Category Archives: Society

Let’s Help Out Achrafieh’s Street Musician

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Update: His name is Maroun Nachef and is known as The Seller of Songs. Here’s an old article with more details about Maroun. Thank you Alexis!

I was once told about an old man who sits on Sassine Square and plays the Oud but I never really met him until today. He was sitting in the middle of the square with a hat in front of him to collect tips and a banner on his right that basically says that he’s unemployed, he’s playing the Oud and singing to earn few bucks and he’s willing to attend parties and events. I think this is the first time I meet a street musician in Beirut and I thought of a way to help him out:

– If anyone is getting married or planning an outdoor event this summer, invite this old man to play at the event and earn few bucks. It’s a pretty cool and original idea and it would help him earn few bucks. I will share this post with all the agencies that I usually work with and I hope they will consider my request.

Until then, make sure you leave a good tip if you spot him on Sassine Square.

[YouTube]

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Thanks Cynthia!

Al Saadah (Happiness) Snack: A Free Restaurant For The Poor And Needy In Beirut

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“Bonheur du ciel” is a newly open snack in Bourj Hammoud that opens from Monday till Friday and serves food for free to the poor and needy families. The food is provided by a renowned restaurant in Beirut and the snack can welcome up to 80 customers every day. Food is served by volunteers who welcome people from all races, sects and areas. Whenever the food is not enough, nearby snacks and restaurants rush to offer free meals as well.

I love this initiative and I hope that all popular restaurants in Lebanon will figure out a way to offer free food to the needy instead of throwing it away.

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Check out this nice report by Nawal Berry:

[YouTube]

Celebrating Eid In Tripoli: Crowded Souks, Great Food, Clowns For A Cause, Flying Lanterns & Happy Children

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Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, is a very special time of the year for Muslims worldwide. Every country has its own traditions and in Lebanon, every city celebrates it in its own way. This year, I decided to head to Tripoli, Lebanon’s second-largest city and one of its poorest, to share their traditions and join Tripolitans in their celebrations.

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My first stop was at Furn el Saadeh, a popular oven located in Al Tall area that sells Ch3aybiyyet, Kafta and Lahm Baajine. The place was tiny yet packed and we ended up standing outside and having our breakfast on one of the parked cars’ hood but it was quite amazing and totally worth it.

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Tripoli may be a poor city, but it’s rich in diversity and is a beautiful city to explore. There are always new places to visit and new things to do and a sense of community in the city. Locals come up with new initiatives every year to help out those in need and put a smile on their faces. Here are some of them:

Flying Lanterns (نور دربن) on Maarad Street:
Lanterns2 Flying lanterns

This year marked the third edition of this event, where Tripolitans welcome the holidays by lightening Tripoli’s ski with lanterns and collecting money to put less fortunate children back in school. The atmosphere is quite amazing as more and more people are joining the event every year to light up Tripoli skies and brighten up a child’s future.

Clowns for a cause:
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Eid is an occasion for children to celebrate and reunite with their loved ones but unfortunately that’s not the case in Tripoli where a lot of children have to work to provide for their families. The number of children aged between 7 and 15 and already working is quite staggering in Tripoli and they are easily noticeable especially in Bab el Tebbaneh. Fighting child labor is a long process but a lot of NGOs and locals organize small gatherings in the old souks and deprived areas and invite clowns to entertain the children and celebrate Eid.

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One of these events was organized by the Old Souk Development Committee in the old souks right underneath Tripoli’s citadel where they had set up inflatable games and brought clowns and cartoon characters. Another event was being held in the streets of Abi Samra by The Lebanese Center for active citizenship and a third one in Jabal Mohsen’s neighborhood. Children were dancing, playing, singing and having a great time just like they should be on Eid. Sadly though, I spotted at every event a couple of kids working and selling stuff to the audience while trying to enjoy the show.

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Haret el Tanak – (Tin Neighborhood)
In addition to these events, a friend of mine brought my attention to clown flash-mob performed in one of the most underprivileged parts of Tripoli, which has little-to-no infrastructure and is known as Haret el Tanak (Tin neighborhood). Journalists, engineers, students and activists came from all over Lebanon, dressed up as clowns and spent the whole day celebrating Eid with families there.

clowns Picture via Natheer Halawani

I ended the day by touring Tripoli’s citadel and taking panoramic shots from the highest point in the city.

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#LoveWins In Lebanon Too?

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gay via Mahmoud Ghazayel

The picture above was taken in Lebanon back in 2006, however it’s not a gay parade but an anti-government demonstration led by the opposition back then. Needless to say, the parties who were organizing this demonstration (and those against them for that sake) probably had no clue what these colors stood for and would have never considered demonstrating in favor of same sex marriages.

