Category Archives: Critiques

Romania beats former record holder Lebanon with a 5-ton flag

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I think we should hurry up and prepare to break Romania’s record and show them that we love our country more. After doing so, we can get back to killing each other in Tripoli, Arsal and all over Lebanon.

The Romanian flag covers three football pitches, topping the previous record holder in Lebanon.

A military brass band played as Prime Minister Victor Ponta and other ministers arrived in the village to view the flag. [Link]

Thank you Dany!

Is Beirut’s Reputation for LGBT Tolerance a Myth?

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Very Nice Pictures by Ahmad Moussawi

I think we can safely say that Beirut is still better than other capitals in the Arab world when it comes to accepting homosexuals and lesbians but there’s still a lot of work to do.

Talk to Beiruti gays and lesbians, and you’ll find the truth seems to be as complex as the rest of Lebanon’s social politics. In a country held together by a wary part-truce between many religious and ethnic splinters, most things there seem to have a spirograph-like intricacy on closer inspection. Beirut’s waxing and waning reputation for tolerance reflects both Lebanese governments’ conflicted attempts to align themselves with the West and anxieties about the country’s future. [Full Article]

The author would be glad to know Ghost reopened, at least until now. I wouldn’t go as far though as linking the Ghost case to the status of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon and the illegal curfews being set.

To people whose lives haven’t been affected by homophobia, discussing this might seem trivial while Syria (whose capital is just 55 miles from Beirut) is pushing ever closer to Armageddon. In complicated Lebanon, however, the two issues are not unconnected. Local activists who asked to remain anonymous told me that patrons harassed at Ghost, the raided gay bar, were actually Syrian refugees, disobeying an autocratic ordnance by the local mayor to stay home after 7 p.m. Many Syrian refugees have arrived in Lebanon recently, often to mistrust and hostility from locals who remember Syria’s occupation of the country and fear the war next door spreading. The fact that their appearance in a Beirut gay bar might have been enough to spark a crackdown suggests how capricious and unstable Beirut’s no-questions-asked tolerance really is.

Spreading Unconfirmed Allegations is pointless

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Text of the Picture being circulated:

The Lebanese writer Rachid Al-Daif forcefully raped and manipulated his student in the Lebanese American University (LAU) in Beirut for four years, starting when he was 62 and she was 19. He locked her in his house and demanded sex from her at night, even raping her in her sleep. He threatened her in order to keep it a secret. This January, the rapist resigner before being shamefully fired from LAU when the university administration learned about his actions.

A picture has been circulating all day yet about an LAU teacher accused of raping one of his students yet there’s no proof to back it up. It might be true for all I know but that’s not a proper way to spread such a serious allegation, plus I agree with Rami that there’s something weird about him locking her up and raping her in her sleep for 4 years.

If the reason behind this campaign is the lack of trust in the Lebanese Legal System, this is definitely not going to make things any better specially that the teacher was apparently fired. Added to that, if there’s no proof of the raping, the teacher can sue back.

My suggestion is to go talk to a decent lawyer who will definitely handle this case properly and see that the suspect is punished for his wrongdoings, if any. The sexual harassment case in Antoura is a clear proof that the system works.

Minister Marwan Charbel on Syrian Refugees

Syrian refugees in Lebanon: A humiliating situation

Check out what Marwan Charbel said today on the Syrian Refugees issue:

Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel admitted on Tuesday that the authorities had miscalculated in not building camps to house Syrian refugees escaping the fighting in their country.

In remarks to Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3), Charbel said: “We should have kept Syrian refugees in tents and provided them with all the necessary humanitarian assistance and medical aid … to contain the security violators that are present among them.”

“We made a mistake in dealing” with the issue, he said in response to a question on the presence of Syrian nationals among the casualties in the recent fighting in the northern city of Tripoli.

And what I said back in March:

We have now over 300,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon and still no plans to set up special areas, receive the families and children and give them adequate aid. I know for a fact that a lot of Lebanese are donating or are more than willing to donate so let us find a way to control this flux of refugees and provide some minimal help because things are getting out of hand. Pictures of the Deir Zanoun camp are terrible.

