Antoun Sehnaoui pledges to support George Reef’s family for life

In the past 48 hours, Lebanese have been struck by the barbaric incident in which a criminal and a personal bodyguard stabbed an unarmed man in broad daylight.

The victim?

George El Reef, the father of 4 young children.

The killer?

Tarek Yateem, Antoun Sehnaoui’s bodyguard, with previous criminal record.

You can read and watch more about the incident by clicking on the links and videos at the end of the post, but this post is more about the aftermath.

In a statement following the incident, Antoun Sehnaoui the multi-millionaire and CEO of SGBL bank in Lebanon, indicated that he does not support the criminal act and is in full support of the legal prosecution of the criminal who committed the act. Mr Sehnaoui, in this initial statement expressed his condolences to the family and friends of the victim.

Condolences do not go a long way for the family of the victim. In Lebanese we would say (wein bosrofa?) as in where can I cash condolences and compensate for the loss.

This is why Lebanese took initiative and started a crowdfunding campaign for $15,000 to assist the family of the deceased and support their expenses to hire a lawyer to take over the case and bring justice. The campaign was fully funded in less than 24 hours and the $15,000 dollars was gathered for the family.

Antoun Sehnaoui was touched by the generosity and support of the Lebanese people, which made him felt ashamed that all he could offer was condolences, this is why he issued another statement in which he expressed the following:

” I am sorry that one of my personal bodyguards and someone who I had employed and trusted to protect my life was able to take someone else’s life in such a barbaric way.

Nothing that I can say or do will be able to replace the precious life of George El Reef, but I was touched by the tears of his wife and his children. I have children myself, and I cannot imagine how difficult it would be for them to lose me as a father, not to mention having to see videos of me being slaughtered on the streets in broad daylight.

I have been informed of the family’s financial struggles, and was touched by how the Lebanese people came together to support them and raise funds.

As a successful Lebanese businessman and CEO of a financial institution, the least I can do is contribute to the extent that God has been generous with me. This is why I pledge to the following:

  1. To visit the family of the deceased at their home, privately in the absence of media and community members, and offer my condolences and regret.
  2. I pledge to offer a monthly salary for the immediate family of George El Reef for the next 20 years. This is the least I can do to help compensate for the death of their breadwinner, their father, son, and husband.
  3. I pledge to cover the educational costs of all of  Geroge’s children, from now till every single one of them graduates university.
  4. I pledge to cover all the costs of the funeral and legal expenses.
  5. I pledge to cover the costs of trauma therapy in case the wife or any of the children choose to go through counseling to overcome this tragedy the struck them.

I would like to reiterate my condolences and sadness to know that someone I empowered was able to inflict such pain and tragedy on another Lebanese, or human being for that matter.

I hope not to be personally associated with this heinous crime, as I do not support such acts whatsoever.

Yours truly,

Antoun Sehnoui

P.S. While the previous public statement by Antoun Sehnaoui may not be true, but it is what we should expect of someone in his position to say and commit to. While defamation, slandering, and pointing fingers may only cause backlash and anger for individuals in prominent positions such as Mr Sehnaoui, promoting possible positive reputation might help. After all, Antoun Sehnaoui did not commit the crime himself, but he sure did help empower and defend his bodyguards over the years (I live in Karm El Zeitoun and have witnessed their bullying multiple times). I believe people in the position of Mr Sehnaoui are humans and do care, but they will definitely react with force if cornered. I hope by suggesting the above, we can encourage Mr Sehnaoui to take action that would be more helpful for the family and allows him to be a role model and earn the respect of the people who now hate him for something he did not ask for or may not even support.

To learn more about the incident:

For more coverage about the history of the “thugness” of Sehnaoui’s bodyguards, refer to Beirut Report’s blog post covering the topic.

Posted in Lebanon | 4 Comments

Support Green Glass Recycling Initiative for Lebanon

It was the summer of 2013, I was on a short visit to Lebanon. I woke up early, drove to the industrial area of Abou Mizane in Bickfaya to meet a man who inspired me through a TedX talk. I was going to meet Ziad Abi Chaker, the founder of Cedar Environmental.

