Category Archives: Information

Benedicte & Raja Mubarak – Salvaging Lebanon’s Disappearing Architectural Heritage

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Ben-and-Raja-Uncommon-Bostonian Via 2bdesign

Lebanon’s architectural heritage is slowly disappearing and Beirut is quickly losing its traditional character as old houses, beautiful villas and Ottoman-style mansions are increasingly being destroyed and replaced with modern skyscrapers. Activists have been campaigning for years to preserve some of that heritage but time is not on their side as historical buildings are not being preserved by the authorities and will become beyond repair at some point.

Having said that, French Designer Benedicte de Vanssay de Blavous Moubarak and her husband Raja moved to Beirut few years ago and became immediately drawn to the unique style of traditional Levantine houses. In an attempt to salvage whatever is left of Lebanon’s disappearing architectural heritage, they began collecting discarded old wrought iron balustrades, railings and window frames from all over Lebanon and turning them into design pieces.

The couple created in 2006 2b design with the mission of “restoring the unseen beauty of the broken” and the name Beyt (House/Home in Hebrew and Arabic) was chosen as the flagship brand name. Their creations are now found in several countries and are sold through different retailers. Moreover, the company hires people with disabilities as well as those marginalized from society in order to transform their lives as well.

Of course the ideal would be to preserve these houses and restore them but unfortunately there are no serious plans to do so and there are many obstacles on the way. BBC made a nice report on 2b design which you can watch [Here]. You can also check out their [website] for further information.

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How Russia Responded To The Kidnapping of Four Soviet Diplomats In Beirut In 1985

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A friend was showing me a post on 9gag about kidnapped Soviets in Beirut and how Russia’s counter-terrorism Alpha Group handled the situation. I’ve read a lot about kidnappings, specially from the PLO, in the 1980s but I’ve never heard this part of the story.

Here’s what happened:
Four Soviet diplomats were kidnapped in September 1985 by a fundamentalist group called the Islamic Liberation Organization. Russia quickly dispatched its Alpha group, tasked with counter-terrorism hostage-rescue operations, to Beirut. Once the team learned that Arkady Katkov, a consular attaché and one of the four hostages, was killed, they responded quickly by tracking down and locating one of the kidnappers’ leaders (or relative it’s not clear). In order to send a clear message to the terrorists, Alpha group members castrated the hostage, cut him down into pieces and sent him to the hostage takers. They also threatened to kill more of the kidnappers’ relatives if the Soviet diplomats were not free.

As a result, the 3 hostages were released and dropped off near the Soviet Embassy and no Russian officials were ever taken captive since then. Some say that the release of the Soviet hostages was the result of extensive diplomatic negotiations with the spiritual leader of Hezbollah, Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah.

It’s not surprising to see the Russians react that way to hostage situations specially after what they’ve done during the Moscow theater and the Beslan school hostage crisis.

Speaking of hostages, would you support approaches similar to the Russian one to free our kidnapped soldiers?

New “Lebanon High School” In Texas Causing Controversy

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leb

There’s a new high school set to open next year in a town called Frisco in Texas and some parents are upset with the name and want it changed. The school is expected to be named Lebanon High School because the building currently under construction sits in the middle of what was once an old farming town called Lebanon, but some parents are not convinced and believe that the name doesn’t fit the community and that Lebanon reminds them of wars and the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East.

I thought the story was a joke at first but BBC and Washington Post reported it as well and a meeting was scheduled to discuss the school name this month but I am not sure when. Personally speaking, I think the parents are making a big deal out of nothing as Lebanon is not an uncommon name in the US as there are at least 5 or 6 cities that share the same name. So far the school board has no intention to remove the word Lebanon.

The sad truth is that we are in need of new schools here in Lebanon to accommodate the ever growing flux of Syrian refugees while parents are arguing over the name of a school in Texas. I say let them ship the school to Lebanon and build a new one in a different location and a different name.

_80559350_middle-eastern-towns there’s a history Middle Eastern named towns in the US

lebaanon Lebanon High School plan – Source

Beirut River Solar Snake Project To Start Generating Electricity Soon!

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BRSS-49

Phase 1 of The Beirut River Solar Snake (BRSS) is almost complete and the photovoltaic (PV) farm currently set will generate 1.08 MWp and help light up around 1000 houses by Q1 2015. The BRSS is expected to generate up to 10 MW to support the EDL (Electricité du Liban) once done and will feature high-level security, with a 3-meter fencing around the plant and CCTV cameras, in addition to around the clock security personnel.

Even though the 1 MW of electricity produced won’t do much to meet Lebanon’s growing energy requirements, I think this is a great step forward as we need to rely on renewable energies to compensate for our energy problems. If we sponsor hundreds of similar renewable energy projects across Lebanon, we will be able to stop relying solely on generators as an alternative and cut down on pollution as well.

You can read more about BRSS [here].

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[YouTube]

ASHEKMAN: Covering And Replacing Ugly Political Slogans With Beautiful Graffiti Murals

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The highly talented ASHEKMAN brothers have been covering the ugly political slogans and stencils from Beirut’s walls way before the Ministry of Interior decided to do so, and they’ve been sending out positive messages through their amazing graffiti murals, Arabic calligraphy, as well as Arabic rap music and street wear.

For those of you who are not familiar with ASHEKMAN, it was established in 2001 by identical twin brothers Mohamed & Omar Kabbani. Recently, Beirut’s municipality decided to remove their “To Be Free Or Not” mural in Achrafieh instead of encouraging and sponsoring young Lebanese artists to remove the ugliness from the city’s walls and replace them with beautiful artwork.

ASHEKMAN are not planning to slowdown anytime soon and have many upcoming murals to paint in Beirut, so stay tuned!

Here are five of my favorite ASHEKMAN murals:

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Amal Clooney Is Representing Armenia in Genocide Trial

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Amal Clooney is taking on her next big case, which is representing Armenia’s interests in a historic trial before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. The case is an appeal of a 2013 ruling by the Supreme Court of Europe, in which the court decided that a Swiss law prohibiting the public denial of the Armenian genocide is a violation of freedom of speech. Clooney will attempt to refute testimony from countries like Turkey who still deny the genocide that was committed by the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1923 and that caused the death of 1.5 million Armenians. Amal was recently representing the 3 Al-Jazeera journalists arrested in Egypt and risked arrest for her positions.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and it’s about time Turkey recognizes the genocide and pays for its crimes!

[YouTube]

Here’s the full transcript of the first court session taken from the Telegraph:

Amal Clooney, the human rights barrister, has accused Turkey of double standards on freedom of expression for defending a Turkish Leftist who described the Armenian genocide an “international lie”.
Mrs Clooney, who is representing Armenia on behalf of Doughty Street Chambers along with Geoffrey Robertson QC, said Turkey’s stance was hypocritical “because of its disgraceful record on freedom of expression”, including prosecutions of Turkish-Armenians who campaign for the1915 massacres to be called a genocide.
She took on the case against Doğu Perinçek, chairman of the Turkish Workers’ Party and an MP, who was found guilty of genocide denial and racial discrimination in Switzerland in 2007, but had his conviction overturned by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) after being defended by Turkey’s government.
The ECHR upheld his right to question in a “debate of clear public interest” and questioned if it was possible to define as a genocide, a policy of deliberate extermination, the massacres and deportations of Armenians by the Turks a century ago.
The human rights lawyer, who married George Clooney her Hollywood film star husband last September, accused the Strasbourg’s court’s human rights judges of being “simply wrong”.
“It cast doubt doubt of the reality of genocide that Armenian people suffered a century ago,” she said
“Armenia must have its day in court. The stakes could not be higher for the Armenian people.”
Switzerland has laws against the denial of all genocide as part of its anti-racism laws but the ECHR ruled that Mr Perinçek’s right to freedom of speech was violated when he was convicted as a criminal by a Swiss court for his claims.
In a December 2013 judgement, the European court concluded that there was not a “general consensus” that the massacres of Armenians had constituted genocide and that only 20 countries out of 190 worldwide classed it as such.
Only three European countries, Greece, Slovakia and Switzerland, ban the Armenian genocide denial. A French law was overturned on free speech grounds in the country’s constitutional court three years ago.
Speaking in Lausanne in 2005, Mr Perinçek had said that the legal definition of Armenian genocide was an “international lie”, but did not dispute that the killings and deportations had taken place.
Four and half minutes into her evidence of the historical record concerning events in 1915, including Ottoman Empire admissions of war crimes, the barrister was asked to conclude by the judges.
“Mrs Clooney may I draw your attention to the fact that the Armenian government has gone over the time allocated, so I ask you to conclude,” said Dean Spielmann, the president of the court.
She went on to insist that Armenia did not want to limit free speech or historical debate and accused Turkey of having double standards because of it’s own poor record on freedom of expression.
“Armenia is not here to argue against freedom of expression anymore than Turkey is here to defend it. This court knows very well how disgraceful Turkey’s record on freedom of expression is,” she said.
“You have found against the Turkish government in 224 separate cases on freedom of expression grounds.”
The Lebanese lawyer made a reference to Hrant Dink, the Turkish-Armenian newspaper editor, who was prosecuted by Turkey for arguing that the 1915 massacres were genocide.
Mr Dink was then assassinated by a Turkish nationalist in 2007 for his views and ethnicity as an Armenian.
“Armenia has every interest in ensuring that its own citizens do not get caught in a net that criminalises speech too broadly. As the family of Hrant Dink know about all too well,” she said.
In his evidence to the court, Mr Perinçek denied any motivation to incite hatred against Armenians, telling judges that he had been imprisoned for speaking up for one of Turkey’s other ethnic minorities, the Kurds.
“We are here for the liberty of Europeans,” he said. “Liberty for those who criticise the established status quo.
“I share the pain of Armenian citizens, you can not find a word of mine that expresses antagonism against them. I hold the great powers responsible for what happened in 1915. There should be no taboos for the right to speak.”
His arguments were dismissed by Armenia’s legal team which was supporting Switzerland in defending the “unshakable” conviction.
Geoffrey Robertson QC accused Mr Perincek of being an admirer of Talaat Pasha, one of the organisers of the Armenian genocide, a man he said was the “Ottoman’s Empire’s Hitler”.
Mr Robertson argued that the Turkish Left-wing nationalist had travelled Europe deliberately trying to provoke a conviction for genocide denial in order to “arouse his supporters in Turkey”.
“It was made by a man who only came to Switzerland in order to be convicted. That was his purpose. He went to Germany, France, at the end of the day he tried to go Greece to expostulate but was turned away. He is genocide denier forum shopper,” he said.
“He is an incurable genocide denier, a criminal and a vexatious litigant.”
Asked by the Telegraph about fevered speculation about what she would be wearing for the court appearance, Mrs Clooney laughed and pointed to her black barrister’s robes.
“I’m wearing Ede and Ravenscroft,” she joked, in a reference to the famous English company of legal robe makers and tailors since 1689.
Mr Robertson said he was was surprised at the rows of photographers when legal teams entered the court, which does not generally excite press attention or attract packs of photographers.
He said he was pleased that coverage of the case would focus attention on Mrs Clooney’s career as a lawyer rather than her private life as the wife of a film celebrity, Hollywood actor and director.
“It is not about white gloves or yachts. It puts the record straight, she is a human rights lawyer,” he said.

Simon Has Unfortunately Lost His Fight Against Leukemia

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simon

Simon Badaoui dedicated his life to helping people since his early age and was a Lebanese Red Cross volunteer. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with leukemia five years ago and an online fundraising campaign was started last year to cover all the expenses needed for his surgery and treatment. All of Lebanon supported Simon and the expenses were covered in few days only, but unfortunately Leukemia is not easy to fight and Simon died two days ago.

May he rest in peace.

A Short Animated Movie That Depicts Living In Beirut

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Check out this hand-draw short movie by Marylin Haddad that beautifully sums up everything we go through in our beloved Lebanon. It’s about a girl called Leila trying to dance in order to survive her daily stressful routines just like each one of us has found a way to relieve himself from all this stress and uncertainty.

Only few days ago, things were relatively calm and peaceful and all of a sudden, we were on the verge of a new war with Israel.

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