Living without a smartphone in Lebanon.

 

I remember the first time I used WhatsApp, it was on someone’s else Blackberry, I was amazed, I had “MSN” right in my hands. Years later, a lot of smartphone users have to combat a mild or high addiction.

I have dropped my smartphone because of several reasons:

  • I thought it was badly affecting some of my personal relationships.
  • It was affecting how I use my “own” time.
  • I am very concerned about privacy.
  • I was sick of it and I wanted to experiment with “smartphone-free” time.

Before making the leap of faith, I was already trying to reduce my usage time to a bare 1:30 or 2 hours a day and was succeeding. I had a tracker in my phone that helped a lot reducing the time of usage. But I was deleting (and reinstalling) social media apps, switching my addictions between Twitter and Facebook. Controlling myself was possible, I had done it, but an addiction can’t be solved with the constant presence of the drug itself, the smartphone. It is like trying to be alcohol free or tobacco-free while they are only within a reach away.

I am using a “feature phone” or “dumb phone” and have been doing so for the past 3 months. (at the time of writing)

My phone can take pictures and selfies, but has space for literally one picture,(expandable with a microSD), it has even internet access. Whatsapp is not supported. Its screen is not a touch screen. Its a more or less basic device with a primary use: phone calls and sms’s.

Switching.

We constantly check our smartphones for anything new, we “unlock” and “lock” our devices constantly, I was certainly doing so. Ironically, when I got the dumb phone, I was doing the same, checking it constantly for novelty. The new monopoly of smartphone devices is so strong that I continued to have my “psychological routes” onto my new phone for a few weeks or so. This waned with time.

Regarding technicalities, the most annoying part is the fact that I had to build up my contact lists from scratch. I added number from my Google Contacts when I needed them. There were obviously no options to “sync”.

I switched my Whatsapp use with Signal and Telegram. Unlike Whatsapp, Signal doesn’t need you to have a connected turned on smartphone, and Telegram doesn’t need you to have a smart phone at all.

Living without a smartphone.

I didn’t expect a “radical” switch in my life because of dropping my smartphone. I am not very interested in “productivity” or “efficiency”. My goal was not to become more productive. My goal was to simply let go of this device and see what will happen.

The good stuff.

  • I’m reading more (much more offline than online) now that I have less time to watch cat videos. (I still happily look at them on my laptop).
  • It feels good to have a battery life of two weeks or so. I feel like I am actually saving some power. I’m not constantly looking for a charger. I’m now charger-stress free.
  • I used to sometimes drive and use my smartphone and this was terrible, I can’t do this anymore.
  • I’m a Twitter addict, I always want to know the latest news. Without a smartphone, my rush for breaking news is now reduced. I can always “catch up” later and that’s fine.
  • My other rush, sharing stuff, thoughts, images, memes, is also reduced. It feels good to be completely present. Not having any kind of rush to look at my smartphone when I’m in a meeting or simply hanging out with friends feels good. Sharing a moment, not sharing pictures or videos of that moment, feels good.

The not so good stuff.

  • It is extremely expensive to make phone calls and send SMS’s in Lebanon.
  • I miss taking pictures of stuff I see that might be interesting, a sign, a protest, a graffiti, a cat. I also want to remember some events, like a nice dinner. I have a camera in my phone, but it is way too shitty. Maybe I should expand my storage.
    Fortunately, others can take pictures and send them to me. This could be easily covered with a camera, but for now, it just feels weird to bring my professional DSLR everywhere. But maybe I should.
  • I spend more time on my laptop. Deleting Facebook is surely an option that has been floating in my mind for years.


I know, smartphones has its uses.

Smartphones are useful, this is certain. Having a “one-for-all” device can be seen as an efficient manner to reduce the “time of switching” between devices.

For example, one could write a text with a smartphone and print it directly (via wireless internet) on a printer. A picture can be shared without “waiting”, no need to go to a laptop and then annoyingly share it from your email.
Smartphones are very important tools to stay connected with friends and family, and it is amazing to connect with your loved ones wherever they are. For example, refugees used smartphones as treasures to be kept and guarded closely because of this connection.

Smartphones are efficient devices, maybe that’s why they are so addictive. They somehow fasten our world. Aren’t just smartphones a reflection or a expression of our current fastened and globalized societies?

The following from the author Bauman resonates with me.

Fortunately, we now have what our parents could not even imagine: we have the internet and the world-wide web, we have ‘information highways’ connecting us promptly, ‘in real time’, to every nook and cranny of the planet, and all that inside these handy pocket-size mobile phones or iPods, within our reach day and night and moving wherever we do. Fortunately? Alas, perhaps not that fortunately after all, since the bane of insufficient information that made our parents suffer has been replaced by the yet more awesome bane of a flood of information which threatens to drown us and makes swimming or diving (as distinct from drifting or surfing) all but impossible. How to sift the news that counts and matters from the heaps of useless and irrelevant rubbish? How to derive meaningful messages from senseless noise? In the hubbub of contradictory opinions and suggestions we seem to lack a threshing machine that might help us separate the grains of truth and of the worthwhile from the chaff of lies, illusion, rubbish and waste . . .”

Maybe I will get back a smartphone, but for now, I’m happy without it.

How power is applied and diffused in the roads of Lebanon.

 

 

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El Khoury, a candidate with the Free Patriotic Movement in the 2018 Lebanese parliamentary elections.

 

Beirut, Lebanon.

Not a long time ago, I was driving in Beirut, I entered a one-way street, but a car, driving the wrong way, blocked “my way”.
I decided to resist, simply because it was “my way”, I had the right to pass because of the rules the Beirut city had put up. But the other car was also resisting, and quite violently. It was a big 4×4, with black tainted windows, it had a short number on its plate, and the car was advancing with short bursts against the little space between our cars. The driver couldn’t be seen, but he (or she but most probably he) started to honk repeatedly. After one minute or so, I decided to “yield” the way and drove on a rear gear until the big car could pass. I had bent to force.

Residents of Lebanon spend a lot of time on the roads within cities and between them. Whether we use a private car or public transport, we are exposed to drivers / car owners who apply their power or high hierarchical positions on others drivers / road users.  (within different contexts and environments).

We’ve all seen a convoy blocking a road for dozens of minutes, rendering the whole circulation still, we’ve been all harassed by a big car trying to push us aside, often, they will have a short matriculation plate number, if any, the drivers will be always males, violent, brutal.

We are exposed to a blunt display of power by those who hold it on roads. We “meet” them directly, physically, when a “normal” car owner is exposed to a convoy for example.

Some cars (and subsequently their owners) display power in a “formal” manner. We can think of any car in direct official positions of power within the parliament, government, security branches and state institutions. Their power is deemed as “legitimate” by some because of its “official” nature.

Others display it less formally, they do not hold official positions, but are high on the hierarchy of classes (ruling class), or are closely connected to the ruling class. (Big wasta, but no capital)

Lebanon is, I believe, quite unique with this display of power on the roads. The main message behind this display and application of power is: we own the country, and thus, we own the roads. Convoys, of course, do block general transport in other countries, but not at the same daily rate as in Lebanon, and certainly not in the same manner.

Taking back time and space.

We can look at the extreme [formal] example of convoys that block roads and main highways for sometimes dozens of minutes. While it is claimed that security is the first reason behind this phenomenon, the convoys carry a greater message of power. The “leaders” of this country are showing that they are able to own space and time. They show they own their own time by reducing useless traffic time, and own the time of the “normal” citizen, by elevating his or her time spent in traffic. They also own your space, even if it is not permanent, a convoy will block you from moving freely in your “own” country.

“Time is money”

Usually this saying is tied to the “opportunity costs” when “losing time”. Losing time means losing profits.

With convoys, time and space can be determined as an asset, or capital, taken away from the “normal citizens” (the ones outside of the ruling class). Time IS in fact money [i.e: capital] and losing time in traffic for the ruling class is not an option.

Sharing space, but not really.

Other examples could be a car owner that “shares” your space and time on the roads, but will try their best to take back this space and time for their benefits [and again, to expose their power]. Anyone driving or spending time on the roads of Lebanon can tell you about a car that tried, for no reason, to push you aside. These cars have often black tainted windows, adding to the supposed high elevation on the social strata. [could mean they hold tools of wealth / capital creation or just a direction “connection” to a powerful lord]. Drivers are often not seen not because of security reasons; black tainted windows just add a layer to the separation between the ruling class, and the classes under it.

Other cars will display power without really annoying your driving or ride, but by displaying this power, one will make sure to get away from them, and not attract problems. One could think about any car tied to the Internal Security Forces, General Security, the Army, Jamerek, any “political car” (with a yellow number). Most of them will own cars with black tainted windows, again, for so called security reasons.

لحظة وصول موكب دولة الرئيس نبيه بري الى مدينة النبطية like zrerieh.net page on facebook

Publiée par ‎موقع الزرارية الاخباري‎ sur Dimanche 30 août 2015

Nabih Berri, the eternal head of the Lebanese parliament, arriving to Nabatieh.

Cars with “normal numbers” [white plates in Lebanon] will reveal the power of their owners in other ways, either again with black tainted windows, annoying and loud honks, and short numbers. Small numbers, or “unique” ones (i:e: 666444, 10000, 300) will send a clear message of power and capital accumulation. These numbers, often bought for thousands of dollars, will show that the drivers are not “anyone” but people that can hurt you if they are “hurt”, (if you would honk at them for example). These numbers of course are often associated with luxurious, sport cars, once again, showing prestige and power.

Some numbers even reportedly show a connection to some powerful politician from the ruling class, sending also a message to the regulating police for example that these cars and their owners can’t be annoyed by a red light, or general traffic rules.

Showing power with numbers [literally] doesn’t stop with car numbers, it also applies to telephone numbers. In Lebanon, holding a 03—— can mean a lot, [due to its current unavailability] but holding a number like 03030303 sends a message: “my number is important and can be remembered easily, also, I paid for it hundreds or thousands of dollars”. Today in Lebanon, it is normal to see “numbers on display” to be sold in telephones stores.

Machismo- Patriarchy on the roads.

Exhibiting your “power”, tied to the capital held by oneself, [capital here could also mean connections to the ruling class] on the roads is for most of the time intrinsically linked with patriarchy. “Applying your power” here also means “defending it”. Men, who basically hold power in patriarchal Lebanon, will thus expose themselves on the roads to defend the power they hold. This defense though, include harassment, and full machismo attitudes. This attitude can be deadly, as Lebanon witnessed a terrible stabbing of a man, Georges al-Rif, after an altercation on the road.

We could also recall the murder of a young man, Roy Hamouche, with a bullet in his head. Him and his friends were followed, cornered, and Hamouche was murdered coldly.

We feel Anger because roads are arranged into classes.

Drivers and riders in Lebanon might feel angrier and frustrated all the time, not only because of the endless congestion and the bad infrastructure, but also because car drivers are organized into classes.

Being exposed daily to a better treatment to a tiny minority, we feel an injustice and a certain rage. A recent study in air rage found:

Physical inequality on airplanes—that is, the presence of a first class cabin—is associated with more frequent air rage incidents in economy class. Situational inequality—boarding from the front (requiring walking through the first class cabin) versus the middle of the plane—also significantly increases the odds of air rage in both economy and first class.

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We can deduce that classes on the roads, airlines, everywhere, might be one of the source of anger and frustration and even divisions among individuals that may be socioeconomically close to each other.

Conclusion: what to do?

Power is not an immobile phenomenon. It doesn’t only reside in the “rooms of power”, (Government palace, parliament). It moves through many layers of society. We could recall Michel Foucault sayings on power:

‘Power is everywhere’ and ‘comes from everywhere’ so in this sense is neither an agency nor a structure (Foucault 1998: 63).

We have to demystify power in Lebanon, and we might do it by redrawing what power itself means. Usually this means breaking the walls of fear around us, and this also means breaking the fortified walls of power, diffused all over the country.
Practically, regarding the road kingdom, we have to push for the near complete removal of black tainted windows and other features of blunt domination, including owning guns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lebanon’s parliamentary elections of 2018.

Lebanese people have not participated in this “democratic exercise” since 2009, because of the violation and abuse of power and the occupation of the parliament with 3 illegitimate extensions. (Lebanese were supposed to vote in 2013)

Needless to say, quite lot has happened since 2009 in Lebanon and the region: the Arab Spring, the uprisings and revolutions being the most significant.

Parties holding power in Lebanon broke their alliances formed in 2005 (8 March, 14 March) and now have somehow created links between all of them through coalitions and partnerships. The most significant breaking up of this polarity happened with the elections of Aoun in October 2016.

It is sadly not the goal of this article to write about this saga. The website Moulahazat goes into much details.