And in April:

Syria is at war and the thousands of families and individuals fleeing don’t have any money, so don’t expect them to sleep on the streets and starve to death while we go all racist on them. I am not justifying their acts but a lot of people put under these circumstances will revert to crime to provide for their families. I know it’s a huge burden that any government would find difficult to deal with, and I am all for Arab countries donating money to help us out here, but that’s not an excuse for doing nothing at all (Except setting curfew hours for foreign workers).

I am glad he admitted the mistakes repeatedly done but that’s not enough. How about someone suggests a freaking plan to help these refugees and control what’s happening?

Updated: General Security granted access to all data

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Update: The General Security denied the allegations stated in Annahar’s article and said it didn’t have access to any data (Source: VOL).

Update2: Since February 2013, the Prime Minister can accept giving the Data to any security agency at his own discretion [Source]. The criteria set out by the law which requires judges’ prior approval and execution by Minister of Communication was waived as per request from President Sleiman. Nowadays, even ISF is receiving such Data and not only General Security (Annahar’s info is partially true but fully unprofessional). Thank you Razor!

An-Nahar Daily said on Monday that the General Security apparatus is receiving the telecommunications’ data that it needs upon the approval of Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Interior Minister Marwan Charbel.

According to An-Nahar newspaper, General Security Chief Major General Abbas Ibrahim sent more than one memorandum to the interior ministry and received immediate approvals from PM Mikati and Minister Charbel “who did not take into account the freedom and privacy of citizens”. [LBC]

According to Annahar’s article, The General Security have repeatedly requested access to the telecoms data of the entire population for many Lebanese areas and got an approval for it.

I don’t know where Telecom Minister Sehnaoui stands from those requests and whether he also gave his approval or if it was required (I think he has to approve), but this goes against the campaign he led himself few months back in the name of privacy and personal freedom. I wish the author of the article provided further explanation and details rather than politicize the whole matter as the problem is much bigger than such considerations.

In all cases, I am almost positive all the legal and illegal parties have access in a way or another to our data but this remains nonetheless a very serious issue as we should never compromise our freedom in the name of security.

Here’s my original post on the Freedom vs. Security back when the Information Branch requested data from the Telecom Ministry and the government and got denied any access.

Censored Painting at the 9th edition of JABAL exhibition at Le Grey Beirut

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Via Stop Cultural Terrorism

The artist behind this painting is Mohammad Saad and the painting above is a parody of 6 paintings:
Francisco Goya – The Third of May 1808
Theodore Gericault – Raft of the Medusa
Michelangelo – Creation of Adam
Raphael – The Deposition
Rembrandt Van Rign – The Anatomy Lesson
Frans Snyders – Dogs Fighting

To be honest, I didn’t think too highly of the painting but that’s not a reason to ban it, given that it was really banned since the spokesperson for JABAL, Ms. Zeina Antonios, told Beirut.com the painting was pulled because it was “too expensive for the show”.

On May 8, Fransabank launched the 9th edition of its JABAL exhibition at Hotel Le Gray to great success, with 18 of the 25 artists having sold their artwork during the launching event alone.

But one artist’s work – which appears in JABAL’s official catalogue – never made it to the actual exhibit. Mhammad Saad’s Farewell Beirut depicts Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah (in addition to various other Lebanese politicians, including former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea among others) as a character in one of Michelangelo’s most renowned works, The Creation of Adam. [Link]

Fouad Boutros Highway Project given green light

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The Fouad Boutros Highway (Image courtesy of Save Beirut Heritage)

According to NowLebanon, the controversial Fouad Boutros Highway project was given the green light and will kick off in few weeks time. As per Save Beirut Heritage, the Fouad Boutros highway project will destroy 28 heritage landmarks, endanger 30 more, and uproot thousands of meters of lush green spaces in the Ashrafieh, Hekmeh and Mar Mikhail neighborhoods.

To be honest, I was surprised the issue was only raised now or at least given that much spotlight as it seems the project had gone a long way already and was technically a done deal. Added to that, I am asking around to see if the project will endanger that many houses and green spaces as I’ve heard otherwise. Of course, this doesn’t make the project any better but there’s a missing side to the story that must be clarified here.

I wish more talks would take place between Activists/NGOs and Achrafieh’s MPs or concerned officials in order to discuss these matters and find compromises. CDR, the company in charge of the new thoroughfare in conjunction with the municipality, as well as the municipality should assign a person to talk about this matter and shed the light on all its details.

I truly hope it doesn’t turn out to be like the highway connecting Achrafieh to Dekwaneh because it has left an everlasting damage on Burj Hammoud residents.

Alex Nicolas
Picture from The BeirutReport via Save Beirut Heritage

Alex Nicolas photo
Picture from The BeirutReport via Save Beirut Heritage

Mar Mikhael Threatened by the Fouad Boutros Highway Project

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According to Save Beirut Heritage, the Fouad Boutros highway project will destroy 28 heritage landmarks, endanger 30 more, and uproot thousands of meters of lush green spaces in the Ashrafieh, Hekmeh and Mar Mikhail neighborhoods.

Check out what will happen to the Mar Mikhail street if this project is implemented. If the picture is correct, it will practically destroy the Mar Mikhail street and its surrounding. You can check out the full study [Here] and more pictures and information [Here].

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Lebanese homes and offices already have proper addresses, but no one uses them

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Funnily enough, it’s much older news than the upgraded data plans

Telecom Minister Sehnaoui announced yesterday the good news that a bid was launched for the addressing of all of Lebanon, and that from now on, every home or office in Lebanon will have a proper address. Of course everyone got excited about this, including myself, but the truth is Lebanon’s postal system has been revamped since 2002 but remains unused.

To make myself clearer, check out this article from the Economist dated January 3, 2002 and entitled: “Lebanon’s postal system Revamped and unused

A FEW years ago, only optimists would have dreamt of posting a letter in Lebanon. Today, that has changed. The problem now is getting people to use the post.

In 1998, the government granted a licence to SNC Lavallin, a Canadian contracting giant, to run the postal system. This was no minor endeavour. Years of war had wreaked havoc. Postmen, whose encyclopaedic knowledge of their neighbourhood had long been the backbone of mail distribution, had lost track of their flock during the fighting. Most streets have no name, and addresses are often no more specific than “second floor in the white building next to the flower shop”. SNC Lavallin brought in Canada Post as a technical adviser and created a new sorting and distribution system. Every building in the country has now been assigned a postal code, and most letters reach their destination within 24 hours

The Lebanese, however, have learned to get by without a post office. Private courier services flourish; the government failed to enforce SNC Lavallin’s monopoly.

This article clearly states that every building in this country has been assigned a proper postal code almost 10 years ago but no one bothered using it. This being said, I am not sure whether Minister Sehnaoui was aware of this company, or the fact that the project of addressing Lebanon that he’s been promoting has been available yet unused for 11 years!

It is worthy noting that SNC-Lavalin signed a 12-year contract with the Lebanese Government, which means that we paid money for a company over 12 years and didn’t make proper use of it. You can read more about the contract signing [Here].

Can the new owner succeed where western experts failed? Snail mail may be losing ground to more modern forms of communication, but even in developed countries, ever more letters are being posted every year. Having secured a longer licence, Lebanon Invest expects to break even on mail delivery. But the real money, it thinks, lies in other uses for Libanpost’s infrastructure. It wants to turn the company into a full-fledged distribution and logistics group, offering everything from one-stop billing to financial services, where the margins are higher than on mail delivery. As everywhere, it will take more than letters and stamps to build a profitable postal system.

On a final note, this bid might not be the right thing to do considering the past experiences, taking into account that more modern forms of communications are spreading nowadays and more importantly given that this project has already been done before! What needs to be done is re-implementing the addresses we paid tens of millions of dollars SNC-Lavalin to do for us, and update them internally to make them up to date and cut costs.

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Screenshots taken from A Separate State of Mind

Thanks M for the article!