At his recycling complex in Abou Mizane, I was struck by the amount of work being done. Recycling was not, and probably still not, a sexy topic in Lebanon, but this man was already picking up hundreds of kgs of plastic, recycling it and manufacturing walls and other material. On topic of the plastic recycling, he was already into manufacturing eco-logs of wood for burning, and glass recycling.

Ziad struck me as a man with a vision, as a man of action and not only dreams and words. I was truly inspired by his humility and his hard work. This man had achieved so much in a country where most of us either give up, don’t believe in change, or procrastinate our dreams.

Not to digress too much and flatter Ziad to much, since I never shared with him my thoughts, I have not had the chance to talk to Ziad since then, but I have been following his work and the achievements of Cedar Environmental.

Two days ago, I and other people who signed up to the newsletter of Cedar Env, received an email from Ziad asking for support in his crowd-funding campaign. I felt I needed to do more than simply give in my few dollars, I needed to make other people aware, as I am sure many of the loyal followers of this blog would support Ziad’s mission.

Therefore, I will let Ziad tell you about his campaign in his own words, as received by email:

Dear Friends, Colleagues, Supporters:
For the last 25 years since I have been doing this environmental protection work a lot of people always asked me why don’t you collect the recyclables and process them? and my answer would always be “logistics is what drains the financial feasibility of recycling” you have to have government support to do it…But now I’ve decided not to wait for any government support (since it’s not gonna happen) and take matters to the supporting public…
You are receiving this because somehow you and I interacted either personally or online…I am asking for your help in spreading the word about the Green Glass Recycling Initiative for Lebanon so we can raise enough funds to buy a recycling truck to close the loop of recycling and environmental protection without having to wait or resort to government support. We can do this one-to-one.  Please spread this message within your online network of friends and environmental protection supporters…We have managed to raise about 12% of 30,000$ but we need to fulfill that goal before December 9.  Appreciate any help you can give.


If you would like to support the Green Glass Recycling Initiative for Lebanon, please click here for the crowd-funding website.

If you have questions for Ziad, I am sure he would be more than happy to answer your questions as he is very approachable.

Let us stop waiting for the failed banana republic we have and start supporting Lebanese individuals who has the courage to work hard and make a difference.

Images below courtesy of GGRILGGRIL 1 GGRIL 2



Adel Nehmeh

Posted in Lebanese Changing Lebanon, Make a difference, Taking Initiative | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Gebran Bassil: Pimp or Foreign Affairs Minister?

The Lebanese Minister Gebran Bassil in on top of a delegation to the United States, mainly tasked to present the Lebanese stance to the United Nations on the war against ISIS.

Gebran Bassil is not the first foreign affairs minister who uses the budget of the ministry for his travel expenses all over the world, most of which we as Lebanese never get to know the purpose of, nor is he the first Lebanese minister who forScreen Shot 2014-09-28 at 1.26.37 PMgets that he is a politician and acts like the flamboyant tourist flooding the social media with photographs of his travels and getting overwhelmed with the attention from foreign media, making  sure to let us know that he is so famous that he got a FIVE-MINUTE interview on CNN.

It is ok, after Gebran Bassil is a product of the Lebanese political system and is not expected to behave any differently, and CNN definitely has a bigger audience than OTV that covers Bassil’s every step.

As a Lebanese, I embrace Gebran’s humorous character and simplicity in addressing critical issues, for I always believe that his baby face makes up for his oratory skills, but to start acting like a pimp in front of Emirati foreign ministry delegation is way beyond what his baby face can cover up for.

Minister Gebran Bassil, you owe the Lebanese population an explanation. It is unclear in this video who is Caroline and what her role is, but it is clear that you considered this to be the most important and urgent point to bring up when the delegations were still shaking hands.

It seems from the video that Caroline is a member of the Lebanese delegation that Bassil reduced, according to his hand gesture, to a physically attractive female (not to say more about the woman) whose presence was crucial in font of the Emirati delegation.

I will not put any meaning into Bassil’s gesture, facial expressions, and body language. I will let the viewers make their own judgement, and I will let the females themselves comment below and tell us what they think.

