Ten years ago, I admired Hezbollah.

Ten years ago, in what is known today as the “July War”, Israel had for declared objective the destruction of Hezbollah in Lebanon, but what it did instead was destroying Lebanon’s infrastructure, bombing urban areas, tearing off children’s arms and legs. It was obviously a war against Lebanon itself.

I had just arrived to Lebanon, the country of my origins, after living abroad for 13 years. I was in Nabatieh, in South Lebanon, with my brothers, cousins, aunt and grandmother. My parents had gone to Beirut a day earlier to search for a house. We were moving back to Lebanon.

I remember very well the sound of artillery fire far from Nabatieh on the first morning. I also remember a warplane bombing a structure. I remember how we had to run away to the basement the nights of heavy bombings and how we eventually moved to the basement. We all lived in a spacious living room, we were refugees in our own house. I remember the stress of being away from my parents. I remember the phone call from Hassan Nasrallah, the night when Hezbollah famously bombed the Israeli military ship. I remember the carnage, the blood I saw on TV, the burning cars (or what was left of them) the destroyed bridges, the food getting scarcer, my aunt getting thinner, my grandmother reciting prayers, the electricity disappearing for 7 days. I remember how we feared going to the toilets and being “far” from the living room.

As hundreds of thousands of Lebanese, I still have nightmares of Israeli warplanes obliterating my country. I had one not so long ago. For a long period of time after the war, my heart used to pound much harder in my chest after hearing a loud sound.

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Hezbollah soldiers paraded in Southern Lebanon in 2002. Credit James Hill for The New York Times.

Eventually, after 12 days in Nabatieh, we fled to Khaldah, a small town just south of Beirut. There, we used to feel every vibration from the bombings in Dahieh, the southern suburb of the capital that was most heavily bombed by Israel.

I also remember the nights when Hezbollah sent heavy missiles into Israel, their sounds resonating in the valley. To me, an answer against Israel is justified, natural, and I will continue to support any resistance against Israel in the future.

After the war, I learned by heart many of Hezbollah’s propaganda songs. I cheerfully went to concerts of the team behind many of those songs.

But my admiration and respect of Hezbollah eventually died down, partly because of their very questionable and violent politics and policies inside the country. But the biggest reason was and remains its involvement in Syria.

How can Hezbollah stand with Bashar al Assad’s regime in Syria, when the SAA, the Syrian Army, acts so similarly to the IDF, the Israeli army? Both the Syrian and Israeli regimes have bombed civilian areas relentlessly, with smart bombs or, notoriously with Assad, barrel bombs. How can I stand with Hezbollah in Syria and continue to admire them, when they are helping Assad remain in power, and make millions of civilians endure what Israel made myself and my family endure.

Israel made me a refugee in my own country, as well as outside of it. Assad has done the same to Syrians.

How can I respect Hezbollah when it stands by a regime that is torturing and killing thousands of detainees? How is that anti-imperialist? The Assad regime gladly took part in the CIA’s torture program in the months and years after 9/11. The Assad regime gladly invited Iran into Syria. The Assad regime gladly welcomed Russian imperialism with open arms. How is that anti-Zionist? Israel targeted Gaza’s Al Quds hospital several times throughout the years. Assad destroyed Aleppo’s Al Quds hospital in April of 2016. They say they are involved in Syria to defend Palestine, but how does it help?

Here’s how one Aleppo doctor described Assad’s attack on Al Quds hospital:

“The people who are in Aleppo now are people who decided to stay here. We used to look at people in Gaza and wonder how they live their lives normally – but now we know.”

They know because Assad acts like Israel, even exceeding it in its relentless brutality.

How can Hezbollah stand with the regime responsible for the worst refugees crisis since WW2? How can Hezbollah stand with Assad when he created a Nakba against his own people, just as Zionists created a Nakba against Palestinians?

It’s very simple. I do not differentiate between the suffering and the oppression of the Lebanese at the hands of Israel and the suffering and the oppression of Syrians at the hand of Bachar el Assad and his military apparatus, including Hezbollah.

