Category Archives: Critiques

Tony Khalife Has Got It All Wrong On Domestic Violence In Lebanon

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tony-khalife

I’m not really sure what is Tony Khalife’s deal with NGOs that are working against domestic violence but he has gone too far this time and his last two interventions on this issue are, according to my humble opinion, utter nonsense. Even more, he’s damaging the reputation of respectable NGOs and turning the public against them without having any scientific proof to back his claims. When he was covering the Sarah el Amine story, he was throwing false claims all over the place and even had a Sheikh on the show who kept undermining the work of NGOs. I won’t go back to this episode but focus on his latest intervention during his appearance on Al Hayat TV where he attacked once again NGOs concerned with domestic violence against women.

[YouTube]

You can watch the 4-minute long video above and here are my thoughts on it:

– Claiming that some NGOs and lawyers are interfering in internal family affairs and pushing women to file lawsuits against their abusive husbands is complete nonsense. When a man abuses his wife or his children or vice versa, it’s no longer a family affair but a social issue and NGOs are here to help these women speak out and not suffer (or die) in silence.

– Claiming that certain NGOs get paid for every woman that dies due to domestic violence is a serious accusation that needs to be backed by clear evidence. If that’s not the case, he should apologize to the NGOs in question for harming their reputation.

– Claiming that NGOs have caused an increase in the number of domestic violence victims is also a serious accusation that has no scientific evidence. If anything, these NGOs are shedding the light on more and more cases everyday that no one used to hear about them before and I’m glad Mona Abou Hamze disagreed with him on this statement.

– Refusing to admit that men are the dominant group in our society is like refusing to admit most of the Lebanese are still sectarian. We are still way behind in terms of women rights and even human rights at this point.

– Claiming that women speaking out in public in front of their sons about their abusive husband is more humiliating than their husband beating them at home in front of their kids is probably the worst thing Tony said on that night. NGOs and organizations have been working for years to help women break their silence and speak out against their abusive husbands and seek protection from the authorities and society. By asking them to keep things in the house, these women and their children will suffer in silence just like what happened with Sarah el Amine.

Moreover, being an educated and respectable person has nothing to do with domestic violence. We’ve seen how a lawyer was beating his wife in public the other day and was almost bragging about it on public TV and on your show as well. Therefore, if you come back home and you find the police waiting for you, it must be for a good reason not because NGOs and lawyers are pushing women to file random lawsuits. Last but not least, an NGO that is working to eliminate all forms of exploitation and violence against women is not entitled to report cases of domestic violence against men. If Tony Khalife feels there are a lot of men being abused by women, he should start his own NGO then and report these cases and organize demonstrations and everyone will gladly support him if he’s right.

I think it’s quite ironic that Tony Khalife is running a show to help shed the light on important topics and is criticizing at the same time NGOs that are helping shed the light on domestic violence cases and supporting women being abused by their husbands. If he feels certain NGOs are not doing their job well which is properly the case, then he should prepare a show to evaluate their work and not just throw random accusations at them. Also, he should reconsider some of the cases he’s talking about and whether they helped or harmed the people involved as well.

All in all, I think it would better if he invests more time and effort into spreading awareness on domestic violence and on ways to support the victims rather than get into a pointless war with NGOs and organizations, specially those that are closely working with the authorities.

Why We Need Shows Like Tony Khalife’s 1544 and Joe Maalouf’s 7ki Jeliss In Lebanon

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Tony

If you had asked me 5 or 6 years ago what I thought about Tony Khalife or Joe Maalouf’s TV show, I would have probably told you that they need to be shut down. However, as social media is becoming more and more important in Lebanon and the Arab world, these shows are mainly feeding on hot social media topics and taking them a step further, and are helping (sometimes) shed the light on other important topics. Needless to say, this doesn’t mean that the hosts are doing a fine job and should be praised. On the contrary, I’ve been criticizing and bashing Khalife and Maalouf for years and I still disapprove of their methods and some of the stories they cover but the fact that they are able to tackle any topic they want and say (almost) whatever they want on TV, even if it’s wrong, is something we somehow need in Lebanon.