In fact, we still live in a country where people from different religions cannot marry that easily, where civil marriage is almost considered a crime, where anal exams are used to charge men with homosexuality, where women are still being abused and tortured by their husbands, where homosexuality is portrayed as being a trend or an illness and where you are mistaken for a devil worshiper (whatever that means) for holding Friday the 13th parties.

We are still a long way from achieving equality in Lebanon but we will get there eventually as progression is inevitable. We need more awareness campaigns and further action to change our obsolete laws and achieve equality for women and for the LGBT community among other things. I’m sharing once again a Lebanese TV campaign against homophobia, probably the first of its kind in the Arab World.

#Lovewins always.

[YouTube]

white-house-rainbow The White House is illuminated in rainbow colors after today’s historic Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage in Washington – via Newsweek

Tony Khalife Has Got It All Wrong On Domestic Violence In Lebanon

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I’m not really sure what is Tony Khalife’s deal with NGOs that are working against domestic violence but he has gone too far this time and his last two interventions on this issue are, according to my humble opinion, utter nonsense. Even more, he’s damaging the reputation of respectable NGOs and turning the public against them without having any scientific proof to back his claims. When he was covering the Sarah el Amine story, he was throwing false claims all over the place and even had a Sheikh on the show who kept undermining the work of NGOs. I won’t go back to this episode but focus on his latest intervention during his appearance on Al Hayat TV where he attacked once again NGOs concerned with domestic violence against women.

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You can watch the 4-minute long video above and here are my thoughts on it:

– Claiming that some NGOs and lawyers are interfering in internal family affairs and pushing women to file lawsuits against their abusive husbands is complete nonsense. When a man abuses his wife or his children or vice versa, it’s no longer a family affair but a social issue and NGOs are here to help these women speak out and not suffer (or die) in silence.

– Claiming that certain NGOs get paid for every woman that dies due to domestic violence is a serious accusation that needs to be backed by clear evidence. If that’s not the case, he should apologize to the NGOs in question for harming their reputation.

– Claiming that NGOs have caused an increase in the number of domestic violence victims is also a serious accusation that has no scientific evidence. If anything, these NGOs are shedding the light on more and more cases everyday that no one used to hear about them before and I’m glad Mona Abou Hamze disagreed with him on this statement.

– Refusing to admit that men are the dominant group in our society is like refusing to admit most of the Lebanese are still sectarian. We are still way behind in terms of women rights and even human rights at this point.

– Claiming that women speaking out in public in front of their sons about their abusive husband is more humiliating than their husband beating them at home in front of their kids is probably the worst thing Tony said on that night. NGOs and organizations have been working for years to help women break their silence and speak out against their abusive husbands and seek protection from the authorities and society. By asking them to keep things in the house, these women and their children will suffer in silence just like what happened with Sarah el Amine.

Moreover, being an educated and respectable person has nothing to do with domestic violence. We’ve seen how a lawyer was beating his wife in public the other day and was almost bragging about it on public TV and on your show as well. Therefore, if you come back home and you find the police waiting for you, it must be for a good reason not because NGOs and lawyers are pushing women to file random lawsuits. Last but not least, an NGO that is working to eliminate all forms of exploitation and violence against women is not entitled to report cases of domestic violence against men. If Tony Khalife feels there are a lot of men being abused by women, he should start his own NGO then and report these cases and organize demonstrations and everyone will gladly support him if he’s right.

I think it’s quite ironic that Tony Khalife is running a show to help shed the light on important topics and is criticizing at the same time NGOs that are helping shed the light on domestic violence cases and supporting women being abused by their husbands. If he feels certain NGOs are not doing their job well which is properly the case, then he should prepare a show to evaluate their work and not just throw random accusations at them. Also, he should reconsider some of the cases he’s talking about and whether they helped or harmed the people involved as well.

All in all, I think it would better if he invests more time and effort into spreading awareness on domestic violence and on ways to support the victims rather than get into a pointless war with NGOs and organizations, specially those that are closely working with the authorities.

Families, Neighbors And Friends Should Protect Lebanese Women From Abusive Husbands

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Every time I hear about a husband beating or abusing his wife in Lebanon, I keep asking myself why don’t the victim’s parents and friends do anything about it. I understand that some women are too afraid to speak up, but Sara al-Amin is not one of them and was filing a lawsuit against her husband for allegedly beating her over two decades! Unfortunately, Ali al-Zein shot his wife Sara al-Amin dead using an assault riffle after hearing that she’s pressing charges and fled the house. He was later on caught by the police.