How does Hezbollah defend Palestine by fighting in Aleppo? Hezbollah has been coldly and cynically pragmatic, allying itself with the most murderous regime of modern times, to continue receiving weapons from Iran. I ‘get’ that, but how does that make it more acceptable? How does Hezbollah stand with Palestinians when hundreds of thousands of them were besieged in Yarmouk, the Palestinian camp near Damascus. And no, Palestinian factions allying with Assad doesn’t it mean Palestinians stand with Assad – the latest poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) put Palestinian support of the FSA at 40%, with 18% in favor of Assad – or that their oppression there is acceptable. Why should I condemn Netanyahu wars and massacres on Gaza, but not Assad’s war on and massacres of Syrian themselves?

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David Simonds.

Today, there is absolutely no justification in standing with the Syrian regime, no righteousness, nothing. Assad is just a mass-murdering dictator who would gladly choosing ruling over a destroyed and lifeless Syria, a Syria in which his supporters tag the walls of besieged areas with “Assad or we burn the country” and “kneel or starve”.

I used to respect and admire Hezbollah because it wanted to fight on the side of the oppressed. Today, it is fighting side-by-side with the oppressors.

Author: Hassan Chamoun.

Joey Ayoub helped with editing and suggestions.

Why should everyone join the Anti-Racist protest today?

Today, July 18th 2016, in Lebanon, Beirut, an anti-racist march will begin at 6:30PM at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Achrafieh and will end at the Ministry of Interior in Sanayeh.

 

Why should everyone join the Anti-Racist protest today?

Refugees and migrants face racism in Lebanon. They are the scapegoat of our problems that are present since before the Syrian civil war.

Electricity? The Syrians.
Water? The Syrians.
Garbage? The Syrians.
Security? The Syrians of course.

Syrians and Palestinians and many other nationalities fled war and death, just to face state racism in Lebanon. Migrants face an open-air prison with the Kafala system, where the employer effectively “own” the employee.

Join this protest if you don’t believe that every town and neighborhood should have a watch against “strangers”. Join this protest if you believe that the nationality of a terrorist doesn’t determine how the totality of a population should be treated. Do some people really believe that a curfew will ameliorate Lebanon security? Do some people really believe that terrorist groups will run away to their homes at 8pm and that will stop their attacks against Lebanon?

I hate to speak in this manner, but in 9/11, four planes were hijacked, two planes infamously crushed against the twin towers in New York, one plane against the Pentagon, and the fourth crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, it was brought down after the resistance of passengers. The hijacker and pilot of the fourth plane was a Lebanese national: Ziad Jarrah. Does it matter? Not really, but bigots and racists need to ask themselves: would you be pleased to have all the Lebanese in USA under a curfew, because it happened that a Lebanese was lunatic enough to join AL Qaeda? Would you find it just? Fair? If the answer is yes, then you have other serious issues of self-blame.

That I need to use this fact as an example is problematic in itself, what if all of them were Saudis? Would you accept the bigotry? What if Steve Jobs wasn’t partly Syrian? Who would have Banksy drawn on the walls of the Jungle, the infamous refugee camp in France?

Can’t we see that racism, bigotry, and stupid bigoted generalizations have led us to a civil war in the past? Today it is the Syrian, tomorrow, it might be (or it is already) the Palestinian, the Sunni, the Christian, the Shia, the Druze, the Jew, the Maronite, the homosexual, the black, the Arab, the handicapped ..
The other.

The other is only the other if we want to make it so.

Today, it is important to join to show the refugees and migrants, that some people in Lebanon will stand by them, and help them to lead by themselves the struggle against state racism and racism in our streets.

Protest against rape and rape culture in Beirut, Lebanon.

The 12th July 2016, a group gathered in front of the justice palace in Beirut to protest rape and rape culture in Lebanon. The protest was triggered by a rape case in the northern town Tripoli, Sunday, 3 boys alledegly raped a 16 years-old girl, the 3 suspects, are Khaled M. Houssam D. and Najib D.

Protest holding a sign: “Rape and marry for free!” The sign makes reference to the article 522 of the Lebanese Penal Code, allowing rapists to marry their victims, thus nullifying the rapist conviction.

Although a gynecologist confirmed that the girl in question was indeed raped, the coroner denied she was, he reports he found no marks on her body suggesting she has been raped. The girl, identified as Ibtisam M, reported to Al Jadeed TV that she has been raped by three boys over the course of three months, she was afraid to report her case to the police because she was blackmailed with pictures. The Daily Star reports:

“He took me to the apartment where he told me I’d be meeting his relatives, however I arrived and found no one there. He pulled out a knife and threatened to kill me if I didn’t sleep with him, and he said I had to sleep with his friends too,” she said, referring to one of the boys.

