Category Archives: Lebanon

On Dekwaneh’s incident and Antoine Chakhtoura’s wrongdoings

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I’ve been wanting to post about the Ghost nightclub incident for a couple of days now but I took some time to read everything that’s been said online and in the media as well as watch Joe Maalouf’s “Enta 7orr” show to see if he has more information to share on this matter.

To begin with, let me just state that I am personally against the practices of Mayor Chakhtoura and for abolishing Article 534 of the Penal Code, which states that “sexual intercourse contrary to nature is punishable for up to 1 year in prison”, because it is a clear violation of the Human Rights. In fact, “criminalization of homosexuality is a crime without a victim, in addition to its contradiction with principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and other conventions”. However, this whole issue is being tackled the wrong way in my opinion and in a way that will only benefit Dekwaneh’s Mayor Antoine Chakhtoura.

In fact, if you follow closely the details of the story, you will realize that Chakhoura, who happens to be a lawyer, is trying to cover up his illegal practices, whether in terms of arrest or abuse, by highlighting the fact that the victims were homosexuals or transvestites, and Marwan Charbel’s statement yesterday played in his favor. Even though some might argue that the law is vague and does not specify a relationship between two men to be illegal, the types of unnatural sexual relationships are specified somewhere in the laws or official documents from what I understood. There’s been one case where a judge in Batroun refuted Article 534 but his decision could have been legally challenged. That’s why the only way to fight this is by asking to abolish Article 534.

Arousing the religious feeling in the area was another weapon Chakhtoura used, and this is noticeable through the banners I spotted in Dekwaneh and on Facebook:

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Picture taken from Stop Cultural Terrorism in Lebanon

Before going any further, I took some time to watch the whole episode of Enta 7orr and found Maalouf’s guest, Dr. Elie Abou Aoun spot on in his analysis and comments and partially agreeing with what I said above. However, I noticed some contradictions in the testimonies being given and few weak arguments presented by Maalouf that I wished if he had elaborated on further. For example:

- (Minute 1:39 Till 7:04): Maalouf called Rabih Dagher, Ghost’s owner, who denied the original story that the municipal police raided the night club and arrested four and said the mayor only came to visit him that night and then left. I don’t know whether he’s too scared to admit what happened or he left the club early but something’s not right here.

- Maalouf mentioned that under Article 74, Chakhtoura was not allowed to arrest these people or interrogate them but based on Abou Aoun’s comment and my knowledge, the municipal police is allowed to arrest people under the pretext of violating “el 2adeb el 3ame”, which means in case it spots an indecent behavior, whether it’s a heterosexual couple having sex in the car, a guy running bare naked in the street or two homosexuals kissing. The problem is here that there’s no clear definition of what constitutes an indecent behavior, the same way the Lebanese Law does not define what an “unnatural sexual act” is. I am asking a legal expert to confirm this but I am confident the municipal police can interrogate and arrest people under certain circumstances.

- (Minute 16:35): Maalouf calls an employee named Ziad who works at Ghost and he states that Ghost was not just for homosexuals but for straight people too. I wish if Joe had elaborated further on the possibility of opening gay-friendly pubs in Lebanon and whether the owner can get any protection from people like Chakhtoura from the local authorities (From the police for ex) in that case? If it is doable, then we’d avoid another Ghost-like scandal.

- Why were drugs and criminal activities in Dekwaneh brought up into this episode? And why are we making a big fuss out of video pokers and amusement centers? The Taxi driver being interviewed said Dekwaneh had turned into “Las Vegas” as if it’s a bad thing. That was unnecessary in my opinion, knowing that Chakhtoura almost got killed a year ago after a campaign he launched to clean his city of drug dealers.

[YouTube] – Enta 7orr Episode

Don’t get me wrong, I applaud Maalouf for the investigations he does, and I think his show has a great potential, but I wish if he had focused on the legal matters and facts that interest us more and that would help us come out with a convincing conclusion because mixing the Ghost night club scandal with the “protected” criminals of Dekwaneh and its surrounding is not valid here, and the Casinos (if we can call them that way) story is irrelevant.

Speaking of legal matters and to get back to the main point I raised earlier that Dr. Elie Abou Aoun explained so well, we should all be concerned about what Chakhtoura did and not just the Lebanese homosexual community, because what he did is a clear violation of the Lebanese Law, basic human rights and international conventions that Lebanon is committed to respecting and implementing, as well as a breach of the basic arrest and interrogation guidelines set by the Lebanese state. This is where our main focus should be in order not to turn this into a pro or anti-gay rights campaign where the public opinion will (unfortunately) favor Chakhtoura no questions asked and the story will die out in a matter of weeks if not days.

On top of all that, some are saying that Ghost has been open for almost 5 years now and question the timing of Chaktoura’s illegal actions, which leaves me wondering if this isn’t a classic case of a deal gone wrong between the two parties in question, because Ghost’s owner was denying all the facts on TV. In regards to Interior Minister Marwan Charbel’s last statement, the only thing I have to say is that we need Ziad Baroud back ASAP.

On a last note, there’s a fact that’s quite interesting that was pointed out to me by a friend of mine. Article 534 was derived from French legislation during the so-called French “mandate” on Lebanon where we didn’t have yet a constitutional council in Lebanon, which was founded in order to “supervise the constitutionality of laws and to arbitrate conflicts that arise from parliamentary and presidential elections”. This being said, we should push to have all these archaic laws similar to Article 534 of the Penal Code revised by this council and abolished if not conforming with the international conventions that Lebanon is bound to respect.

