Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Once upon a war...

I was only six years old when Israel invaded Beirut, and from that terrible time, I kept only one memory: My brother and I are playing on the balcony when thousands of colourful confetti rained down on us. We picked them up and they were flyers with writing on them. A carnival! There's going to be a carnival in Beirut soon! It was all so exciting. We started collecting the flyers and making paper planes and throwing them down the street. Every thing was full of colour. I remember it being so beautiful. The memory vanishes after that...

Years later, the family is having a reminiscing moment about the war, and I mention the confetti, wondering if we ever went to that carnival. My brother looks at me incredulously, "What carnival? These were flyers thrown by Israel warning of the threat of the PLO and explaining that we, the Lebanese, are not the target of their invasion". I was speechless... The six-year-old me must have tried to protect herself by conjuring this pleasant memory from what could have been awfully frightening. Of course the invasion ended up costing over 20,000 civilian lives, with 40,000 wounded. Because that's how "targeted" Israel's wars have always been.

I share this today because it's been on my mind for a while, the ability of a child to protect herself by erasing scary memories. And it keeps taking me to the children of Gaza and Syria, and all the horrors they are seeing. How powerful does their defense mechanism have to be to reinvent a bearable memory from all this? How will they ever be able to unsee images that the strongest of us shudders at in one glance? These aren't flyers falling from the sky, after which you can pack up and leave. These are phone calls and text messages informing you that your life as you know it is over, with nowhere to go, nowhere to hide and no means to forget. This stays with you, and your childhood is lost, forever.

It has to stop... It must stop.

Monday, June 16, 2014

World Cup rights in Lebanon: the right to make more money

It sounds like a victory doesn't it? Deal finally made to bring the World Cup to those who can't afford it. Lebanon will be able to watch all the games for free! Finally some light in this never-ending darkness.

But let's think about this for a second. Doesn't it sound fishy that even though we were promised week after week that a deal was eminent, it was never concluded until well after the tournament began? Let's look at the details:
1- Sama obtained the sole rights as a local agent to broadcast the World Cup in Lebanon from BeIN.
2- People who want to watch the World Cup subscribed to either BeIN or Sama (which was more than 50% cheaper than BeIN) right before the World Cup began, and probably well into the weekend. (I know a few people who waited until the last minute to see whether the government will strike a deal and broadcast for free).
3- Enforcement to prevent piracy was extremely effective in Beirut (I heard about a few cases of much easier access to pirated channels from people living just outside Beirut or in different cities).
4- Today, the deal to broadcast for free was announced by the government. The Ministry of Telecom will pay Sama compensation for broadcasting free - i.e. through taxpayer money. Sama's representative stated that they are footing a third of the bill, as a "gift to the Lebanese people".

Now I am not going into the debate over "the right to watch the World Cup" but I would like some answers on what exactly is the role of the government and their tight relationship with the private sector? Why was enforcement so effective in this particular instance when I haven't seen a single police officer enter any of the myriads of pubs in Beirut that now flaunt their clientele's "right to smoke" within their premises? How much was paid to secure this free broadcast and why was a compensation necessary, when Sama obviously had sold all the licenses it was going to sell?

Isn't it enough that corruption allegations at FIFA are already ruining the game for us? Or did the Lebanese felt left out and wanted to emphasize their eternal dominance in this field.

Don't get me wrong. I am happy that anyone who couldn't afford to watch the World Cup now has access, but I am just wondering who the biggest winner in all this is. Cause I sure don't feel like one.

Update: So turns out the "compensation" paid to Sama was US$ 3 million, which amounts to 75% of the US$ 4 million the dealer had paid to obtain the exclusive rights. I find it highly unlikely that Sama collected less than US$ 1 million (less than 9,000 subscribers), casting doubt on their representative's claim that they were "footing a third of a bill". On the other hand, and in a surprise move, the chairman of Tele Liban took it upon himself to broadcast all the World Cup games on state TV even though this was not part of the agreement between the government and Sama. I give up.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

How the "The Law to Protect Women from Family Violence" never came to pass

In quintessential Lebanese style, parliament just passed a law that initially meant to protect women from violence at home but has been modified beyond recognition to what is now known as “The Bill for the Protection of Women and Family Members Against Domestic Violence". The Legal Agenda has done a great job of explaining why this law is in fact insulting to feminists and anyone who appreciates a sense of justice in their society. Here are a few points from their thorough analysis. I highly recommend reading the article in full:

The subcommittee in charge of reviewing the original draft law prepared by the NGO KAFA (Enough) objected that the text of the legislation does not treat all members of the same family equally and discriminates positively for women. Without a shred of irony, they argued that  the draft law "contradicted Article 7 of the Lebanese Constitution enshrining equality of all Lebanese in terms of their rights and obligations." Because we all know that all Lebanese are treated equally under the law, except for some Lebanese (i.e. males) who are treated more equally than others (read civil status law).

It is common knowledge that the subcommittee had removed "marital rape" and "forced marriage" from the text of the original draft. It claimed that only physical violence that can be proven as per the Criminal Law counts. But did you know that the committee just added “marital rights to intercourse” in an explicit text of civil law (Clause 7(a) of Article 3 of the amended draft)? If this draft passes, guess what it means. The Legal Agenda depressingly expalins:

"Not only does the amendment fail to consider marital rape an act of violence, it might actually lead to deeming the infliction of harm by a wife on her husband while fighting off his attempt to rape her an act of violence itself."

In other words, the husband can legally rape his wife, and if she fights back, he can sue her for domestic violence.

To add insult to injury, the committee also included "adultery among the list of crimes that fall under marital violence, thereby allowing the aggrieved husband to seek protective measures under the law." Why? Because equality apparently.

Happy April's Fools everyone. We've all been duped.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Nudity indeed sells

When I first heard about Jackie Chamoun's leaked video and the criticism that made her apologize, I was offended. Why should she? If Lebanon was indeed a conservative society, then we shouldn't be subjected to the political porn we have to endure on a daily basis. Of course, I also wholeheartedly believe that a woman (or man) has the right to do whatever they want with their bodies and no one has the right to dictate their moral standards on them. The incident soon snowballed resulting in hundreds of blog posts and tweets and hashtags and creepy dude pics, all in support of Jackie's right to strip and represent Lebanon in the Olympics. Good for them. Good for us (I also did my share of tweeting and FB sharing).

But looking at the extent of the supportive response (to be honest I barely saw any negative comments about Jackie), I wonder where all this energy and indignation is coming from. I didn't see any of it when Roula Yacoub's husband was found not guilty of murdering her, under extremely murky legal proceedings. Why hasn't there been any outrage at the refusal of the police to intervene in a domestic violence incident that lead to the murder of another woman? I don't see any hashtags or Instagram photos calling for justice and rule of law, and for adopting progressive domestic violence legislation in Lebanon.

So I do want to ask, how "modern" are we as a society? And is it freedom and human rights that we are advocating, or just the image that comes with it?

Just food for thought.