In the meantime, I believe Gebran Bassil owes the Lebanese an explanation justifying his action and disgusting gesture in a meeting that is supposed to be serious and in a way that reduces him as the Lebanese minister of foreign affairs to a lustful pimp.

Here is the video:

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The war against the Lebanese army: 3 things you should pay attention to

Often, politics seem complicated and difficult to understand. We wish that governance and political affairs would fall into a simple equation that would make it easy to solve and figure out the right answer, but instead it seems complex, vague and haphazard.

The reality is that governance and politics could be as simple as a mathematical equation, the only problem is that there are multiple variables and most of the time we are not even aware of those variables or who controls them.

Bottom line is, everything happens for a reason, and Lebanon is no exception.

As a Lebanese, have you ever asked yourself why did we have a series of random bombings between December 2013 and January 2014 and then it suddenly stopped?

Did you ever wonder why were Jabal Muhsen and Bab Al Tebbaneh fighting endlessly for more than a year, and then suddenly Rifaat Eid disappeared with the wave of a magician’s wand?

Well let us make a simple observation. 

Najib Mikati resigned from the Prime Minister position on the 22nd of March 2013 and despite that fact that Tammam Salam was named the prime minister on the 6th of April 2013, it took until the 15th of February of 2014 to actually form the government. 

When did most of the car bombing in Lebanon happen?

According to the tracking provided by Now Lebanon, we have had 15 out of 22 vehicle bombings between the 9th of July of 2013 and the 17th of February 2014. 

It is obvious that the bombing diminished exponentially after the formation of the government, and the majority of the bombings that followed happened within a month of the formation. So did the new cabinet have a magic wand for the bombings and suddenly wipe out all the fundamentalist groups active in Lebanon?

Well, if you are not convinced, let us observe the Tripoli fighting between the two neighborhoods of Bab El Tebeneh and Jabal Muhsen.

As soon as the revolution evolved into a war in Syria, the battlefield of Jabal Mohsen and Bab Al Tebeneh erupted again as Hezbollah carried its resistance to Syria and the Syrians carried their revolution to Tripoli. The clashes started on June 2011 and kept escalating until suddenly it all ended in March 2014. 

Isn’t that the same month when the series of vehicle bombings cam to an end as well?

Isn’t that almost the same month the cabinet was formed?

All these are calculated chess moves that the various stakeholders in Lebanon orchestrate depending on the regional conditions and how they want to influence the decisions on the inside.

This cabinet, similar to all previous cabinets is nothing but a shit-show. They cannot even provide water to the people or handle university dean appointments, so nobody try to convince me that they were able to contain all the turmoil and annihilate all the armed groups.

But wait, before you jump your guns, I am not denying the fact that there are fundamentalist groups in Lebanon, as I am sure they are active and well-funded, but what I am trying to say is that they are merely tools and puppets being orchestrated by our political leaders whenever there is a need for them. One day they are Jabhat Al Nusra, another ISIS, then ISIL, then Kataeb Al Kassam and you name it.

They give them multiple names only to keep us confused and to show us that the danger is coming at us from every angle.

This is why today we are witnessing another episode where unfortunately the Lebanese army soldiers fall as casualties as always. Today, as the country enters its third month without a president, as we are about two weeks from the deadline of calling for elections (دعوة الهيئات الناخبة), and as the pressure escalates on the cabinet for increasing wages , we are one more time distracted by another series of terror attacks on the country, a series that started this time with a group called the Free Sunnis of Baalbeck in Arsal, Tayouneh and Raouche.

I am all for supporting the army against all these rogue puppet armed groups that sprout every now and then, but I would like to raise a few points that I feel every Lebanese should pay attention to as the events unfold. 

1. Support the Lebanese Army, not only in dying but also in living:

Every time the Lebanese army engages in a battle with some terrorist group, profile pictures and infinite statuses and tweets flood the social media in support of the fallen martyrs and the brave heroes of the Lebanese army. While it is great to support our troops as they die, it would also help them if we supported them to live. A Lebanese soldier, if serving in a fighting troop, serves somewhere between 80 – 120 hours a week for a base salary of 450,000 L.L. equivalent to $300 (before transportation and other added figures). These soldiers are not allowed to have another job that would add to their income and have been waiting for three years for the wage hike that the various governments has been evading. 

