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.
I was surprised to see so many Lebanese excited about the possibility of a new war between Lebanon and Israel yesterday. Taking aside politics and the fact that Israel admitted defeat in its 2006 adventure into Lebanon, there’s nothing good about war and we shouldn’t get too excited about the prospects of a new one. I refuse to live in a basement not because I am afraid of Israel but because I want to have a normal peaceful life and I assume and hope most Lebanese want the same.
In all cases, here’s a reminder to Lebanon’s young generation and to those who forgot already of what we had to endure back in 2006:
– Nearly 1,200 Lebanese were killed in the 34-day Israeli war on Lebanon, out of which 37 soldiers only. More than 5000 were wounded as well.
– Approximately 1 million Lebanese (30% of the total population) were displaced.
– Israel fired at least 3 million cluster bombs old munitions supplied by the US with a failure rate as high as 50 per cent, in the last 3 days of fighting.
– Israel destroyed bridges along Lebanon’s main north-south coastal road, including the Mudeirej bridge which took more than 6 years to fix.
– Al-Manar TV and Al-Nour radio compounds were bombed. Rafic Hariri Airport runways and fuel depots were also bombed and the airport was closed of course.
– Most of Dahieh was bombarded and destroyed.
– Lebanon faced an acute fuel-crisis that threatened to shut hospitals down.
– The Jiyeh power station bombing resulted in the leak of an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 tonnes (more than 4 million gallons) of oil into the eastern Mediterranean. This environmental disaster increased the risk of diseases and cancer and endangered the habitat of fish and sea turtles. Israel has to pay us $64 million in damages as pet the UN.
All of Lebanon was targeted by Israel and we still weren’t able to recover economically from the 2006 war. Moreover, the death toll from the land mines and unexploded Israeli cluster bombs is still rising. Between 2006 and 2008 nearly 40 people were killed and over 270 injured by cluster bombs. No one ever wins in a war, and civilians always end up paying the heaviest price (Look at Syria) so let’s do our best to keep Lebanon away from a new war, or at least work to prevent a new round of violence instead of getting excited about it.
Lebanon has officially announced 3 days of mourning for the death of the Saudi King Abdullah. I won’t dig into politics and explain why it’s only normal that the Lebanese authorities mourn the Saudi King (they don’t really have a choice) but the question that everyone has been asking is why don’t we ever mourn our own greats? the likes of Sabah, Wadih el Safi, Said Akl and others? Is the Saudi King more important or relevant to us than these legends? I don’t think so.
Moreover, why don’t we mourn our Lebanese Army martyrs? those brave men who are fighting as we speak terrorists in Ras Baalbeck? I am not asking for 3 days of mourning as we would have spent the past year mourning the army martyrs unfortunately, but the least we can do is set our priorities straight in this country and show support to the army who’s leading fierce battles to keep us from mourning new victims of terrorist attacks.
On a last note and since we are mourning the Saudi King, should we mourn the $3-billion in arms that were promised by the late Saudi King as well? Let’s hope not.
According to Numbeo’s cost of living index, Lebanon is the third most expensive Arab country to live in after Kuwait and Qatar. Lebanon came ahead of UAE even though UAE’s local purchasing power is twice as much as Lebanon’s, which is definitely not a good sign. Moreover, if we look at the quality of life index, UAE is in the top 20 while Lebanon is in the bottom 20. Switzerland and Norway topped the list with the highest cost of living index while Pakistan, Nepal and India were found to be the cheapest countries to live in.
As you all know, relations between Israel and Lebanon are governed by two laws, the 1943 Lebanese Criminal Code and the 1955 Lebanese Anti-Israeli Boycott Law which forbids any interaction with nationals of enemy states. Since the topic was brought up again after Miss Lebanon’s infamous selfie, I remembered an old article that NowLebanon had posted with the help of Salim El Meouchi, senior partner and chairman of the Beirut-based law firm Badri and Salim El Meouchi, on this matter.
To sum things up:
– You can’t be friends with an Israeli on Facebook.
– You can’t buy an Israeli publication or product.
– You can’t engage in a conversation with an Israeli outside Lebanon (except maybe when discussing non-threatening issues or a spontaneous talk)
– You can participate in a conference or event where Israelis are present as long as there’s no direct communication.
– You can publish in a journal where an Israeli writes as long as the paper is not Israeli and you don’t engage directly with him/her.
Update: Check out this amazing tribute by Magda Abu-Fadil from The Huffington Post.
Faten Hamama, an iconic Egyptian film star and the “Lady of the Arabic screen” has passed away yesterday at the age of 83. Faten Hamama lived in Beirut and London between 1966 and 1971 as she was being harassed by Egyptian intelligence during that time. She was awarded the “Al-Arz” decoration by the Lebanese President in 2001 and got an honorary doctorate from the American University of Beirut in 2013.
The above work is a tribute by my friend Corinne Martin, a Lebanese-Texan artist currently based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. You can check out her work [here].
Here’s an excerpt from an old movie showing Faten Hamama and Omar el Sharif: