I’m not sure where this fight took place but it’s very common in Lebanon to block roads when there’s a wedding. It’s one of those things that I was never able to understand but for some reason, many Lebanese enjoy closing down the whole neighborhood and dancing on the street when the bride is leaving her house. Also, a lot of wedding convoys enjoy driving in the middle of the road or on several lanes and causing traffic.
Of course most of the time the neighbors are aware there’s a wedding and join the bride in her celebration but obviously that wasn’t the case in this video where a van driver got pissed off and tried to cut his way through the crowds. Personally speaking, I would have waited for the zaffe to end but obviously the celebrations could have taken place without closing down the road.
By the way, what happened to the bride? Did she faint or something?
I was on my way to Beirut a week ago when a policeman stood in the middle of the road (next to the Canadian Embassy in Jal el Dib) and started asking few drivers to park on the side including myself. At first I thought they were checking “mecanique” papers and indeed the officer asked me for my driving license and “mecanique” papers which I gladly handed over. I still had no clue I was being fined for using my phone because I don’t recall taking any calls or texting anyone that morning. A few minutes later, I got bored from waiting so I asked the officer if I can go if my papers are good and that’s where he told me I’m getting a fine for using my phone. I told him but I wasn’t using my phone as far as I know but he was like “Yes you were there’s an officer standing on the side of the road a few hundred meters back who spotted you”. I was like “Spotting me doing what?” but all he said was that I was using the phone.
I was in a rush so I didn’t bother argue anymore and took the fine and drove away but I’m still not sure what “using my phone” meant to this officer and how random these fines are. In fact, ever since I got the fine I haven’t seen any officer standing on that road and I’ve spotted tens if not hundreds of drivers texting and answering their phones on the same road. I even wanted to go and file a complaint but to say what? I am sure I wasn’t using my phone to text or answer yet I could have been holding it to check the time (I don’t wear a watch and my car’s clock doesn’t work) or listen to music (plugged to the radio with an auxiliary cable) but again I didn’t have proof and neither the officer who fined me did. I ended up paying the fine but I wish the ISF would clarify what “using our phone” means and why they are still fining people randomly and during peak traffic hours?
What’s the point of fining drivers stuck in morning traffic for using their phones? How does that help promote road safety? How about those speeding on the highway while texting and driving? Can we take calls if we have a handset or on speaker? What if I’m holding my phone down and have the speaker mode on? Is that also a fine?
More importantly, why aren’t there regular checkpoints to fine drivers breaking the new traffic law? I spot hundreds of drivers breaking the law on a daily basis on the highway and main roads. This is where the real threat is, not on the Dbayyeh Jal el Dib maritime (jammed) road at 8:30am.
All in all, I gladly paid the fine because I may have been holding my phone but it’s quite frustrating to pay a 200,000 fine while everyone around you is clearly breaking the law (including police officers) and getting away with it, and while you’ve been promoting road safety for years on the blog.
Over 5000 people protested yesterday to call on Environment Minister Machnouk to resign and demand a sustainable solution to Lebanon’s garbage crisis. I honestly don’t know why our Environment Minister didn’t resign yet. He didn’t come up with any solution during the past months, he didn’t set up a contingency plan in case a solution isn’t reached and he didn’t try to promote recycling to reduce waste. If he’s incapable of resolving the garbage crisis because of politics, then let him resign and blame it on others. It’s as simple as that!
Five years ago, we were promised 24/7 electricity in Lebanon. Instead we got this year 24/7 Zbeleh all over Lebanon and the electricity is getting worse by the day. We were all skeptical of the Energy Ministry’s plan back then but I bet no one expected things to get even worse than they were back then. At this point it’s useless to blame one party over the party because they are all to blame, but we are to blame as well for not holding them accountable especially during elections. If you are expecting our dear ministers to resign on their own, keep on dreaming.
Take for example the Zouk power-plant and the pollution it’s causing. All municipalities (and the parties behind them) in the area are against it and want to close down the power plant yet none of them are raising awareness on this matter and investing in renewable energies. Instead, they are polluting our streets with posters and approving (and probably investing in) the constructions of summer resorts and residential and commercial areas around the power-plant, which doesn’t make any sense and goes against their demands. That’s why drastic solutions won’t work in Lebanon and why we need initiatives like the Zahle one.
The next time any party in Lebanon proposes a major solution to the electricity issue, keep this quote (taken from the DailyStar) in mind:
“Doing anything of this scale in Lebanon would require a political investment of mammoth proportions. To this point, we have not even heard that [X] parliamentary bloc will carry this plan into the future – or even beyond this term of office. We question whether [X] bloc will even acknowledge its parental relationship to this proposal, once this Cabinet and Parliament have become history. However, the real reason why this plan will not come to fruition is the system of the Lebanese state. The real flaws in infrastructure and design are in the system. The system lies. It does not have any institutions or practices to guarantee the implementation of the proposal. Our experience is that the system amounts to little more than a charade. [X]’s plan, for all its beauty, does not fit the country for which it is intended. This is not a plan for a country that ranks 34th on the Foreign Policy index of failed states.”
When I first read that an army officer called Rabih Kahil was rushed to a hospital and urgently needed blood, I thought at first that an army convoy somewhere got attacked or that the officer got injured in battle while fighting terrorists. It never crossed my mind that a Lebanese Army Lieutenant Colonel and a member of the Lebanese Commando Regiment would get killed by a bunch of people who didn’t like the fact that he was yelling on the phone and passing by “their area”. Who in their right mind would fire at an army officer and who gave these guys the authority to carry guns and protect their so-called area? To make things even worse, Rabih wasn’t killed instantly and was left to bleed to death for over an hour, and the prime suspect (Hisham Daou) may have fled the country already.
Rabih Kahil has dedicated his life to protecting Lebanon, all of Lebanon, and took part in the Nahr el Bared and Arsal battles to keep us safe and it’s both tragic and sad that he had to die this way. He put his life at risk every day to keep terrorists away and ended up getting shot in a personal dispute. I honestly expected Lebanese to be more outraged by this incident than Georges Al-Rif’s murder but that wasn’t the case probably because we are all too busy making garbage jokes and mourning some lion who got killed in Africa. There’s nothing that could possibly justify Kahil’s murder except the fact that we’re officially living in total chaos where people shoot others for fun or for the silliest of reasons. I refuse to live in such a society and there’s always something we can do as individuals and as a community. Quoting HMA Fletcher in his farewell blog post, “the real dividing line is not between Christianity and Islam, Sunni and Shia, East and West. It is between people who believe in coexistence, and those who don’t. If Lebanon doesn’t work, build a new Lebanon. It is time to thrive, not just survive”. If your town’s mayor is corrupt and his kids go around carrying guns and threatening people, report him and/or stand against him. If a local MP is abusing his powers, speak out against him. If a family member is breaking the law, don’t let him and the list goes on. Needless to say, the worst possible way to react to such incidents is by encouraging more death (asking for the death penalty) or even worse asking for the army to rule the country. For some reason, and despite everything that’s happening in Lebanon, some people don’t seem to appreciate the little freedom of expression we have and that a lot of groups have been trying to eliminate for years.
The Lebanese Army is celebrating its 70th anniversary today and Rabih Kahil is being celebrated as a martyr instead of enjoying the day with his brothers at arms. Kahil wanted to die defending his country in Arsal and Nahr el Bared and he will always be remembered and hailed as a hero for protecting us and keeping terrorists on the other side of the border.
There’s an anti-corruption demonstration planned today at 5PM in front of the Grand Serail in Beirut. The aim is to rise against corruption, pressure our politicians to find a quick solution for the garbage crisis and demonstrators are being asked to bring their garbage with them to dump them in front of the Serail.
To be honest I am not a big fan of demonstrations especially when there’s no action plan after it but I cannot but support any movement against corruption and against the rotten political class in Lebanon. The government knew Sukleen had a deadline, Minister Mashnouq was aware of that as well yet they didn’t have any contingency plans to contain a probably garbage crisis and the result is what’s happening today. Over 5000 have agreed to join the demo this afternoon and I hope the number on Facebook will be reflected on the ground. A “fachit khele2” is much needed and people should go and throw their garbage in front of the parliament instead of throwing and burning them recklessly. Let’s also try to throw an official in the garbage like they did in Ukraine.
The fact that no one is collecting garbage is not an excuse to throw it all over the place and complain about no one collecting it, but a reminder that this garbage right in our faces is being dumped elsewhere without any recycling or any waste management and is polluting some small village and threatening its residents. We need to to stop relying on the government and start recycling and reducing waste ASAP. Let’s start recycling at home and be role models for others to follow. Today we can make a stand and make headlines on TV but everything will go in vain if we go back home and do nothing the day after. What matters is what happens after the demo.
Sukleen’s term has expired on July 17th and the company is no longer collecting garbage, the deadline set by the Naameh residents expired yesterday and the road to the landfill is closed once again, Environment Minister Mohammed al-Mashnouq still has no idea on what to do next and has informed the municipalities that they will need to handle their garbage until further notice. The proposed solution is to designate new landfill locations to replace the Naameh one but all municipalities are refusing this option because they simply don’t want to end up with a landfill as big as the Naameh one. At the same time, Naameh residents are fed up and they have every right to close the landfill, noting that it was originally supposed to operate for 6 years only yet has become the country’s primary landfill (65% of the Lebanese garbage) for 17 years now.
As far as Sukleen is concerned, they did their job and are not too worried about what happens next. Beirut Municipalities, on the other hand are not prepared to handle this task and they are already panicking and setting up temporary dump sites in inappropriate locations, noting that most municipalities are indebted to Sukleen.
How do we get out of this mess?
The problem is a political one as is always the case in Lebanon, and Minister Mashnouk can’t really do anything until all parties agree on a new company or on renewing Sukleen and setting up new landfill locations, but we could have avoided all that if the authorities started years ago recycling campaigns and encouraged municipalities to invest in recycling instead of wasting all their money on Sukleen’s services, noting that we are currently paying almost $170 per 1 ton of garbage between sweeping, cleaning, sorting, packing and dumping, which is a relatively high amount.
Given that at least 60% of our solid waste is organic in Lebanon, the most effective solution is to implement an adequate strategic waste management plan and encourage recycling. It is in every municipality’s interest to invest in recycling and promote environmentally friendly solutions to save money, protect the environment and more importantly their own residents. Take for example Sweden where people recycle almost 47% of their waste and use 52% to generate heat; I’m not saying we will achieve that in 1 or 2 years but things have been dragging for 20 years now and the worst thing we could do right now is repeat the Sukleen and Naameh experience, add to that the illegal landfills in Saida, Tripoli (Baddawi) and Tyre.
If some municipalities are too corrupt or don’t understand the benefits of recycling and waste management, why doesn’t the government force them to spend 30 or 40% of its budget on recycling instead of paying debts to Sukleen? Why doesn’t the ministry give them long-term credits to encourage waste management and incentives based on the results achieved? Just like the electricity problem in this country, I believe municipalities need to take personal initiatives like Zahle did and force it on the authorities.
Tareq Yatim is a cold-blooded murderer and a horrible human being but death penalty is not the way he should be punished and we need to stop cheering for capital punishment every time an innocent person is killed. Taking away someone’s life should never be an option and the Lebanese society needs to stop promoting it as a quick fix solution. There are better alternatives like being jailed for life without parole. I understand that there’s corruption in this country and some criminals are walking out free but that’s not an excuse to keep pushing for capital punishment.
Killing Tareq won’t bring George back to his family and sentencing him to death may not be as swift as people think it is as the process takes time and might involve several trials and hearings and needs the (non-existing) president’s approval. More importantly, and given how corrupt our system is, applying the death penalty can be arbitrary and politicized (in other crimes) and you can’t undo a mistake once you discover a man has been executed for a crime he did not commit. I know everyone is angry and pissed off at what happened but there are many ways to support and comfort George’s family like raising funds to help the family for example.
Let’s not forget Walid el Mohtar was also killed but by mistake on that same day. Should we sentence his killers to death as well? Why isn’t anyone doing so? We all mock and criticize Saudi Arabia and Iran for executing prisoners every year yet this is the first thing we ask for when someone is killed. Capital punishment has never worked, has never stopped criminals like Yatim and goes against almost every religion and code of ethics out there.
Update: There’s an online campaign to help support George’s family financially. You can help out [here].
George Al-Rif is a 45 year old man who got into a dispute over right of way on the airport road and was chasing the car that hit him to report it to the police. Unfortunately, as soon as they got to Achrafieh, the other driver, a guy called Tareq Yatim, went down and started beating and stabbing George. George was critically injured before dying of his wounds in the hospital. The victim had four children. A video emerged showing the attack and the least I can say is that it’s quite shocking. Yatim, who was arrested later on and confessed to the attack, just stood there beating and stabbing the guy in broad daylight in the middle of the street.
What’s even more shocking is that the murderer did not hesitate to kill his victim over the silliest of disputes, and what some media reports stated that “he was under the influence of drugs” is quite pathetic and misleading. Nothing justifies stabbing and killing a man like that and the sad part is that there are tons of people like Yatim out there who are “well protected” and would kill or assault other people over the silliest of reasons.
This is exactly why I don’t get into a fight with anyone on the road because there are sickos out there waiting for a chance to empty their gun or use their knife. Sadly enough, staying away from fights could also get you killed in Lebanon, just like Walid el Mohtar, a Lebanese who was shot dead by mistake yesterday just because he was at the wrong place at the wrong time.
This is the jungle we live in and the worst thing we could possibly do is turn it into a religious matter because people like Yatim are animals on the loose and know no religion or law. Only few days ago, some website was bragging about two young Lebanese “Christians” beating a Lebanese “Shiite” in broad daylight because he insulted the cross at the heart of Jounieh. Gladly the incident was a minor one but I thought the way the story was reported was terrible and that we should not incite to violence or sectarianism under any circumstances. As long as we are capable of containing the situation and calling the cops to do their job, we should avoid resorting to violence.
George Al-Rif and Walid el Mohtar unfortunately died and no amount of justice will bring them back to their family. I just hope that their killers will rot in jail and won’t be able to get out anytime soon because of the “wastas”. Until then, I ask you to stay away from fights and avoid any kind of dispute on the road or on the street because you might end up facing a cold-blooded killer like Yatim. Some people might say that keeping a gun or a knife in your car is a must in this country, I say that it makes things even worse for everyone. Keep your weapons at home and stay away from fights on the street. If you ever face someone like Yatim, run him over or just drive away and if he’s chasing you down, drive to the nearest police station, that’s what I would do.