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Posts Tagged ‘Kareem Shaheen

Hague tribunal for Lebanon continues trial of dead Hezbollah commander:  Mustafa Badreddine
 
 The  tribunal says it has not seen enough evidence that he is dead
Nicholas Noe shared this link in The Guardian ·

“…But in a move described as “Kafkaesque” by a source close to the proceedings, on Wednesday an international tribunal in The Hague prosecuting Badreddine for alleged terrorism offences decided to continue his trial, citing insufficient evidence that he was dead.

Both defence and prosecution teams told the court they believed the evidence proved that Badreddine is dead.

But in a two-to-one decision, the trial chamber of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon said the deceased Hezollah commander would continue to stand trial.

(Otherwise, there would be no need to resume this masquerade that lasted over a decade for nought)

“The trial chamber does not believe that sufficient evidence has yet been presented to convince it that the death of Mustafa Amine Badreddine has been proved to the requisite standard,” the Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s judges said.

“The trial will therefore continue pending the receipt of further information we anticipate from the government of Lebanon.”….”

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theguardian.com|By Kareem Shaheen

Mustafa Badreddine, a senior Hezbollah commander, was killed last month in a mysterious explosion in Damascus. In a public acknowledgment of his role in the party’s numerous exploits, Hezbollah held a massive funeral attended by thousands of the party’s officials and supporters, including Badreddine’s brother.

His casket was carried after receiving full military honours and a marching band performance to his final resting place in the party’s cemetery in the southern suburbs of Beirut, next to his comrade-in-arms and brother-in-law Imad Mughniyeh, who was assassinated in 2008 in a car bomb prepared jointly by the CIA and Mossad.

Prosecutors allege that Badreddine was the apex of a cell that organised and carried out the massive bombing in downtown Beirut in 2005 that killed Lebanon’s popular billionaire former prime minister, Rafik Hariri. The civil uprising that followed the truck-bomb attack led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops from the country.

Badreddine was being tried in absentia because Hezbollah had refused to hand over its commander to an international tribunal in The Hague. The party denies all allegations that its members played a role in Hariri’s killing, and claims the tribunal is a joint American-Israeli conspiracy.

“It’s unbelievable,” a source close to the proceedings told the Guardian. “This is Kafkaesque. Two full days of court time and hundreds of lawyers.”

The tribunal will likely continue prosecuting the assassinated Hezbollah operative until it receives a death certificate from the Lebanese authorities – a tricky proposition since the commander did not leave much of a paper trail throughout his life.

Badreddine is not the first high-profile defendant to die before his day in an international court.

Slobodan Milošević, the former president of Serbia, died in the midst of his trial in The Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Balkans.

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Micheline Braidy of the trial chamber outlined why she believed it was obvious the shadowy commander had been slain.

“I’m convinced that Mr Mustafa Amine Badreddine is deceased,” Judge Braidy said. “Those events which have persuaded me include the following, mainly

1. media reports of Mr Badreddine’s death, nationally and internationally;

2. the video of the condolences ceremony on 13th of May 2016;

3. funeral speeches delivered on the 13th of May 2016;

4. the video of the casket entering the martyr cemetery of Rawdat-El-Shahidayn in Ghobeiry;

5. the photo of the grave;

6. the statement of Hezbollah regarding the cause of Mr Badreddine’s death;

7. the visit of the Iranian delegation on the 14th May 2016, namely, the deputy foreign minister of Iran;

8.  the ceremony in Syria, attended by officials, Syrian, Palestinian, and Iranians;

9. the ceremony held in Beirut on the 20th of May with the attendance of the family of Mr Badreddine;

10. the ceremony held in Tehran, attended by the Badreddine relatives;

11.  the family declaration of the death of Mr Badreddine.”

Note: Most Lebanese are convinced that the decision to assassinate of Rafic Hariri was decided by the US and France, planned and executed by Germany and Israel with sophisticated surveillance planes and special guided bomb.

It’s quickly becoming a futile and a miserable life in Lebanon:  Few claim to wanting to stay

One out of 4 Lebanese live under $9 a day. And public facilities are nil.

From the window of his childhood home in the southern suburbs of Beirut, Mohammad Safwan gazed at a Mediterranean that two weeks earlier had claimed the lives of his father, mother, three sisters and sister-in-law.

The last froze to death in the sea a month before she was due to give birth.

“That is what God decreed. What will we gain if we weep and weep and weep?” asked Safwan. “But I hate the sight of the sea now.”

That hatred is not shared by everyone. In Lebanon’s northern capital, Tripoli, a colourful local singer in the city’s Mina district smiled as he played a WhatsApp voice message from his four-year-old granddaughter, who had arrived that morning on a Greek island.

“Grandad, I miss you! The water came over me and I threw up! The water came into the boat,” the girl said excitedly. “Tell grandad goodbye, sweetheart,” her father could be heard saying in the background.

These are Lebanese families, not Syrians, but they are also now braving the high seas in the thousands in a phenomenon that local officials predict will only grow this year.

Twenty-five years after the end of Lebanon’s civil war and the mass migration it sparked to the west, Latin America and Africa, Lebanon’s youth are fleeing once again. Their movement is now fuelled by endemic corruption, political dysfunction and rising unemployment, inequality and poverty.

A facade of stability has so far spared this tiny Levantine nation with 18 official sects the upheaval that has destroyed other countries in the Middle East and redrawn the region’s borders.

“I’m very happy my son is in Europe,” said a driver from Tripoli, whose son travelled to Greece by boat and ultimately reached Sweden after a two-week journey. “Maybe if he gets citizenship he can take us to him. What do we have to keep us here? There are many stories like this. Nobody wants to stay in Lebanon. It’s a miserable life.”

Interviews with relatives, travel agents and local officials outlined the paths that Lebanese migrants take in order to reach Europe – and the reasons why they seek out the perilous journey in the first place. It is unclear how they will be affected by a recent deal struck between Turkey and the EU to return refugees who fled the war in Syria.

The interviews were conducted prior to the signing of the deal.

Most Lebanese tend to first travel to Turkey legally by ferry or plane from Tripoli and Beirut as they do not require visas. They then connect with local smugglers in port cities such as Izmir, sometimes paying for a forged Syrian passport, and then paying $1,000-$2,000 to take small boats to the nearest Greek island, before jumping out a short distance away and swimming to shore.

They then make their way to Athens and onwards to Germany or Sweden along established refugee trails, often by train or walking. Palestinians from both Lebanon and Syria often attempt a direct route from Tripoli to Europe, since they have greater difficulties obtaining visas to Turkey, and are often arrested by local authorities, though Palestinian officials here say thousands have died at sea.

The fact that so many are fleeing from a country that has been largely spared the region’s traumatic disintegration is widely seen as an indictment of Lebanon’s political class, which has achieved almost tragicomic levels of dysfunction.

The country has been without a president since May of last year, as rival factions backed by regional heavyweights Iran and Saudi Arabia failed to agree on a consensus candidate, another symptom of what many see as a regional cold war.

Parliament has extended its own term twice, forgoing elections amid a political vacuum in a process that has tested Lebanon’s claim to being a democracy.

The leader of the Saudi-backed and mostly Sunni Future Movement is under self-imposed exile for supposedly security reasons, while the Iranian-backed Hezbollah essentially sets Lebanon’s defence and foreign policy, having intervened in the Syrian quagmire alongside President Bashar al-Assad, saving his regime from collapse and prolonging the civil war.

Amid the vacuum, the government has failed to deal with key issues such as the Syrian refugee crisis – displaced Syrians have no camps and now represent one in five people in Lebanon, bringing the country near its previously projected population levels for 2050.

The authorities even failed for 6 months to collect garbage in a dispute over new landfills. (Reverted to their old waste locations once the mafia leaders agreed on their ratio of plundering the public and municipal funds)

“The reasons are obvious: unemployment and poverty which has prompted people to migrate on this road of death,” said Abdullah al-Bakka, a mokhtar or local mayor in Tripoli, who said 2,000 people in his own district alone had left between August and October. “But people we’ve asked say to us: we might as well be dead here, too.

“It’s dereliction of duty by the state and the political leaders,” he added. “They don’t provide the people with enough because they want them to remain servants begging at their doorsteps. This is Lebanon: the politicians will never serve the people they are supposed to be representing.”

Tripoli is especially hard-hit – long neglect by the state has left Lebanon’s northern areas poverty-stricken, compounding the breakdown in infrastructure and the periodic stints of violence linked to the Syrian war. Despite being chastened by the deaths at sea, especially by the widely reported news of the death of Safwan’s family, many are still attempting the journey.

“We have a lot of demand,” said the manager of a local travel agency in Tripoli. “They are giving us whatever money they have and telling us to just get them out of here.”

In the late summer and early autumn, the travel agent said ferries carrying about 400 travellers, both Lebanese and Syrian, were leaving six days a week from Tripoli’s port.

The numbers have dropped to three per week with the onset of winter, but he expects them to pick up again in the spring. “Nobody comes back,” he said.

“By spring, the migration will increase exponentially,” said Bakka, the local mayor, who estimates overall unemployment among Tripoli’s youth at over 50%. “But honestly, even I want to follow them with my family. It is unbearable.”

But one person who has decided not to brave the high seas is Safwan. “What reaction can you have when you lose your entire family in a single moment?” he said, sitting by the window overlooking the water. “We were born here and grew up here, and they went and died in the sea. The house is empty.”

Seed bank aims to protect world’s agricultural inheritance from Syria war

Lebanon project aims to recreate Aleppo collection of 150,000 seeds representing knowledge of generations of farmers in Middle East

in Baalbek. February 24, 2016

The wild wheat seed had travelled from Aleppo to the Arctic circle in northern Norway. It has now come almost full circle to Lebanon’s Bekaa valley, where an effort is under way to save the world’s agricultural inheritance from the ravages of the Syrian civil war.

Mariana Yazbek, who runs the gene bank at the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (Icarda), held up the specimen. “Think how much potential is in this seed,” she said. “Humanity is in our hands.”

The return journey from the Arctic to the Middle East was not one the seed had been expected to make.

The Svalbard global seed vault, buried in a Norwegian mountain, contains hundreds of thousands of native seeds from around the world, preserved in the event of a doomsday scenario to help humanity rise from the ashes and help feed a broken world.

The war in Syria, beginning in 2011, changed the calculus.

Icarda’s Aleppo facility, which held a collection of 150,000 seeds representing the knowledge of generations of farmers in the Fertile Crescent, where agriculture began, is now all but inaccessible to the organisation’s staff so out in Lebanon’s agricultural hinterland a grand project is slowly coming to life to recreate it using samples from the Svalbard vault.

Go back 10,000 years, all the farmers that worked in this region and on those crops, there are varieties you cannot find anymore in the field,” said Yazbek. “The only place where you can find them is in the seed bank.” The specimens sent from Svalbard were the first ever withdrawals from the bank.

The young men and women at the Icarda building in the town of  Torbol, Lebanon, methodically go about their business in silence, separating the hay from the seeds, counting and recounting them, treating the fragile little plants for disease with a pink dye meant to ward off fungi.

Their sternness matches the gravity of the task at hand. “What we are losing is the history of these thousands of years represented in crops, and you’re losing your safety net for the future,” said Yazbek.

The aim is to recreate the whole collection that existed in Aleppo, Syria’s commercial capital before it was devastated by war, in seed banks in Lebanon and Morocco using the samples from the doomsday vault and other replicas that had been sent to seed banks around the world.

About 85% of the Aleppo collection had been replicated in Svalbard, a process that accelerated when the war began and inevitably reached Aleppo in mid-2012. A third of those samples have now been sent to Lebanon and Morocco.