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Needless to say, this is a horrendous crime and everyone wants justice and is asking for the husband to be sentenced to death, but this is not enough and won’t get us anywhere. Even having a law that protects women from abusive husbands is not enough if society doesn’t step in to protect the victim. I am not here to judge the victim’s family or neighbors or friends, but to encourage them to take proper action next time they witness domestic violence and do whatever it takes to keep the victim safe and help her speak up. If you watch the below report, Sarah’s neighbor was trying to reconcile the couple and convinced her to go back to her husband, and Sarah’s father stated he wouldn’t have let her come back to her husband if he knew he had a gun. Both of them were obviously trying to help Sarah but should have called the cops or some local NGO like KAFA to ensure Sarah’s safety, even if it’s against her will because she was obviously more worried about her children than herself.

10502013_10153276444024337_7772738399627689090_n Men who still think like this guy should be thrown in jail – via Kafa

A man who beats his wife or his children for 20 years won’t stop anytime soon unless he’s jailed or severely punished. I know a guy who went and beat the hell out of his sister’s husband because he was hitting her and it worked but that’s not the right way. Friends, family and neighbors should be pressuring the authorities to arrest an abusive husband before he commits his crime not after, and the cops should put under arrest a man beating his wife before he kills her not after. This whole “Keeping it in the family” thing should stop because the victims always end up being the highest price.

Having said that, please do report any case of domestic violence you witness and try to help the victim while keeping her safe. Sarah was brave enough to file a lawsuit against her husband, but there are hundreds if not thousands of other Lebanese women too afraid to speak up. As far as the ISF is concerned, Kafa has already trained over 100 ISF members on how to handle domestic abuse cases but further action is needed to make the victims feel safe and able to go back home and not be threatened by their abusive husbands.

Kafa’s hotline is 03018019 and the ISF can be reached on 112.

[YouTube]

Violence, Camouflaged: Powerful Portraits Of Lebanese Women

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Abillama01-1200 By Lebanese Photographer Lamia Maria Abillama

This is not a campaign to support the Lebanese Army, but a powerful series of portraits by Lebanese Photographer Lamia Maria Abillama entitled “Clashing Realities”. Several Lebanese civilian women, like May Chidiac, are shown in their homes wearing military uniforms “a symbolic representation of the encroachment of political violence into personal space”, or in other words to symbolize the violence that these women experienced at some point in their lives, whether it was the Lebanese civil war, an explosion or others …

Abillama’s work will be published later this month as part of a book series devoted to the work of Beirut-based female photographers. You can check out all the portraits in the [NewYorker] article.

Each of her subjects’ lives has been touched by violence, Abillama told me, although she has chosen not to include captions identifying their names or describing their traumas. Instead, it is their common identity, the burden they wear like a “second skin,” that she wants to call attention to. As the daughter of a storied political family whose life was shaped by Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war, Abillama grew to despise her country’s system of governance. And she knows that the second skin is not easily shed. “Even if you go to Paris or Milan or wherever, ultimately you carry within yourself always the spectre of war,” she told me.

Speaking of women and violence, Lebanese singer Elissa apparently released a new song called “Ya Merayti” to highlight violence against women and in support of the Lebanese NGO Kafa (While Haifa is still breathing you in). I won’t criticize Elissa’s clip as it has a powerful message but I am curious to know why she’s talking in English at the start.

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A Lebanese TV Campaign Against Homophobia: The First Of Its Kind In The Arab World

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Homosexuality is not a trend nor an illness and people don’t choose to become gay. Blaming People for Being Gay is Like Blaming Them for Being Left-Handed.

IDAHOT (International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia) is a long day event organized and hosted by Proud Lebanon. During this day, various activities will take place in order to address the issues related to this cause. Your participation is highly appreciated and required, so you can contribute to promote our cause and fight against Homophobia.

[YouTube]

#RealityCheck: Are You Armenian? Do You Eat Basterma?

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Are you Armenian? Do you eat a lot of spices? Do you live in Bourj Hammoud? Do you eat Basterma a lot? Bto2rabak Kim Kardashian?

These are all real life questions that are often asked to Lebanese-Armenians based on stereotypes that are generally untrue and are not as funny as some people think they are. The below video is meant to spread a message against stereotyping in a funny way and includes several known Lebanese-Armenian personalities such as Pierre Chammassian (this guy is hilarious), Roy Malakian, Paula Yacoubian, Sandra Arslanian, Shant Kababian, Guy Manoukian and others …

[YouTube]

Thanks Bouchra!