MTV Has The Audacity To Claim They’re The Reason Lebanon Had Compassion For Istanbul’s Victims

I take pride in the fact that as individuals on Social Media, we got one of Lebanon’s most watched TV stations to worry so much about its reputation that it tried to discredit us at least three times since Monday.

The first round was during Monday’s episode of Menna w Jerr, when Dolly Ghanem said:

“Social media is what makes a big deal out of nothing. I’m from the war generation and covered worse things than this. but we’ve never been under this much scrutiny. Those criticizing the media as chasing scoops and ratings, yes that guy, isn’t he waiting and seeing how many have shared his words? Isn’t he also running behind scoops and shares?”

I guess Mrs. Ghanem’s annoyance that her lot is being scrutinized by social media is enough proof for us that we’re on the right track. If this scrutiny is going to force them to do their job better, puts them in their place, forces them to try to attack our reputation to preserve theirs, and fail in doing so, then we’re triumphant.

Watch the video here:

The second round of replies came yesterday when they said they chose their right to remain silent against such attacks, but still posted an entire article about the matter (link).

In that article, they compared the campaign they’ve been victims of as nothing more than an orchestrated effort by those who hate their freedom. They also reminded us of the fact that, once upon a time, they were closed down by Syrian-Lebanese authorities because they were very free. Yes, because that has anything to do with the criticism hurled at them, and all other TV stations today, from almost everyone.

You’d think they have the decency, as a supposedly respected institution, to take a moment of self-reflection and see what went wrong, but no that’s not even close to being the case. Instead of listening to the massive outrage at the way they’re handling things, they keep digging a hole for themselves.

And they’re not even done digging that hole yet.

A few minutes ago, MTV posted their second article since deciding to remain silent about the criticism they’ve received. In that article, accompanied by a picture of someone in Elias’ family member weeping, they decry that:

“Those messing around on social media have relaxed by now and stopped preaching…. If it weren’t for us, the media they’re criticizing, Lebanese people wouldn’t have felt this compassion to the victims of Istanbul’s attacks.”

Yes, they had the audacity to say they’re the reason we felt sorry and horrified that other Lebanese had been brutally killed, in cold blood, at the hand of a terrorist, away from home, on a night that should have been one of the best nights of their lives.

There’s despicable, and then there’s this whole other level of deplorable. No, MTV. You are not the reason we felt compassion to Elias, Rita and Haykal. We did because we are human, because we, too, have lost people and know the weight of such losses. We did because death touches us all. We did because they’re our friends, our family members. We did, in spite of you turning their death into a reality TV show.

It doesn’t end there. They try to justify the coverage they did at Elias Wardini’s house by saying that the reporter had forgotten she was a journalist at the family’s home and felt like she was a family member sharing in their grief, and that the quality of live broadcast goes back to the decisions of the station’s administration.

This kind of emotional, sensational rhetoric about a reporter suddenly becoming a family member and forgetting all her professionalism is senseless and the epitome of unprofessionalism. That’s like me saying to the family of a patient I just lost: oh, sorry I couldn’t do the best job that I could. I suddenly forgot I’m a doctor and decided to become a part of your family instead.

It doesn’t end there. They say that: “We were all affected by the tragedy that we wanted the people to mourn with the family, so we could all grieve together. It’s okay if the viewer is touched and cries for the death of his fellow citizens.”

Well, at least they admit it now. So let’s put it bluntly: NO. It’s not okay for you to use the family’s mourning to get the viewer to cry. NO, it’s not okay for you to assume you have to show me their tears for me to need to grieve. NO, it’s not okay for you to assume the role of a stage manager in my emotions and in my life ordering me to cry or laugh.

Moreover, your station’s administration deciding to show Elias’ sister receiving the news of his death, or Rita’s father weeping for his child, or even filming live from the plane carrying the victims home, filming them being taken to hospitals and their homes is the core of the problem.

But things are more rotten than this.