Many of the wild varieties no longer exist, and those seeds that have been saved represent decades and centuries of genetic selection by local farmers that contributed to humanity’s collective knowledge of agriculture.

Maintaining them is crucial in order to preserve the broad genetic base and diversity of plant life in the region – biodiversity is already under threat as a result of droughts and climate change, over-exploitation and urbanisation that has eliminated the natural cover for much of the region’s plant life.

Icarda, which holds seeds from the Middle East and other dry regions of the world, conducts research to improve the livelihoods of local rural communities, providing technology that local farmers use, improving and breeding plant varieties to make them resistant to harsh climate, and working on land and water management and animal health.

Biodiversity – maintained by the seed banks – offers a form of insurance policy, as it allows local farmers to grow plants and produce that is resistant to extreme weather conditions and disease, proving resilient to diseases that may severely impact mass-produced crops that have high yield but are genetically nearly identical.

A short drive away, in a centre owned by the American University of Beirut, are two cold rooms, one at -20C and another at 4C.

In them are black boxes labelled “Syria” that came directly from the Syrian government, as well as other black boxes containing thousands of silver packets filled with seeds, meticulously labelled, that made the journey from Svalbard.

“It is wonderful to see the vault is already proving its worth and that we have been able to help our friends in the Middle East to continue their vital work,” Árni Bragason, director of the NordGen government agency, which helps to manage the Svalbard seed vault, said. “This is proof that the global system is working.”

Recreating the Aleppo seed bank is a major undertaking.

First they will be planted and allowed to germinate, then they will be replicated, and

second, new copies will be sent back to the doomsday vault for safekeeping. It is a task that keeps Yazbek and her team up at night.

“It’s a burden, the responsibility is immeasurable,” she said. “We have to make sure we give them everything, to make sure they germinate and multiply.”

“We are the keepers of this history and knowledge,” she said.

 

Fearing cultural atrocities: ISIS advancing on Palmyra?

To me Zennoubiya  (Zeinobia) is more famous than Palmyra.   Zennoubiya  was the last Queen who ruled over Palmyra and its vast empire that stretched to Egypt. A roman emperor managed to defeat her and take her prisoner to Rome.

Tadmur is the name in the Amourian and Aramaic languages, which means the invincible.

The ruins of Palmyra have long enchanted visitors, its famous queen Zeinobia occupying the same iconic status for Syrians as Cleopatra does for Egypt.

But the once-bustling Silk Road hub (built 1,200 years BC) and known in antiquity for its community of artisans and merchants of varied ethnicity and religion is now in the crosshairs of the terror group Islamic State, whose fighters have looted and destroyed historical and cultural artefacts in Iraq.

“Palmyra constitutes one of the most beautiful and impressive panoramas to have survived from classical antiquity,” said historian Tom Holland. “Its ruins are as beautiful as they are well-preserved.

“More than that, though, it is a monument to the great melting pot of cultures that bordered the eastern flank of the Roman empire: the same melting pot that would ultimately serve to incubate Islam. Its destruction is too awful to contemplate.”

Palmyra’s fall does not appear imminent – the Syrian regime has repelled the initial incursion into the city, which is also of vital strategic and political significance. But government resources are stretched thin and the historic city remains in danger, with Isis renewing its assault on its eastern border and consolidating its hold on nearby towns.

An assault on ancient Palmyra would have symbolic value for Isis, targeting one of the remaining markers of unity that could be valuable in a postwar Syria.

Calls to “save” the historic city, made by the chief of Unesco, raise questions about the international intervention against Isis in Syria, with western officials seemingly more concerned about the loss of ancient artefacts than the daily death toll in the hundreds

Still, local activists and experts agree the loss would be incalculable.

“We know the world cares because there are so many historical artefacts even though people are dying every day from oppression,” said Ahmad al-Nasser, the pseudonym of a pro-opposition activist in the Local Co-ordination Committee for Tadmur, the modern name for Palmyra.

“The ruins of Tadmur are symbols of civilisation that generations in Syria were raised with, and the most important thing for Syrians is to preserve these artefacts that tell the history of every Syrian.”