Before the “election” of Aoun, Lebanese people voted for their municipalities in May 2016, and the Beirut municipality battle showcased that parties will gather and ally in order to face new forces. All parties but Hezbollah (who had no big interest in a seat in the Beirut municipality) joined arms together and still barely won against Beirut Madinati list, an independent list.

The many combinations to first beat down a new possible force in Beirut and then to end the presidential crisis created somehow a new political reality, or just revealed what is the real nature of all powerful parties in Lebanon.

And thus, unsurprisingly, when the parliamentary elections got closer and it was time to form lists, a lot of alliances from the parties in power were formed. Alliances were formed on the basis of getting the highest votes and ensure seats in parliament, and was not based on the basis of any political identity or program. (Besides holding power as much as they can and as long as they can).

The Free Patriotic Movement, led by Gebran Bassil, is the best example for such alliances formed. Very often, it has allied with a group in X district, only to be against the same group in Y district. Once again suggesting that political opinions don’t really matter, only seats.

FPM

 

But is there a chance for change? And what is change?
The answer is no, there is no possibility for significant change.

Firstly, to speak about a “chance for change”, we assume that the two following conditions will be fulfilled:

1) A significant parliamentary seat change is possible and this change will benefit the new comers and their supporters.

2) We assume that this re-allocation of seats could lead to a form of a positive radical change.

Condition 1): A study published show that only 38 seats will be truly subject to change, while the wide majority of seats will simply get back to their old seat holders. Some new lists and coalitions have a small change of getting new seats.  A “chance for radical change” is not realistically possible in the parliament and the country.

2) Some candidates from the new comers lists, especially on the wide lists of Kulluna Watani or other seats like Madaniye in the Chouf are presenting a strong agenda and some strong progressive positions for Lebanon. Some candidates from Kulluna Watani and other independent are not only on point with human rights values, but with the economy itself. (The two can’t be separated).

The ruling parties won’t prepare their own poison.

The electoral law makers (MP’s and the power holders in this country) didn’t cook the electoral law dish in order to poison themselves. They know that this law, despite a few new entries here and there, will work to their benefits. Of course, only time will tell what the size of their losses will be, but the few seats won’t be enough to radically change the country. (neither will any elections).

It is a complex law, to say the least, but it is also a law that could allow “breaches”, Megaphone, a channel on Facebook and other social media platforms, explain it pretty well.

كيفية فرز الأصوات بقانون الإنتخابات الجديد

كيف بتم فرز الأصوات حسب القانون الجديد؟

Publiée par ‎Megaphone – ميغافون‎ sur Mercredi 21 mars 2018

Still, vote.

Voting is important because it could reveal first an approximation of the support new comers lists are receiving. Voters can be eventually new members of the groups that are trying to change things for the better in this country. Voters for the alternative, independent and progressive groups could be the base support for the groups to further grow.

The vote will be a first step to eventually grow and re-organize political groups and ideologies. If the parliament doesn’t self extend, we might witness a new stronger political coalition in 2022.

Hundreds of thousands of people who never voted could vote now, (the people from 20 to 29 years old), and they might push a new force within the parliament.

Choose rightly.

Today the voting law gives us finally the right to choose a candidate within a list. So we voters have the chance to choose a list not only according to its ideology on paper, but also specifically to each one’s history and positions.

A “preferential” vote supposedly mean that better candidates could get a seat (but not necessarily due to the complex electoral law).

A vote should be given to someone with a full and progressive program. And to a group that work with full transparency regarding their funding. Here are some points that should be fulfilled in my point of view.

  • Ensuring full rights and liberties for everyone in the country, and working with the oppressed minorities so that they can have full self-determination, rights, and freedoms, (and not co-opt their struggle).
  • Disapprove and reject neoliberal policies for the country. (Full liberalization, focus on finances, PPP’s etc, amass public debt,)
  • Ensuring universal rights: water access, electricity access, free education, free universal healthcare, free public spaces, affordable and accessible housing.
  • Ensuring transparency during their work in the parliament and full access to information to everyone.
  • Ensuring the country is not a political chessboard of foreign nations in the region and beyond.

Tools to help us choose:

Needless to say, do not vote for the parties in the current government, do not vote for parties with blood on their hands, (from the times of the civil war or other times), do not vote for parties that receive their funding from outside countries, do not vote for parties who self-extended their MP’s 3 times, do not vote for anyone that allied with the current power holders.