This year the Lebanese army is fighting ISIS and Jabhat Al Nusra, last year it was fighting Ahmad Al Aseer. leb armyA few years back it fought Fatih Al Islam in flesh and bone and years before that in Seer Al Doniyeh. We still do not know who killed captain Samer Hanna or who are the names behind the continuous attacks on the checkpoints. The Lebanese soldiers are the innocent victims both in peace and in war, so do not simply remember them during battle and forget their rights and cause when things are going well.

So before you get all touch-feely and supportive for the Lebanese army as they go die as martyrs for the recklessness of the politicians you voted for, support their right for better wages and better standard of living.

2. Be aware of another military president

I fully support and salute the leadership and bravery of General Jean Kahwaji as he leads the Lebanese Army at these critical times where the army has become the direct target of terror attacks and when the army is expected to maintain peace without being given the political orders to intervene.

Supporting General Kahwaji for his military leadership does not mean supporting him blindly. General-Jean-Kahwaji11Quite often, as is the case in the United States and many other countries, the enemy is often exaggerated in order to push forward policies that require more military spending and aggressive foreign policies. In the case of Lebanon, I fear that the campaign to market the exemplary leadership of General Jean Kahwaji and stress on his role as the protector of Lebanon in his battle against the insurgent groups, is an attempt to push him forward as a neutral nationalistic candidate for the Lebanese presidency at a time when the political parties cannot agree on a name for that seat.

We have had enough Generals ruling our country. Let the Generals do what they do best, lead their armies and let politicians, lawyers, economists, or whoever else is qualified lead a democratic state.

3. Instability leads to parliament term extension AGAIN

As I tried to prove earlier, these surges of attacks sprout every now and then for a reason. A group of people somewhere allow the fundamentalist groups to gather themselves, gain momentum as long as they are leashed. When the necessary time comes, their leash is loosened in order to stir up controversy, distract the public and serve other hidden purposes.

In July 2013, the Lebanese parliament unconstitutionally cancelled elections and extended its term till November 20, 2014 under the alibi of instability in the country. While a small group of activists raised the voice and took the streets, the rest of the population was mentally numb or physically intoxicated in the bars of Jemayzeh, Mar Mkhael, Hamra, Jounieh and other areas. كاريكاتير 02-06-2013So, despite all their disagreements, all the MPs agreed on one thing “Kill the democracy in Lebanon”. 

And so, at a time when the Arab world was in revolutions East and West asking for democratic elections, we in Lebanon went the opposite direction and cut the last chord of democracy in our country. Since then, we have been ruled by an unconstitutional parliament whose term ends in November 20.

This means that the deadline to call for elections is August 20 of 2014, three months before the date of the elections.

Almost 2 weeks before this deadline the violence escalates one more time in the country, which will definitely be used as a reason of instability preventing the Lebanese from going to vote at these turbulent times. 

This is a very important and critical one, so please pay attention as the events unfold.

The influx of political events and news in this country is hard to keep up with. Every week we are occupied with an issue to be distracted from and shift our attention to another the week after. While we are distracted, busy trying to survive, a few key players are calling the shots and kneading the dough for their own plans. 

I may well be wrong in my assessment, but what I am trying to do is look beyond the distraction and understand what purpose does it serve. I hope we can all wake up and be a little more strategic in our support for whomever and be pro-active rather than reactive in our involvement and activism.


Adel Nehmeh

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Protected: Dare we speak for peace? Caught in the cross-fire between Israel and Gaza!!

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Is violence in Lebanon inherited?

We want to believe that we are not prisoners of our ethnic histories, but the reality is that we are.

A few days ago, Lebanese basketball fans and those who follow Lebanese news were consumed by the fight that broke up on the court at the last seconds of the game between Sagesse (الحكمة) and Sporting (الرياضي). You can read my related blog post here.

If you are the kind of person who does not like to spend more than 10-15 seconds reading, here is the twitter version of the blog post:

Lebanese are not violent by nature, they are raised in a violent culture and the right approach is to empower and train rather than punish.

This was before I started reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outlierswhere in chapter six he talks about the culture of honor and family feuds. Although Gladwell is using violence as an example of how traditions and attitudes we inherit from out forebears can make a significant difference in how well we do in the world, I would like to take his mentioned studies about violence an apply them and relate them to violence among youth, specifically Lebanese youth.

Before I go into the studies and examples I serendipitously stumbled upon in Outliers, let me first share with you, what I would refer to as the “Tale of the 5 monkeys”.

Tale of the 5 monkeys:

monkeys 1

Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 4.49.20 AMScreen Shot 2014-06-08 at 4.49.25 AMScreen Shot 2014-06-08 at 4.49.31 AMScreen Shot 2014-06-08 at 4.49.37 AMScreen Shot 2014-06-08 at 4.49.44 AMScreen Shot 2014-06-08 at 4.49.55 AMScreen Shot 2014-06-08 at 4.50.03 AM

Many of you may know this experiment already, but what you may not know is that although inspired by a real experiment that took place in 1967 by G.R Stepehenson, this was never a real experiment and is simply a tale created by Michael Michalko in a blog post in 2011.

Moral of the story? 

Stating the obvious, very often we as humans behave just like the monkeys described above. We do not question our assumptions, and more importantly we do not assess the nature and origins of our behaviors. If we grew up in a culture dominated by fear and violence, we are often taught and trained to approach many of our challenges and vague problems in life with violence.

meeting_hammer_fritsalIn many of our societies, the primary tool offered to the youth is a hammer. As they grow up, every problem becomes a nail and every action is a hammer swing. 

Cultures of honor and inherited violence

Going back to the studies and references made by Gladwell in Outliers, in chapter 6 he refers to the small town of Harlan in the stretch of Appalachian Mountains in the southeastern corner of Kentucky. In the early 1800s, Harlan witnessed a cross-generational feud between the Howard and the Turner families. Generation after generation, the two families were killing each other over a crime that took place n 1806 between two individuals, and the two families kept revenging for each other until the 1930s. This family feud was not unique to Harlan, as there happened to be a pattern among identical little towns up and down the same mountain range. Patterns exist for a reason, and in the case of this appalachian pattern, consensus among sociologists was that this virulent strain was due to a “culture of honor”.

We Lebanese, and Arabs in general, know a lot about cultures of honor don’t we?

It happened that the original inhabitants of Appalachia were mostly herdsmen coming from the world’s most ferocious cultures of honor, the “Scotch-Irish”. Herdsmen, unlike farmers, have a strong culture of honor. The reason for that is that herdsmen are usually of by themselves, unlike farmers who depend on cooperation within the community.Herdsmen are worried about their livelihood being stolen at night, while farmers are not worried about their whole field being harvested in one night. This is why a herdsman has to make it clear, through his words and deeds, that he is not weak. He has to be willing to fight to even the slightest challenge to his reputation, and this is what defines a “culture of honor”. Ethnographer J.K. Campbell notes about herdsmen:“The critical moment in the development of the young shepherd’s reputation is his first quarrel. It has to be public, usually in a coffee shop, village square or grazing boundary.”

So basically a “culture of honor” is based on fear of losing resources, which establishes a culture where a man’s reputation is at the center of his livelihood and self-worth.

Let us look at that for a moment. Do we live in a “culture of honor” in Lebanon? Think of all the violent events you have hear of, whether recently or in the past. Usually they are a result of one group being insulted by the other group and retaliating, which spurs a vicious cycle. Think of the civil war, where men had to stand up for the honor of their towns and cities, or defend their sect or religion. Think of the feuds between university students who have to defend the honor of their religion, their political party, or their student club’s reputation, and proving themselves to be strong men in their niche culture.

