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.
Amir Fakih, a newly grad from NDU, decided to raise awareness on youth unemployment in Lebanon by wearing his university gown and roaming the street begging for money, working as an Arguile guy and selling flowers. The idea was to portray the possible future careers of a Lebanese graduate given the lack of jobs and that the Lebanese economy is in very bad state.
Needless to say, there’s nothing wrong with any job out there but you’d expect to land a better job when you spend years and thousands of dollars to earn a decent university degree. I don’t know much about the unemployment rates in Lebanon as there are no clear studies but the real problem lies in the guidance being offered by the government (if any) and the different educational institutions. Ideally, the Lebanese Ministry of Labor should provide studies on career opening by industry to help students choose majors that could help them secure a job once they graduate.
In all cases, I don’t know what Amir majored in but he seems to be good in marketing himself and I hope he gets the job he wants sometime soon.
Ever since I posted about the Chris Brown giveaway, I’ve been receiving comments from people telling me that I shouldn’t promote him because he beat his ex-gf Rihana and that would send a wrong message to all those who are attending the concert. Added to that, Beirut.com surprisingly shared an article on why (and I quote) “attending Chris Brown’s concert would be another slap in the face to all the woman who have suffered at the hands of husbands, boyfriends and fathers in this country? And a slap in the face to all the hard work that KAFA has been doing to combat these societal problems?”, then asked to boycott Brown’s concert and make “this disgusting guy “khalas” in Lebanon “Forever”.” (I have no idea what this last sentence means by the way).
I’m at loss for words to be honest. It’s as if we got bored of boycotting artists because they’ve been to Israel so we started coming up with new reasons to boycott them. In fact, maybe they are right, maybe we should no longer tolerate the likes of Chris Brown and pressure the Lebanese authorities to halt all concerts this summer and stop all artists who may pose a threat to our society or could negatively influence the young and innocent generations, even if this means harming our economy and causing major financial losses to Lebanese companies. Maybe we should start a new movement and make Rihanna’s insightful song “Bitch Better Have My Money” its anthem.
I say we should boycott any artist who at some point in his life:
– Drank too much alcohol and got drunk.
– Used illegal substances.
– Cheated on his wife or gf/bf.
– Posed naked in front of the camera.
– Didn’t properly use hashtags on Instagram.
– Used the F*** word in a concert or during an interview.
– Was fined for speeding or parking illegally.
– Answered his cellphone at the theaters.
– Didn’t call his mother on her birthday.
– Didn’t visit his grandma on Christmas.
– Burned $100 dollar bills to light up his cigar.
– Smoked an Arguile.
– Had a Chicken Shawarma without garlic.
– Claimed that Hummus is not Lebanese.
– Denied the fact that Lebanon is the center of the Universe.
Note: I am in no way trying to compare what Chris Brown did to speeding or shawarma. He s a terrible human being who served time for what he did but that’s not the point here. What I’m referring to is how we barely make any effort when women are abused in Lebanon but get all excited when it’s about Rihanna. Our government has been refusing to pass a law to protect women for years yet we don’t boycott them or hold them accountable. When NGOs call for demonstrations to stop domestic violence hundreds only show up. Let’s set our priorities straight once and for all.
It’s wedding season again and more and more couples in Lebanon are choosing to wed outside Lebanon for some reason. Last year I got a couple of invites for weddings abroad and this year I already have 3 weddings to attend but I probably won’t end up going to any because 1) my wife just delivered and it’s too soon to travel, 2) I’d rather get the couple an expensive wedding gift than pay for tickets and a hotel stay and visa fees of course to attend a wedding and 3) because none of the couples are close friends or family members. Some people might also argue that couples getting married outside should pay for our travel expenses if they really want us to be there, and a funny video on this matter went viral ten days ago but I don’t agree with it. To begin with, the fact that Lebanon is a Third World country doesn’t mean people can’t get married outside and I wish people would stop criticizing other people’s weddings. Whether it’s a fancy wedding, an average wedding in an outdoor venue, a wedding with a 45 minute zaffé or an indoor wedding with loud music and nasty food, a wedding is the happiest day in the life of a couple and we should respect that. If the couple decided to spend $10,000 or $2,000,000 on their wedding, this is their business and not ours. If you are too annoyed by weddings, simply don’t attend them.
Going back to the couples getting married abroad, I’ve had that discussion once with a friend of mine and we even did the financials and it actually makes a lot of sense for a Lebanese couple to go for that option especially when they are forced to have a big wedding (300+ people). Getting married in Greece or Cyprus or anywhere in Europe is much cheaper than having a big wedding in Lebanon, even if the couple is planning to cover trip expenses for the close family and few selected friends. Therefore, it’s not just about pretending to be fancy or cool abroad, but it’s a smart move financially speaking, and even if the couple just wants to sound cool, it’s their decision and we should respect it.
As far as fancy weddings are concerned, the amount of money a couple wishes to spend on their wedding is none of our business. If a bride wants to pay $100,000 for her wedding dress and have a 3-day wedding and can afford it, then good for her. If I were a millionaire, I would have probably invited all my friends and family to a weekend abroad and donated all the wedding gifts to charity.
All in all, what I’m trying to say is that a wedding is a very special day for a couple and we as friends or family members should be happy for the couple and make the best out of it, even if it’s the most horrible wedding ever. The only exception is when the couple is planning to destroy a Cedars forest to build their wedding venue, or set a forest on fire because of their fireworks.
PS: Aside from the wedding thing, the velfie guy has some hilarious videos, like the Kale/Quinoa one which is very true.
9 year old child Mahmoud Mohamad Khodr al-Assi was found murdered in Bchamoun – via MTV
Mahmoud Mohammad Khodr al-Assi is a 9 year old boy who went missing on Friday afternoon and was later on found dead at a construction site in Bchamoun and his body covered with sheets and dirt. This is probably one of the most shocking crimes I’ve heard of in Lebanon, not just because of the way the crime was perpetrated but because the killer is only 15 years of age.
Assi’s friend was arrested later on, and he confessed to killing Mahmoud over a dispute. Some reports are saying Mahmoud was sexually assaulted by his friend and wanted to tell his parents but this is not confirmed yet. Assi’s family has reacted to the incident by calling for the death penalty levied against the 15-year-old killer, which is quite harsh if you ask me.
Just to make myself clear here, I’ve always been against the death penalty as a punishment but what I’m debating right now is whether juveniles who commit crimes should get the same sentences as adults would. I’m not sure how the Lebanese law works but I know for a fact that some countries treat juveniles differently from adults as they consider that a juvenile’s brain is not fully developed, and that young people have less responsibility for their actions than adults and greater prospects for reform. I know it’s quite disturbing to think that a 15 year old is capable of such a thing, but at the same time asking for the death penalty also implies killing this 15 year old who’s just a kid, and two wrongs don’t make a right.
If anyone has any information on how the Lebanese law treats murderers under 18 years of age, please do share.
If you thought the video of the Islamists who got tortured and beaten in Roumieh prison was outrageous, wait till you hear this story.
PS: The original story was published in French in L’Orient Le Jour
On June 9 2015, Omar was driving with his friend Samer to his house in the South when they were stopped at a checkpoint. Omar handed over his ID and other legal papers to one officer while another policeman was looking for illegal substances inside the car and found half a gram of weed with Samer. At this point, the officer confiscated and handcuffed Samer, and both men were taken to the police station for further investigation and ended up spending the night there.
The next day, Samer and his friend were dragged to an anti-drugs bureau in the South where they got humiliated and called all sorts of names. Then they were asked to perform a drug test which turned out to be negative. At this point, both men thought that the worst part was over, but one of the officers was looking through Samer’s phone conversations and all hell broke loose when he found someone called “Habibi”. Thinking that Samer was gay because he had a contact by the name of “Habibi”, he started throwing accusations and then two other officers brought Omar out of his cell, started beating him violently and torturing him by putting his head back and forth in cold water. Samer got his share of the torture and both were even electrocuted and forced to spill out names of homosexuals and drug dealers in Lebanon. After hours of torture, they called Omar and Samer’s parents and told them that their sons are gay. When Omar’s parents arrived at the bureau, the inspector refused to show them their son and re-assured them that he wasn’t tortured or beaten. “Walaw Madame, akid la2. Chou wen mfakra ne7na 3aysheen?” is what the officer said.
Both men spent the next 6 days in the South, where they got tortured on a daily basis and forced to reveal names of the gay community in Lebanon. They were later on transferred to Hobeiche police station in Beirut where they also got interrogated and detained for 5 days in a 20sqm cell that contained more than 20 prisoners. Afterwards, both were sent back to Saida and spent 8 additional days in prison with over 200 prisoners. The officer in charge there made sure to tell all the prisoners that Omar and Samer were gay. Omar’s nightmare ended 3 weeks later when he was allowed to see a judge for 2 minutes, and then signed a paper, paid a fee and got released. Samer on the other hand is still detained.
I honestly have nothing to say here. These men were jailed, tortured and humiliated for 3 weeks just because one of them had half a gram of weed and some dumbass officer thought they were gay because of a “habibi” contact. I heard Minister Machnouk is following up on this story and will punish those involved but this is not enough. This story is messed up beyond repair and the only thing Minister Machnouk can do issue a decree that forbids any ISF officer from arresting people for being homosexual and kick them out of the force if they do. It is no longer admissible to treat homosexuals as criminals and torture in Lebanese prisons needs to stop once and for all!
The picture above was taken in Lebanon back in 2006, however it’s not a gay parade but an anti-government demonstration led by the opposition back then. Needless to say, the parties who were organizing this demonstration (and those against them for that sake) probably had no clue what these colors stood for and would have never considered demonstrating in favor of same sex marriages.
We are still a long way from achieving equality in Lebanon but we will get there eventually as progression is inevitable. We need more awareness campaigns and further action to change our obsolete laws and achieve equality for women and for the LGBT community among other things. I’m sharing once again a Lebanese TV campaign against homophobia, probably the first of its kind in the Arab World.
I watched last night the season finale of CNN’s Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain which was shot in Beirut, and I hated every single bit of it except for the short interview with Joumana Haddad. I really had high expectations for that episode, but I lowered my expectations after seeing the comments on Facebook and it turned to be even worse than I thought it would be and did not reflect the words Bourdain used to describe our capital. In fact, if I didn’t know Bourdain, I would have thought he’s some clueless foreign reporter who’s visiting Beirut for the first time and still thinks we are at war. All he talked about for nearly 45 minutes was Syrian & Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, ISIS, Hezbollah, bombings, ISIS, 2006 war, recent suicide bombings, ISIS, the 1975-1990 civil war and more ISIS.
Let me just start by telling Bourdain that ISIS is far from Lebanon and its borders, and the map (shown above) does not reflect ISIS control in Syria, nor its threat to Lebanon. The Lebanese Army and Hezbollah are not even fighting ISIS on the borders but Jobhat el Nousra.
Moving on to the full episode, I went through it minute by minute and took notes along the way. The episode kicked off with the cliché mosque and church contrasts, and then of course showing veiled women walking next to lingerie shops or billboards. We are proud of this co-existence of course but it gets boring when someone mentions it 10 times in the episode and randomly shows pictures of the Virgin Mary or Jesus or a mosque.
Bourdain then took a ride with the Harley Davidson Lebanon chapter and they visited a snack shop in Beirut (Broasted Rizk) which I’ve never heard of before. They barely mentioned the food there and talked for about five minutes about the civil war, the war of the hotels back in the 1970s, thee Holiday Inn and other war-related stories.
Afterwards, Bourdain kept talking for few minutes about explosions and the civil war before he got to Burj el Brajneh camp in Beirut and continued his war talks by covering Syria, Palestinians, ISIS and wars in the region. He visited poor families and children and had Syrian food inside the camp. They also showed gruesome pictures of war victims which weren’t really necessary.
Bourdain moved back to Raouche, showing people dancing the Dabke and then ISIS fighters somewhere in Iraq or Syria I don’t know. He then mentioned that you can swim and ski on the same day in Lebanon, and headed to Ras Beirut to have lunch with his security guard in Beirut, who thinks that Lebanon looks a lot like 2006 now (Don’t ask me how). In fact, all they talked about over lunch was war, explosions and the terrifying ISIS. Of course after lunch, we got another cliché church-mosque-night club constrast.
Radio Beirut was next on Bourdain’s to-do list and it was a short but fun act. He met with Chino and Lebanese Rapper Hussein Charafeddine who was once arrested and mistaken for a suicide bomber.
Moving on, Bourdain then had dinner somewhere in Beirut’s suburbs in a Hezbollah area. Food looked nice but the guy had a machine gun in the kitchen for some reason along with Hezbollah posters all around. Needless to say, everything they talked about was the 2006 war and ISIS and of course Hezbollah.
Bourdain was meeting Lebanese Journalist and activist Joumana Haddad but he made sure to include more cliché pictures of sexy Lebanese women, then a Virgin statue, a Chanel store and the reflection of a mosque, because Lebanon is the only country in the world where you will find conservative religious women, women in bikinis, a chanel store and a mosque (ma hek?).
Joumana’s three-minute interview was by far the best part in this episode and Joumana impressed as always with her opinions and take on things. She explained to Bourdain that it’s not “awesome not to have a president for a year”, and that the chaos that we are living in is not something you’d want to experience for over a year and she’s right.
I then skipped the part with Elefteriadis because I don’t think he’s the right person to talk to about Lebanon or Beirut as a whole. I love Music Hall and I admire the things he has done to improve nightlife in Lebanon but he’s a self-proclaimed emperor who lives in an imaginary kingdom. That’s all I have to say here. Bourdain finished the episode by visiting a cafe which I haven’t heard of as well and that is managed by Syrians and Lebanese.
All in all, “Parts Unknown” is an American travel and food show where Anthony Bourdain is supposed to go around the world and uncover lesser known places and explore cultures and cuisine. That said, coming to Beirut and visiting camps and war-torn areas is definitely not the right way to explore cuisine and culture and the way he portrayed Beirut to the whole world was a rather negative one. It’s as if we are living in constant fear of a new civil war or of ISIS invading the country which is far from the truth. We trust and believe in our Lebanese Army and we’ve always stood as one against terrorism and hopefully always will.
There are so many things that Bourdain missed out on and that could have made this episode a much better one:
– Uruguay Street, Gemmayze, Mar Mikhael, Badaro and Hamra’s nightlife.
– Beirut’s rooftops and open venues.
– Authentic Lebanese snacks and restaurants in Beirut. Since when is broasted chicken part of our culture?
– Zaitunay Bay, Beirut Souks and Solidere as a whole.
– Beirut’s beautiful graffiti murals and art scene.
– The dozens of cultural and artistic festivals happening in Beirut.
– Shawarma, Falafel, Manakish, Knefe, Lebanese sweets, etc …
– A walk around in old Achrafieh and Hamra streets.
– A close look at certain NGOs and their awesome work (ex: LiveLoveBeirut ).
I’m just talking about things to do in Beirut here and I’m sure there is tons of other stuff as well. If Bourdain wanted to see how Lebanese are reacting to ISIS threats, he should have visited Tripoli and seen how vibrant and peaceful the city is right now. We are not living in denial, we know we have a lot of issues to deal with, but that doesn’t mean we need to live in constant fear of war and stop enjoying our everyday life.
That’s what Bourdain should have focused on instead of reviving the civil war and the 2006 war in his report.