In order to help us better choose, we might take a look at Mist3ideen. Mist3ideen is a group of activists who try to look at who might the better candidate (especially from the new comers) by their standard, their list is helpful and detailed.

Human Rights Watch also published a list of candidates or parties that respect their 10 human rights points:

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 Why is this election somehow important?

If the results are favorable to the diverse candidates from civil society, this is will be a test for them. New MP’s might not bring radical change, some might even serve the ruling class consciously or unconsciously, but some others might bring a new image to the Lebanese MP.

One that communicates with people, one that is accessible, one that asks the government pertinent questions, one that serves the interests of the many, not the few.

 

 

 

 

 

Nabih Berri the Ax Wielder. (Or بلطجي)

That word is but a weak one to describe Berri, Gebran Bassil, their friends, the ruling class. I’d rather use words like “vampires, zombies” or worse, “bankers”.

But the word بلطجي has an interesting story. It originates from the Turkic* family language. Arabic obtained it with the spread of the Ottoman empire in the region. The word is baltacı and it has a completely different meaning in Turkish. It means Ax builder or Ax wielder. (In Turkish suffixes such as ci or are used to describe many professions or roles so baltacı is derived from balta, which means ax). And Arabic got the same role for ji. (Kababji for example in Lebanon).

A Baltacı was a palace guard of the ottoman empire. And there is even a Pasha named Baltacı Mehmet Pasha. History, of course, led the word to have a derogatory connotation.

berri baltaji.jpg

Turkish speaking people seeing the news from Lebanon thus must wonder why and how that word brought us yet again to the brink of another civil war. And it must be funny in their heads, imagining Berri with an ax.

Ax wielder, with the history of the militiaman Berri, is in fact a perfect description and insult.


* Assuming the word is present in all Turkic languages.

 

 

 

Pictures: Anti-Racist protest in Beirut.

On the 18th of July 2016, a group marched in Beirut from the Foreign Affairs ministry towards the Interior ministry. They called out and condemned the systematic institutional racism of the Lebanese state, and shamed the government of scapegoating the social and economic problems on refugees.

Pictures by Hassan Chamoun

 

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.

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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 and infamous 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.

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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.

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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. 

 

BZ7A9656
“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.

 

 

On Al-Manar ban and Censorship.

I grew up with al Manar always on the TV in my house, and to this day Anti-Israeli and Anti-Saudi and pro-Resistance songs reach my ears, my changing positions made me gradually reject al Manar and almost everything behind the channel. To me it’s only a channel of propaganda, brain-washing the pro Hezbollah followers to stand with the intervention in Syria, which I passionately oppose.

The ban against al Manar by first Arabsat and recently the Egyptian-based Nilesat is of course a political ban, another step in the growing tensions between Hezbollah and the governments of the Gulf. It’s the ban of Hezbollah propaganda from other propagandists in the region.

Despite being a direct propagandist, Al Manar should be able to broadcast in the “Arab world”, even if the channel isn’t completely harmless in my point of view, because it pushes you to support Assad (despite all his documented war crimes and his bloody repression against the people of Syria) and thus dehumanizing the struggle in Syria.

Al Manar ban makes you question censorship itself. Censorship is always about politics and power when you receive it or give it. This interpretation may seem simplistic, but if you have the ability to censor, then you have either institutions under your hand to help you ban your enemy, or you have to ability to wield forceful and violent direct power against the institutions, such as physical attacks against newspapers and TV stations that some people don’t agree with.

And isn’t self-censorship also about power? The power of your context to control you without even telling you, by sending you signals to stop you? And I don’t want to enter the structural model of Freud.

I won’t judge censorship and label it to be “good or bad”. But I believe censorship should be wielded when some media become too dangerous, and I always think about the Rwandan genocide here and the example of the Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLMC) (English: “Thousand Hills Free Radio and Television”). The Radio played a significant role in growing the hatred against the Tutsi, and a study by the Harvard university found out that the radio incited murder against 9,9% of the murders against the Tutsi! That doesn’t mean that the ban of the radio would have prevented the genocide, or even the 9,9% of the genocide. But shouldn’t dangerous stations and TV’s be stopped? Shouldn’t one try to stop a person shouting that we should kill all of X, Y and Z? Would that be censorship? Or just common sense?