Think of the last game between Sagesse and Sporting. How did it start? The players on both sides are coming from a long season of competition, representing two teams that have a long history of accomplishments and have a reputation to defend. After an hour and a half of intense and provocative sports action, the players are pumping with adrenaline and testosterone. Their fans are bustling with fury and excitement as they struggle to control their themselves in a charged atmosphere. In the last few seconds of the game, the result is settled and so the Riyadi players take the blow and accept defeat by greeting the Sagesse players. An excited and pumped up Sagesse player releases his tension by going for the open court and dunking the rim. This was deemed disrespectful by a Riyadi player who had assumed fair play and was not defending. This disrespect is a symbol of the culture of honor.

What is special about this last basket? The Sagesse had been scoring all night, but this one in particular was offending the honor already established. By dunking the ball, it felt like the Sagesse player was “rubbing it in” and adding oil to the fire already blazing in the defeated hearts of the Riyadi players. The small physical confrontation between the two players suddenly sparked the barely contained tension among the fans, and they were offended by seeing the Riyadi player attack one of their own players physically. In a society that offered most of them hammers as tools to confront conflict, this confrontation unfolding in front of their eyes was another nail to be hit hard, and so they burst with violence attacking not only the one player, but the whole team, as is usually the case with cultures of honor. The Riyadi players themselves had to react with violence, defending themselves as they felt outnumbered and threatened perhaps, also resorting to the hammer under fear rather than any other tool.

So after this lengthy analysis, we see another live proof of how violence is a cultural acquisition of some sort. A feud that started almost a decade ago, continues among the progeny of the grand-grand-sons of the original fighters. The fans of two teams in 2014, carry the sentiments, grudges and stereotypes of their previous fans from the 1990s and 2000s.

Ok, so it is one thing that violence is learnt and acquired through socialization, but isn’t it a far stretch to say that it is inherited? The inhabitants of Appalachia are surely still not engaging in an endless streak of killings in revenge, are they?

True, they are not, but there are clear remnants of the culture of honor in the modern era.

In the 1990s, Dov Cohen and Richard Nisbett conducted an experiment at the University of Michigan to study exactly this question. Looking to test the heredity of culture of honor and violence, they discovered that being called an ‘asshole’ was received to be very insulting to young men eighteen to twenty-four years old. So they conducted a study based on using that word  and other provocative behaviors to  study their subjects’ reaction and anger, looking at their handshake, facial expressions, saliva samples, testosterone and cortisol levels. If you are interested in the full paper, you can read it here.

In short, the two psychologists discovered that the reactionary behavior of their participants was not based on how emotionally secure they were, nor whether they were intellectuals or jocks, physically imposing or not. The deciding factor was where they were from. Northerners seemed to treat the incident with amusement, and laugh it off while Southerners got really angry, their cortisol and testosterone levels shot up and they were itching for a fight. To Cohen and Nisbett, the fact that students at the University of Michigan, in one of the north most states in America, would show higher symptoms of adherence to culture of honor simply because they grew up in the South was remarkable. After all, these young males were not herdsmen themselves, neither were any of their parents, they were not living in conditions similar to their Scot-British ancestors and were cosmopolitan enough to travel across the country and go to college, but they still acted like they were living in nineteenth-century Harlan, Kentucky.

Ok, great? How does this relate to Lebanese youth?

In the case of Lebanon, there is no need to go a century back in time. Think of the age group born in the late 1980s and onwards, of which I belong to. In addition to growing up amidst wars, series of dispersed bombings, sectarian clashes, political tension and witnessing the 2004-2006 political events at the prime of their age, perhaps I should say our age, we have been shaped by violence, fear of the other and standing up for our group’s honor, be it political or religious group. We have inherited the culture of violence from our parent’s generation, even without our parents being violent themselves. Our grandparents had their own turf wars and honor battles to fight as well. Think of the early years of the building of this nation and the sectarian clashes, think of the wars between the inhabitants of the mountain and those of the cities in the late 1800s, think of the herdsmen culture that was dominant in Lebanon, think of the strong culture of honor that still exists very pervasively in Lebanon, how families revenge for the killing of their own, how patriarchal males “dispense” women that bring shame to the family, how a family castrates a young man for eloping with their girl and dishonoring their reputation.

So where am I going with this lengthy commentary?

