Adonis Diaries

Archive for November 28th, 2012

Michelle has hope for Lebanon: Sort of 5 reasons…

 

  M ()Posted on November 23, 2012 “Why I have hope for Lebanon this Independence Day

“Since the Syrian revolution began over 20 months ago, the headlines around the world concerning Lebanon have all had the same tone – “Lebanon on the brink”, “Tensions in a divided Lebanon run high”…

And since last May, we have seen what appears to be a breakdown of Lebanon’s social fabric. Fighting in Tripoli between Bab el Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, tire burning around the country, the so-called “military wing” of the clan Moqdad family kidnapping of Gulf nationals, Syrians…and blocking the road to the airport.

A travel ban for the nationals of UAE, Qatar and Bahrain crippled Lebanon’s tourism over the summer.

And a month ago, the car bomb that ripped through Beirut’s bustling Ashrafieh district that claimed 3 lives, including that of Brigadier General Wissam al Hassan, his bodyguard, and an innocent woman walking in the area. In the days that followed, protestors stormed the Grand Serail, (the PM administration) and gunfights erupted in several areas around Beirut.

International media basically had a field day predicting the next civil war in Lebanon, and elaborating on the oversimplified narrative of Syria’s conflict “spilling over” and Lebanon’s sectarian divides continuing to “widen” as change rocks the region. What happened instead?

Millions of Lebanese woke up in the morning, got in their cars and faced mind-numbing traffic to get to work for completely unfair salaries. For that, I respect them and their resilience immensely.

Schools, bars, restaurants, and malls remained open despite shooting in several areas of Beirut. In the days that followed, life here largely returned to normal, and the media’s eye shifted away from Lebanon. Basically, over the space of two days, columnists and foreign correspondants from around the world predicted a major breakdown of social and political institutions in this country.

And that may yet happen. But instead of breaking down worst case scenarios, let’s take a look at the reality of the past month in Beirut.

1. Beirut White March

A week after the blast in Ashrafieh, around a thousand Lebanese gathered in Martyr’s Square dressed in white, and marched peacefully to Sassine Square (the location of the blast) to show solidarity for the victims, and to express frustration with the March 8/14 rift that characterizes Lebanese politics. “March against March”  and “5losna Ba2a” signs were held up, along with hundreds of Lebanese flags.

The mood was positive, despite the grim events of the week before. I overheard two photographers jockying for position joke to each other “In peaceful protests, the photographers are the ones who fight.”

No violence.

2. Ashrafieh for All

Again, immediately after the bombing, a group of young Lebanese began the “Ashrafieh for All” initiative. Spread through Facebook, the group description simply read: “[We are] a group of young people looking to help the people of Ashrafieh out. This is in no way political. Anyone willing to help can join.”

Over the following weeks, hundreds of volunteers, including youth groups such as les Scouts du Liban, collected food, water, clothes, medicine and money for those whose homes had been destroyed in the explosion. Major Lebanese brands including Zaatar w Zeit, Roadsters Diner and many more also contributed to the efforts.

3. Beirut Marathon

On November 11th, in the pouring rain, over a thousand Lebanese gathered to complete a 10 km run, or a full marathon, throughout Beirut. Thousands of Lebanese of different faiths gathered together in a massive crowd, while jogging, under a torrential downpour – sound like a perfect recipe for conflict. But no – the event was a great success.

4. Seculars in AUB election

Student elections at the American University of Beirut are closely watched, as they are known for representing Lebanon’s political divides. Unlike typical student elections, which are either popularity contests or based on campaigns pertaining to student life, AUB’s are highly politicized. Competing student parties openly endorse the March 8 and March 14 camps that divide national Lebanese politics, and have a history of high tensions, and even outbursts of violence.

Given the events of the past few months, many expected this year’s election season to be particularly inflammatory. Though the elections were highly politicized as usual, with political chants and quite a bit of booing taking place as results were announced, there were no fights. And in an interesting turn of events, AUB’s very own Secular Club, supporting candidates running independently of any politically affiliated organizations, performed particularly well this year.

For a soundbite I compiled featuring interviews with AUB students regarding their view of the influence of Lebanese politics on student elections, click here: www.beirutnewsnetwork.com/michelle. You may be surprised by what you hear. While some cited the inevitability of Lebanese politics spilling into AUB, others expressed major disappointment with this – despite the fact that they had won because they ran with politically-backed parties.

5. TEDxBeirut

TEDxBeirut, a full-day conference that took place November 17th at Beirut’s UNESCO Palace, brought together Lebanese speakers, activists, innovators, leaders, and regular citizens with “ideas worth sharing” as a part of the larger TED talks global movement. A TEDx conference even took place in Tripoli, despite the strife that has marked the city since this summer.

