When sectarian fights were raging in Tripoli and innocent people were getting killed, a lot of people were clueless about what’s happening and who’s fighting who. The sad part was that most local TVs seemed uninterested and only very few did the extra effort to go and investigate properly. This negligence led the online community to start hashtags and campaigns to support Tripoli residents, shed the light on the events taking place and share stories and videos.
Of course I’m not trying to compare in anyway the small fights that took place in Tripoli last year to what Gaza, also known for being the largest open-air prison in the world, has been going through the past 20 years or more, but in both cases media played a detrimental role by ignoring the events and hiding the truth.
The sad and shocking part is that the media blackout on the latest Israeli offensive against Gaza was deliberate and the atrocities and crimes that were committed there didn’t get the coverage needed, even though the last Gaza war was the bloodiest in years. In fact, Israel has killed in 2014 more Palestinians (2,341) than in any other year since 1967 and 531 out of these 2341 kills were innocent children.
Having said all that, the Gaza Font is an initiative aimed at shedding the light on the Gaza unknown stories by asking the public to engage. Every letter and number stands for a story little-known that is now revealed and you can show your support in many ways that are described on the website, and mainly by tweeting at #UncoverGaza.
We are all concerned with what’s happening around us, whether in Syria or Palestine or anywhere in the Middle East. We should be concerned with innocent civilians and families and children paying the price of war and being kicked out of their villages and houses. Let’s not forget we’ve been there many times as Lebanese and every family in Lebanon has paid the price of war in one way or another.
Joumana Haddad is Lebanese journalist, activist, poet, instructor, author and the head of the cultural pages for An Nahar newspaper, as well as the editor-in-chief of Jasad magazine, a controversial Arabic magazine specialized in the literature and arts of the body. She’s an exceptional woman that speaks seven languages and was recently ranked among the 100 Most Powerful Arab Women in 2015.
Joumana was supposed to fly to Bahrain on the 6th of April to attend a cultural event, however an online campaign (#البحرين_لا_ترحب_بالملحدين) was started against her visit and as a result, she was denied entrance because she’s an atheist and a threat to society. How is being an atheist a threat to society? Unless Joumana chops heads off and trains terrorists while pretending to write poetry, I think that’s the most pathetic thing I’ve ever heard of.
In all cases, it’s their loss as any country should be proud of having women like Joumana Haddad.
The 100 Most Powerful Arab Women 2015 list by Arabian Business is out and this year’s second place goes to Lebanese-British lawyer Amal Clooney. Amal is an activist known for leading numerous high-profile human rights cases and she made headlines all over the world last year after marrying Georges Clooney. I think this is the highest rank ever achieved by a Lebanese on that list which was topped once again by HE Sheikha Lubna Al Qassimi.
10 other Lebanese women proudly made the list:
– Nayla Hayek
– Iqbal Al Asaad (Lebanon/Palestine)
– Grace Najjar
– Joumana Haddad
– Ayah Bdeir
– Nadine Labaki
– Nancy Ajram
– Reine Abbas
– Hind Hobeika
It’s quite depressing to see countries planning to launch 5G services in the next 3-4 years while we are still struggling with our 4G speed and data plans and of course the lousy DSL. I was lucky enough to access Ericsson’s huge booth at the MWC2015 thanks to a friend and got to see what a 5G connection looks like. We are talking about a speed hundreds of times faster than the 4G, reaching over 5000 mbits/s. Samsung has been doing some 5G tests as well and it looks like South Korea might be the first countries to adopt it.
Technology has a huge impact on every country’s development and needs to be handled more seriously in Lebanon. The technological gap between Lebanon and the UAE has already become a huge one and it will take many years to catch up. Of course I am not talking about implementing 5G but at least enhancing and expanding our 4G network and completing the switch to fiber optics ASAP.
The picture above is a school diploma given to a Syrian student enrolled in a Lebanese school by the temporary Syrian government’s Ministry of Education. You’d think this is a fake diploma at first, specially that it mentions Lebanon as a province (in Syria?), but the truth is these exams were done by the Syrian Opposition back in 2013 (under the supervision of the Lebanese Army) and financed by USAID according to Al-Akhbar. Having said that, Education Minister Bou Saab had declared that these exams are illegal of course and that there’s a procedure set for Syrian students in Lebanon whereas they can apply for official exams and send the diplomas to the Syrian Embassy in Beirut for validation.
So to sum things up:
– If you are a pro-regime Syrian refugee in Lebanon, your diploma will be certified by the Syrian Embassy that may not be recognized by certain institutions and countries outside.
– If you are against the regime, your diploma will be issued and certified by a temporary government that the Lebanese authorities don’t recognize yet but that is acknowledged by some countries abroad.
In both cases, the real victims are refugee children who are trying to continue their education in Lebanon yet are facing all sorts of obstacles. Just to give you a glimpse of how bad the situation is, it is estimated that 50% of Syrian refugee children aged between 5 and 17 are out of any form of education. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of children who are either forced to work or being abused or end up begging on the street. On top of all that, those who are lucky enough to enroll in a school are graduating with illegal and unofficial diplomas.
Update: Speaking of Syrian Children in Lebanon, check out this article from The Guardian on how those forced to work on streets of Beirut face severe exploitation.
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.
Picture taken from Al Akhaa Ahli Aley Football Team Archive
This picture, which was shared by Hazem al Amin today, pretty much sums up how the Syrian Civil War has spilled over into Lebanon. It shows two Lebanese football players Ahmad Diab and Hussein el Amin celebrating a goal back in 2013 in a game against Ansar club.
Few months after this game, Ahmad Diab committed a terrorist suicide bombing while Hussein went to Syria to fight with Hezbollah. Both were members of the same football team and used to fight together to win every game, yet somehow turned into sworn enemies in a fight that is not even ours.
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!
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.
The best Shawarma place in Lebanon is going to the UAE and will open 6 outlets between 2015 and 2017. Boubouffe has signed an agreement with Addmind, the management group behind White, Indie, Iris and Caprice and will start by opening 3 outlets, 2 in Dubai and 1 in Abu Dhabi in third quarter of 2015.
I’ve been going to Boubouffe for more than 10 years now and it’s still the best Shawarma you can have in Lebanon, even though it’s a bit expensive. I prefer the Chicken over the Meat Shawarma and I advise you to try their “Lebanese” burger.