Take for example tonight’s episode with the guy who was filmed beating his wife in ABC Dbayyeh. Both criticized and bashed the man and Maalouf went as far as accusing him of bribery. He even decided to hang up on him at some point when the guy stopped making any sense. Again I’m not saying I approve of such behavior but you need someone to do this dirty job and they are doing it for us and indirectly forcing those who committed a certain crime or are involved in a scandal to show up and defend themselves or state their point of view. More importantly, the fact that the original video spread via social media got people engaged in the show and helped spread the story even further and put more pressure on the concerned parties (juridical body) to do something about it.

Again I am not a fan of these shows to be honest and I struggle to watch them but I do so when there’s a hot story going viral online because both hosts are very well connected and powerful enough (I don’t know who’s backing them) to say whatever they want and they almost always manage to surprise me with the amount of information they collect, specially Joe Maalouf. Unfortunately, their take on some issues is sometimes disappointing and even shocking, like when Tony Khalife was taking sides with some Sheikh and bashing Kafa and other NGOs for trying to help women being abused, or when Maalouf revealed a secret hideout for gays in Lebanon causing their arrest, but that’s where the online community should intervene and pressure them to apologize for their mistakes.

All in all, social media is still growing rapidly in Lebanon and is leading to positive changes in our society but it still didn’t reach a point where it can have a serious impact on some matters, mainly because the authorities rarely listen to what people are saying, and more importantly because some parties are hijacking social media and “imposing” their views by spamming our timelines. We need more online influencers and by that I don’t mean popular Instagram accounts :)

7ki

A Lebanese Was Caught Beating A Woman In Public While Kafa Was Demonstrating Against Violence

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kafa

Kafa organized a demonstration yesterday in front of the National Musuem to end domestic violence against women and in support of the victims’ families, specially after the brutal murder of Sara al Amin a week ago. On the same day and in a different location, a man was caught on camera beating a woman inside her car. Al Jadeed are saying he’s an official and that the woman is his wife but I can’t confirm both. What’s sure is that he was beating her in public and no one intervened to help the poor woman, which brings me back to the post I wrote a few days ago on how Lebanese need to protect women being assaulted in public or inside their houses.

If I had seen this guy, I would have definitely rushed and kept him away from this woman and I am sure a lot of people would have done the same. I am not here blaming the guy who filmed the whole thing as it’s a personal choice after all, but we need to take action against abusive individuals and shame them while protecting the victim.

I will follow up on this story and see if this guy’s name is revealed since he’s an official and the head of a municipality according to Al Jadeed.

Getting A Wedding Loan Is The Worst Idea Ever!

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20150527_074903-1 This is one of the many wedding loan promotions I see in Lebanon – I scratched the bank’s name because the post is directed to couples rather than criticizing banks that are simply doing what’s good for them

As soon as I set a date for my wedding 3 years ago, I sat down with my wife and wrote down the estimated costs of a big wedding in a budget planner. Even though I am not a fan of big traditional Lebanese weddings, I had no choice but to settle for one in order to please everyone around me. To be honest, I didn’t think it was worth getting into a fight with both families just for one day and I was fine with the big wedding as long a we didn’t exceed the set budget (and did few things my way). It was out of the question for me to pay for things I could not afford or even worse take a wedding loan! For me, a wedding loan is the worst possible idea any couple could apply for and I wish banks would stop giving young couples this option in Lebanon.

I can understand people applying for personal/car loans or getting credit cards, or borrowing money from their parents and I’ve done all of them and still have credit cards that I use in emergencies or when I run out of money, but I would never consider a wedding loan because it’s a terrible investment at the worst possible time.

Just to explain how bad wedding loans are for newly wedded couples earning average incomes and why they shouldn’t go for one (assuming that the average cost of a relatively big wedding in Lebanon is around 25-30k for 250 people):
1- You are taking 20K and 40K loans at very high interest rates (up to 50% of the original loan sometimes) to invite 300 people to eat and drink and look fancy and you are barely getting 50% of what you spent back in the wedding account.
2- You are starting your marital life with a heavy and unnecessary loan and the expenses will keep on piling up once you move to your new place. No wedding couple wants to start a marriage with staggering debt.
3- Speaking of expenses, and trust me on that one, they will double and triple once you are living on your own, so having an extra loan payment every month is a bad idea, specially if you are taking a house loan as well.
4- Even if you’ve been dreaming all your life of a big wedding, you won’t be able to please everyone no matter how much you pay, so pay as much as you can to make the best out of it. I’ve done a big wedding with a very reasonable amount by looking after every single detail and trying to get the best offers and I still regret some of the costs I had to endure.
5- Your family and friends will be happy for you no matter what you do with your wedding and even if you don’t invite them. They will drink and sing and cheer for you even if the venue is your own backyard, and that’s what matters the most.

Some may argue that a couple may need to take a loan in order not to delay the wedding, but that’s not a valid excuse as they can plan a small wedding or maybe organize a wedding abroad and invite their direct families only. Again I’m not trying to judge anyone here and it’s a personal decision after all, but a couple being behind before even kicking off their new life together will affect every decision they make together and could prove detrimental to their relationship. All in all, if your parents insist on having a big wedding, ask them to help out with the wedding expenses like I did and if they can’t, I advise you to prepare a wedding with whatever money you have and make sure to take into consideration your honeymoon expenses because that’s the best part of a wedding (at least for me).

Believe It Or Not: There’s a Shortage Of Syrian Skilled Workers In Lebanon

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workers via Al-Akhbar

The number of registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon has surpassed the 1 million mark this year, and our country has the highest per capita concentration of refugees in the world with 257 refugees per per 1,000 inhabitants yet we’ve been having a major shortage of Syrian skilled workers ever since the Lebanese authorities decided to impose visa restrictions. Lebanon’s agricultural sector is among the most severely hit as the number of laborers dropped by nearly 80 percent and this shortage is becoming a serious issue for other sectors as well.

The reason for that shortage is that Syrian workers are now subject to a Kafala sponsorship system, which means that they need a Lebanese to sponsor their stay. Moreover, they have to pay $200 upon their entry into Lebanon and an extra $65 for the paper work required. As a result, Syrian workers are not willing (or are unable) to pay almost $300 to work for few months in Lebanon while Lebanese companies are struggling to find workers at affordable prices. A friend of mine, who owns a cleaning company, told me the Syrian worker’s average salary has gone up by some $200 in the past couple of months as the demand is really high and there aren’t that many Syrian workers left in the country. On another hand, Syrian workers are struggling to find Lebanese sponsors.

Personally speaking, I still think the visa restrictions were much needed but they probably need to be amended to facilitate things for seasonal workers coming from Syria as they need the money and we need them in Lebanon. Until then, I hope this will encourage Lebanese to replace the Syrian workers noting that we have 1.5 Million Lebanese below the poverty line. The argument that “Lebanese are not used to this type of work” is not valid because when you’re poor, you need to work and any work is better than staying home. There’s one thing that I’m worried about though, is that local businessmen might start recruiting Syrian kids to do the job.

I believe this is the first time we’ve ever had a shortage in Syrian workers ever since the Hariri assassination in 2005 and the withdrawal of Syrian troops.

What Is This Arab Tourism Award Jbeil (Byblos) Just Won?

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byblos via Bank Audi FB page

I’m really happy that Byblos won the Arab Tourism Capital Title for 2016 but I am really confused about this award as I can’t find anything about it. There’s no doubt that Jbeil deserves to win such an award but who are we competing against and who’s coming up with these awards? What exactly is the Arab Council of Tourism?

I tried to look up the Arab Council of Tourism online and found a website called [arab-tourismorg.org] which didn’t help much. In fact, I realized Jbeil wasn’t the only winner as the Saudi city Abha also won the same award for the year 2016 and 2017. If this is true, then Jbeil won the award for two years not just one (yay?).

Jbeil was also chosen as the best Arab Tourist City by the World Tourism Organization in 2013 but I could barely find anything related to it as well. Don’t get me wrong as I am not trying to question the awards but if we are only hearing about them in Beirut then what’s the point?

I honestly think our primary focus should be on promoting tours and activities in Jbeil because these awards won’t help much if tourists don’t know how to get to Byblos. I just had a quick look at Livelovelebanon (where it’s still winter) and destinationlebanon where I found a very helpful pdf but not so user-friendly.

Otherwise, congrats to Jbeil which is one of my favorite cities in Lebanon and I’m going to dedicate a post very soon to Jbeil, how to get there, things to do, places to go, restaurants to visit etc …

cities

Where Is The Internet Police When You Need It In Lebanon?

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dima-sadek

LBCI News Anchor Dima Sadek removed a post she wrote on Facebook few days ago after her mother received threats and insults on her phone. Unfortunately, this is not the first time a journalist is harassed in Lebanon whether online or through abusive phone calls and these people won’t stop even if you removed a controversial post or picture. May Chidiac was and is still being harassed on a daily basis and nothing is being done to track down these people. Moreover, there are a lot of people who have nothing to do with politics and get harassed on a daily basis and are unable to do anything about it, and I’ve already raised this issue two years ago when one of my friends was being harassed.

I think it’s time for the ISF and cyber crimes bureau to investigate this type of harassment and bullying and try to track down who’s behind it. We also need to track down all these apps that can get you someone’s personal information based on their license plate and that are still available for download. Cyber-stalking, cyber-bullying and online harassment are crimes that should be punishable by law and treated more seriously in Lebanon.

Dima

I Challenge MP Kabbani To Use Public Transportation For One Week

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kabbani

Our Public Works, Transportation, and Water and Energy Parliamentary Committee Head MP Mohammad Kabbani told a journalist that he doesn’t need to buy a car in Lebanon if he doesn’t get paid much because, and I quote, “there are taxis everywhere and people use public transportation everywhere in the world”. When another reporter asked him if he had ever used public transportation, he replied that he used to take the train to college.

If we assume that Lebanon has a decent public transportation that connects all regions, then MP Kabbani is absolutely right but that’s not the case in Lebanon. For example, if I want to get from Jeita to Achrafieh using taxis and buses, I would need to either take a cab which would cost me at least 20,000 LL each way or take a “service” to the highway and from there take a bus and then take another “service” or bus to get to my work place, noting that there are no bus or taxi stops in Jeita (and almost anywhere else in Lebanon) and you basically have to stand on the highway and wait for a cab to pass by. Moreover, the majority of our buses and taxis are not equipped with air conditioners so it’s a nightmare for those who have to wear suits to work especially during summer.

Of course it’s a bit easier to take cabs if you live and work inside Beirut but our public transportation is terrible and advising people to take cabs because they have low salaries is utter nonsense, especially when they live outside the capital and cannot afford rental prices in Beirut. If MP Kabbani is so confident about our public transportation, I kindly ask him to move to Keserwan for a week and take cabs and buses to the parliament everyday. Once done, he should pay a visit to the Mecanique in Hadath and see what we go through every year there.

On another note, and knowing that our MPs are too busy extending for themselves to do such experiments, a good idea would be for local TVs to document what Lebanese are going through everyday and show it to the concerned ministers and MPs in their talk shows.

[YouTube]

Is This For Real? Domestic Workers In Lebanon Could Face Deportation If They Marry non-Lebanese

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leb_housej

As if the situation wasn’t bad enough for domestic workers in Lebanon, the Lebanese authorities are in the process of passing a law that prohibits workers from having any type of relationships in Lebanon or marrying a non-Lebanese here. If they do so, the tenant can report them and have them deported as mentioned in the Legal-Agenda article and on Kafa’s Facebook page.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

خلال شهر تشرين الاول من العام 2014، تلقى كتاب العدل من وزارة العدل تعميما بشأن التعهد الذي يفترض بصاحب العمل توقيعه لديهم في اطار الحصول على اقامة للعاملة أو تجديدها. وبموجبه، يطلب من صاحب العمل أن يتعهد تجاه المديرية العامة بعدم وجود “أي علاقة زواج أو ارتباط من أي نوع كان تربط العاملة (…) باي شخص عربي او أجنبي مقيم على الاراضي اللبنانية”. كما يتعهد أنه “في حال تبين لاحقا وجود اي علاقة زواج حصلت بعددخول العاملة مراجعة الامن العام بعد تأمين تذكرة سفر بغية ترحيلها الى بلدها”

This is the first time I hear about this law and I can’t really confirm it yet. If it’s true, I don’t know what they are trying to achieve by implementing it as it’s against the most basic human rights and is wrong. We should be working on changing this rotten Kafala system instead of passing laws that enslave the workers even further.