Thugs Attacking New TV Because They Were “Offended” And Lebanon’s Armed Forces Doing Nothing Is A Disgrace

For the past two hours, New TV has been barricaded and attacked by “protestors” whose more accurate description is probably thugs, as they try to break into the TV station because, as far as they’re concerned, it broadcast something that offended them.

As part of its political satire program, Doma Krasiyé, New TV tackled the issue of the Imam Moussa el Sader who has been missing for the past 30 years. In doing so, they brought on them the wrath of some Amal Movement supporters whose political cover is so strong they dare go about and attack TV stations because their sensibilities were walked upon. Who else can do this? I can name one other party in this country who has the audacity to do this and not expect reperecussions.

So for the past few hours, those thugs have been attacking the New TV building, which has personnel working inside, with rocks and fireworks as they break down windows and doors in their attempt to break in.

Meanwhile, all of Lebanon’s armed forces are nowhere to be found. Their existence is as void as that presidential crisis we had for over two years, but yet again did you expect otherwise?

It borders on the comical. Our secretary of information reported that he had asked the protestors to listen to reason. Because you can obviously reason with testosterone-driven thugs whose entire moral compass is summarized with their sect and their political background.

It’s downright disgraceful that, slightly more than a year and a half ago, when protestors were doing so peacefully against the government’s inadequacy, they were met with rubber bullets and smoke grenades. I rememeber running through Beirut Souks, feeling like my throat was clenching up because of how barbarically we were treated.
Who remembers who ordered the attacks at the time? It was the exact same politician who has been sitting as speaker of parliament for the past two decades, and who was more worried about protestors standing symbolically in front of an empty parliament than about the garbage accumulating in the streets of Beirut.

Freedom of speech is holier than all of your politics. Your imams, your priests and patriarchs, politicians and holy figures, missing or wholly present are not above any form of criticism. If you’re annoyed or offended, as is your right, go ahead and protest with civility. Speak up as to why you are offended. But to have a knee-jerk reflex to trash and riot and attack is despicable, unacceptable and horrifying. What’s worse is that some of our politicians enable this as a form of muscle flexion.

Lebanon, parliamentary elections are coming up soon. We will never have a country that amounts to anything if we don’t vote for the change we deserve, a change that starts with politicians who do not harbor thugs and criminals to do their bidding at their will, and who have our entire security apparatus at their mercy.

Simply put: if Imam Moussa el Sader saw this, he would have disappeared willingly. 

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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.

Burning Tires in Lebanon? Here’s How You Can Make a Living

Source via Twitter user PiaaaM.

While they burn tires, you feed them. Copious amounts of starch and other carbohydrates are sure to keep their energy levels high. Then they’ll burn more tires and you feed them more.

After an hour of riot to protest something they were told they needed to protest, you would have made enough money for a month’s living. Sounds like a plan? You bet.

The Nakba

Gebran Khalil Gebran wrote in “The Prophet”:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

Imagine this quote being applied to something more concrete than a human soul… imagine this quote being applied to your land.

Your land is not your land. It does not belong to you.

There is nothing harder than having no home – only a transient house, or even a tent, where you sleep the night, worrying what the following day brings.

Some people have been worrying about that issue precisely – where to sleep – for more than sixty years. I am not appealing to any political reason, only humanitarian common sense. There’s a people who has had their land swept away from beneath their feet on the premise that this land does not belong to them, whose homes got ripped to shreds because they were built on a land that was not “theirs” and who are in limbo just because they were the victims of wrong place, wrong time circumstances.

The Palestinian people, and I do not mean its political figures (because those are as rubbish as garbage goes), are a collection of human beings whose lives have been torn apart by years of them being in the middle of a conflict they chose not to be part of.

I shall not go into the history of how they lost their land. After all, the history is well known (Balfour promise, etc…). But the sad thing is how this people is portrayed today: a collection of terrorists voting terrorists to fight those who are good, aka, Israelis.

Sure, the Palestinians have had their share of mistakes. They sought out a country where a country was already built and they have constantly failed to get themselves represented in the best possible way. Arafat? Abbas? Seriously?

But there’s more to the conflict than what ABC, CBS and Fox share with their viewers. There are people who are the victims of massacres against them on daily basis, whose children are used as bullet pillows and whose souls are being hammered with missiles. I firmly believe the holocaust has happened. Whether the number of Jews who died is ten million or one million, it doesn’t mean they were not ruthlessly exterminated at one point. But you’d think going through that ordeal would deter you from wanting to inflict it on another people. Not true, obviously.

I do not advocate equaling the holocaust with what’s happening in Palestine today. But I feel the human life has become of so little value in some areas of the world, it’s sickening.

However, the Arab Nakba (which translates as catastrophe) does not stop with Palestine. Arab countries are infested with dictators who kill their people ruthlessly without caring and who limit freedom, in spite of protests demanding for their basic right to speak.

The Arab Spring, which is also the name analysts have called the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, is slowly turned into another Nakba. Why? Sectarian clashes in Egypt against the Coptic population, just for them wanting to remain Christian in their country. Copts face daily discrimination, having to ask state permission to build churches and must indicate their religious affiliation on their ID cards.  Their schools were nationalized by the government in the 1950’s and over the last several decades they have witnessed terrible massacres. This past weekend witnessed two churches being burned and several dead. And yet, people in the Arab world have turned a blind eye on them and their suffering mean while constantly bemoaning about discrimination against Arabs. Not to mention what has happened to Assyrians and Chaldeans in Iraq, half of whom have fled for their own safety. And no it was not American troops who drove them out.

Add to that rioting in Tunisia that is knowing no end. The Libyan revolution dying a painful and agonizing death amidst an international silence that knows no limit. A Syrian revolution attempt that is the victim of people simply not caring anymore and a Yemeni revolution that’s the victim of them being so geographically distant that they have become also distant from attention.

It doesn’t help as well that the population in the Gulf suddenly got preoccupied with watching Star Academy and counting their oil millions again.

Yes, the Arab Nakba doesn’t stop with Palestine, although they are the bigger victims in it. It’s the story of a whole region of the world that allows itself to be degraded with time by incompetent rulers, indulgent people and hypocrisy without limit. The next time you protest against Israel ask yourself. Do I believe in equality in my own home? Have I treated one of my own citizens differently based on ethnicity or sect? Are people in my own state suffering because they are religiously or ethnically different? Next time you march or protest ask yourself these questions.

And quoting Gebran Khalil Gebran again,

Pity the nation that raises not its voice
save when it walks in a funeral,
boasts not except among its ruins,
and will rebel not save when its neck is laid
between the sword and the block.
Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox,
whose philosopher is a juggler,
and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking.
[…]
Pity the nation divided into into fragments,
each fragment deeming itself a nation.
PS: Thanks to Paul Gadalla for his input in this post.