Monday, November 16, 2015

United we stand, Divided we fall

The last few days have brought shock and sorrow to people all over the world. From Beirut to Paris to Baghdad, the wound is the same. These horrendous acts are not only attacks on these respective cities, but on humankind as a whole.

As I am writing these words, my heart aches. My heart aches for the victims and their families. My heart also aches for the sense of humanity that has been lost by some. The way certain communities are choosing to deal with the issue at stake by pointing fingers at the most vulnerable, at people who do not relate in any way to these barbaric terrorist acts and condemn them strongly, is not the solution nor will it bring our beloved ones back.

During this critical time, when they are using the strategy of “divide and conquer” we must not let them fragment our sense of brotherhood and common humanity. While some are busy blaming a religion and its 1.6 billion adherents, or even the citizens of Middle Eastern countries, we should not substitute our values of tolerance and compassion with the ones of hatred and prejudice.

The world is mourning, but we should not mourn selectively; the loss of life in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Kenya should outrage us the same way the one in Paris did. We need to avoid hierarchizing lives over others, and be aware of the dangerous implications it could have. Victims of these heinous attacks, wherever they are from, had families that waited for the day they would open the door and come back, aspirations and dreams that never saw the light.  

Seeing how universities in France mourn the victims with a collective minute of silence confirms one thing: we are expecting others to mourn Beirut while we didn't even make the effort of remembering our victims with a simple collective stance in universities. Keep nagging on social media about how the attacks in Beirut went unnoticed, but you know what? Our spoiled youth are to blame for this, their double standards are to blame. We always choose to point fingers at the international community and victimize ourselves on purpose. Get rid of your inferiority complex: when you start respecting the victims and remembering them, then you can ask others to do so, not the other way around.
Today, let us not be Lebanese, French or Iraqis, let us be human. Let us pray for the people who have lost their lives, but act as well. Act in the name of humanity, act in the name of justice, act to prevent these terrorists from striking again.

Let us rise above the culture of intolerance and discrimination. Let us acknowledge that these acts are not representative of the religion of Islam, this religion of peace and love of the other. “United we stand, divided we fall” is the only sentence that accurately describes the stance we should adopt. Together, we can and we will stop them.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Your vote, Your Right

Since one of the main problems our Lebanese society is facing nowadays is slow internet connection, I therefore have no choice but to complete my assignment through blogger.
I was asked to come up with an initiative concerning one major societal problem in Lebanon, one that citizen engagement could help solve. I have chosen the elections problem; the Lebanese population has been deprived from their basic right of voting for their representatives in the parliament since 2013. Elections were supposed to take place that year and the parliament renewed for itself twice, stating that the next elections will be held in 2017, which is two years from now. So far, few have taken action against this violation of human rights. Approximately 40 people went to the streets only, which is very few in order to drive positive change. The initiative that could take place could start by a coalition of civil society and NGOs, who will try to make the voices of the citizens be heard by putting pressure on governments through peaceful protests, sit-ins, petitions, since there is no formal court where the human rights infringers could be brought into account. Perhaps it would be a positive incentive and motivation for all frustrated citizens to join forces with civil society and go the streets to demand that their rights be restored.

The key planners would be members of NGOs and civil society, intellectuals from all fields of work, going from social work to engineering to law, because unity is strength; by joining hands to overcome this unconstitutional decision, through constructive dialogue and experience sharing, they will be able to raise awareness in people over their rights as citizens and members of the society in an all-encompassing way, tackling all aspects of the matter, from administration to logistics. Target audience are all people who have the right to vote, and therefore are immediately affected by the problem. Recruitment will be for everyone who is not politically affiliated, and the reason is that politically affiliated people are in favor of the extension to their leaders in the parliament. Any person that complies with these two criterion, and who is dedicated to serving the public good are welcome to join, whether employed or unemployed, rich or poor, so that everyone can feel involved because it affects all of us. The initiative could partner with media, social media users, and international organizations whose duties are to watch over human rights such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Techniques and tools to be used in the initiative will be a combination of social media, which are viral platforms, fast and affordable that could spread our mission and actions and mobilize people with its effectiveness. Examples are Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, increasingly popular among the Lebanese population of all ages. Other conventional tools could be newspapers, common among people who cannot afford internet or smartphones, or even TVs and radios, because they are able to deliver the message even to the most vulnerable. The combination of these tools would be able to spread awareness to all classes of society, and perhaps spark in them the will to change and overcome the unconstitutional decisions, something they might have thought about but never occurred to them that action could be taken in this corrupt country. The initiative will consist of using these platforms and tools to send parts of the constitution that the offenders broke, or even call for massive peaceful protests or sit-ins to block the roads to the parliament.

