Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Myriam Achkar and the Collective Response

On 22 November 2011, Lebanon's independence day, the body of a 28-year-old Lebanese woman, Myriam Achkar, was found in the woods of Sahel Alma near Jounieh, north of Beirut. She was murdered by Fathi Jaber Al-Salatini, a Syrian national working as a janitor at a nearby monastery. He had apparently attempted to rape her. First I want to extend my sincere condolences to her family - although belated. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain and suffering they are going through.

Although I was extremely shocked and angered by this crime, the reason I am writing this post is not to talk about the murder itself, but what it has shown about the level of discussion in the country. I may be mistaken but I strongly feel that this was one of the most widely discussed issue in the Lebanese blogosphere, from what it meant that she was a Christian and the fact that the murderer was Syrian to the debate about sexual violence against women in general and the irresponsible behaviour of media outlets. I have therefore collected all blogs addressing this heinous crime in this post, with a brief about some of the conclusions made for each. I will be adding more to it as I find them (please feel free to point out any that I've missed in the comments section and I will get to it).

Although I do not agree with all the opinions mentioned, I have found the discussion to be extremely mature and responsible (the comments section excluded - there's some nasty stuff in there) and was actually a little hopeful about the direction of the country as a result. If only these people actually run the country. Maybe... One day.

Murder They Wrote: The double Tragedy of Myriam Achkar by Joseph El-Khoury

The death of Myriam could not come at a worse time for the Lebanese authorities. For months, public paranoia has been at its peak fuelled by heightened local and regional political tension but also a genuine lack of security. In a desperate attempt to minimize public outcry, many in positions of responsibility made populist statements lumping together unrelated events and reaching erroneous conclusions. The measures suggested might reassure a traumatized community, but do little to prevent another Salateen from striking in Sahel Alma, or elsewhere when we least expect it.

ذا أردنا العدالة، علينا أن نتصدّى لخطاب وشاشات وأقلام تسخّر القصص المأساوية والقاسية في سبيل التحريض العنصري ضد العمال الأجانب، على حساب تمييع الحلول المفيدة، المطلوبة عاجلاً وسريعاً. ليس الحلّ بالتحريض على السوريين والأجانب ولا بنفي وقوع الاغتصاب ولا بشنق المغتصبين وسحلهم، بل بمواجهة حقيقة هذا النظام والقيّمين عليه، الحريصين على بقائه كما هو، بكل عفنه الذكوري المحتفى به كصورة من صور الرجولة إذا أردنا أن نثأر، علينا أن نثأر من أجهزة أوكل أمننا إليها فأخذت تتحرش بنا، ومن بلديات ننتخبها فلا تضيء شوارعنا ولا تحفظ حقنا بالسير فيها بأمان.

Another reason why religion and politics shouldn’t mix… by Patrick Galey

Now Rai has decided that, because one man last week raped and killed an innocent women at a sanctuary, and because that man happened to be neither Lebanese nor a Christian, that all foreign non-Christians cannot be trusted as employees in Christian institutions.

Well then. The crime was horrifying and must obviously be utterly condemned, but I’m not sure it happened because the perpetrator was a foreign non-Christian. It happened because he’s a murdering rapist. See the difference?

Packaging fear, broadcasting rage by Habib Battah

Rather than creating powerful content that educates and informs audiences, such organizations cynically mirror and amplify the latent fear and loathing that lives in minds of many Lebanese. Local TV stations substitute research and good old-fashioned reporting for unbalanced, shoddily constructed pieces masked in special effects and springing from visceral, misinformed xenophobic stereotypes.

What Kind of Martyr is Myriam Achkar? by Mustapha

Myriam is a martyr, but she’s not a Christian martyr or a martyr for small-town Lebanon. She’s a martyr for women everywhere who have to suffer from unrestrained and abusive male agression, whether in Sahel Alma or in Cairo’s Tahrir square.

Rest in Peace, Myriam Achkar by Nadine Moawwad

Nationality and religion have nothing to do with why Myriam was attacked. Really. I am not justifying the murder, God forbid anyone should justify the crime. And the rapist murderer, Fathi Jaber Al-Salatini should be tried, and if convicted, go to jail until he dies. I’m just stating a fact. Nationality and religion have nothing to do with the violence Myriam faced. What time it was, what she was wearing, what she was on her way to do, none of that matters. She was still brutally violated and her barbaric murder was not motivated by theft or hatred. It was motivated by rape.

Our anger at this horrible crime – understandable anger, human anger – should be towards rape…

More on Myriam el Achkar's Murder by Najib

Myriam was not killed because she was a Christian. She was killed by a mentally unstable individual and a criminal. He did not kill her because she was Christian and he was a Muslim or a Syrian, he killed her because he’s a psychopath. Having said that, I urge everyone to stop turning this into a religious matter, stop inciting for more violence and simply pray for Myriam to let her rest in peace and help her family get over this difficult time.

Myriam Achkar’s Murder: What It is, What It Isn’t And The Need for Foreign Workers Regulation in Lebanon by Elie Fares

Myriam Achkar is a martyr for Lebanon. She is not just a martyr for women around the region. She is a martyr for every Lebanese and a cautionary tale that we really need to stop giving preferential treatment for certain nationalities just because we are neighboring countries while nationals of that country have caused us so much harm. No, it’s not racism. I’m not calling to ban all foreign workers from coming to the country and taking them out of their houses like the municipalities of Burj Hammoud did. I’m calling for limitations, for reservations and for regulations.

بقلم سهى عواد
من هو هذا القاتل؟ كيف سمح لنفسه ارتكاب هكذا جريمة؟ من سمح له أصلاً؟ و السؤال هنا، من لم يسمح له. لأننا لسنا محمين في هذا البلد. والأبواب مشرعة أمام القتلة وهم كثر في هذي الأيام. كل يوم يولد قاتل جديد. ربّما تكون احدى هوايات "سكان لبنان". لأنّ اللبنانيين أبرياء (حتى الآن) نحن بلد يشجع القتل، بيئة ممتازة لتكاثر الطفيليات. لأننا لا نعاقب. لأننا لا نقول كفى. اليوم وأكثر من أيّ يوم نحن بحاجة إلى هذه الكفى، مدويّة، عالية وصاعقة، كما الجريمة.

Lebanese Brainwashing Corporation and Proud to Be by Aya Agha & Imad Bazzi

Both LBC and Philippe Abou Zeid (of course along with Marcel Ghanem who fails at reporting the big picture in many events) should be held accountable for directing a report that was broadcasted during a top viewed program and which was clearly shaped to go in-line with the Group’s dangerous sectarian agenda. What explains such a dirty move during times of turmoil in Syria? Times during which the majority of the Lebanese population is highly supportive of the Syrian citizens and their revolution, demanding the fall of the barbarous Syrian regime and it’s President Bashar Assad.

Myriam Achkar. No Lebanese should stay silent about her crime by

This is not just Christians' battle against crimes and lack of security in this country. It is every Lebanese's duty to demand the government to see through the life sentence that this criminal will/should have, and that is despite his nationality.

I must though explain why there is strong emphasis on the fact that the murderer is Syrian. We all know the history of Syrian workers in Lebanon (you know, those who sell kaak?). Just think of it, who in his right mind would dare kill a girl in her own town, and in that horrible way and think they can get away with it? Just think about it...

The Christian revolution of Sahel Alma by The Zako

My deep condolences to the Achkar family, I understand your anger but shame on LBCI & AlBalad. We strongly demand justice, but with some reasonable reporting and journalism ethics. LBCI reportage should have addressed the legal and intelligence background of the man, instead of using racist language as a cover to pass on a message they can’t say bluntly.

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