Syrian officials warned on Thursday that Isis was just a kilometre away from the historic city, endangering the Unesco world heritage site’s magnificent ruins

But on Friday fighters from the militant group appeared to have pulled back from the eastern outskirts of the city to positions two miles away. The Assad regime launched over a dozen air strikes against Isis positions east of the city, and Syrian state TV said regime troops had pushed the militants back.

Activists said both the regime and Isis had summoned reinforcements, but that the battle was likely to be drawn out.

While government forces are stretched thin after recent losses to northern rebels in Idlib, and Isis may rely on suicide bombings and possible sleeper cells in the city, Assad’s army is determined to hold on to it.

The loss of the city would open the road to Damascus and Homs, which fell to the regime after an excruciating two-year siege, and would sever supply lines to the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, where the regime is struggling against the encroachment of Isis.

But what distinguishes this particular battle from the dozens that take place all over Syria every day is the setting: ruins that are the pride of Syrians of every ethnicity and sect. The story of Zeinobia who stood up to the “conquerors” of the Roman empire resonates with Syrians today.

“Obviously I’m deeply concerned, very frightened, very afraid that once Isis gets its hands on Palmyra, which they may well do so sooner or later, that this is going to have a catastrophic effect on one of Syria’s most important sources of heritage,” said Amr al-Azm, a pro-opposition former Syrian antiquities official. “To see that destroyed is, I think, a deep blow to this sense of identity, and it will be an irreplaceable loss.”

Isis has destroyed numerous cultural artefacts and heritage sites in Nineveh in Iraq, after sweeping through the province last summer in a lightning offensive. The advance on Palmyra has triggered fears of similar “cultural atrocities”.

Irina Bokova, the director general of Unesco, appealed to all parties to protect the site from destruction, but analysts say it would be difficult to drive back the militants without air strikes by the US-led coalition, which would directly aid the Assad regime. Intervention to protect the ancient ruins would also risk appearing to minimise the previous suffering of millions of Syrians that did not prompt international action.

Experts also say that outrage over Isis attacks on cultural heritage encourages the militant group to continue its desecration of historical sites and plays into its narrative.

“Damaging the site is also an act of psychological warfare,” said David Wengrow, professor of comparative archaeology at University College London, whose work focuses on the Middle East.

“Then there is also the element of calculated provocation, to show the world that people elsewhere care more about ancient temples and statues than they do about their fellow human beings, that we are the true barbarians and idolaters.”

Azm said the combination of the impotence of the international community, the impunity with which Isis acts in destroying and illicitly trading in historic treasures, and the rhetorical outrage over its acts, convinces the terror group of the value of targeting the region’s heritage.

“It’s like when a thief enters your home and holds you hostage and they’re looking for something valuable and you keep staring at that one spot under your bed,” he said.

For many Syrians, the destruction of historical sites goes beyond tearing down bricks and stones. “This conflict is going to have to end one day,” said Azm. “When it does, Syrians … will look to common denominators that helps them identify what makes a Syrian Syrian – the incentives that make them live together.

“And they’re going to look for the symbols that help hold their society together, and cultural heritage in general is one of the few areas they do agree on, that they can rally around and use as a focal point to rebuild and restructure their lives,” he added.

Destroying Syria’s past is also destroying Syria’s future.”

Andrew Bossone shared this link

“Then there is also the element of calculated provocation, to show the world that people elsewhere care more about ancient temples and statues than they do about their fellow human beings, that we are the true barbarians and idolaters.”

Ruins that are the pride of Syrians of every sect are in danger, threatening the basis of any future unity, but western intervention would be seen as suspect
theguardian.com|By Kareem Shaheen

 

 

Abusive relationships? Why women refrain from breaking it? And vice versa…

BEIRUT: As a resident doctor at AUB Medical Center, Lubna Abul-Husn took a deep interest in domestic abuse.

Ten years ago, she interviewed dozens of patients, cataloging their experiences at home with “intimate partner violence,” a term that refers to physical, emotional and verbal abuse of a close partner or spouse.

