Lebanese Interior Minister parties at the beach while security forces shoot at protesters

The Lebanese people are waking up, they are taking the streets united by the stench of the trash accumulating in the streets due to the dysfunction of their government and corruption of their representatives.

The Lebanese people have taken to the streets to voice their grievances, the government — infamous for failing to act — ironically, overreacted. Riot police and soldiers deployed by the commander in chief used tear gas, bullets and batons on protesters, injuring dozens. Adding to the irony, despite Lebanon’s widespread water shortages, police also used water cannons in an attempt to disperse the protesters.

One protester is now in critical condition and there are rumors that he might have passed away.

All this happening while the Minister of Interior Affairs is outside of the country.

Where is he?

An unauthenticated footage from a mobile phone claims that Minister Nuhad Al Machnook was partying on the beaches of the islands of Greece. 

P.S. The date and authenticity of the video have not been authenticated, and this is why Machnook needs to explain and justify why he was absent while the security forces were shooting and beating the protesters.

Minister Al Machnook, on a phone call to the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBCI) sounded a little drunk I have to say, but also cannot claim.

In his video, Al Machnook vowed to ensure accountability on all the soldiers and security forces servicemen who used violence against the protesters, and we shall wait and see how he will implement his promises.

Al Machnook said

if my resignation would solve the problem, I am willing to resign only if the protesters reach a result.

The protesters represent the opinion of a certain group of people…

Minister Al Machnook is asked to quit his travels, wherever he might be at this moment, and explain to the public where he was and ensure how he will ensure accountability in his ministry after the brutality of the internal security forces against unarmed civilians.

Below are scenes of the brutality of the armed forces against the protesters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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الشعب اللبناني يتحد ضد فساد النظام – آراء بالصوت والصورة

لا يمكن قول الكثير وأنا أشاهد المشاهد المؤلمة والمشجعة من شاشة في بلد الإغتراب، ولكن سوف أضع الشعب اللبناني يتكلم عن نفسه عبر تسجيلات جمعتها في الساعة الأربع والعشرون الأخيرة.

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Police brutality vs. civil rights activists in Lebanon

Police brutality is not new against protesters who stir the steady waters in Lebanon and defy the political regime. Police brutality is not unique to Lebanon, not even to the Arab world. Countries like the United States that take pride in their human and civil rights struggle with police brutality.

Today, after more than four weeks with the trash piling up on the streets of Lebanon, the citizens and activists from the “You Stink – Tol3it Ree7itkum” campaign were met with battalions of security forces deployed to prevent the march towards the “Grand Serail” the government building.

Here is footage showing the police brutality against the unarmed protesters:

 

 

 

Watching the unarmed protesters getting beaten by the angry, and perhaps even scared police men, stirs up a lot of emotions. However, the police brutality and intolerance to protests has a long history in Lebanon.

Here is some footage of when the Take Back Parliament movement clashed with the police back in June of 2013.

Having participated in the 2013 protest, and looked closely at today’s footage, I can tell that many of the protesters, if not the majority of them, are the same as the protesters of the Take Back Parliament movement. It is the same core group of secular, non-partisan, civil rights defending activists who show up, plan, and sacrifice their professions, safety, and health in the name of secularism, anti-corruption, gender equality, LGBTQ rights, teacher’s rights, etc…

I used to think that because they, and I refrain from using WE since I have not been beaten or arrested like many of my fellow activists have, do not belong to any political party, they have no presence or vote in the elections (if they ever happen), they become easy targets to the security forces since after all they have no herdsman to defend them and make some phone calls to release them.

While that is true, the police brutality has been known to come down upon protesters of government-represented political parties as well. For example, here is some footage from July 2019 where the Lebanese Army, in this case, reacting violently with the Free Patriotic Movement’s protesters, who took the streets after an invitation from Michel Aoun, the party leader.

My generation grew up with scenes of protesters clashing with army and security forces in Lebanon. I grew up under the Syrian Occupation and infiltration of intelligence agencies, security forces, and political system in general. The scenes are engraved in my memory. While I could not find many of them online, here is a brief historical recap of the police brutality in Lebanon after a quick search online

Kataeb and Ahrar students clash with police in March 2012:

Here is a protest that seems to be in the late 90’s perhaps early 2000’s,by the Federation of Labour Trade Unions, sparked by an almost 38 per cent increase in gasoline prices decreed by Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s government.

So, police brutality is not new to Lebanon, and unfortunately it is the select few young courageous activists who take the hit and offer their flesh and bones against the wooden batons. 

The question is, do their sacrifices lead to desired outcomes?

Usually, and unfortunately not.

So what can be done to minimize the clashes between the police and the protesters, and to make the movement stronger and have it amass more support?

Nonviolent war

I am confident that organizers and leaders of the movement are fully aware of the concepts of nonviolence and how to train a cadre of interrupters who can prevent the large numbers of protesters from responding to violence with violence.

Responding with non-violence requires a lot of commitment and determination in addition to extensive training. I myself, find myself resorting to anger and violence when I watch these scenes, more so by being present in the protest.

Ghandi founded the concept of Satyagraha and was able to liberate India by convincing and inspiring his supporters to uphold nonviolence. OF course he failed multiple times, because it is human reaction to react to violence with violence. However, the international media enabled him to win international support and exert pressure on great Britain after the protesters walked straight into their beating without lifting one finger.

Martin Luther King Jr. studied Ghandi and depth and used the same strategies against the police brutalities in the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

Earlier in 2015, I had the opportunity to meet and talk to Srdja Popovic, co-founder of the Center for Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS) who talked in depth about how the Serbian youth used nonviolence and Satyagraha to topple Milosevic in 2000. Listen to his Ted talk here.

In my short conversation with Popovic, he told me how when training some Syrian activists, they responded to his methods of nonviolence by saying: “Assad can only be toppled by violence. His response was “We’re here to plan a war. Nonviolent struggle, is a war — just one fought with means other than weapons. It must be as carefully planned as a military campaign.”

Reaching out to critical mass

Aside from abiding to nonviolence, what is definite however, is that the movement needs to amass more public support, not only in terms of numbers on the ground.

The movement will need more volunteers in its leadership and planning to make sure protests do not erupt into violent ones, and protesters do not attack or react with violence to security forces.

The movement will also need to attract and reach out to the critical mass, that is the average Lebanese citizen who usually does not show up at these protests. The average citizen from outside the circles of the liberal activists, the veteran civil rights activist, and the university students. In order for such a movement to grow and challenge the government and the political system, it needs to appeal to the university professors, the school teachers, the unions, the artists, the celebrities, the farmers, the laborers.

Humor and creativity

Most importantly, in order for this movement to really pose a threat to the ruling mafia, and to achieve its demands rather than die and dwindle down in a few weeks like almost all its precedents, it needs to be innovative in its methodsAs you can see in the previous few videos, the methods are the same, the locations are the same, the faces are the same, and the results will be the same.

Most people don’t care about human rights. They care about having electricity that works, teachers in every school and affordable home loans. They will support an opposition with a vision of the future that promises to make their lives better.

According to the Pixar philosopher James P. Sullivan, laughter is 10 times more powerful than scream. Nothing breaks people’s fear and punctures a dictator’s aura of invincibility like mockery — Popovic calls it “laughtivism.”

Popovic writes about a protest in Ankara after the Turkish government reacted with alarm to a couple kissing in the subway. Protesters could have chosen to march. Instead, they kissed – 100 people gathered in the subway station in pairs, kissing with great slobber and noise. You are a policeman. You have training in how to deal with an anti-government protest. But what do you do now?

Talking about the miseries of life under a dictator is also a bad strategy for mobilizing activists. People already know — and they react by becoming cynical, fearful, atomized and passive. They might be angry, but they’re not going to act on it. Anger is not a motivator.

So until a movement in Lebanon is able to be innovative, creative, and be willing indeed to take risks and offer sacrifices, leading up to a total national civil resistance and interruption of economic, political, and transportation functions, it will be crushed by the system.

Of course, this is a huge responsibility to lay on the shoulders of the select few activists who are taking the lead and sacrificing their safety and time.

From where I am now, I am not able to offer practical solutions, and my remarks here are not in any means to be condescending or is to patronizing towards whoever is on the ground risking their life and safety. I am perhaps trying to be part of the conversation without being able to. I do support every single activist speaking against the corruption and salute their efforts, but unfortunately, I am afraid it will all go to waste if the methods are not challenging enough and appeal to the wider population…

Knowing many of the organizers, I have no doubt in their creativity and devotion to making a difference in Lebanon.

From wherever I dwell now far away from Lebanon, I wish them to be smart and strategic before being safe.

Salam to all of you.

 

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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.
BE STRONG ENOUGH TO STAND ALONE. SMART ENOUGH TO KNOW WHEN YOU NEED HELP AND BRAVE ENOUGH TO ASK FOR IT.

PLEASE WATCH THE VIDEO TO UNDERSTAND THE ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS

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

GGRIL 3

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Adel Nehmeh

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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.

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Adel Nehmeh

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