Lebanon: You stink! The Tol3et Rihetkom movement story.

This have been first published the 1st of August in “Voices of the Middle East Blog” here. A blog held by Mariam Tuma. (Twitter: @mariamjxde)

Changes from the initial post will be in Italic.

“We’re in the midst of a political, environmental and social crisis in Lebanon. Allow me to begin with the most obvious and explicit issue; the garbage or waste management.

The issue is actually quite simple; Sukleen, the “privatized” company that manages the garbage and waste of Beirut and the Mount Lebanon province (Jabal Lebnen) have been dumping rubbish in a landfill in the Naameh countryside, south of Beirut. The landfill was due to close many years ago, in 2004! But the government kept postponing the deadline and Sukleen continued to fill the landfill well over its initial capacity. Weeks ago, the Naameh residents, decided that it was enough and that the landfill should be closed for real, and not have its deadline postponed again. In fact, they stopped Sukleen trucks the day of the legally contracted deadline, so technically, nothing illegal was done. On the contrary, they were merely enforcing the law.

The government knew about this deadline, they’re the ones who made the contract with the private (not so private) Sukleen company, but they’ve done absolutely nothing to prevent the current crisis. So, logically, Sukleen stopped collecting the garbage because it had nowhere to dump it. As a result, the narrow streets of Beirut were quickly drowning in rubbish, suffocating the already nonexistent side walks (Lebanon is not very pedestrian friendly).

First week of the garbage crisis. 

Thursday, while Beirut citizens were breathing hazardous waste, smoke and fumes (due to the burning of rubbish by angry civilians), the government was arguing over another political and sectarian crisis. They basically discussed that issue for ten minutes at the end of their meeting and decided to postpone the discussion about the rubbish issue and its solution to Tuesday. The people living of Beirut had to wait another 5 days covered in rubbish. The government acted as though it was the least of their worries. Some citizens decided they had enough and were tired of this, so they accordingly organised a protest centered around the slogan “طلعت ريحتكم”, basically translating to “Your Stench is Revealed” or “You Stink” the upcoming Saturday.

The movement had no political backing, was non-partisan and was based solely on the needs of the people. It had one simple demand: that the government do its job. But we didn’t want any new landfills that were dangerous for the people, we wanted a real solution; a green and environmental solution, one that we could be proud of. It was an anti-government protest, combined with a pro-green and environment aspect. We don’t want our waste to simply be dumped in the poorer areas of Lebanon.
The protest wasn’t huge, but its existence was highly important, it was truly representative of those living in Lebanon; Lebanese and foreigners alike. It showed that we were tired of the sectarian government, and its passivity over the simplest of issues. The garbage on the streets was quite frankly representative of the government. Their uselessness were represented in our streets.

That day we expressed our anger and frustration, which we have every right to do. The organizers of the protest also brought a green advocate and NGO president of T.E.R.R.E Liban, Paul Abi Rached, to explain how the government overlooked the issue and the solution him and dozens of other activists brought upon the last government. He also stressed about how easy the solution was and how reparation of garbage at the source were important. We immediately threw our plastic bottles in a bag and tissues in another bag; we began separating our rubbish. A change was happening in regards to our bad environmental habits.

Publiée par Levant Chronicles sur Samedi 25 juillet 2015

Shortly after, news came that the mayor of Beirut had “found” a “solution” regarding the garbage in Beirut, that it was ready to be taken out as soon as Sunday. We knew at the protest that it was a trap, we simply didn’t want any new landfills. Sukleen did remove the garbage the Sunday from some neighborhoods, but when they got near the new landfills, guess what? No body wanted Beirut’s garbage, and rightly so. The new landfills located near Jiyeh (between Saida and Beirut), were accepted by the mayor but not the people. The highway towards the Lebanese south was blocked for several hours Sunday and Monday to protest the matter. On Tuesday, well before dawn, Activists of “طلعت ريحتكم” followed Sukleen trucks and caught them dumping the garbage in the Beirut river! Landfills were suddenly appearing all over the country and people sent their pictures and videos to condemn the practice.