Kareem Shaheen published in the Lebanese daily The Daily Star, this Oct. 19, 2013: “Why do women in Lebanon stay in abusive relationships?”

She then spent a year in France studying family legal medicine before returning home and ending her engagement with a fiance from her province.

Her fiance broke into her home, killed her, her mother and her sister, before committing suicide, according to her colleagues at the time.

File - Women activists protest against domestic violence near the Parliament in Beirut, Monday, July 22, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

File – Women activists protest against domestic violence near the Parliament in Beirut, Monday, July 22, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

“It was devastating,” said Johnny Awwad, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and head of the division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at AUB Medical Center, and Abul-Husn’s colleague.

Awwad, along with other doctors at AUB, completed the analysis of Abul-Husn’s research. The paper was finally submitted for publication this year in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

“We couldn’t really look at this paper for the longest time,” he said. “We had been avoiding looking back at this phase but I don’t think that gives her justice.”

The study polled 100 married women aged 20-65 who were visiting the AUB Medical Center for gynecological care, 91 of whom responded to the survey. It is one of the few that tries to quantify the prevalence of domestic abuse in Lebanon, and that looks at the reasons behind why women here stay in abusive relationships.

But perhaps its most startling discovery is how even women in these relationships find it completely normal for such abuse to happen – a testament to how ingrained the gender imbalance is in society.

“Intimate partner violence is an underestimated problem in Lebanon and has been largely ignored by the local authorities,” the study said. “The Lebanese health care system has failed so far to play a proactive role in identifying and referring abused women, mostly because the recognition of an abusive pattern in women is often blurred by cultural and societal taboos.”

Over 40 percent of the women polled said they had suffered from physical abuse. A third endured sexual abuse, nearly two-thirds were victims of verbal abuse, and 19 percent said they had experienced emotional abuse.

More than a fifth of the women had suffered social isolation imposed by their husbands.

The top reasons women expressed as a reason for staying in an abusive relationship were a lack of familial and social support, lack of financial resources and fear that their husband would take away the children.

In eight of the cases that suffered physical abuse, medical attention was required and three cases were admitted to hospital with vertebral fractures and miscarriages.

But the study went further, selecting a subsample of 33 women and asking them open-ended questions on their husbands’ treatment.

All the women, including those who were abused, said they were satisfied with their husbands’ treatment.

“Many abused women are totally resigned to their situation and decide to stay in an abusive relationship because of the fear of losing their children, the need to conform to social expectations, the lack of financial independence, the lack of family support, and the duty to obey their spouses,” the researchers said.

Domestic abuse appeared to usher in other social ills. Women who suffered physical and verbal abuse were more likely to be smokers. Husbands who had a history of alcohol abuse were more likely to impose social and economic isolation on their wives.

Declining monthly income made it more likely for a husband to use a weapon against his wife, while a higher number of children offered a protective factor for women, illustrating the challenges wrought by economic, security and political instability in the country.

The head and the extremities were the most frequent areas of the woman’s body suffering from physical injury, and hitting was the most frequent mechanism of abuse followed by slapping and pushing.

The rate of domestic violence in Lebanon is in sync with other developing countries and Arab societies, where comparable rates of abuse are present as well as similar justifications for staying in abusive relationships.

As part of their recommendations, the study’s authors, who are all doctors at AUB Medical Center, said that health centers in Lebanon ought to routinely screen patients in order to identify victims of domestic abuse.

Awwad said that such a step, while there is no evidence that it reduces abuse, would be a first step toward referring victims of abuse to support groups and treating the root causes of some of their problems.

But part of the issue is that the conversation around domestic abuse in Lebanon often focuses on anecdotal cases of violence, rather than tracking the prevalence of the issue in society.

“It is not enough to create support groups in our society that come and tell you that he’s been hitting you, he’s been abusing you, come to us and we’re going to support you,” Awwad said.

