Category Archives: Middle East

There are Still Lebanese Prisoners in Assad’s Saydnaya Prison, Possibly The Worst Place on Earth

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Ex-detainees and architects have built an accurate model of the Saydnaya Syrian prison based using ‘ear-witness’ and The Guardian is describing Assad’s most brutal prison as the worst place on Earth.

Amnesty international reports that over 18000 people have died in Syrian prisons since March 2011. This averages out to roughly 10 people dying every single day. Prisoners are subjected to all types of torture methods, and treated like captive animals, with complete disregard for human rights.

Unfortunately, very few people are bringing to the forefront the matter of the Lebanese citizens still detained in Syrian prisons for over 20 and sometimes 30 years now. Most of these are political prisoners, of which some were reportedly moved to the Saydnaya prison. Needless to say, the government has done nothing to clarify the fate of these prisoners while their families are still waiting and fighting to learn of their loved ones’ fate.

Let’s just hope the nine remaining Lebanese Army captives don’t end up forgotten like these prisoners.

Lebanon’s Best Team Sport is Surprisingly Rugby League

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leb sport

The Independent surveyed the world rankings of the most popular team sports and came up with a map that shows which sport each country is best at. The team sports featured were football, rugby Union, test cricket, volleyball, baseball, basketball, ice hockey, field hockey, handball, netball, and rugby league.

Lebanon’s best sport was Rugby League as our ranking is 20th worldwide. Most people would think we’d be better ranked in Basketball but we are only 43rd while our Football ranking keeps getting worse and worse (149th).

The reason why Lebanon is so highly ranked in Rugby League is because we have experienced and talented Australian-Lebanese players on our National Team. In fact, our National Team managed to qualify for the second time to the 2017 Rugby League World Cup after defeating South Africa twice in a row.

If we look at other countries in the Middle East, Syria’s best sport is Basketball as well as Jordan and Turkey. Iraq’s best team sport is baseball, while it’s handball for Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar, and ice hockey for the UAE (huh?). Oman’s best sport is field hockey.

You can check out the full maps [here].

Thanks Mustapha!

Lebanon Improving In The Networked Readiness Index

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The Global Information Technology Report (GITR) is prepared by the World Economic Forum, INSEAD and Cornell University and examines “the increasing proliferation of technology and its effects on advancing global prosperity”. Digital innovation is reshaping economies worldwide and pressuring states and tech and non-tech sectors to adapt to the speed and scale of changes while mitigating ethical, legal, and regulatory risks.

As far as Lebanon is concerned, it still ranks among the worst Arab countries in terms of Networked Readiness but was the second biggest mover this year, gaining 11 ranks to land in 88th place in the overall NRI. The NRI currently assesses the state of networked readiness using 53 individual indicators. For each of the 139 economies covered, it allows the identification of areas of priority to more fully leverage ICTs for socioeconomic development.

Here’s what the report said:

Importantly, the country is registering substantial positive moves in all four subindexes. In terms of adoption, Lebanon is doing best in individual usage (46th), followed by business usage (97th) and government usage (124th). Most indicators of personal usage have been improving over the past year, with the business sector catching up in its use and adoption of digital technologies; with overall perceived progress in business adoption being slow around the world, this is a positive exception to the trend. Starting from a low level, government indicators are also moving in the right direction: in particular, the regulatory environment is improving in terms of judicial independence, the efficiency of the legal system, and the effectiveness of law-making bodies. Substantial
improvements are registered for the impact of ICTs on business models, organizational models, basic services, and government efficiency. Building also on a solid basis in terms of education, skills, and knowledge-intensive jobs, Lebanon has many of the factors in place to continue on this positive trajectory.


This is encouraging news of course but we are still very far behind and the technological gap between Lebanon and Gulf countries is already substantial.

You can check out the full report [here]. Lebanon’s profile is on page 142. If you look at the indexes, almost everything government-related is ranked among the worst worldwide

Thank you Rami!

A Bullet Resistant Kefiyyeh (Head Scarf) by Beirut-Based Architect Salim al-Kadi

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A Beirut-based architect has created a bullet resistant Kefiyyeh made out of “para-aramid synthetic fibre – otherwise known as Kevlar – which is used in body armor like bulletproof vests to help guard the wearer against ballistics and other weapons”. Al-Kadi’s scarf, the K29 Keffiyeh 001, was hand-embroidered by a woman living in Ain al-Hilweh and made its debut during Beirut Design Week.

I am not the expert here but if you get hit by a bullet, the scarf is not that thick to absorb the shock even if it’s bullet resistant so it might still kill you. In all cases, my guess is Kadi did it just for the fun of it and is not planning any production soon. It’s a pretty nice idea though and a fine execution.

PS: Let’s just hope terrorists won’t get inspired from that.

You can read more about it [here].

Beirut Third Most Expensive City To Live in The Region, After Dubai & Abu Dhabi

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The Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey 2016 is out and Dubai topped MENA Cities as the most expensive location for employees working abroad. Beirut ranked as the third most expensive city regionally and the 50th most expensive city in the world.

Mercer’s survey includes 209 cities across five continents and measures the comparative cost of more than 200 items in each location, including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods, and entertainment. The survey is designed to help multinational companies and governments determine compensation allowances for their expatriate employees. New York is used as the base city, and all cities are compared against it. Currency movements are measured against the US$. [Article]

Top 10 most expensive cities to live in the MENA region:
1- Dubai
2- Abu Dhabi
3- Beirut
4- Riyadh
5- Manama
6- Doha
7- Cairo
8- Muscat
9- Kuwait City
10- Jeddah

Of course what’s worth looking at is the quality of living that is associated with this high cost of living. Beirut ranked in that report 180th worldwide and last in the MENA region.