The government had unsurprisingly postponed the Tuesday meeting (mostly because they didn’t agree on their sectarian problems) but protesters were there, showing our non-partisanship, demanding again that the government do its job, we didn’t identify with the 8 March or the 14 March coalitions, in fact, we wanted them to leave. A lot of chants were present, chants that condemned Solidere, the company that killed Beirut heritage, tied to Hariri and therefore to Sukleen. Why were the upscale neighborhoods of Solidere clean when the other neighborhoods (with much more people) were still dirty?

We spontaneously blocked several roads toward the Martyrs Sqare and created a lot of congestion. Some people may criticize this and they have every right to do so, but the protests were peaceful, and it was to show the authorities that a few hundreds of people in Beirut can disturb the status quo. We don’t need a political “leader” behind us to block roads.

Publiée par Levant Chronicles sur Samedi 25 juillet 2015

We decided to march towards Hamra after a lively debate among ourselves, yes, some shouted at others, but the majority, after a vote, decided that marching to Hamra, and other parts of Beirut, was better than staying in the Downtown area. This was especially due to the fact that  not many people lived (besides basically the 1%). We truly demonstrated that we were a democratic movement. More democratic, at least, than the parliament that decided to extend their mandate twice, without asking the Lebanese people if they liked the decision or not!

And then, with that, another episode was unfolding; one that reveals the true coercive status of the Lebanese politicians. When we were marching towards the interior ministry and the ministry of the environment some protesters dared to attack what looked like a politician’s car. It was the car of Minister Derbas, the social affairs minister. The media is reducing the affair to 4 people; Bilal, Ihab, Tarek and Firas, however many more were involved by blocking the car and throwing rubbish on it. We were harmless, just angry. Tarek was arrested as a result. I don’t remember if Tarek were arrested on the spot, but his name was already circulating in the media just after the protest and the long march that led us back to Riad el Soloh. I left before Firas, Ihab and Bilal were arrested, much later in the night.

Publiée par Levant Chronicles sur Mercredi 29 juillet 2015

Quickly news emerged about how Tarek Mallah had already a judicial history with Minister Derbas, and the stories of Ihab and Bilal demonstrated this. They were arrested not only because they dared to touch a minister car, but were interrogated on Tarek. The story of Tarek is simple, he is an orphan who spent more than 13 years of his life in Dar el Fatwa orphanage, a Muslim organization. There he was raped and reported this. Minister Derbas overlooked the case. So as a result Tarek Mallah sponsored a case against Derbas legally, with no outcome.

What followed were two days of pressure. Bilal and Ihab were released Wednesday, Firas and Tarek Friday. Bilal and Ihab described how they were psychologically harassed by the anti-terrorism forces. They were forced to strip down in front of each other and were put in black masks as if they were some IS members. They were also put under pressure to denounce Tarek Mallah, clearly from orders of Derbas. This just proves how easy it is for any minister to use coercive force. Derbas is officially “independent” in the government. But that doesn’t make him any better than other coalitions minister.

Publiée par Levant Chronicles sur Mercredi 29 juillet 2015

We decided to reorganize ourselves and to plan something bigger. Our goal is to stop the plan that says Sukleen must be divided between different industrialists in the basis of sects. We want the government to at least care about the environment. Our group is representative of a large spectrum of ideologies; Marxists, leftists, liberals etc. We don’t have a single ideology that represents us but we have the same goal, that the government does its job regarding the environment and that it should be held responsible and transparent over the current crisis. We’re not unambitious, we’re just focusing our energy in the first step, and I hope, towards bigger goals.”

Saturday 8th August, tol3et rihetkom is protesting at the Martyrs Square, Downtown Beirut, 6PM. If you care about living in a green Lebanon, bring all the people you can and demand that the government do a proper job.

I am photographing the protests and making short videos. See pictures here and videos here

Lebanon still corrupted.

Transparency International is an NGO that fights the corruption worldwide, and they even have here, in Lebanon, a “chapter” related to them.

Lebanon is the 136th most corrupted country in a list that contains 175, it has a score of 27 i.e, the lower the score the more corrupt. This score is actually worsening ; in 2012 the score was of 30 and for 2013 the score was 28.

And some wonder why we don’t trust our government.

I don’t know who is bringing who. What I know is that the corruption is born within the state and develop outside. If a government act responsibly and punish those corrupted politicians, the country will follow.

We can fight for a better score.

1) Don’t bribe. This rule is simple. And even if “it’s the way of things” in Lebanon, if you want it to stop, you have to begin by yourself.

2) Report it, you could do it here or here.(international website)

Let’s hope Lebanon’s score will get better with time.

Budget in Iraq soon, none for Lebanon.

I don’t really like to compare different governments, but it could be interesting to see how Iraq, a country deeply in war against ISIS, bombarded by foreign powers, works more than the Lebanese government or state when the security of this country is relatively much calmer.

Lebanon hasn’t ratified and voted a budget since years, thus we don’t know how the Lebanese government spends their money. We don’t know the prioritizing of the government. Education ? Interior ? Military ?

Essentially, we also don’t know where our tax money is being spent. Worse, those taxes collected and spent is constitutionally illegal. We may have the right to stop paying taxes.

The Policing tendency of some Lebanese citizens.

I wrote that us, Lebanese citizens, were too much blaming each others for misconducts or our “uncivilized” tendencies, for example some will blame the people that won’t respect laws. In my point of view, this tendency to blame the “uncivilized” other should be redirected on the government’s lack of control in the country. With control, the incivilities would shrink and eventually stop.

This lack of control is dangerous because it also leads to policing each others ; in other words, everybody becomes everybody’s police because there is a clear lack of authority and appliances of existing laws. We begin to point out our fingers on some incivilities, shaming some in public thinking it would help to improve the society.

This is clearly visible on Twitter regarding the violation of driving laws, the dangerous of some vehicles and the illegality of some license plates. Some may tweet an image to the Traffic Control, and they will retweet you. I also did that, thinking it was enough. But it’s not. Let’s look at some of these revealing tweets.

https://twitter.com/AngRy961/status/535096775854788608

This brings us to another result. We police each others and report it to the formal authority, consequently, the formal authority will “reshame it”, pointing out a finger on the citizen, omitting that it is their lack of control that is the base of this situation. Let’s stop with taking pictures of entire families on tiny motorcycles and be surprised about it. Some families may have not the money to buy good cars, and some may find that getting on those tiny motorcycles is better than using the public transport. In some areas of Lebanon, the public transport is rare, sometimes nonexistent. Those people know that they risk their lives, we mustn’t me surprised every time we see these “backward” people, we must go to the origins, the lack of the control, the lack of basic transport. If the police were effective, we wouldn’t see them much, and if the government were effective, it wouldn’t exist.

Let’s say that the Police will act after the pointing out, great you may think. But is it our role as citizens to help the police solving clear road safety and law issues ? The common citizen may help the police to solve a mystery when it is asked to do so.

The lack of control doesn’t come from the citizen but from the government.
Another outcome of this could lead to expressing short but strong outbursts of Power from the government ; it is clearly shown with the minister of Health Abu Faour iron fists on food and water irregularities. The current government, lacking power over the people on social and sanitary issues, will try to inverse this situation. Abu Faour strikes the restaurants, shaming them and blaming them for their lack of control and their disrespects expiration dates etc. But is it not the origin, the base of all this debate the lack of the government control on food and water ? Abu Faour clearly wants a better country, but is the way of doing it ?

Let’s stop this nonsense, and point our fingers at the correct persons responsible for all the irregularities, the misconducts, the disrespect of laws, the “shocking” pictures you could see on twitter. Let’s point our fingers on the government because it simply can’t do a proper job.

Fellow Lebanese : Stop Blaming Yourselves.

You are driving your car and the light is clearly green, you can pass without fearing for your life. Yet another driver crosses and you almost crash.

Very loudly and clearly, you insult the driver, the donkeys of this country and how tired you are of the impolite citizens, you ask yourself : is it that complicated to respect lights ? Is it hard to think Green = Go and Red = Stop ?

Maya Zankoul Comic.

It is not about the civilians and their tendency to violate clear rules, it is the lack of government and institution control.

A Lebanese person won’t act like this in another country, it is not our nature to be irresponsible and reckless, as many will say and repeat. In another country, the consequence is very clear, fast, and direct, you will get fined, probably a sum you didn’t expect and the message is here : Act irresponsibly and you will face consequences.

Don’t blame the civilians that are only profiting, maybe unconsciously, about the lack of control in this country.

We must blame the lack of control, and demand more concrete actions from the government, not insult each others. With control, we could make our roads and lives better.

A conversation with Ashraf Rifi about the IS flag burning.

Conversation with Rifi :

Lebanese Ctizen : “Alo ? Yes, how are you minister, have you heard about the beheading of the Lebanese Soldier ?”

-Rifi : “Oh ? Meh…let’s negotiate with them”

– “I have also found pictures of kids burning “Daesh-IS” flag in Achrafieh”

-Rifi : “WHATT??? ARE YOU KIDDING ME, HOW DARE THEY”

– “Hey it’s just a flag you know”

-R : “NO NO, THERE IS ALLAH WRITTEN ON THE FLAG, WE MUST FIND THEM AND ARREST THEM “!

– “Wow wow chillax bro…I don’t think they have anything against Islam just Da-“

-R : “all I hear is BLABLABLA”

– “Rifi, would you search for Daesh or Civilians if they Burn Hezbollah Flags ?”

*Tone Sounds*

A day Later.

Citizen : “Hey have you heard about the burning of Crosses in North Lebanon ?”

R :” It’s just a cross you know no need to make a polemic about this”…

Citizen : “Oh…Okay…”

 

 

 

Green Beirut ?

We have it on our flag, we are proud of it. The Cedar, the great tree of Lebanon, yet the true verdure of our country is almost lost, we live in a grey capital.

There is today 0,8m2 of green space per citizen in Beirut, the World Health Organization suggests 40m2 for each citizen. We are far below this number.

I have never heard an “important” statement from any of the deputies that belong to powerful political parties. It seems that the problem isn’t interesting.

Horsh Beirut, is quite a big park for Beirut area, and it accounts for 72% of Beirut green space, though it is closed to the public, only foreigners and “Wasta-People” can get it. Our city municipality thinks that public access could destroy the park. Most people, even in Beirut, haven’t heard of it, closed since 1990, Horsh Beirut has evaporated from our memory.

Nahnoo is an organization that called for the reopening of Horsh Beirut. Nahnoo ( that means “us” in Arabic )  have found out that the Municipality of Beirut does not own  Horsh Beirut, so closing it is illegal and a violation of the Lebanese citizens rights.

Good news, Horsh Beirut might reopen this year. But it’s too little, too late.

Courtesy of Now Lebanon

Beirut Green Project is awesome too, it created a map, the Beirut Green Guide. You can discovery the very few green spaces of Beirut, with information about them, like the number of benches and if it has WiFi or not. You can also add a space that you discovered. In their blog you can find a lot of tips, events and initiatives that help the citizen to get “greener”.

NGO’s do a lot of effort, it compensates the lack of interest of the government. And it’s very dangerous of them. By not speaking about the environmental causes, the citizen forgets about it. He forgets that it is one of his basic rights. The citizen will think of Syria, Hezbollah weapons, presidential vote, etc. They are important, but having enough green spaces for everyone is very important too.

The government does not look into them, yet I’ve just discovered on the internet that a green party does exist in Lebanon ! It’s the Green Party of Lebanon. It is not present in the government nor in the parliament. It will at least  plan (and plant) green spaces.

The government and the main political parties must themselves respect the nature and give example. Gebran Tawk, a former Lebanese deputy, destroyed a big area in Bcharee ancient cedar forrest for his wedding son. The government has arrested the project, but it was too late, Cedar trees will take dozens of year to grow back. Oh and the land was part of the World heritage site…

Get greener, put some flowers in your balconies, the grey Beirut needs to be green again.

Courtesy of Archileb

 

 

 

 

STOP Hunting Crimes in Lebanon

With pride, they smile and take photos of their victims.

I support the idea of hunting for food, and just for food, not for the game or “the art” to do so.

Hunting should be regulated, controlled by the government, or entire species can disappear, not only birds, but terrestrial animals too.

And when the government doesn’t work to spread to arrest this outrage, Non-governmental organizations take their places to do so.

STOP Hunting Crimes in Lebanon is a Facebook Page that show delirious massacres of hunting. Again, a sad trend in Lebanon. Support it, spread the message.

And Dear non-existent government, apply the Law, regulate hunting.