“Then what? Who is going to support the kids and secure her re-entry into society that stigmatizes her,” he said. “They cannot create another society for her. It’s a dead end, unfortunately, in this part of the world.”

That is partly because of the tribal nature of Lebanese society.

“Lebanon is a big tribe,” he said. “Where you go people would know you and would stigmatize you. You would have to travel and leave the country. So you’d have to stay with the family and your husband and believe that it’s normal.”

This, he said, leads to an acceptance of domestic abuse as a normal part of existence. The other issue is cultural.

The study’s authors said that domestic violence against women tends to be seen as a private, internal matter and not a major public health issue in Arab societies that are “patriarchal and characterized by male authority and dominance.”

That is reflected in how intimate partner violence had been largely ignored by local legal and religious authorities.

Awwad and his colleagues point to the initial rejections by religious authorities of domestic abuse legislation, which they saw as usurping the role of religion which already deals with the issue of domestic violence, and the continued failure to pass laws against domestic abuse.

A law protecting women from violence has been in legislative limbo for a long time due to Parliament’s failure to convene. Religious authorities initially opposed the legislation because they said Islam already deals with women’s rights and domestic relations.

“It would be a good step to pass this law,” Awwad said, adding that it could help deter some abuse, but would not be able to erase the “inherent right” that many men feel they have in wielding power in the household.

That built-in inequality is what poses enormous challenges to those who seek to challenge domestic abuse and society’s complacency toward it. There is little recourse but to begin at a young age, when minds are malleable and prejudice has not yet taken hold.

Values such as equality of women should be introduced at an early stage in education in order to combat such attitudes, Awwad said.

“I think it needs a generation, unfortunately,” he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 19, 2013, on page 3.

Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2013/Oct-19/235036-why-do-women-in-lebanon-stay-in-abusive-relationships.ashx#ixzz2iBqWpFD1
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon

Abusive relationships? Why women refrain from breaking it? And vice versa…

As a resident doctor at AUB Medical Center (Beirut), Lubna Abul-Husn took a deep interest in domestic abuse.

Ten years ago, she interviewed dozens of patients, cataloging their experiences at home with “intimate partner violence,” a term that refers to physical, emotional and verbal abuse of a close partner or spouse.

Kareem Shaheen published in the Lebanese daily The Daily Star, this Oct. 19, 2013: “Why do women in Lebanon stay in abusive relationships?”

Lubna Abul-Husn then spent a year in France studying family legal medicine, returned home and ended her engagement with a fiancé from her province.

Her fiance broke into her home, killed her, her mother and her sister, before committing suicide, according to her colleagues at the time.

File - Women activists protest against domestic violence near the Parliament in Beirut, Monday, July 22, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

File – Women activists protest against domestic violence near the Parliament in Beirut, Monday, July 22, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

“It was devastating,” said Johnny Awwad, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and head of the division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at AUB Medical Center, and Abul-Husn’s colleague.

Awwad, along with other doctors at AUB, completed the analysis of Abul-Husn’s research. The paper was finally submitted for publication this year in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

“We couldn’t really look at this paper for the longest time,” he said. “We had been avoiding looking back at this phase but I don’t think that gives her justice.”

The study polled 100 married women aged 20-65 who were visiting the AUB Medical Center for gynecological care.  91 women responded to the survey.

It is one of the few studies that tries to quantify the prevalence of domestic abuse in Lebanon, and that looks at the reasons behind why women here stay in abusive relationships.

But perhaps its most startling discovery is how even women in these relationships find it completely normal for such abuse to happen – a testament to how ingrained the gender imbalance is in society.

“Intimate partner violence is an underestimated problem in Lebanon and has been largely ignored by the local authorities,” the study said.

“The Lebanese health care system has failed so far to play a proactive role in identifying and referring abused women, mostly because the recognition of an abusive pattern in women is often blurred by cultural and societal taboos.”

Over 40% of the women polled said they had suffered from physical abuse. A third endured sexual abuse, nearly two-thirds were victims of verbal abuse, and 19% said they had experienced emotional abuse.

