحَبّة استَفاقَت مِن جَديدٍ بَعدَ نَومٍ دَامَ طَويلاً .. وَعِشتُ التنوّعَ الذي يَحمِلُهُ الأشخاصُ مَعَهم مِن بيئاتِهم المُختَلِفة .. الثّقافَةِ المُختَلِفة وَ الرأي المُختَلِف وَ اللّهجَةَ المُختَلِفة ..لَكن الذي أَدهَشَني كَيفَ استَطاعوا التأقلُمَ مَع هذا الوَضعِ الجَديد ..! لَيس فَقط لأنّنا ساعَدناهُم وَ هذا مَا تَوّجَبَ عَلينا .. وَ لَكن لأنّهُم أَرَادوا ذَلك 

سُــــ ــورية .. تِلكَ اللّوحَة التي تََكَدَسَ الغُبارُ فَوقَ أَحجارِها المُلَوّنةِ المَرصوفَةِ بِعنايةٍ فَائقة .. نَفَضتِ الغُبارَ عَن أَكتافِها .. أَخيراً ..