MEA Airlines still flying over Syrian Territory

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Even though Syria is in a state of war, and almost every airplane company has prohibited flights of its civilian airlines over Syrian territory (even Russia!), MEA planes are still using the Syrian airspace and endangering the lives of their staff and passengers.

The reason why Russia stopped its planes from flying over Syria is after “ground-to-air missiles were fired at a Russian passenger jet flying over the strife-torn Arab nation”, so the threat is real and there were previous rumors that two of MEA’s planes were targeted by surface-to-air missiles in Syrian airspace but they were denied.

However, a MEA pilot few days ago was asked to delay his landing and spend some time above Syrian airspace, during which he apparently took pictures of the clashes taking place underneath him and emailed them to other pilots to warn them. After the administration became aware of this email, they suspended the pilot according to this report and denied any threats on the MEA airplanes.

I don’t quite understand why any civilian plane would want to fly above Syrian airspace with everything that’s happening, and I hope that the MEA Administration will stop these flights before a disastrous scenario occurs. What is surprising is that many people are still going on these flights, as if a cheaper ticket is more important than their safety.

Go Home Israeli!

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Picture from The DailyStar

I am glad no one shot him down or decided to take him as a hostage as it would have escalated things. Reports are saying that his name is Simon Saadati (A Lebanese-Israeli maybe?) and that he is mentally unstable but I find it quite weird that he was able to make it all the way across to the fence without being noticed from both sides.

An Israeli man was arrested by the Lebanese army on Wednesday after he crossed the border fence between Israel and Lebanon in Ras al-Naqoura, Lebanon’s National News Agency reported.

“Lebanese army intelligence agents are interrogating the Israeli man who was arrested after crossing the border fence,” the Beirut-based, pan-Arab television al-Mayadeen reported. [Link]

Correction on Lebanon’s Rankings in The Global Information Technology Report

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I posted almost a week ago on how Lebanon was ranked in the top 5 countries of the World for Maths and Science education and in the top 10 for Quality of the Educational System according to the World Economic Forum’s 2013 Global Information Technology Report.

For some reason, this piece of news got everyone’s attention and spread online like crazy. I have to admit I didn’t think it was that appealing as we ranked relatively bad in almost every other category so I didn’t bother go through the 300+ pages report and the methodology behind it to understand how those rankings were drawn out (even though one of the comments on the original post suggested something was wrong with the rankings).

Mouhammed Soueidane says:
I’m sorry to break it down to you, but make sure to check this link:

http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GITR_Report_2013.pdf

Go to page 325(349 in the PDF file). The above graph was made based on a question that was asked to the Lebanese people. The question is:
How would you assess the quality of math and science education in your country’s schools?

The above results are merely what the Lebanese people think about concerning the “Quality of math and science education” in their schools.

Fortunately though, The Beirut Spring shared today a post by Mohammad Alloush, a guest economist, who examined the report thoroughly and provided a proper explanation to the rankings proposed as well as the Real Position of Lebanon’s Education System. Check it out [Here].

The Real Position of Lebanon’s Education System

When it comes to secondary enrollment rates and primary completion we come at a whopping 87th place. Over 10% of children drop out of primary school, and this number is much higher in poor public schools. In adult literacy, we rank 88th. In tertiary enrollment rates, we rank 40th without saying much about the quality. In a UNESCO education index that takes many different aspects of the system into account, in 2010, our ranking was 70. We were 97th in 2007.

In an international quality of education test (TIMSS 2011), students in Lebanon got an average score of 449 on math which is 51 points below average. In terms of ranking, we came in 25th place out of 43 participating countries. Better still, in terms of achieving certain benchmarks, only 1% of Lebanese students achieved the advanced benchmark (3% is the world median), 9%, 38%, & 73% achieved the high, intermediate, and low benchmarks respectively. The world medians are 17%, 46%, and 75%. In terms of quality, we are clearly below average.

I don’t mean to berate nameless people on this. But if we don’t realize that something is wrong, then we have no incentive to fix it. [BeirutSpring]

3G Plans to be increased by 50% on May 7th

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I just got a confirmation from Minister Sehnaoui that the upgrade will take place on May 7th.

What I am unsure of though is what will happen if a user had already exceeded his limit before the upgrade takes place. For example if you have 500 MB and you already consumed 600MB, will the extra MBs be accounted for or will the limits be refreshed automatically?

MTV vs. Charbel Khalil

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I thought the controversy that followed Basmet Watan’s episode on Patriarch Sfeir had died out but it seems Comedian Charbel Khalil has gone as far as attacking a religious official and calling him names as well as going after MTV.

Few things I want to say here:
- I support everyone’s freedom of opinion and I believe we should be allowed to criticize or caricaturize or mock anyone we want regardless of their social/religious/political rank. Having said that, the few respectable Lebanese TVs we have should promote such freedoms out of principle regardless if they agree with the comedian or not.

- Charbel Khalil is a known comedian in Lebanon but I honestly rarely found his shows funny. Added to that, he lost all credibility in my regards when he apologized after the famous Hassan Nasrallah episode. This being said, MTV should have focused on that part only without defending Patriarch Sfeir and interviewing people that are only interested in cursing Khalil. After all, Patriarch Sfeir doesn’t need anyone to defend him.

- The best way to deal with Khalil’s foul language and accusations against MTV and the priest is by filing a lawsuit. Just to be clear, this does not contradict with my first statement as spreading false allegations is not part of the freedom of opinion I preach or believe in.

On a last note, I think this is yet another proof that we need better comedy shows and comedians in Lebanon.