A couple of days ago, I was asked by a very respectable journalist who was not aware I had criticized MTV to give a statement for a news report about Razmi el Kadi. So I did. In about 15 seconds I said: “I’m not aware of whether there’s any legal basis to arrest Mr. El Kadi or not, but his words are not acceptable. There’s a sanctity to death, especially that of your countrymen, to be respected. The location of their death has no bearing on this issue when they’re this innocent.”

Soon after the report aired, a couple of MTV producers decided to subtweet me, calling me a hypocrite, to which I naturally replied that when you do a bad job, you will be called out on it. Someone, however, was way too offended by the fact I was, in 15 seconds, on MTV’s airspace, that they raised the issue with that administration.

Soon enough, the report in question was pulled off YouTube. A few hours later, it was aired on their midnight use re-edited to remove my parts from it. Keep in mind that the issue in question had nothing to do with their coverage, but was of a totally different matter altogether.

I don’t care in the least that my part was removed. But it’s a whole other level of unprofessional when some individuals who work in TV cannot take criticism and when a TV station refuses to host those who’ve criticized it. I mean, just delete yourself.

How childish can you get not only to be upset that you hosted someone who criticized you, but to make the effort – double the work – to re-edit the report and silence them from it? But it’s okay. I must have expected better ideals from a media that wants to advertise itself, in its own words, as “a victim of it being too free.”

But I digress.

MTV, when our Minister of Information Melhem Riachi questions, live on your air, when he questioned the point of you live covering an injured being taken to a hospital, of your coverage from the airplane carrying the victims, of your coverage at the victims’ houses, how can you even try to defend yourself?

MTV, it’s time for you to re-assess yourself. Take a deep look in whatever mirror you have and admit that you’re messing up majorly. Stop digging that hole. It’s too embarrassing.

Why Those Who Insult Istanbul’s Victims Should Always Be Challenged, Not Ignored

I never thought that we, as a country first and foremost and as a region in the grander scheme of things, would so grossly disagree about our characterization of the victims of the Istanbul attacks. I’m not talking about whether they are martyrs or victims, but about people who are so full of hate that not only do they not mourn but believe others should not mourn too.

Those people have forsaken every ounce of humanity and turned the barbaric deaths of innocents as yet another event to correlate with their religious, sectarian or even political discourse.

Ramzi El Kadi & Huffington Post Arabi:

Earlier yesterday, I posted screengrabs from a Twitter account by someone named Ramzi Al Kadi on my blog’s Facebook page. Soon enough, the story was picked up by news outlets and it went viral.

Within minutes, Al Kadi was being called all kinds of names as if he were the only entity in this country and region regurgitating that horrifying word-vomit. Some were attacking the way he looked, digging through his entire online history and bringing it back to haunt him.

El Kadi had said he did not want to mourn the victims. He thought what happened to them was well-deserved given that they were at a night club, which is in his opinion is a disgrace of a place. To him, the victims – Rita, Elias and Haykal – were nothing more than sinners who had it coming for wanting to have fun at a “whore house.”

Unfortunately, Al-Kadi isn’t a lone example. You only need to head to Huffington Post Arabi’s Facebook page to see the exact same rhetoric being spewed by Arabs in the comments section. In an article posted by the page about Lebanese victim Rita El Chami, the comments ranged from those who were sympathetic to her sacrifice, calling her a hero, to those – like Al Kadi – who saw her as nothing more than – again, I quote – “a whore” for partying the end of the year away, wishing that she’d “go to hell.”

The debate in Saudi Arabia about the Istanbul attacks isn’t about their dead, but about whether they were at a nightclub or a restaurant, because that makes a difference in how their death is perceived. Palestinian victim Leanne Nasser is suffering from the same discourse back home: whether it was appropriate of her to go party the night away. It was her first trip abroad.

To note, Ramzi Al Kadi is saying his Twitter account was hacked. I don’t see why given there’s no value in hacking an account with 200 followers, but it’s a statement to be conveyed. Ramzi has since been arrested in order for his tweets to be investigated, which – regardless of how disgusting what his tweets were – is not something we should accept. Being an asshole is not a crime.

Hassan Hamzeh & Politics:

 

Al Manar reporter Hassan Hamzeh decided to insult the victims of Istanbul’s terrorist attacks from a different perspective. To him, this was pure politics. Being a Hezbollah supporter, he saw the attacks on Istanbul as nothing more than a chance for him to gloat in revenge and spite.

“Istanbul is paying the price it should pay” he tweeted. He then followed it up with: “Istanbul should pay more,” before concluding with: “Erdogan, you reap what you sow.”

To Hassan Hamzeh, the victims from all backgrounds are nothing more than pawns in his party’s political game, their entire lives and families and loved ones be damned as long as he can be satisfied that a city and a country he despises are being broken like this.

Other politically-charged social media users were annoyed at how the victims of Istanbul’s attacks were being called martyrs compared to others who “didn’t sacrifice their lives at a nightclub,” as if the location of where you are brutally killed has some bearing over the worth of your life and death.

While the Lebanese government flexed its muscles with helpless people like Al-Kadi, Hassan Hamzeh – with his political backbone – is still at large, free to roam and tweet more hateful things because he’s untouchable.

Why We Should Speak Up:

Regardless of where people die because of such vicious attacks – whether at a club, a brothel, church or Mosque – the sanctity of death should be respected. You have to be at a whole other level of deplorable to disrespect the passing of people whose only fault was being at the wrong place at the wrong time because you don’t like where they were or what they were doing.

When I first posted Ramzi Al-Kadi’s screenshots, people said that giving people like him such exposure makes them feel important and gives them power, that their negativity had no place in times of mourning. I disagree.

The best way for hate and bigotry to prosper is for them to run unchecked for a lifetime. The more we stay silent, the more we let such horrors fester in the minds and souls of those who are most susceptible, and the more Ramzis and Hassans we will have to deal with later on.

Our bubble as millennials or liberals has gotten us to think that the majority of people share our views and as such most will find the words of Ramzi or Hassan as abhorrent as we do, and that might be the case with many, but today’s world is far from being one where we can remain silent to people who insult victims just because they can.

Staying silent to people like all of those who insulted the victims of the Istanbul attacks in LaReina has a lot to do with why we are dealing with entities like Trump, Le Pen, Brexit and a rising trend in right wing extremism all around the world, why we are reeling from the effects of living in a post-truth existence where facts have become matters of opinion for many.

There remains a huge populace that lives among us that believes in what Ramzi Al-Kadi said, without them proclaiming it. We live in a conservative Arab world where it’s very easy to forget, as the only people we talk to are those who think like us, that there are those beyond our walls who believe that nightclubs are abominations, that those who frequent them are sinners and that those who die there should not be mourned.

Those people you want us to ignore are voters, influencers, mothers and fathers. We can’t repress them into a basket to be tucked away just because we feel like the higher road is the better road. To drive our society forward, those people’s ideas – not the way they look as many have criticized Ramzi – should always be challenged. We can’t shy away from the ideological debate taking place wherever we roam for fear of the challenge, or of upsetting others and ourselves.

Ramzi Al-Kadi and those who think like him think their ideas and beliefs are as valid, and should be applied on a more grander scale than just tweets or Facebook comments. To better our societies, we can’t just dismiss those ideas outright just because they’re horrifying. We have to listen, criticize, challenge the core of their thoughts.

The cycle of us versus them will never end if we stay silent and let the cycle perpetuate without breaking it. It’s easier to imagine “them” as enemies who hate the way we live no matter what. But “they” are victims of ideas that have been entrenched in their minds for years, and those ideas can be beaten if we take up the mantle of the fight.

American Xenophobic Racist Murders Lebanese Man Because He’s “Filthy Lebanese Ay-rab”

Dear American media, I’ve fixed the news title for you. I mean, why not call things the way they are, instead of beating around the bush of trying to lighten the news in proportionality to the skin color of those making them?

I know it’s hard to think of someone whose genes gave him less melanin as somehow possible of being evil. I shudder at the thought as well. But it might happen – unlikely as you think it could be.

No, Vernon Majors did not kill Khalid Jabara because he had an “unusual fixation” with his Lebanese neighbors. He killed them because he was a xenophobic racist terrorist murderer.

If the tables were turned and Khalid had been the person to whom all those criteria apply, you wouldn’t have hesitated to apply them. You’d have even decided what his entire background was judging by his name, the color of his skin, and the country where he came from.

That’s not different from what Vernon Majors did. It’s not “unusual fixation,” it’s him making sure Khalid’s family knew they were: ‘dirty Arabs,’ ‘filthy Lebanese,’ ‘Aye-rabs,’ and ‘Mooslems,’ as he told them repeatedly to make sure they knew their place in his world. Not that it matters in the grand scheme of things, but the Jabara family is Christian.

The story goes back to last year when Vernon Majors willingly ran over Khalid Jabara’s mother trying to kill her. Unfortunately for him, she did not die, and he ended up in jail, but like the good white American that he is, Vernon Majors saw himself out of jail a few weeks ago, back to the same streets, neighboring the Jabara family, and wanting to take out his revenge on them.

Picture this: a man who willingly ran over a woman trying to kill her ends up in jail for one year, with no conditions on his bond — no ankle monitor, no drug/alcohol testing. It was as if he never entered.

The Jabara family learned of his release. They also knew he had a gun. They also notified the police who informed them they couldn’t do anything, because second amendment and all. Minutes after the police left, Khalid went outside of his house to get the mail, and he was fatally shot by Vernon Majors, who has since been apprehended.

All of this was an “unusual fixation” at his Lebanese neighbors, according to the Tulsa police department, a fixation that goes back to him complaining to that same police department that they were “Ay-rabs, and Mooslems and filthy Lebanese.”

I wonder, how many racial and xenophobic and Islamphobic slurs does a white man have to do to in the United States to cross from “unusual fixation” territory into being a downright disgusting space-occuping lesion of a creature who also hated black people and other foreigners?

If the tables were turned and Khalid had been the person to whom all those criteria apply, this wouldn’t have been someone with an “unusual fixation.” The limits of “unusual fixations” stop when someone’s skin ends up in a different shade of blonde, and when their name maybe just maybe indicates them not praying inside a Church.

Khalid’s sister, Victoria wrote the following Facebook post, and the only way their story made it to the media in the first place:

I ask that you share this FB post throughout the community for the murder of my brother, Khalid Jabara so you can be outraged, just as we are outraged. I want to shed light and bring awareness to the negligence that occurred from the first moment the neighbor..this monster.. called our family ‘Dirty Arabs’, to the time he ran over my mother with his car, to the two Protective Order violations,and our constant vigilance to communicate and be proactive with the DA’s, to the fact that they let him out of jail after 8 months, to the fact that my brother called the police to explain to them that we were scared because we heard he had a gun, to the fact that the police left, saying they could do nothing, and, 30 minutes later….the fact that the criminal walked up to my brother and shot him on his front porch.

At the end of the day, my beautiful brother had a heart like no other. Sensitive to the core, he loved others so much and wanted to be loved back. I’ll miss his jokes (I stole all my jokes from him!), his love for all things electronic, his love for my mom and dad, Rami, and his tenderness towards his nieces. This angel will be missed. Love you, Khalid.

This is the vermin Majors:

Vernon Majors

How many more of “filthy Lebanese” is the diaspora supposed to handle? This is the tip of the iceberg. How many more hate crimes are Arab Americans, be it Muslim or not, supposed to withstand before someone – anyone – realizes that this is just not right, that this is exactly how you push people away, that this is how minorities get radicalized?

This is nothing but a specimen of Donald Trump’s America. So dear Lebanese Americans, this is what you get when you help perpetuate the mere idea of an entity like Donald Trump. There’s no beating around the bush here: his message of xenophobia, hate, racism, Islamophobia includes you too, whether you like it or not, whether you think you’re at a whole level of immigrants or not, you will always remain just another immigrant group that people like him, and those that think like him, can do without.

You will be people they can dispose of, call filthy and end up as nothing more than people with “unusual fixations.”

 

Those Bomb Detectors Still Used In Lebanese Malls Didn’t Save 280 People In Iraq

Bomb detector fraud Lebanon

Security at Lebanese malls is like the ups and downs of alternative electrical currents. Whenever the situation in the country or around us becomes worse, if that’s even possible, you see them create all kinds of new methods to make sure your car doesn’t have explosives.

The common fixture, among all Lebanese malls, is those handheld detectors they keep on using. We’ve been saying for years that those detectors don’t work, and the horrifying tragedy of Iraq last year was proof enough: 280 people have lost their lives at a mall because those detectors didn’t capture an explosives-ridden vehicle.

And yet, Lebanese malls still use them like scripture.

The same detectors we are using have been the same ones failing to detect bombs all over Iraq for years. Vanity Fair reports that it was as early as 2009 when those pesky devices proved their uselessness as they failed to detect a van carrying 1800 kilograms of explosives, killing around 150 people next to a governmental building.

Those bomb detectors bought by Iraqi government, as well as security personnel from a dozen government around the world, were devised by American and British con-artists who made millions off of their sales. The gadgets started off as a game, and have been modified to look more security-appropriate, and given fancy names.

And yet, they still never worked. The device remained absurd and useless. Yet, it was bought like candy.

The list of apparatuses that bought the device include:

  • The Lebanese Army,
  • Mexican Army,
  • Belgian police,
  • Mövenpick Hotel group in Bahrain,
  • Romanian government,
  • Georgian government,
  • Various countries such as Jordan, Qatar, KSA, Syria, UAE, Iran, Kenya, Tunisia, etc…

The device was tested by the F.B.I, as well as British intelligence. Both declared it a fraud, and governments still bought it. The person that made them was convicted for fraud and sentenced to 10 years in prison. And yet, the devices he sold have proven to be extremely difficult to remove out of the market.

Was it piece of mind they gave? Perhaps people felt at ease thinking that their cars being “scanned” by an antenna that moved by gravity?

Despite of the mounting evidence against them, including an attack in Karachi just last year, those same devices, which have failed to save thousands of lives they pretend they should have saved, are still used en masse at Lebanese malls.

You go to ABC, and you go through a metal detector before you are met with that antenna. You go to LeMall, and it’s the same thing all over again. City Centre, CityMall, the list goes on.

I’ve also gotten the same security measures when I visited Amman around 8 months ago. It’s probably a Middle Eastern thing.

You go to those malls believing their measures will keep you as safe as you can be in a place as crowded, in a country as teetering on the age of a Middle Eastern political volcano. Few of us think we are endangering our lives by counting on those devices, and yet here we are.

Today, two hundred and eighty people in Iraq were in our shoes last week. They didn’t think going to a mall to buy gifts and clothes for Eid would get them killed, that it would be the last thing they did especially that they got searched, and their cars scanned, and everything that should have prevented that bomb from killing them actually took place.

So where do we go now? Public awareness is key. Those detectors are not protecting you. They are not detecting cars with explosives entering those malls you are visiting. The only thing they’re doing is take up your time for utterly useless reasons.

Lebanese malls, it’s time to invest in measures that actually work if you actually care about protecting your customers. Get on it.

 

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.

Why Did The UN, Canadian and French Embassies Know About The Explosion But Not Us Lebanese?

News of an explosion in the Verdun area of Beirut is currently the most horrifying thing to happen in Lebanon in a long time.

The positive aspect of things is that the damage seems to be only material with BLOM’s HQ being the apparent target. As of now, there are no casualties. The attack happening around Iftar time means that few people were around the area as well.

At a time when some entities want this to become a reality for us in Lebanon, no casualties is a sigh of relief.

One has to wonder though, how did the UN, Canadian and French embassies know that such a thing would happen over the weekend and we, as Lebanese, had no inkling or warning whatsoever?

The pictures at the top of the article are two statements issued by the UN and the Canadian authorities respectively to their constituents to avoid the specific area of Beirut that was targeted, and Hamra in general.

Two days ago, the French Foreign Affairs ministry escalated Lebanon’s security status and warned its citizens from visiting the country.

The above also applies to the instructions workers at international NGOs operating in the country received this weekend.

The question therefore begets itself: where was our entire security apparatus from all of this? Why is our worth as Lebanese always less than every single other nationality in our own country? If international agencies and foreign countries had suspicions that such a thing could happen, were our security forces not aware or were they not in the loop to begin with?

No casualties is no excuse for us to let such a thing pass by unnoticed. It is our right as Lebanese to live in our country with the utmost levels of security, not to be second class entities in our own land and in our own homes.

Right now is not the time to discuss the politics of such an attack and whether it occurring is obvious or not, or whether the context of such an attack and the bank it targets points fingers. Right now is the time to hope that no innocent life has been lost in this country for being at the wrong place at the wrong time once again, for us being perpetual victims of our existence in this land.

Stay safe everyone.

 

Stop Blaming & Shaming Lebanese Army Freed Hostages For Thanking Their Captives “Al Nusra”

Lebanon Nusra Army

A few days ago, after more than a year and a half of stagnation, a major breakthrough in the case of Lebanon’s hostages with “Al Nusra” came through, culminating in their release in what can only be described as a shameful and despicable swap that paints this proud nation of ours as powerless, useless and utterly, irrevocably castrated.

It took our government more than a year and a half to get our captives home.
It took our government more than a dozen mediations to even reach a breakthrough.
It took our government to beg for the help of foreign nations – as usual – to make sure its sons returned home.
It took our government giving back terrorists, making sure those terrorists are provided for, for our hostages to come back home.

And we still have nine left with ISIS.

The aforementioned is horrific. In fact, the only good thing about the recent hostage swap is that our heroes have returned, that their families are whole again and that this dark, shameful chapter of the history of this nation can now begin to heal.

Most of us don’t even know their names, but here they are for everyone to know:

  • Nahi Abou Kalfouni,
  • Rayan Salameh,
  • Georges Khoury,
  • Ahmad Abbas,
  • Mohammad Taleb,
  • Georges Khazaka,
  • Pierre Geagea,
  • Ehab El Atrash,
  • Abbas Mshik,
  • Sleiman El Dirani,
  • Lameh Mzahem,
  • Rawad Abou Darhamin,
  • Wael Homs,
  • Maher Fayyad,
  • Maymoun Jaber,
  • Ziad Omar.

We also received back the body of Mohammad Hamieh, who was executed in front of his fellow captives on September 14th, 2014.

The release of Al Nusra’s Lebanese prisoners meant the potential for a bombastic field day for Lebanon’s media outlets, and they made sure to benefit as much as they could: Sixteen men freed from a terrorist group meant a whole lot of interviews and “scoops.’

Part of the media frenzy was a New TV interview with freed captive Georges Khazaka which you can watch in the video below:

The video translates loosely to the following:

Georges: I want to also thank “Al Nusra” for the good treatment they gave us.

Reporter: They treated you well? Someone who kidnaps you treats you well? *in semi-outraged tone.*

Georges: Yes, thank God.

Reporter: We used to say you were under pressure to say such things. Today, there are no more outside pressures on you to thank Al Nusra which is a terrorist organization that kidnapped you.

Georges: A terrorist organization, but they were okay with us. No one beat us, no one verbally assaulted us.

Reporter: But you were kidnaped for 16 months! You broke the heart of your families for 16 months. You thank Al Nusra for that?

Georges: Thank God.

The comments on Facebook are of the same outraged tone that reporter sported while interviewing this man who has been, as she said, held hostage for over 16 months in conditions that – so say the least – are much worse than anything that reporter or any of us has lived through in the past year and a half. Behold an exhibit:

 

You’d think that with the prospect of their release, after more than 16 months of captivity, that there would be some research into what to expect from ANY human being who has been in such conditions for such extended periods of time. You’d think they would know what to ask, how to ask it, how to handle such fragile creatures whose only fault really was to be citizens of a spineless country that couldn’t bring them back until 16 months later.

