Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Nasawiya

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This article was first published in the SPRING 2014 issue of The Carton. Below is the unedited version.

When I was 9, our school bus driver, Maalim Georges, taught every kid on the bus a little trick.

Every time he saw a pretty lady walking down the street, he would unleash the full power of his vehicles melodic horn, after which all the little boys would shout out in unison: “Aassal ya maallem, aassal” (Honey).

A few years later, when I turned into an awkward teenager, I couldn’t get through a day without being serenaded in the street, enduring calls of “chou ya achta?”  (what o clotted cream)as I walked the streets of my neighbourhood.

It always amused me when I tried to imagine a plump cherimoya (don’t worry I had to google that too) with legs. Of course, it is entirely debatable whether the reference is to the fruit or its homonym, the clotted cream famously used in many Lebanese desserts. Although the latter is more likely, the former would be more comforting for some reason.

Throughout the years, I have been ‘lovingly’ called Ashta, Jello, 3Assal (honey), fraise (Strawberry) and Helo (desert) by many a scooter-riding thug.

Though my inner feminist revolts every time I am on the receiving end of these gastronomic idioms, I can’t help but find them endearing.

Ya ashta!

Of course every culture has its own edible terms of endearment. The French beckon and assuage their loved ones with ’petit chou’, in reference to the pastry.

The Americans have all sorts of sugar coated, calorific variations. Honeys and pumpkins and sweetheart and sugar pies.

The Japanese favor metaphors that reference shape rather than taste, Tamago gata no kao, egg with eyes. Sexy stuff.

Nowhere do these sweet expressions veer as sharply towards the overly sexualized representation of femininity as they do in the Arab culture.

Nowhere are they as normalized as on the streets of our dusty medinas (cities), and in the tunes of Arabic pop stars.

This doesn’t mean that other cultures don’t use the imagery of food to characterize women, occasionally with slightly ludicrous consequences.

You could point to the Clovers’ 1953 R&B hit “Lovey Dovey”: “I really love your peaches wanna shake your tree / Lovey dovey, lovey dovey all the time.”

Bringing things closer to today’s charts, Beyonce perpetuates the fruit-based sexiness, with claims like ‘He like to call me ‘Peaches’ when we get this nasty’. On the same self-titled album, she describes her own body parts as Skittles, “Can you lick my Skittles, it’s the sweetest in the middle/ Pink is the flavor, solve the riddle”, and cherries “I can’t wait till I get home so you can turn that cherry out/ I want you to turn that cherry out, turn that cherry out”.

Though, as far as I am concerned, none can compete with our very own Ahmad Salah’s Manga, when he sings gleefully ”Ana kount bahab el mechmech dil wa’ti baheb el manga” (I used to love peach and now I do love manga).

El manga

Perhaps what is most interesting in our Middle Eastern culture is that, unlike the American example, where this type of representation is specific to Hip Hop and R&B, these edible endearments have made their way to everything from Pop, to Rap, to more classical Arabic music.

From Ramy Ayash’s Tefaha, to Saber Robai’s Assal, our musical references abound with culinary catcalls. My personal favorite is a Rap tune, titled Achta w 3assal, by an obscure band known as Secteur Zahle. I suppose I am just grateful someone finally employed this expression ironically.

In 2011, Nasawiya, a collective of feminists working on gender justice in Lebanon, had two trucks roaming the streets of Beirut, shouting back some of these loving expressions at men.

Unlike the English language, ours does not have male equivalents to edible body parts. Maybe its time we started making them up. I am sure the culinary world is full of appropriate metaphors. Something involving bananas perhaps. But we’re probably too proper to stoop to that level.

We could get deep here for a second, and realize that psychologist often argue that what they call ‘Infantile food endearments’ originate at the stage of infancy, from the dependence to the nourishing maternal body, resurfacing in adulthood in relationship to love and sexual relationships.

Maybe the widespread and normalised use of our edible endearments just confirms what we’ve suspected all along, Arab men are just fully-grown momma’s boys.

fruit pattern

Plant these to save bees.
Plant these to save bees.

