Category Archives: Critiques

Beirut River: Expectations vs Reality

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Nahr Beirut via NowLebanon

Two years ago, a Lebanese architect called Sandra Frem revealed a project she had been working on since 2008 “seeking to beautify the Beirut River (Nahr Beirut) and make it an integral part of Beirut rather than a separate entity as is the case today”. Sandra thought we could make good use of the open spaces on both sides of the river and turn them into green spaces. Moreover, she thought that we could help solve the water shortage in Beirut by purifying and distributing sewage and rainwater.

Of course Sandra knew her project was a bit unrealistic (mainly due to politics) but I’m sure she never thought Beirut River would be turned into a huge landfill and become a threat to all the Lebanese. She wanted the river to help change people, instead it’s helping spread diseases that kill people. I’m sure she must be devastated by the current situation and what the Beirut River has come to just like we all are, but we can only hope that this is a temporary phase that we’re going through and that Nahr Beirut would be turned one day into “a beautiful and fun place that brings people together and alleviates the burden of life in this country”.

You can read the full article [here].

The architect’s project built bridges between hypothetical gardens along the river banks, and traced special routes for public transportation (buses or tramways). Her objective was to make walking a fun activity for Beirut residents and to transform the river into a space for relaxation for residents of the surrounding poor neighborhoods. “The river can help change the people,” she argues.

For Sandra Frem, a LAU architecture professor, talking about this project is all but unrealistic under these circumstances. She has since recanted “her dream” of carrying out such projects, focusing instead on working in her engineering office on small, more realistic projects. “This project is politically and socially sensitive. There is no political will to carry out such projects in poor residential neighborhoods, as preference now goes to towers,” she said.

Nahr Beirut2 via NowLebanon

Garbage Crisis In Lebanon: Why is Everyone Warning Us About The First Rains?

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Beirut River turned into a landfill (Reuters/Mohamed Azakir)

Why is everyone warning us about the first rains? What will happen when it rains with all this garbage around? The truth is Lebanon will be facing a very serious health crisis if the garbage is not removed in time. I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for two days now but I don’t know much about it so I asked a friend who’s an environmentalist to help out and I spotted yesterday a very useful article on eTobb.com on the results of this garbage crisis on our overall health.

Wet Garbage = Water Pollution

So what exactly happens when it starts to rain? Heavy rainstorms will “cause the garbage to disintegrate into the soil reaching underground water reserves such as natural wells and fossil water (non-renewable)”, which means that diluted garbage would “sink into the soil, spreading downwards and outwards in a characteristic brush-stroke shape known as a plume, contaminating soil and water as it moved”.

As far as the Beirut River is concerned, here’s what eTobb had to say:

In addition to that, recently circulated images of Nahr Beirut show immense quantities of garbage blocking the path of the scarcely flowing river (in summer alone). The latter river is known to absorb and take in large amounts of rainfall every year, sometimes overflowing naturally due to weather changes; and now that we know that Nahr Beirut is completely blocked by piles and piles of stinking, harmful and poisonous garbage, only one destiny is bound to this year’s first rainfall with those piles of garbage which will definitely overflow, sending trash all over the roads and residential neighborhoods, down the water sewers and into the ground which will increase the risk of dangerous diseases, mutated insects, polluted water, air and vegetation and on the long run, we can expect plagues similar to those humanity witnessed during the major wars due to uncontrolled numbers of rats roaming the streets on a garbage feeding frenzy. Last but not least, let’s not forget how many hot and humid days have passed while the garbage was left out on the streets, fermenting, rotting, decomposing and vaporizing into the atmosphere, bringing a new threat our way, a threat that will affect each and every once of us, Acid Rain.

In addition to that:

– Landfills contaminate the air that we are breathing with various toxic substances.
– Contaminated water could lead to the widespread of several diseases such as Cholera, Typhoid, Dysentery and Dengue Fever. Add to that typhoid fever, food poisoning, gastroenteritis, and enteric fever.
– Populations exposed to untreated chemicals witness an increase in cancer rates.

The garbage crisis has been ongoing for 3 months now and the Lebanese authorities are still wasting their time on organizing national dialogue sessions instead of forming an emergency committee, encouraging people to recycle, reducing waste and trying to figure out solutions.

A Protester Confused By All These Demonstrations In Beirut

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I’m sure you all remember this funny video of an over-excited protester at the early #YouStink protests. Well he showed up again at the Aounist rally organized last week but apparently was drunk and went there by mistake. At least that’s what he told Lebanese Memes. He did sound drunk that’s for sure but he is right about one thing: All these new movements/hashtags, protests and sit-ins are quite confusing and a lot of people are unable to keep up with what’s happening which is not a good thing.

There’s a new #YouStink protest happening on Wednesday while activists are still on a hunger strike for almost a week now. One of them got hospitalized yesterday but got detained for a short while on his way back to Martyrs Square which is totally messed up!

At Least 14 Lebanese Activists Are On An Open-Ended Hunger Strike Until Environment Minister Resigns

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hunger AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

Two days after #YouStink organizers held a sit-in inside the Environment ministry, several Lebanese activists decided to stage an open-ended hunger strike until Environment Minister Mohammad Machnouk resigns. At least 10 of them set up tents outside the ministry in DownTown Beirut and were joined later on by others.

While I applaud this brave decision, I am not sure if this is the right time to stage a hunger-strike given the circumstances. A hunger strike is a dangerous protest tactic as it can result in death or affect their health very serioulsy and in my opinion should only be used as a last resort. I ask the #YouStink organizers and the Red Cross to take good care of these young men and women.

The names of the protesters on hunger strike are:
Mohamad Harake – محمد حركة
Salah Jubaily – صلاح جبيلي
Ahmad Al Masri – أحمد المصري
Ali Hamouch – علي حموش
Hussein Mubarak – حسين مبارك
Waref Suleiman (Initiator of the strike) – وارف سليمان
Mohamad Awaly – محمد عوالي
Dany Suleiman – داني سليمان
Ahmad Majzoub – أحمد مجذوب
Zein Nasserdinne – زين ناصر الدين
Hasan Koteich – حسن قطيش
Inaya – عناية
Bilal Alawa – بلال علاو
Mohamad Mogharbel – محمد مغربل

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tol3et

How Safe Are Amusement Parks In Lebanon?

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amus

My friend was telling me yesterday about a tragic incident in an amusement park in Aley and then I saw the report at night on MTV. A young kid has apparently died after falling off the roller coaster, while his cousin got some serious injuries. According to the amusement park management, the kid was asked to sit down twice which he didn’t do but that’s utter nonsense. The person who was managing that ride should have stopped it immediately if he thought someone is violating basic safety rules and regulations. Something doesn’t add up here and a thorough investigations needs to be performed.

The worst part is that both the municipality and the Ministry of Tourism denied any responsibility and stated that it’s not their job to perform safety inspections. If that’s the case then who is making sure amusement parks are safe in Lebanon?

To be honest, I never really felt safe in any of Lebanon’s amusement parks and I always wondered if there are security checks being performed as safety should be the #1 priority in any amusement park. Of course accidents are bound to happen and injuries may occur when guests don’t follow safety guidelines but there are many ways to ensure guests, especially young children, are kept safe.

There aren’t that many amusement parks in Lebanon and most of them are really old so I hope that this tragic accident will push the authorities to properly inspect them and make sure they are abiding by the rules and regulations (if there are any).

Sincere condolences to the family.

[YouTube]

Correcting The DailyMail & NYTimes: LBC Reporter Attacked By Police Not Protesters

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police3 Photo by Karim Mostafa

Update: The DailyMail removed the article.

The DailyMail shared an article on the recent Beirut Protests stating that “a female reporter was attacked by protesters on live TV during the anti-government demonstrations in Lebanon”. I’m not sure how they came up with that conclusion but the “mob” that they are referring to was actually protecting the LBC reporter from the riot police. The crowd didn’t assault her and her clothes weren’t torn down. In fact, I don’t see anywhere in the video her clothes being torn down so I’m not sure where they got this information from.

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Here’s what the DailyMail said about this picture: “Dramatic footage shows the reporter screaming and cowering for cover as she is assaulted by the crowd who tear at her clothes”.

And here’s the LBCI report where Nada Andraos Aziz, the reporter shown in the video, explains how she was attacked by the police along with her cameraman.

[YouTube]

Unfortunately, NYTimes shared the DailyMail story without verifying it. I will try to reach out to both sources see if they can rectify the story.

What The Hell Happened Yesterday In Riad el Solh?

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Protest_150822_0507

When I wrote a post yesterday morning on how to gear up for today’s protest, I never thought for a second that we might actually need to protect ourselves from tear gas canisters, water cannons, rubber bullets and live ammunition. I never imagined that the ISF and the Lebanese Army would attack the protesters this way and would storm a group of peaceful protesters, beat them up and arrest them. I haven’t slept all night following up on the news and checking on my friends to make sure they are all safe. To be honest, I think we are very lucky that no one died in the protests yesterday because things were totally out of control.

diaper Protesters were unarmed and harmless civilians.

So what really happened?

I got to Riad el Solh around 6:20pm and walked all the way to the statue where protesters were chanting slogans and waving banners against the government. Things were relatively calm until the riot police started firing water cannons. People stepped back a bit and then all of a sudden tear gas canisters were fired in the middle of the crowds and one of them fell few meters away from me. I’ve never been tear gassed before and I hope I never do again because it’s the worst feeling ever. Your eyes start burning and you feel as if you’re suffocating. One protester got the tear gas right in his face and fainted for a second, while parents who had come with their children were panicking and running away from the gas.

At that time, I wasn’t aware what was happening near Annahar building but then we heard gun shots that were being fired in the air by the Lebanese Army as shown in many videos. At the same time, the riot police kept throwing more tear gas and started attacking the crowds and trying to disperse them all the way from Riad el Solh to Beirut Souks. Rubber bullets were used at this point. The clashes continued till around midnight when things calmed down and the police was ordered by our Interior Minister to free all the detainees. The protesters were pushed back outside Riad el Solh square but they resisted and decided to set up tents and spend the night there. I will not bore you with more details because the pictures and videos speak for themselves but I still can’t figure out what triggered all this mess, and who gave the order to fire at protesters but it’s outrageous and shocking.

bullets Tear gas, Rubber bullets and live ammunition

Thousands of Lebanese men, women and children went down to protest for their most basic rights and for a clear and transparent solution to the garbage crisis away from politics and were all suppressed in an unnecessarily violent and disproportional way. Even the press was caught off-guard and got its share of the beating. I have no idea what to expect next but hopefully things will be clearer by next week. Whatever happened yesterday should NEVER be repeated and those who assaulted and fired at harmless protesters need to be reprimanded and this garbage crisis needs to be resolved once and for all in a transparent and efficient way.

Let’s see what comes next.

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All pictures above were taken by my friend Jimmy Ghazal who got hit by a tear gas in the head but is ok.

gino ambulance via Gino

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#YouStink Saturday Protest: Should We Join Or Not?

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The garbage crisis is getting worse every day and is affecting all of us, yet when activists call for a demonstration against our corrupt politicians, barely anyone shows up. Even though most Lebanese are frustrated by the current situation and by the incompetence of our government, very few people are turning up to the protest. Yesterday during Kalamennas episode, Minister Mohammad Machnouk seemed very relaxed even though he still didn’t come up with any solution and hasn’t been supportive of recycling initiatives at all! His arguments made no sense at all and the worst part was when he suggested reopening the Naameh landfill but he couldn’t care less because he is not feeling threatened and probably won’t be by all these protests, even though #YouStink activists placed garbage in front of his house asking him to resign.

We need to hold our officials accountable for their actions and since elections are out of the question for now, we need to either take small actions or/and take the street. Unfortunately, the young generations, especially university students, don’t seem too concerned with what’s happening. They’d rather be attending a beach party and a color festival than going to a protest. I can understand people who don’t like to protest when the objectives are not clear, or because they don’t have time due to their family and work obligations, but that doesn’t apply to school and university students who should be more engaged than that. If their parents won’t let them demonstrate, they can start by recycling at home and forcing their municipalities and their neighbors to do the same. They can organize activities in their tows, raise awareness and volunteer to help recycle.

We will never be able to change anything in this country if we don’t start making small changes and taking drastic measures against our government and corruption. Trending a hashtag and sharing a post or a picture do help but they are not enough especially in Lebanon. If anything, officials here often brag on how corrupt and incompetent they are which is quite sad.

All in all, I think #YouStink activists are doing a great job and their movement is still going strong but it won’t be for long if politicians agree on a “solution” soon and if they get people confused. I heard yesterday that they are calling now for early elections which is not a smart move if you ask me. The only thing that might trigger a change is a large demonstration and a series of synchronized protests all around Lebanon. We need drastic measures and we need young and enthusiastic Lebanese to take the initiative and get things done. Moreover, we need the media and our celebrities to serve as role models for the younger generations and join the protests.

So should we attend the protest on Saturday? Of course we should and we need to encourage everyone to do the same. See you all there!

#YouStink Protesters Beaten and Detained By The Lebanese Police

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prot1

Five activists from the #YouStink (طلعت ريحتكم) movement were taken into police custody earlier today and one of them was severely injured after he was brutally beaten by the ISF. The activists (Lucien Bourjeily, Waref Sleiman, Hassan Chamas and Ihab Abu Mujahid ) were all released afterwards and a new demonstration is now scheduled for Saturday the 22nd of August at 6pm.

zbele

The police was caught on tape beating up protesters, including women protesters. Water cannons and batons were used and Activist Bilal Allaw was taken to the emergencies at AUBMC following a severe beating by the police.

I don’t care what sparked the fight but the riot police has no right to beat up protesters and this is totally unacceptable! The garbage crisis is affecting all of us and these activists are the only ones defying corruption and asking for a change and their movement is picking up. If anything, the police should be arresting those who are hiding and burning trash in nature or trying to smuggle garbage out of their area to dump it illegally elsewhere!

Here’s another [video] showing the riot police assaulting protesters. You can check out more videos and pictures on [Tol3etRi7etkoun page].

The NY Times wrote about what happened yesterday, check it out [here].

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Plans To Turn Baabda’s Forest Into A Dumpsite

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baabda

I am not sure how accurate these reports are, but there are talks that the Baabda Forest, more specifically the Khandaq al-Rahban nature reserve, might be turned into a dump-site. Tens of locals and activists protested the decision yesterday and there’s a sit-in happening today at the forest’s entrance against this outrageous decision.

I was just talking last week about the ugly side of the garbage crisis and how municipalities are burning and dumping garbage in nature but officially turning a natural reserve into a dump-site is probably the worst possible idea I’ve ever heard so far! From what I understood, the land is a private one but that doesn’t entitle its owners to destroy it that way, whoever they are.

11875042_10207598108134223_3648134444359549168_o Maybe we are recycling in the wrong place – by Hayat Chaaban

On another note, Minister Bou Faour just realized “Lebanon is on the verge of an ecological disaster” due to the ongoing waste crisis, and highlighted the need to form a committee or in other terms waste more time while trash piles up. He also wants the cabinet to remove trash from the streets but he didn’t indicate where they should be sent, which is the real problem as we all know.

All in all, I am glad that locals are getting more and more fed up with their government but the situation is getting worse and becoming unbearable in certain areas, especially inside Beirut.

PS: You can follow updates on tonight’s protest and other protests regarding the garbage crisis [here].

1439212510_ via NNA