Lebanese Tales You Don’t Hear Everyday

She was blowing the candles off her 35th birthday’s cake. This would definitely be her year. She had a man by her side she was marrying in a few days. She had a loving family. Her wedding preps were going smoothly. And yet, there was this one thing gnawing at her head: how was she going to tell him that he wouldn’t be the first, that the skin on which all dignity lay was not really there, that there were several men before him, that she had even had one ectopic pregnancy which she obviously aborted?

She had gone to her gynecologist a month prior. She asked for advice. She wasn’t worried like other women would be at that point. She knew that medicine can do wonders in that regards those days but she didn’t want anything major. So he stitched her up.

What if I didn’t bleed? She asked. Her doctor told her then that only around 35% of women bled on first intercourse, that the myth with which she was troubling herself was unfounded. But she wouldn’t take those odds. Who knew how those Eastern men thought, she told her doctor. Would any of those men she had slept with in years past marry someone like her?

He recommended she’d get a tube of her own blood with her and hide it. So on their first night of marital bliss, she faked being in pain as her husband thought he was giving his wife a new experience. Faking it all the way to the bathroom, she spilled the blood in the tube on a white towel and returned with it to her husband, clutching her abdomen as she faked the insufferable pain all the way the bed.

She was relieved. He was happy. And she told this to her doctor giddily.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

He was rounding on his patients as he normally does every morning, making sure their night had gone smoothly. After a weekend, Monday morning rounds are more complicated because they require you to catch up with two days of work which you hadn’t attended.

So there she was, a girl his age, suffering from a complication that happens in 1% of assisted reproduction therapy cases. She sat in her bed, obviously worried. But why would she be worried, he wondered. There was nothing about her condition that was troubling if it’s under the control similar to hers.

Mom, can you leave the room for a bit? She asked just as she saw him making his way inside. Her mom obliged. She gave him the bag of medicaments she was on: hormones here, hormones there. He went through them quite fast, still wondering why someone his age, who wasn’t married, would be on a therapy designed to eventually get women pregnant.

But she didn’t want to get pregnant. She was getting her body prepped for something far less motherly – She was preparing her ovules for sale.

It was against the law, sure. The hospital she was in had no clue and would never do such a thing, certainly. But no one was allowed to know.

I’ve got myself covered, she said when he asked her how she intends to carry on with her plan. Just don’t tell my mom.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Advertisements

Domestic Violence in Lebanon: A Law Isn’t Enough

Let’s call her Rachel.

Rachel is a brilliant doctor. She went to the US from a far away country, battled her way through a speciality and ended up doing a subspecialty that brought her salary to the six figures. She had what many people – not just women – around the world can only dream of: economic stability and independence, influence, power.

And yet, Rachel went to work one day with a bruise on her arm. Her secretary asked her where that bruise had come from. I bumped into a revolving door, Rachel answered. The secretary was skeptical but dismissed it because she couldn’t do otherwise. A week later, Rachel came in with a bruised eye. There was no revolving door which can cause this, so the secretary called 911 who made sure Rachel’s upcoming days were nothing short of safe, away from the monster back home who was using her as his punching bag.

Why would a woman in Rachel’s shoes, who has the prerogative of a police task-force that is willing to bring hell on Earth for her, not report the constant threat on her life?

When I was in France last August, I was taking a walk one night around Lille when I saw a shady looking man, smoking a joint with while clutching the hand of a girl who looked at him with nothing but fear in her face. He was either too stoned to see me or the night hid me well or that man didn’t care that people might see him, but he turned to the woman and tried to feel her up. She recoiled and tried to get herself off of him. So he slapped her hard across the face. As she clutched her face in pain, I heard him shouting across the street: “You stupid cunt, you better make up for this. Once we get home, you will give me a blow job. You hear me, bitch?” She nodded.

These women, in spite of the environment that enriches them: laws, jobs and possible economic security, still find it somehow fathomable not to report the threats on their lives. But they are not lone examples. Their submissive mentality is the case of many, many Lebanese women who don’t have their prerogatives.

As a future physician, I am required to learn how to take proper patient history. It also happens that I am currently rotating in obstetrics and gynecology, which is the rotation where many battered women end up for consults that have nothing to do with the battering. You’d think we should be allowed to tackle such issues – after all, medicine isn’t confined to a patient’s physical state but extends to their state of mind. Think again. An advice I got from an attending was the following: calling the police is useless. Their reply is always: let them sort this among each other. What’s worse, the question about domestic violence – which is typical in history taking in the United States – is near-forbidden over here. People are not willing to divulge such information, especially the women.

Many in Lebanon believe a law preventing domestic abuse is the solution to the problem for which people are becoming increasingly aware. Many believe the law safely tucked away in the drawers of our dysfunctional parliament is enough to prevent deaths such as that of Roula Yaacoub.

What those many fail to realize is that Lebanese women are more than just the liberated bunch who are vocal on social media, who go to the rallies asking for women rights, who believe they have the right to abort at will, who believe their body is theirs and theirs alone and who believes men are equal (if not lesser creatures).

Lebanon has the women who can’t visit their gynecologist without their husbands by their side, answering when their last menstrual period was. Lebanon has the women who let their sons badmouth them and let them be because they don’t want to break their ego. Lebanon has the women who vote the way any male component in their family wants – the more senior, the better. Lebanon has the women who stay silent to insults just because the men have seniority. Lebanon has the women who bottle things in just to avoid scandals. Lebanon has the women who would rather be some neo-martyrs than to fight for what they should have and have their reputation tarnished.

Those women are not just Lebanese. They are the ones we forget about – they are the more numerous, the ones shaping generations that will have their sons inflict such violence on other women.

Lebanon also has a police system that is as corrupt as they come. Lebanon has MPs whose minds belong in 10,000BC when it comes to women rights – our rights debate needs lightyears to be about pro life and pro choice. Lebanon has physicians who perpetuate such violence against women with mentalities that are non-medical to say the least. Lebanon has a dysfunctional legal system, where law is near-hereditary and where justice is so dragged on it’s impossible to find it anymore. Lebanon has a mentality towards laws that prevents any of the ones that do not bring upon the state some form of revenue from being strictly implemented. And even those are not implemented as well.

What does Lebanon need? We need some massive de-learning of our ways in order to learn ways that will protect our women. How is that achieved? I really don’t know. What I know, however, is the following: this domestic violence law they keep telling us about is not the definitive answer and nor will it be for our women who are losing their lives to belts and kicks and punches.

A Rape Attempt in Hamra

A 20 year old girl recently suffered through a rape attempt while going back to her apartment in Hamra. The man followed her to her apartment where he attacked her and ordered her not to scream. But she did scream. So he beat her up and she kept on screaming until the neighbors and people on the street ran towards her.

The man was given to authorities. The man was a married man with children and who worked with our army, an entity theoretically tasked with making sure our women and children are protected from the travesties that living in Lebanon entail.

I salute that woman’s courage. Not only for standing up to her rapist and shouting her lungs out despite him threatening her life, but for having the courage to stand up to him when he was taken into custody and tell her story for the world to hear.

A friend of mine was sexually assaulted in Gemmayze almost a year ago (her story). It wasn’t as physical as the story in question but what my friend and that woman are is lucky Lebanese women.

How many more stories that are similar or worse than this should we propagate and hear before we get a law that makes sure that, if the worst case scenario were to happen, the rapist in question wouldn’t roam the streets with the least repercussions possible?

How many more times should I hear the phrase “you’re lucky you’re a guy” from friends who happen to be girls and who are afraid to walk certain streets alone at night? Till when are our women supposed to live in legal and protective dark ages while the country boasts liberalism that is truly anything but?

And till when should the violation of our women be a matter of taboo that should rarely be discussed through public means?

The Lebanese Women Who Hate Women

She goes to her friend’s house with a thick layer of makeup on her face. She fakes a smile and laughs through her pain. She pushes away the tears. No one knows and no one will ever know.

Her mother had given her that advice a long time ago. It doesn’t matter how you feel. It doesn’t matter what he does. You fix your hair, you bite your lip and get a grip and save a little face of the one that was torn to pieces. It’s just a beat up. This isn’t her mother’s broken jaw and bruised eye. But it might as well be.

——————————————————————–

“I’ll vote the way my brother wants.

I’ll vote the way my husband wants.

I’ll vote the way my son wants.

I’ll vote the way my grandson wants.”

But no one will know how you vote behind that separator.

“How will I live with myself if I don’t do what they want of me?”

Why would you vote the way anyone else wants?

“Because there are circumstances. I can’t.”

——————————————————————–

It had been only a few weeks since her father passed away. As she sat contemplating and saddened for the anchor she had lost, she feels a tap on her shoulder. She looks up, her brother looks down at her with a grim look. She understood. She walks over to the kitchen, the paperwork was ready to be signed.
“When you sign this paper, you will be relinquishing your half of the inheritance to your brother. Are you sure you want to do this?”
She looks up and nods. “Anything for him.”

She signs her name.

——————————————————————–

“I love him. But I can’t love him.”
“Why?”
“It will never work.”
“He can give you the best future you could possibly have.”
“You don’t understand.”
“I know I do.”
“No, no, no. We don’t pray the same way.”

The following day, she conformed.

——————————————————————–

She held a banner at her go-to feminist rally. Empower the women. Fight for the women. Do anything for those women. A few minutes after the rally was done and she got her regular fix, she went back home and logged on to her favorite social network. Someone had mentioned women in a joke. She looked at their picture. It’s a he. The joke became sexist. And she couldn’t allow it. Sexism, sexism, sexism everywhere.
Her fingers started frantically typing on the keyboard. It didn’t matter that he could be an even feistier supporter of gender equality.

——————————————————————–

They gather for their regular morning coffee. They cross their legs, pucker their lips. The blood starts pumping through their veins. This is all so exciting.
“Have you heard?”
“Uh-hum.”
“She slept with him! I can’t believe it. Always knew she was a slut.”
“It always showed, darling. Don’t you see the way she usually dresses? Skirts should not be that short.”
She unconsciously pulls at her own skirt in the process.
“And have you heard about that other one? Poor thing. She has you know what in you know where.”
“I know… So sad. And her poor husband! You think he’ll stay with her now that she can’t… You know…”
“I don’t know! Didn’t even think of that. You think they’ll divorce?”
“Nah. He’s not that cruel!”

——————————————————————–

The above stories are real life observances over the past few weeks.

Myriam Achkar’s Murderer Gets The Death Sentence

Myriam Achkar

Syrian Fathi Jabr al-Salatine who brutally murdered Myriam Achkar last year just got the death sentence for his crime. For those who don’t remember, Achkar – a devout Christian girl – was on her way to a monastery in Sahel Alma to pray when she was ambushed by the Syrian who worked at the convent. He tried to force himself on her. She resisted. He couldn’t rape her so he ended up killing her.

I was personally skeptical he’d even receive a trial and at one point, it looked like the Syrian authorities had asked he be deported to Syria where he would get a trial. A Syrian trial obviously meant nothing would happen to Al-Salatine. I’m glad that didn’t happen – and the death penalty is what this man deserves.

A lot of you may be against the death penalty and consider it a breach of human rights. I disagree. You can’t understand a family’s need to get a death penalty conviction against the person who murdered one of them in such a brutal way unless you’re one of those families. And mine is.

What Would Miss Lebanon Rina Chibany Do If The World Ended Tomorrow?

Miss Lebanon Rina Chibani Miss Universe 2012

Well, she’s not that ambitious. It seems our Miss Lebanon Rina Chibany enjoys the simple things in life. And they’re way too simple if you ask me. But hey, at least this is not as disastrous as the previous ones we got. Who could forget Rahaf Abdallah?

However, it seems her chances at Miss Universe are decent. She may not win but she is definitely turning heads. She’s been getting a lot of votes (you can vote here) and critics seem to love her. I really hope she accomplishes something at that pageant – the country needs something like this to keep it busy.

My Last Valentine in Beirut – Movie Review

This movie is for serious and smart people only” said the marketing tagline. Then by all accounts, I’m a stupid person who knows nothing of seriousness.

My Last Valentine in Beirut is not a movie. I have no idea what to make of it actually. It’s a horrid mess. It’s a nauseating spectacle. It’s a disgustingly bad atrocity. It’s a jumble of scenes with no apparent link between them except a quest to build up into a running time of approximately 80 minutes. Meet Juliette, a whore in Beirut. Meet a movie director and his assistant wanting to make a movie about Juliette. That’s basically the entirety of My Last Valentine in Beirut for you.

There’s no depth in the movie. Not one bit. The characters are as flat as a board. The storyline – or lack thereof – is so void that you shouldn’t even attempt searching for anything in it. The jabs at Lebanese society are delivered by the characters turning to face the camera – there’s not even one hint of subtlety anywhere. The movie takes cheap shots at other Lebanese movies such as Caramel, Bosta and W Halla2 la Wein which by all accounts are much, much better than this mess. Juliette’s attitude, obviously hyperbolic, becomes more than grating at points. The point of this being a critique of Lebanon today becomes entirely detached from what’s happening on screen that any message the movie tries to pass feels forced especially as the last scene rolls around and you start wondering how the movie got to the conclusion it tries to bring forth with its obvious lack of build up towards anything mentally stimulating.

The absolutely useless 3D is only here for the extra revenue and it’s so distracting at times that it visually hurts. Some camera angles, which are supposedly “artistic,” don’t make sense – even to someone like yours truly whose expertise when it comes to movies is restricted to being an enthusiastic viewer.  Even the only sex scene in the movie is of such catastrophic execution that it becomes one of the movie’s funniest moments. Those are not many.

You’d think that struggling Lebanese cinema would actually bother to come up with good enough movies especially with production being so scarce. But no, you get movies like My Last Valentine in Beirut which keep throwing one crappy scene after another at you in order to break the worst movie in history record, which is a shame really because the premise of a movie discussing prostitution in Lebanon is so dense that this movie, if actually done like a proper movie with a decent script, could have turned out well. Maybe. Who am I kidding. At some point during My Last Valentine in Beirut‘s rather short running time, I wished I was watching Breaking Dawn again. This was one of the worst movie experiences of my life. And that’s not an easy feat at all. My Last Valentine in Beirut has shattered my faith in Lebanese cinema into so many little pieces that next time a non-Nadine Labaki Lebanese movie is released, I’ll rely on other people going on a martyrdom viewing mission before I venture out.

Do not watch this. Even if your life depended on it. Even if your mother’s life depended on it. You could use the $10 admission price in so many better ways, not to mention the time of your life you wouldn’t have wasted trying to watch this cinematic massacre.

1/10 – and I’m being generous.