Top 10 ranked Arab cities in the 2016 quality of living report
1- Dubai (75)
2- Abu Dhabi (81)
3- Muscat (107)
4- Doha (110)
5- Kuwait City (124)
6- Manama (133)
7- Riyadh (164)
8- Jeddah (165)
9- Cairo (171)
10- Beirut (180)

Lebanese Sarah Beydoun, Founder of Sarah’s Bag, Receives The 2016 Oslo Business for Peace Award

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Sarah [Photo Credits]

The Oslo-based foundation “Business for Peace” grants every year the Oslo Business for Peace Award to up to seven honourees “in recognition of their individual and outstanding business-worthy contribution to the building of trust, stability and peace”. The honourees are selected by previous Peace and Economics Nobel prize winners.

This year, Sarah Beydoun, the founder and creative director of Sarah’s bag, was granted this prestigious award and became the first honoree from the fashion industry. Sarah started her business in 2000 and has created a line of luxurious bags and accessories handmade by underprivileged women, prisoners and former female prisoners under the name “Sarah’s bag”.

Here’s what Business For Peace said about Ms. Beydoun:

Ms Sarah Beydoun, Lebanon: Ms Beydoun is the founder and creative director of Sarah’s Bag. This internationally successful company has a business model that includes social rehabilitation for underprivileged women who learn valuable skills and earn an income as well as a sense of dignity and empowerment. By following her heart – both for fashion and women at risk – Ms Beydoun has created a robust business despite the difficult circumstances in the region.

[Barakabits] spoke more in details about Sarah’s business and this award.

And here’s more about the Business For Peace foundation:

The Business for Peace is an Oslo-based foundation that works to redefine the notion of success in business and to promote an evolved form of capitalism. This endeavour is manifested by recognising exceptional individuals who exemplify the concept of being businessworthy. That is, applying one’s business energy ethically and responsibly to create value for all. An independent committee of Nobel laureates in peace and economics selects the Honourees from a pool of nominees put forward by our global partners in the United Nations and the International Chamber of Commerce. By facilitating this process and promoting these individuals, the vision is to unlock the positive power that lays in business to the benefit of peace and prosperity. [Source]

Jennifer Nkuene Riria of Kenya andTore Lærdal of Norway were also named the 2016 Business for Peace Honourees. This year’s Oslo Business For Peace Summit theme will be “The Opportunities for Business to Act as a Problem Solver in Society”.

British-Lebanese TV Host Liliane Daoud Arrested And Deported From Egypt

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British-Lebanese political talk show host and Former BBC Journalist Liliane Daoud was arrested and deported from Egypt yesterday night. She was the host of ONTV’s political show “Headlines”.

“Eight men who said they were from the border police force took her to an unknown location after taking her telephone and her British passport,” Daoud’s ex-husband Khaled al-Berri had earlier told Agence France Presse. Daoud also holds a Lebanese passport. The prominent TV talk show host’s arrest came after her contract with Egyptian OTV television expired, Berri said. [Telegraph]

I remember I saw one a popular hashtag in Egypt asking Liliane to leave because she was “interfering with Egyptian affairs” according to the tweets. Arrests and detentions of journalists opposed to the regime or even remotely criticizing it have become all too common in today’s Egypt. It looks like Mubarak’s security state is making a slow come back.

Four Lebanese Banks Among Forbes’ Top 100 Arab Companies Of 2016

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The 2016 Forbes list of the Top 100 Arab Companies 2016 is out and four Lebanese banks made the list. To rank the top 100, Forbes started with 1,316 publicly-traded companies from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Egypt, Kuwait, Bahrain, U.A.E. (Abu Dhabi and Dubai), Lebanon, Morocco, and Tunisia and measured sales, net profits, assets and market value.

Saudi companies make up more than one-third of the top 100, with Saudi petrochemicals giant SABIC still in the first spot. QNB is the largest bank in the region and Etisalat, the biggest Arab telecommunications company, is fourth. Only banks from Lebanon made the list, with Bank Audi ranking the highest in #34, followed by Blom Bank #45, Byblos Bank #75 and Bank of Beirut #88.

You can check out the full list [here].

Love During The Siege: Fighting Hunger Through Hope and Love

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The Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of the Press is held on June 2 every year, which is the anniversary of Samir Kassir’s assassination, and is funded by the European Union. The winners of the 2016 editions were as follows:

Opinion piece category: Maher Massoud (born in 1977) from Syria, an opinion writer for many Arab newspapers, magazines and websites and a researcher at the Institut français du Proche-Orient (IFPO).

Investigative article category: Mohammad Tarek (born in 1989) from Egypt, an investigative journalist at “Al-Masry Al-Youm” newspaper.

Audiovisual report category: Matar Ismaïl (born in 1988) from Syria, has been covering developments in Syria since the very beginning of the uprising in March 2011.

I’ve seen Ismail’s short movie “Love under Siege” and it’s a beautiful one. It sheds the light on the daily life of a Syrian family struggling to survive under siege south of Damascus and shows how these families fight the siege and hunger through hope and love they have learned to find during the hardest of time.

This is a reminder that Syria is still at war, that thousands of families living 2 hours away from Beirut are starving and dying every day.