How bodyguards of deputies and police treat freedom of expression: In Lebanon

Is it a pub when a dozen women are having a beer, in any location? Should bodyguard of politicians harass the meeting women?

Gino’s blog posted this June 29, 2013

I have met Nadim Gemayel on several occasions, and have very good friends with many cadres of the Kataeb party from my school and university days.

I have been to several private parties where Nadim was also a guest, and know that his bodyguards are the typical, macho-man, show-off, street-hardened bunch that will not think twice about littering while parked in someone’s driveway blocking other cars, and whistle at girls passing by.

What Happened

  • Nasawiya, a prominent and very outspoken feminist group in Lebanon, were holding a farewell party for one of their members, leaving this country (so many of us want nothing more than to get away from).
  • No more than 12 persons were present in the Nasawiya headquarters, which is in Mar Mikhael on the ground floor of a building, with floor-to-ceiling windows, which Nadim Gemayel thought was a pub for some reason.
  • Nadim was having dinner at Bar Tartine nearby, and when the bodyguards saw that the Nasawiya group were taking photos and videos of their own farewell party, barged in, not announcing themselves, and asking them to stop filming and taking photos.
  • When asked who he was and under what authority Nadim was invading private property and ordering people around, the bodyguard refused to introduce their patron.
  • Eventually, it was learned that it’s because an MP was having dinner nearby and didn’t want anyone taking photos of him (they didn’t even specify the MP)
  • Of course, the Nasawiya NGO, which is a participant in the ongoing peaceful demonstrations against the illegal extension of the Lebanese parliament’s term, started chanting against whoever the MP was.
  • That’s when the bodyguards pulled out their weapons, a handgun and an assault rifle, and threatened the Nasawiya members, putting the assault rifle to one of their heads and declaring that they have permission to shoot, while insulting and cursing the peaceful activists.
  • The police were called in, and the activists were herded into their HQ and kept there for two hours as Nadim finished his dinner and Gemayel managed to gather local Kataeb supporters that wanted a piece of the Nasawiya group.
  • When the Kataeb supporters got violent and pulled a person from the Nasawiya group with his shirt, the police fired two shots in the air, in a residential area, to disperse the crowd and end the altercation.
  • A while after the altercation was done, and Nadim left, the Nasawiya activists headed home, and physically safe.

ترهيب المتظاهرين والمارين في الجميزه<br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
مرافق #نديم_الجميل<br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
nadim_gemayel#<br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
شكراً نديم!

Policeman aiding a bodyguard carrying a gun

Why Gemayel Screwed Up Big Time

  • Nadim is known for his over-exaggeration of his security concerns. When invited to speak at AUB, he’d cancel last minute for “security purposes”, while his much more outspoken and influential cousin, and thus obviously more in danger, Samy Gemayel used to drive his own car to AUB (not a convoy) and bravely face those Nadim perceives as targeting him (Hezbollah and Palestinian activists), which is partly why I respect Samy to a certain extent
  • Nadim’s entire political career is built on him going on TV and complaining about Hezbollah’s and its sympathizers’ use of force, weapons and disregard for Lebanese citizens’ rights and freedoms. Tonight, Nadim and his bodyguards did exactly what he accuses Hezbollah of doing 24/7. I will now laugh bitterly at his broken Arabic on TV when he complains about Hezbollah. Not because I am pro-HA, but because he is a class-A hypocrite who’s obviously an MP for all the wrong reasons.
  • Nadim’s uninformed and lightning-fast PR campaign on the media was worthy of a Syrian State TV newscast. It was full of humiliating lies. For one, he thought Nasawiya was a pub. For two, he said “50 men armed with sticks and stones attacked” his convoy (which appears untouched in the video). 50 men? Really? 12 feminists drinking beers translated into 50 men armed with sticks and stones?
  • Nadim’s attempt to take a low-blow at the movement opposing the extension was pathetic. It’s as if he knows he won’t get elected if elections happen, and wants to defame the peaceful demonstrations for a purpose that shine a teeny tiny glimmer of hope in a country where MPs stay forever and their inept sons inherit their thrones.
  • There is plenty of evidence recorded by multiple sources that has not been uploaded yet, and it is unquestionably incriminating to his party of armed, violent bodyguards. So, his barrage of misinformation will be proven otherwise in the coming days, adding insult to the injury he inflicted on himself tonight with this parade of machoism, terror and condescension for the people he’s supposed to be a public servant to.