Yet again, expecting Lebanese media to actually do its job before crucifying people in the public eye is similar to expecting an owl dropping your Hogwarts acceptance letter at your windowsill.

In the mayhem of the freeing of these Lebanese prisoners, no one bothered to look up why these hostages had a sense of gratitude to their captives, and it all boils down to one concept in psychology called the “Stockholm Effect.”

 

The Stockholm Effect was discovered in Sweden in 1973 after captives at bank were held hostage for five days and then found to have developed attachment to their captors, rejecting governmental assistance at a certain point.

It’s a phenomenon in which people taken into captivity express empathy and even sympathy and could have positive feelings towards their captives. The feelings are considered to be irrational, emanating from the victims believing a lack of abuse at the hand of their captors is an act of kindness.

Research has suggested that hostages may exhibit the condition in situations featuring captors that do not abuse the victim, a long duration before resolution, continued contact between the perpetrator and hostage, and a high level of emotion. It affects around 8% of victims of kidnapping.

A prominent example is that of the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847. Shortly after takeoff from Athens, two terrorists stormed the cockpit and demanded the diversion of the flight to Beirut. After capturing the plane, the perpetrators released the women and children. Two sailors and a group of wealthy American businessmen remained on the aircraft, and the captors held them for 10 days.

During the incident, the terrorists threatened the hostages with guns to their heads and in their mouths. They also beat one of the victims to death and dumped his body out of the tail section of the plane.

After the eventual rescue, reporters interviewed the captives as they disembarked. When asked to describe the captors, one hostage stated, “They weren’t bad people; they let me eat, they let me sleep, they gave me my life.”

 

There are certain Lebanese media using Georges Khazaka’s interview to showcase ‘Al Nusra’ in a positive light, in the sense of “oh look, they’re not that bad,” and those media are as bad, if not worse, then those who are outraged at what Mr. Khazaka said.

Al Nusra is a terrorist organization. They took soldiers and policemen hostage for over a year. They beheaded some of them for political and theatrical purposes. They are not human. They are animalistic barbaric entities that, like ISIS, should be annihilated. Period.

As some of you mighty keyboard clicking Goliaths click away at your Facebook, YouTube and Twitter profiles to shame our freed soldiers and policemen because of their statements, none of you had to go through what they went through for the past year and a half.

None of us had to be separated from our loved ones.

None of us had to take each day one step at a time hoping we wouldn’t die the next.

None of us were forced to watch as our colleagues were decapitated in front of us.

None of us had to go through what they’ve been through, and yet here are many of us belittling them.

This can be a political ploy. In the political chess game overtaking the region, these soldiers are mere pawns being manipulated by those who are far higher up. And isn’t the following picture the clearest indication of that?

Lebanon AL Nusra - 13

Our soldiers kneel while higher powers rise above. Isn’t that the truth everywhere?

Before being soldiers, our hostages are people. And they are people who lost everything they knew for more than a year. They’ve been broken, humiliated and decimated.

Before being soldiers, our hostages are people. Understanding that they might be prepared to fight terrorism in Arsal, where they were placed probably because they don’t know someone who knows someone who can assign them to less risky areas, but were not ready to be taken into captivity for more than a year is key.

Before being soldiers, our hostages are people. Wearing a police suit does not mean they are exempt from being human beings who can be hurt, changed and maimed too.

I’m not saying Stockholm Syndrome is a certainty. I’m saying it’s a possibility. Asking our soldiers to move on from their ordeal just because they’re freed is akin to asking a depressed person to snap out of it. We will never get it. We will never know. Whether psychology or politics, everything that we do will remain nothing more or less but speculation.

But when it comes to me, I look at Georges Khazaka and see a man whose humanity comes first and who breaks my heart at him being nothing more than a scarred pawn in a game of nations that is much bigger than him, than me or any of us will ever be.