All I am saying is that recurring incidents of violence in a community are a symptom of deeper roots than simply a personal quarrel, excited fans, or angry mob.

Think of violence as a disease. You can either inherit it from your ancestors and carry it in your genes, or you can simply acquire it from your environment, and most often it is both of those factors. 

I believe that there has not been enough effort spent of addressing issues of violence among the youth in Lebanon. As an outside observer these days, I can see how those residing within are being fed violence on a daily basis and are handed hammers as their only tools. As someone specializing in youth and conflict transformation, I have also learnt how violence is inherited and passed on from one generation to another.

Often, we hear the older generation and the policy-makers blaming the youth for their violent behavior and their resort to fists and pistols to settle disagreements. These accusations tend to disregard the fact that these violent acts are symptoms of community, families, and educational system that fail to provide the necessary tools to handle conflict, and provide conflict management skills that surpass the  natural instinctive reaction of fight or flight (I really recommend this TedX talk).

Just like you would not blame an individual for capturing a disease, you cannot simply blame a young man or woman for their violent behavior, IF it is part of a larger pattern of violence in a community AND without acknowledging the fact that such a violent behavior is because someone somewhere failed to provide them with another tool, show them another way to laugh it off and not fall hostages to their hormones.  

If you have not read the whole post, the last quote in italics is what I would like you to go leave this page with before you move on to your next shared link on your Facebook news feed, or the next email in your inbox.


More about youth and violence? Start with the videos below:

Teaching with the World Peace Game by John Hunter – click here.

Every kid need a champion by Rita Pierson – click here.


Adel Nehmeh

M.S Electrical Engineering & M.A. Peace Studies and Conflict Transformation

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Open letter to Lebanese Minister of Youth and Sports: Empower the youth, do not punish them

Enough has been already said about the last basketball game between “Al 7ikmah” and “Al Riyadi”, the rivals since the day I was born. Such hooliganism is not new to Lebanon, in fact it is not unique to Lebanon. It exists in UKSpainScotlandColombiaArgentina and many other numerous countries. Lebanon is not the first and only country to witness violence resulting from sports, and do not let the most recent episode distract you from the fact that this has been an ongoing scenario and football, known as soccer in some parts of the world, has also been a source of violence among its Lebanese fans.

So let us set two things straight once and for all:

“The problem is not with basketball, football or any other sport.”

“The problem is not that the Lebanese are violent by nature or they have no sportsmanship”

So what is the problem?

Violence experienced as a result of fan hooliganism or even athlete violence, is only a symptom of violence in the society. As someone who has been studying violence among youth, and having looked at this issue with close attention, many researchers attest to the fact that “The fan or the athlete, who feels his manhood is being challenged, may struggle not to respond with physical force. However, fans/athletes who do respond physically may be simply reflecting cultural upbringing that was established outside of sport. Sport may not be the cause of violence, but rather a result of the fans’/athletes’ upbringing or natural disposition, which led them to choose reflect violence onto the sport. It is often young men from lower socioeconomic classes who tend to embrace sport to prove their masculinity, or become loyal fans as the club offers a sense of belonging that extends way beyond the sport. Any challenge to their manliness or identity reflected in the club loyalty, compels them to respond or lose face in front of their peers.”

In simple words, “violence is reflected onto the sport mainly by young men from lower socioeconomic background as a form of masculinity and a manifestation of violence in the upbringing.”

To most of the readers, this is not new. So now that we know this, what to do about it?

Well, the Lebanese Basketball Federation FLB and the Ministry of Youth and Sports, can do what they have always done. They can blame the fans and the team managers, ban the fans from attending the basketball games, and possibly issue a statement condemning the violence and asking people to embrace sportsmanship. In order to cover the costs and teach everybody a lesson, they will fine the teams, suspend a few players and let things die out.

“The basically play the role of the fire-fighter. They extinguish the fire, penalize the instigators, and wait for things to cool down.”

Both the FLB and the Minister know well enough that such measures will not suffice, and all they are doing is absorbing the tension and surrendering to the fact they are powerless, as they await for the next episode to burst out so they can play the role of the heroic fire-fighter again.

So what can really be done?