What does all this mean?

Lebanese people are far from war-hungry sectarian-driven individuals. The above events show that Lebanese do want to live together, and enjoy normal, happy lives. And that’s what gives me hope in Lebanon this independence day.

As summarized by Bernard Pivot:

“Les Libanais sont sûrs qu’il y aura un autre attentat. Puis, plus tard, un autre. Ils ne vivent cependant pas dans la crainte. Ils vivent.” (The Lebanese are sure another car blast is being readied, and another… They don’t live in fear. They live.)

 

 

ImageOn top of that, JLO carried a Lebanese flag on stage while performing in Dubai. I mean what more do you really need? End of article

If the reader has noticed, almost all of these events are set in Beirut, where about a third of the population live and work. Outside of Beirut, in this tiny country, life is controlled and administered by the communities: The pseudo-State (government, institutions, and deputies…) exists just in Greater Beirut.  A few sectors in Beirut get high priority in potable water, 24/24 electricity, and all the amenities that other sections in Beirut don’t enjoy…

Apparently, the rate of hope is “measured” on how people living and commuting to Beirut behave and have fun…

 

“It is a truth, universally acknowledged that…”

“It is a truth, universally acknowledged that a Moslem man, regardless of his fortune, must be in want of a 9 year-old virgin wife…”. That’s how Nassrine started the discussion with the opening sentence of Jane Austin book “Pride and Prejudice”, a temptation that a reader is most likely to feel and rearrange…

Azar Nafisi held Thursday’s sessions for 7 of her former students, discussing selected English fiction novels and keeping diaries.

Manna rejoined: “It is a truth, universally acknowledged that a Moslem man will eventually displace his older wife for a fresh naive 16 year-old virgin…”

What is your “truth, universally acknowledged….?”

Azin, who is in the process of divorcing her third husband, said: “Who is thinking about love these days? The islamic Republic of Iran has taken us back to Jane Austen’s blessed arranged marriages. Nowadays, girls marry either because of famiy pressures, or to get a green card, or to secure financial stability… And we are talking about educated girls, discussing English literature, and who have gone to college…”

Mahshed replied: “Many women are independent in Iran, and are business women and who have chosen to live alone…”

Manna retorted: “Most women don’r have a choice now. My mother could chose her husband and wearing the veil was optional…”

Nassrine said: “Temporary marriage contracts are all the rage. President Rafsanjani is encouraging these kinds of short-term marriage contracts… Many conservative clerics call these contracts a sanctified form of prostitution… A few progressive men are for these contracts, and I tell them that they should demand that this law gives women the same rights as men… Talk about hypocrisy!”

At the start of the 20th century, the age of marriage was changed to 13 and increased to 18. In the 1960’s, there was little difference between the rights of both genders, and women were at a par with western democratic States standards in human rights.

As Khomeini grabbed power in 1979, and this totalitarian and theocratic regime came in the name of the Past, and individual freedom was banished… the first law was to repeal the Family-Protection law, which guaranteed women’s rights at home and at work.

The legal marriage age for women was lowered again to 9 year-old, sort of 8.5 lunar years… Adultery and prostitution were punished by stoning to death, and women were considered to have half the worth of men

And why this 9 year-old cut-off standard?

Prophet Muhammad had officially married Aicha at the age of 9. Aicha’s father was Abu Bakr, later to become the first Calif of the Moslems.

Muhammad didn’t have intercourse with Aicha until she was 13, but they didn’t beget any children. Aicha was the most beloved of wives and the most educated.

This terribly jealous wife used to throw tantrums when exposed to injustices. As Muhammad announced his desire to marry another wife (9 in total), Aicha shouted: “This God of yours has the habit of satisfying all your desires in verses…

Aicha was in charge of transcribing the verses during Muhammad’s bouts of epilepsy.

And the Moslem clerics want to emulate their prophets, particularly in life-style that pleases their pleasures and comfort…

Sanaz was to meet with her long-time preferred Iranian young man, accompanied by her family, across the border in Turkey: The beau was settled in England for the last 6 years and decided to give it a shot and get engaged with Sanaz. The discussion among the girls was on how to discover the compatibility attribute, after so many years of absence, before Sanaz agrees to get engaged.

Nassrine suggested that “The first thing you should do to test your compatibility is dance with him

This suggestion was a reminder of the “Dear Jane Society” idea of forming dance sessions: Teacher Azar had gathered the girl students after class following a lecture on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to dance in the style of Austen’s period (the Napoleonic age). But that is another story.

Note 1: The story is taken from “Reading Lolita in Tehran” by Azar Nafisi

Note 2: If interested in a biography of Aicha, check https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2008/10/11/aicha-la-bien-aime-du-prophet-by-genevieve-chauvel/


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