Here are few pictures and a video taken at the landfill right on the Beirut River. Needless to say, the smell is horrible, garbage is everywhere and I even spotted someone living there. The authorities are supposed to remove all this garbage soon but what I don’t understand is why garbage is thrown so randomly and all over the place? Even if we’re having a garbage crisis, that’s not an excuse to throw garbage everywhere.
A week ago, I was checking out on Baby Ali under the Charles Helou bridge with a friend when we spotted a young man coming out of the station. His clothes were dirty and torn and he look weak and tired. When we asked him what is he doing in the station, he told us he’s been sleeping on the stairs for a week because he fled his parents’ house in Akkar. As it turns out, the young man wasn’t emotionally stable and needed assistance so my friend contacted an NGO who took him in. I don’t know how much he would have lasted living like that but we luckily found him before it was too late. That wasn’t the case for Tawfic Khawan though, an 87 year old Lebanese who used to live under the Basta bridge.
Based on the story that’s being shared online, Tawfic was homeless, disabled after an accident, with no medical security and barely any food to survive on. He always had a small flag that says “and Lebanon remains…” and was trying to join the #YouStink protests in Beirut and light himself up in Martyrs Square but no one would take him here, so he bought a bottle of petrol, poured it over his weak body and lit himself up. This is a truly heartbreaking story and I wish we would have known before about Tawfic and helped him out somehow. I believe it is important to shed the light on these people in need in order to raise awareness and figure out a way to assist them.
A small sit-in was organized yesterday under the Basta el Tahta bridge to commemorate his death.
May he rest in peace.
He asked a young man to take him to the martyr’s square but the young man refused, saying it was too dangerous with the protests and the violence occurring there.
Tawfic was homeless, disabled after an accident, with no medical security and barely any food to survive on.
The law 220/2000 states that the disabled are entitled to free healthcare among many other benefits, yet as many other laws in Lebanon, they remain only words on paper
Tawfic lived under the Basta bridge, his only decoration the Lebanese flag with the words “and Lebanon remains…”
He gave the rest of his money to the kids to buy sweets, and then with what remained bought a bottle of petrol. He drank some and poured some over himself and then lit a match.
He had wanted to light himself in the martyr’s square, to show the politicians of this country what it really means to rape their nation. But he couldn’t reach there. He committed suicide alone, on the street.
Tawfic’s death does not just represent the failure of the state. We also failed him.
The Abou Rakhoussa market that took place yesterday in Downtown Beirut was a funny reaction to Nicolas Chammas’ press conference, where he called on demonstrators to leave the Beirut district because they were “cheapening” it, but I don’t think it sent out the right message. The #YouStink movement, as far as I know, is about fighting corruption, defending our right to protest and resolving the garbage crisis, yet turning it into a class war is a very bad strategic decision.
While I partially disapprove of Solidere’s practices and what Beirut’s Central District was turned into, #YouStink and other movement organizers should set their priorities straight and keep their protests strictly against corruption and in favor of accountability and a transparent solution to the garbage crisis. A lot of people I know are already starting to lose interest because 1) they don’t understand who’s asking for what anymore, 2) they are not taking the organizers seriously and 3) they don’t agree with the “new demands”.
Garbage is still around us and the first rains are coming soon. This is the real problem now and this is what the movements (I lost count of all of them) should focus on. I know that they’re up against a ruthless, powerful and corrupt political class, but they need to have a clear plan of action and specific goals or else the movement will die out. Time is not on their side and as soon as people lose interest in the protest, politicians will reach a compromise (in the process) and solve the garbage crisis under the table and life will go on. I really hope I’m wrong but this is the way I’m seeing things.
Needless to say, I will always side with the demonstrators and their right to protest and I condemn the disproportional and unnecessary use of force against them. Nothing justifies what happened two days ago and what has been happening since day 1 against peaceful protesters.
Yet another #YouStink protest turned violent today and some activists were beaten up and arrested by the police. The police used once again excessive force which is unacceptable and not justified. Even if the demonstrators were not as peaceful as they should be, any use of force must be proportional and strictly necessary but that wasn’t the case obviously and there are tens of videos to prove it. Moreover, the fact that the police didn’t stop the thugs that attacked the crowds is also not acceptable. I’m all for establishing order and I respect the Lebanese security forces but there’s no need to get this violent.
A police officer trying to steal a journalist’s camera – via Dar al Mussawir.
Update: I got a clarification from MTV saying “that the title used was indeed wrong and that it was changed at the midnight news. Moreover, they didn’t mention the online campaign because it wasn’t related only to Ali and they wanted to shoot another report on online campaigns especially that there are already two success stories. Also, they couldn’t mention all the names and they made sure to thank everyone”.
I thank them for the clarification and for changing that horrible title. The report should have been elaborated further in my opinion as it sent out a wrong message unfortunately and the title made it worse. What matters the most and MTV agrees on that now is that Ali is now in a new shelter with his family.
Everyone is happy that Baby Ali was rescued from the street and moved into a new shelter but MTV’s report last night was a disrespectful one for the baby and his family and those who helped.
To begin with, they gave themselves all the credit for shedding the light on the story which is not correct as the story had spread before on Twitter and was highlighted by several media as well. I personally knew about Baby Ali from the MTV report but a lot of people were following up on the baby since day 1 and posting updates.
Second of all, calling the baby a “bastard” is inappropriate and unnecessary. The headline used “بعد الاعلان: منزل للرضيع اللقيط!” was a terrible one! Did you verify that he’s a bastard? And if that’s the case what difference does it make? Did you check if the mother was raped or forced into prostitution for example? Or if the father ditched her or maybe died in the war in Syria? This baby has a name and you could have used it for announcing the story.
Last but not least, why didn’t they mention who helped and how? If they don’t want to say Alfa helped, what’s wrong with mentioning LiveLoveBeirut and letting people know about the online fundraising campaign to help Ali and other children?
Speaking of donors, Alfa covered the rent as you all know and Touch promised to buy the family everything that’s missing in the house. Several anonymous donors also offered to help and one of them was referred by MTV. As far as the 30-day long online campaign is going, we collected over $6500 in only 4 days which is amazing!
Overall, moving Baby Ali into a new apartment was a very demanding task that took a lot of time and dedication mainly from Carol Maalouf and the Leb4refugees team but also from a lot of people who were taking care of the baby since Day 1. Rachelle, Lama and Rana spent hours every day watching over the baby, feeding him, buying him and his grandpa stuff, taking him to a doctor on their own expenses, getting him meds, trying to reach out to the media and other things. They were the first people I talked to about sharing the post and they were extremely helpful and caring. they were sick worried about the baby and wanted to know every single detail of the story and still ask for updates every day. It is not MTV’s report nor my post that got baby Ali out of the street, it’s the follow-up of these mothers and the Leb4refugees team. Carol made sure that Ali won’t be sleeping on the street the day she found out about him and did all the arrangements to move him and his family the next day to a new house despite the obstacles (Police, paper work and some NGOs) that she ran into. It’s very easy to show support online and share stories but things are very different on the ground especially when it comes to refugees and street children.
Despite this disappointing report, what matters the most is that Ali and his family are doing great now and they are enjoying their new shelter and the new life they were given.
Piles of Garbage were apparently blocking the Dora pedestrian bridge so an old man decided to cross the highway and got killed. As a result, the #بدنا_نحاسب movement decided to stage a protest in front of the bridge and blamed Sukleen among others for the incident. They also moved some of the garbage and dropped them in front of the company’s offices in Karantina.
I know we are all fed up of the garbage crisis and the corruption and incompetence of Lebanese officials, but there’s no excuse to jeopardize your life by crossing the highway, and Sukleen has nothing to do with the piles of garbage under a pedestrian bridge. Those who organized this protest should have at least promoted road safety and advised against crossing highways and blamed the municipality and concerned ministries (not Sukleen) for not clearing the pedestrian bridge.
Moreover, I think Yasa or KunHadi should organize a campaign on the Dora-Karantina highway to prevent people from crossing the highway because I spot people almost EVERYDAY crossing the highway, sometimes underneath the pedestrian bridge which is quite absurd! They could start by placing a police officer or volunteer next to the bridge for a short period of time to prevent people like this old man from crossing the highway. A lot of people don’t understand the risks of crossing busy highways and this old man’s life could have been saved easily if someone was there to prevent him.
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”.
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.
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.
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!
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