The Lebanese Fathers Who Hate Their Daughters

I didn’t believe when I was told she was getting a divorce.

The initial thought that crossed my mind, in sectarian Lebanon, was the how, given her sect. I then asked the why. They said her husband was beating her up. I would have never told. I knew her for a very long time. I knew her husband for considerably less but he never gave the impression of being a wife beater.

Or that could have been the reason why she liked wearing longer sleeves than usual during the times when long sleeves were intolerable.

What will happen to the children? I asked. Nobody knew. They said they might split custody. Others said their father didn’t have time to take care of them. In a few weeks since she took her decision, she became a single woman with children to support in a country that doesn’t accept cases like hers.

And I couldn’t have been prouder of her: standing up for herself, her body, her bruised arms, her children, their sanctity and all of their well-being.

I figured things could only get better for her now: she had family that should help her get back on her feet, she had the support needed to recuperate from months or maybe years of abuse, she had the strength to make herself whole again.

How wrong was I?

Her father was a man of ambition. He sought office many times. Sometimes through proxies whose campaigns he orchestrated, other times by running directly. His ambition surpassed the confines of the town in which he acted but he knew he wouldn’t get farther than that. He tried nonetheless, expanding his repertoire of friends to a growing list of much more influential men who gave him purpose, who gave him lists to drop in conversation, who gave him fake importance which he mistook as influence.

And her father beat her up as well.

He beat her up when he knew she was getting a divorce.

He beat her up when he knew she was going through with the divorce.

He beat her up when he knew she had custody of her children.

He beat her up when he asked her to stop the divorce and get the children back to their father and she refused. He beat her up so much that her ailing mother came to stand between them and was slammed across the floor, as she was withstanding for years, despite the chemo coursing through her veins and the cancer killing her insides.

He beat her up because he felt it gave him power, because he figured it would straighten her behavior.

She feared he’d beat her up if she visited her mother in the hospital. So she didn’t visit.

She feared he’d beat her up if she visited her mother to take care of her on the days her husband had her kids. So she’d wait in the car until he left before she’d sneak in.

She feared he’d beat her up if she did anything that he would think was out of the ordinary so she never did.

Her husband beating her up was something. Her father, on the other hand, was something else.

His abuse diffused to her siblings who mentally abused her as well. He rendered her a doormat on which they stepped every time the woes of life overburdened them. And she took all of it anyway.

Then, when it all became too much to bear, she decided to seek help. So she went to a lawyer. How can I sue both my father and my husband, she asked while clutching the medical reports detailing the abuse she was withstanding. The lawyer advised her not to. If you sued them, he said, the law will say there’s something wrong with you because they both beat you up.

There was nothing she could do. So she kept on taking it, hoping that one day things will get better.

That father is one of the Lebanese fathers who hate their daughters, who don’t deserve their daughters, their wives or any of the women of their lives. Those are the fathers who should stand by their daughters, forcibly weakened by society and by law, regardless of whether their daughters are in the wrong or the right, but not only fail to do so, they stand against their daughters forcing them to go down to where society put them. Those are the fathers who perpetuate the weakness that society has inflicted in our women.

I hope for a day when she wakes up and find the strength she has, despite it all, somehow rewarded. Until then, may her god be with her.

Lebanon: A State of Sectarianophobia

Two Lebanese go out together to have dinner. They had never met before. They know nothing about each other.
The first looks at the second and asks: “what’s your name?”
The second glares and replies: “why do you want to know? You want to know my sect, don’t you?”
The first is perplexed. Wasn’t someone’s name part of the natural process of knowing that someone? Or asking about their hometown?
How can you know someone if you don’t know a minimum of their basic information?
Well for many Lebanese, if you ask these questions then you’re automatically labeled as sectarian filth.

Our society has gotten so afraid of the idea of sects that we tend to see sects everywhere and cower away from them. No, when someone asks you their name, they don’t always seek out to know know your sect. When someone asks you where you come from, their intention is not to always know your sect. Get over yourself.

Our fear from sects doesn’t stop at that. We also have our stereotypes that we associate with every person, depending on their answer to the previously mentioned questions. A Maroun from Mount Lebanon? He must be one of those people who think France should have stayed here. A Hussein from the South? Hezbollah galore right there. A Omar from Tripoli? Saad, Saad, Saad, Saad, Saad.

We ask ourselves not to be limited by our sects and yet, when it comes to it, we limit each other immediately based on our preconceptions. Have you ever tried to have a heated political debate with a Lebanese who drastically disagrees with you and somehow they ended up blaming your sect for your opinion? It has actually happened to me more than once. Somehow, for many people, the idea of thoughts and a mind independent of your sect does not exist. How could it, right? Sects are to blame for everything in the country.

There’s traffic? Blame the sectarian system. There’s electricity outages? Blame the sectarian system. There’s water shortage? The sects must be overly drinking. We are so hell-bent on finding a scapegoat to blame for everything that we have managed to turn sects into monsters hurting our society like nothing else has.

Perhaps our main problem as a society is that we are so afraid of the idea of sects that we see it a monstrous thing that needs to be abolished.
At the end of the day, if me asking for your name makes me sectarian, then yes I am.
If me asking for your last name makes me sectarian, then yes I am.
If me asking for your hometown makes me sectarian, then yes I am.
If me not thinking sects are monsters makes me sectarian, then yes I am.
If having political ideas that fit with your sectarian stereotype makes me sectarian, then yes I am.
If me not panicking about the mere mention of sects makes me sectarian, then yes I am.
If my ideology being too extreme for you makes me sectarian, then yes I am.

Yes, I am sectarian. But I’ve got news for you… so are you.

Borderline Sectarianism

It seems that, as I’m posting this, the figure who’s going to become our next Prime Minister is being formulated. The choice is not one that represents the majority of the sect from which the prime minister is usually chosen. This has given rise to this post.

After the 2009 parliamentary elections, which produced a clear majority for the March 14 movement, this majority chose to go by the choice of the sect from which Speaker of the House is chosen and they voted for Berri. He returned, once again, as Speaker – even though he had a big hand in the political deadlock that preceded those elections. I personally would have preferred a more moderate Shiite figure to take that position. But you have to respect the choice most Shiites in the country have taken and Berri represents that.

Onwards with the PM choice for that year. It was clear Saad Hariri would be chosen and that happened. What was Hariri faced with? months of another deadlock by the opposition, just because they wanted a share in the government that does not conform with the results of the elections. And another figure wanted his son-in-law who lost in my own district to become minister again, having previously agreed that losers in the parliamentary race are not allowed to seek a minister position.  In all decent democratic societies, the opposition is rarely given the opportunity to basically stop democratic rule. It just waits its turn till the next election cycle, hoping those in power messed up enough to let the voters have another opinion.

But of course, nothing in Lebanon works as it should. And after months of rope-tugging, a government was formed.

Flash-forward a year later… this government has collapsed. And now the opposition, represented by Hezbollah (the definite master-head), FPM, Amal Movement and the newly joined Jumblat, want to force upon the Sunnis of the country one of three possible Prime Ministers: Omar Karami, Mohammad Safadi and Najib Mikati.

The question is this: what gives the Shiites the right to choose the highest political Sunni figure when there’s a clear choice for the sect at hand? didn’t they overwhelmingly choose the Future Movement as their representatives in parliament?

For the record, Omar Karami actually ran for parliament in his district of Tripoli – an overwhelmingly Sunni city. He lost. By a huge margin. If that’s not a clear enough choice, then what is?

I guess you can’t expect the opposition to give you the courtesy of a choice when they don’t even believe that you are entitled to one. They are taking power by force and there’s nothing we can do about that. We like our country too much to let it go on a path of destruction we all know they are capable of doing.

To end this… Hasan Nasrallah referenced, in his conference today, the constitution to justify overthrowing Saad Hariri’s government. He then referenced his sect’s rights in choosing Berri as speaker of the house. That’s duality right there. Would people see it? No. His supporters will just keep on chanting… and the country will be screwed more and more and more.