First of all, recognize the above mentioned reality that the violence is a result of societal violence and structural violence. Once that is done, then the ministry should be proactive about actually fulfilling its part in empowering the youth and improving the sports. This will require a long-term thorough plan that is not impossible nor difficult, and all it requires is commitment and interest in combating such symptoms.

Second, affirm that the whole purpose of the sports and sport leagues in Lebanon is to offer a venue for the Lebanese youth to pursue their physical talents and hobbies, provide an opportunity to compete professionally, and provide a family environment entertainment for the Lebanese populace. Without affirming such purposes for sports, then the federations, clubs and ministry will be running an industry without a compass, not knowing what purpose do they serve.

Third, conduct a serious and thorough conflict mapping and assessment of the sports-based violence in Lebanon and start addressing the issues over a long-term plan that includes, sports teams, federations, NGOs, Ministry of Education, schools and other possible stakeholders. Such an assessment should look into the factors contributing to the violence, starting from but not limited to the pyramid below:


Fourth, provide non-violent and conflict resolution training for the youth, especially the males, who constitute the sweeping majority of the fans attending sports games. These young men perpetuating violence inside and outside the stadiums, are similar to the young Lebanese university students who engage in fist fights every time university elections come up. They are also similar to the wife batters and the men who are sending at least one woman per week to her death bed or hospital emergency room due to domestic violence.

Fifth, be proactive rather than reactive. Recognize that the strategy of penalizing, cracking down using security forces and banning from attendance will not solve the problem. What is required is education and an intensive short and long-term campaign to address such an issue from its core, rather than putting lipstick on a dirty pig and pretending that it is now photogenic and can run for a beauty pageant.

So after all this, I hope that this humble opinion gets to the Minister of Sports and Youth, Youth and Sports Minister Abdul-Muttaleb Al-Hananawi.

Dear General and Minister Hannawi,

It is cumbersome to put all these demands and pressures on you, knowing that you have only been i the ministry for less than four months. While such a period of time is enough to take serious action, I and the rest of the Lebanese population recognize the endless amount of turmoil that the country is facing. As a retired brigadier general from the Lebanese army, I ask that you recognize the need for training and discipline among the youth, but also acknowledge that the military strategies of the army will not solve the issue at hand here. Violence is an endemic disease, and not a pimple. It cannot simply operated on with a biopsy and removed, but it requires diagnosis and treatment. The Lebanese youth, the ones we have seen last night on the TV screens, whether players or fans, do not need more security forces to control them and most certainly cannot afford paying fines. They love sports and should be encouraged to enjoy it in a friendly and safe environment. We the fans abroad and at home enjoy watching basketball, soccer and other sports and we stand proud when our players complete internationally wearing the cedar on their chests and serving as ambassadors for the Lebanese potential.

It would not be fair to hold the Ministry of Sports and Youth responsible for all the violence that Lebanon is witnessing, but this ministry has in fact been entrusted with Lebanon’s youth, whether they are affiliated with sports of or not. Change happens at so many levels, and while the change we seek is mostly behavioral and attitudinal, I believe that serious steps at the structural level will encourage and engage stakeholders and key players to start addressing inherited and acquired behaviors and attitudes.

Please do not let this incident be treated like all its predecessors, by simply taking penalizing measures, banning the fans and telling them that they are not worthy of sports or civil engagement of any sort. The Lebanese youth are just as civilized and capable as any other youth in the world. Those who are prone to falling victims to their hormones and societal habits leading them to violence need guidance and training, not punishment and rebuking. They need someone to believe in their humanity and capabilities, rather than someone breaking yet another level of their self-esteem and perpetuating the notion that they are not worthy of being civilized.

You are in the right spot at the right time. Do not simply extinguish yet another fire and hope that the grey cloud passes and the responsibility be passed on to whoever minister follows you next.

With all due respect,

A young man from Lebanon and a huge fan of basketball

Adel Nehmeh


To read Minister Hannawi’s initial response to the latest episode of violence, click here.

To watch what happened in the last seconds of the game, click here.



Posted in Being young in Lebanon, civil society in Lebanon | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment