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.

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

Video: #طلعت_ريحتكم Lebanon is drowning in garbage, thanks dawleh.

Yesterday people of conscience protested in the Downtown district of Beirut, near the government and the parliament. I was there to take pictures and videos but to also manifest my frustration and anger over the matter.

Downtown not only hosts the useless government, but it is also the symbol of Solidere, a company that renovated the district and destroyed its heritage. Solidere and Sukleen, the company that manages the garbage of Lebanon, are, let’s say, cousin companies managed by political businessmen. That’s what happens when you mix politics and personal interests.

Naameh landfill have been legitimately and lawfully closed by protesters theJuly 17th, the contract with Sukleen were expired but the government of Lebanon didn’t find any alternative before the deadline (or forgot to search for one over other political matters).. The government did decide on something last Thursday, in the midst of the crisis, they decided to postpone the decision over the matter to next Tuesday (great job people).

Finding another landfill won’t solve the issue, though many think it’s the problem. Nobody wants a dangerous landfill near their towns and villages, and the so-called solutions have already angered the people affected to it.

A solution have already been submitted to the government by a group of green activists 1 year and a half ago. Let Paul Abi Rached, president of T.E.R.R.E Liban environment NGO explains it to you. (Video in Arabic)

Here’s the little montage of the protest I’ve made and the pictures I’ve taken.