More than a fifth of the women had suffered social isolation imposed by their husbands.

The top reasons women expressed as a reason for staying in an abusive relationship were a lack of familial and social support, lack of financial resources and fear that their husband would take away the children.

In 8 of the cases that suffered physical abuse, medical attention was required and three cases were admitted to hospital with vertebral fractures and miscarriages.

But the study went further, selecting a subsample of 33 women and asking them open-ended questions on their husbands’ treatment.

All the women, including those who were abused, said they were satisfied with their husbands’ treatment.

“Many abused women are totally resigned to their situation and decide to stay in an abusive relationship because of the fear of losing their children, the need to conform to social expectations, the lack of financial independence, the lack of family support, and the duty to obey their spouses,” the researchers said.

Domestic abuse appeared to usher in other social ills.

Women who suffered physical and verbal abuse were more likely to be smokers.

Husbands who had a history of alcohol abuse were more likely to impose social and economic isolation on their wives.

Declining monthly income made it more likely for a husband to use a weapon against his wife, while a higher number of children offered a protective factor for women, illustrating the challenges wrought by economic, security and political instability in the country.

The head and the extremities were the most frequent areas of the woman’s body suffering from physical injury, and hitting was the most frequent mechanism of abuse followed by slapping and pushing.

The rate of domestic violence in Lebanon is in sync with other developing countries and Arab societies, where comparable rates of abuse are present as well as similar justifications for staying in abusive relationships.

As part of their recommendations, the study’s authors, who are all doctors at AUB Medical Center, said that health centers in Lebanon ought to routinely screen patients in order to identify victims of domestic abuse.

Awwad said that such a step, while there is no evidence that it reduces abuse, would be a first step toward referring victims of abuse to support groups and treating the root causes of some of their problems.

But part of the issue is that the conversation around domestic abuse in Lebanon often focuses on anecdotal cases of violence, rather than tracking the prevalence of the issue in society.

“It is not enough to create support groups in our society that come and tell you that he’s been hitting you, he’s been abusing you, come to us and we’re going to support you,” Awwad said.

“Then what? Who is going to support the kids and secure her re-entry into society that stigmatizes her,” he said. “They cannot create another society for her. It’s a dead end, unfortunately, in this part of the world.”

That is partly because of the tribal nature of Lebanese society.

“Lebanon is a big tribe,” he said. “Where you go people would know you and would stigmatize you. You would have to travel and leave the country. So you’d have to stay with the family and your husband and believe that it’s normal.”

This,  Awwad said, leads to an acceptance of domestic abuse as a normal part of existence. The other issue is cultural.

The study’s authors said that domestic violence against women tends to be seen as a private, internal matter and not a major public health issue in Arab societies that are “patriarchal and characterized by male authority and dominance.”

That is reflected in how intimate partner violence had been largely ignored by local legal and religious authorities.

Awwad and his colleagues point to the initial rejections by religious authorities of domestic abuse legislation, which they saw as usurping the role of religion which already deals with the issue of domestic violence, and the continued failure to pass laws against domestic abuse.

A law protecting women from violence has been in legislative limbo for a long time due to Parliament’s failure to convene. Religious authorities initially opposed the legislation because they said Islam already deals with women’s rights and domestic relations.

“It would be a good step to pass this law,” Awwad said, adding that it could help deter some abuse, but would not be able to erase the “inherent right” that many men feel they have in wielding power in the household.

That built-in inequality is what poses enormous challenges to those who seek to challenge domestic abuse and society’s complacency toward it. There is little recourse but to begin at a young age, when minds are malleable and prejudice has not yet taken hold.

Values such as equality of women should be introduced at an early stage in education in order to combat such attitudes, Awwad said.

“I think it needs a generation, unfortunately,” he added.

Note: Let’s give priority for women acquiring full citizenship rights as men have.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 19, 2013, on page 3.

Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2013/Oct-19/235036-why-do-women-in-lebanon-stay-in-abusive-relationships.ashx#ixzz2iBqWpFD1
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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