My Two Cents

  • Don’t worry Nasawiya, we’ve got your back and we have the evidence to make sure Nadim never gets elected again. The MP who helped block legislation that protects women, and who violated the most basic of our rights in extending for himself, tonight tried to deal another low-blow to the secular, pro-women, pro-democracy, pro-human rights movement, and he failed, big time.
  • Gemayel’s bodyguards’ unacceptable behavior has weakened his already shaky political career. The only ammo he uses against Hezbollah, turned against him tonight. Nadim is just as bad as the thugs he wails about on TV day and night.
  • It’s funny that less than 24-hours about his controversial “prediction” that the “era of political assassinations is coming back”, he creates this fantastical epic lie that 50 men attacked his convoy unexpectedly. How convenient for the MP who works hardest to get noticed.
  • It’s also funny that he needs a whole convoy, that block a whole street, to go have dinner with his constituents. Who’s Nadim trying to impress? And since when did flashy SUVs protect anyone from the assassination attempts he’s predicting? Keep your own problems yours, don’t ruin citizens nights and threaten and humiliate them just because you’re an MP. For shame, abusing the power the people gave you with the money their taxes provide.
  • I think he should fire his bodyguards and media reps and try to do some damage control after apologizing. The bodyguards obviously thought that brandishing a gun and a rifle in front of a bunch of girls would scare them off, a gamble that backfired, big-time, in today’s tweet-friendly, camera-phone age. You can’t hide anything anymore, and you’d better start acting like it’s 2013, where warlords and political dynasties are history, and where no matter who your dad was, you have absolutely no right to threaten, brutalize and defame the people that pay the salary you buy those 3 shiny SUVs with.
  • Shame on you Gemayel, for tonight, you proved to the Lebanese public that you’re just another crooked, corrupt, attention-seeking and deceitful politician who will sink to epic lows just to protect the seat you have taken hostage. And don’t you ever dare of talking about others carrying and using guns to terrorize people from this day forward. To us, you’re just as bad as any other militia that keeps you up at night.
Note 1: Nasawiya released this statement: “Victory! Everyone has been released from the police station and Nadim Gemayel’s bodyguard, R.M., who attacked the activists last night – and again this afternoon – has been taken into custody by the police after the activists surrounded his car for over 30 minutes and did not let him pass even when he ran them over.
. We salute the incredible courage of these women and men. Nidal Ayoub, who was injured by R.M. is staying overnight in the hospital. We send her lots of love for a speedy recovery. The judge’s corrupt orders have been revoked.
. We want to thank our lawyers Nizar Saghieh and Nadine Moussa who stood by us and all the activists who showed up to support last night and this afternoon. The struggle continues!

Note 2: This was compiled after talking to several sources, on both sides and from third parties, reviewing the evidence and putting the pieces together. I trust the above completely, and am as shocked as you probably are that things would come to this. I just wish I was there with them when the assault happened, so I could have chronicled every single detail of what went down there. Let’s hope the judiciary does its job without being threatened by Gemayel and his bodyguards, but if not, we have the evidence necessary, and even if it doesn’t throw Gemayel or his bodyguards in jail, at least we can make sure he never steps in the parliament legally again.

Video taken outside of Nasawiya

Another video taken outside of Nasawiya

Nasawiya Statement

Nadim Gemayel Statement

Nadim Gemayel on MTV

A MUST-READ eye witness account




June 2021

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