Lebanon rape apologism is institutional and “lawful”, the legal system will not prosecute a rapist and will cancel his conviction if the rapist marries his victim. [article 522 of the Lebanese Criminal code]. Article 503 and 504 also adds oppression to the victims of rape and do not consider marital rape (rape within a marriage) as rape.

 

NewsroomNomad, a blog that report and comment Lebanese news, adds that “Combating rape and sexual assault goes beyond just criminalizing and prosecuting it. It needs a societal change and an understanding of the attitudes that empower misogynistic traits and laws in the country. A society that can emphasize with a television series, [Fatmagül, a Turkish series about a woman blamed for her rape] but show little to no sympathy to a real victim is a society that is disengaged. 

“If women who are sexually harassed generally provoke harassment by the way they look, dress, and behave, why do kids get sexually harassed too?”

 

 

 

 

 

This year, enjoy the Baalbek festival with a curfew against Syrian refugees.

Yesterday, Monday 11th of July 2016, the state-run National News Agency (NNA) reported that the governor of the Baalbek-Hermel governorate, Bashir Khodor, will enforce a new strengthened curfew for Syrians in the district, from 6PM to 6AM, instead of 8PM to 6AM. The governor said the curfew was to be strengthened during the Baalbek Festival, an annual and renowned festival held in the town. Few hours later, the governor denied it and said that the curfew will remain as it is. No official statement or paper show the reversal of the decision.

Racism in Lebanon isn’t a new story. For decades the Lebanese state institutional racism has limited and restricted the rights of Palestinian refugees, and it is now scapegoating the totality of Syrian refugees in Lebanon for so-called security. The curfew imposed on Syrians in Lebanon isn’t new, dozens of municipalities, as Aley, enforced it since 2013. But it is the first time that an entire muhafaza, or governorate, imposes a curfew.

The curfew was imposed after many suicide attacks targeted the small town of Qaa, which is close to the Syrian border. The police found out that the bombers of Syrian nationalities all came from Syria.

The restriction on movement is inhumane and unjustified, and it is reminiscent on the Zionist regime restriction on the movement of Palestinians. Artists who are performing this year in the festival must boycott the festival until an official statement from the governor lifts the tightening of the curfew.

Sign the following petition by clicking here.

Petition in full.

On Monday, July 11th, 2016, Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency (NNA) reported that the Baalbek-Hermel governorate will impose a curfew for Syrian refugees from 6 PM to 6 AM during the upcoming annual Baalbek International Festival, which takes place from Friday, July 22, 2016 until August, 28, 2016.

While Governor Bashir Khoder verbally denied extending the existing refugee curfew, no official statements have been passed by the Baalbek-Hermel governorate indicating that the NNA reported false news.

Many areas in East Lebanon have already imposed tight curfews on Syrian refugees, and more have been imposed after the recent attacks in the village of Al-Qaa, where 7 suicide attacks took place in late June, murdering 5 and wounding 28 others. While Governor Khoder and the Baalbek-Hermel governorate may consider the massacre in Al Qaa and recent threats around the country to be reference points, the Lebanese Internal Security Forces confirmed that the attackers were not refugees or among them; in fact, they came through the Lebanese-Syrian border.

This is a form of collective punishment and a racist policy to implement on people who are fleeing from such atrocities. We believe that these values do not reflect Baalbek International Festival and their performers.

Therefore, we call on the Baalbek-Hermel Governorate to release an official statement denying the curfews, or to reverse them.

We also call on the this year’s performers to cancel their performances unless these policies are lifted. This year’s performers are the following:

Caracalla Dance Theater – Saturday, July 23

Jean Michel Jarre – Saturday, July 30

Mika – Thursday, August 4

Bob James Quartet – Friday, August 12

Abeer Nehme – Friday, August 19

Lisa Simone – Sunday, August 21

Shereen Abdel Wahab – Friday, August 26

Jose Van Dam Meets Carlos Gardel – Sunday, August 28

We also call on ticket-holders and potential ticket-holders to stand on the side of human rights, justice, and dignity, and boycott Baalbek International Festival 2016 unless these unfair curfews stop taking place.