If al Manar employees were directly shouting to kill a whole people X, Y, and Z, then I would happy to see it banned, and even shut down. You could argue that they already do so with “Al mawt li Isra2il” and “Al mawt li Amreeka”, death to Israel and America. But the TV broadcasting it, and the hundreds of thousands of people shouting it every year, are saying Israel not “Israelis” and America, not “Americans”.  One must understand why so many people voice that in Lebanon, and the world.

The question then is what do you do with the channels and newspapers, consciously directing hatred and blame against a certain people? (I can think of Fox News here). You fight them with your thoughts, protests, pressure. You don’t want to help the illusion that these people are alienated by effectively and directly alienating them with censorship. The victimization that will occur will only help them.  One should fight not to censor these kind of channels, like al-Manar and most of the Lebanese channels really, but to render them as objects of pariah. Those will eventually disappear in isolation, and shut themselves down. You do that with alternative media, voices that will not educate and patronize the “others” but that will produce valuable debates, questions and information.

The whole idea can be summarized as such: to fight shit, produce non shit. (Or at least try).

 

The Lebanese civil war 41 years later.

This is not a post to try to explain the Lebanese Civil War, but to remember, and to eventually move on.

We must remember the absurdity of war, death, destruction, and the subsequent Nihilism. We must take a look at our past and be shocked by the amount of nonsense that this country has witnessed over 15 years, and is still witnessing. The war can’t be clearly explained, lines could follow, the Palestinian question can enter the scheme, Syria, Saudi Arabia, France, the Murabitoun, the Christian extreme-right, the nationalism, fascism, extremism. We must remember Israel and its rain of bombs.

We must remember their faces, Geagea, Pierre, Bachir and Amine Gemayel, Nabih Berri, Hassan Nasrallah, Kamal and Walid Jumblatt, Camille and Dany Chamoun, Yasser Arafat, we must save their faces and paste their images into our heads. These are the faces we should look at with not only anger and indignation, but pity, and a strong wish for fair justice.

We must not try to explain too much the war, but we must analyse what has kept the war lords of yesterday as our politicians today. We must look at the Taef agreement and spit on it. We must deeply think and explain their tools to stay in power: neoliberalism, despotism, clientelism, and of course, the sectarian system, the use of religion, God, and finally, identitarian politics. The use of the identities to rule over one own identity and to fight with others.

Most importantly, we must completly reject and fight the Lebanese identity to explain our so-called importance regarding the Syrian refugees or Palestinian refugees, or really, everyone and everything non-Lebanese. This is racism and lead to apparently innocent statements as: “Lebanese have more rights to fair pay and fair jobs than the Syrian refugees, it’s our country” This statement could be easily transformed into “The Lebanese state can’t allow other Lebanese or non-Lebanese to mock our symbols, the Cedar, the flag, the national anthem”. And that already exists by law. Palestinians and Syrians often laugh on this, saying they have less rights than the Lebanese flag, which is true.

We must fight and stop everyone talking in the name of their sect, as if he was designated to be their spokesperson . “Nahna l shi3a, nahna l sunna, nahna l massi7iye, nahna l druze”. “We the Shia, we the Sunna, we the Christians, we the Druze”. If you hear someone talking like this, just stop him. It’s easy, I do it. And of course, a so called political leader of the ruling class isn’t more representative of his sect. So reject them.

We must remember, and hope it won’t happen again. “Tenzakar w ma ten3ad”. We must remember the 17,000 disappeared, those are mostly forgotten. We must fight to retrieve them, or at least I fear, their bodies.

We won’t have a better Lebanon if we keep following those “leaders”, and if we don’t think about an alternative system, not only a secular one, but a socialist one, one that wouldn’t allow the oppressor and the oppressed game, one that would allow less differences between rich and poor (and eventually none?). Let’s reject the shallow and lazy statement that “It’s has always been like that”. No it hasn’t always been like that.

Finally, let’s not exclude the Syrian and Palestinian refugees from society, alienation won’t help anyone, and will also trigger more tensions between the different people of this country. We shall not feel kinder if we do, or even prouder, those politicians just need to be more humane, but they won’t, so let’s oust them.

“Ma nrabe7 7alna jmile” if we include Syrians, Palestinians, migrant workers, everything non-Lebanese, let’s not applaud ourselves. Let’s go beyond nationalities. It’s our role not to exlude them first. Let’s not be patronising about it.