The barriers our initiative could face are perhaps corruption of the leaders who could bribe people to not manifest, or even the use of force by the police facing the protesters. By having people from all fields, the initiative would be immunized on the legal aspect, with lawyers telling us how we can protest and which rules are present in order not to break them, or engineers could plan where to sit in order to create the most pressure (car traffic and so on). Opportunities could be negotiating with some politicians that are not convinced by the extension and use their expertise to overrule the decisions already made.


The only metric or indicator that could measure the success of our initiative is the organization of elections before 2017, translated by an appeal to the decision already made and overruling it. It is extremely crucial because it’s the only way to measure the effectiveness of the initiative because the demand is one; return the power to the people, by the people, through elections, to bring into account the offenders of the constitution that shapes the lives of all Lebanese. Elections are a fundamental right of each and every citizen, which should not be, in any way, taken away from them.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Malala Day #strongerthan violence

     There are some who fight against injustice, some who fight for social equality, some for their freedom, and most of all, all battles are aimed at getting the basic human rights an individual cannot live without. We are encountering a fight for living in dignity in Gaza, where innocent blood has been shed for many decades now.
     But on July 14th, which is this specific day, I was proudly invited to blog for a cause very dear to my heart, Malala Day, a day that calls for the fight for education. Malala was the topic of my first blog post; she inspired and still continues to inspire me until this very moment. This young girl, who was shot by Taliban because she wanted to go to school and learn, symbolizes the hope of millions of oppressed girls who are fighting for education. She symbolizes strength and patience, and proves to the world that the most dangerous weapons a human being can use are books and pens, going to school and striving to learn more. Malala wants to use Malala Day this year to ask everyone to raise their voices to say: we are #strongerthan those who use fear, intimidation and violence to stand in the way of every girl and boy's basic right to an education.

     Why do you think Taliban shot her when she had no weapons on her whatsoever? She had something they feared, a thing beyond all their arms and bombs and kamikazes. A weapon that could help the upcoming generation overthrow them few years from now, a thing they would literally 'kill' to strangle and eliminate; the will to learn. International as well as "local terrorists" that are well known as 'some political and religious leaders' use the tactic of ignorance to control the masses. When a person is not aware of their own rights, the impact they could make to stop these people from inflicting consequences of their satanic and wrong decisions, they will stay silent and oppressed, thinking that those who have arms are the ones that get to rule the country and manipulate people's lives. Ignorance makes you vulnerable and gullible. And this is not only happening in Afghanistan,  it is occuring close to us, in Syria, Egypt, even in Lebanon. People are being brain-washed with religious myths and empty promises, to kill and terrorise innocent souls, to oppress and control others the way they are controlled. It is a vicious never ending cycle and all of it is taking place for the simple reason that a lot are not getting the proper education to let their mind flourish, to let them be aware of the change and impact they could make, on the way they could stop the massacre and killing of thousands of individuals around the world.

     On this day I would like to proudly state that we are not yet #strongerthan those who want to silence the masses, but we could be if we start thinking critically about what is happening around us and how we could stop the fundamenalists from taking over our countries and spreading hatred between sects, specially in Lebanon. We could be #strongerthan the ones who would want to keep our communities in the dark, who would want to give a bad image about Arabs and Islam in particular. We could be, the only thing we have to do is provide proper and basic education for everyone, to invite the younger generation to pursue the fight for their right, the one that will embrace their inner strength and let them grow, so they could be the transparent and tolerant leaders we would want to see in the near future.

     Last but not least, Happiest Birthday Malala, to many more years of accomplishments.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Never Forget

April 13th 1975. A day of one of the most brutal downfalls of the Lebanese History. A date that will remain engraved in the hearts and minds of millions, a date that has announced, for many, the beginning of one of the worst nightmares a human mind can witness.

I was reading just yesterday As Safir and An Nahar newspaper covers that date back to the Civil War, Taef Agreement, and the Israeli War during the Lebanese American University's Model Arab League commemoration of the Civil War. There were so many covers with headlines that made me have chills and freeze; massacres in camps, bombings of civilians and hospitals, killings and blood sheds on checkpoints. One headline in particular caught my attention. It stated "Beirut is burning, and no white flags are raised" I stood still and stared at it. One of the students that I was training noticed and approached me by asking "Which one do you think is worse, the war with Israel or the Civil war?" I did not answer immediately because I had never asked myself this question before, so I had no possible answer. The only thing I told him was "I will let you know"

This article is my answer to him.

Being attacked by a foreign "group of people" (I wouldn't consider the fight with Israel proportional), having our hospitals and Red Cross convoys, civilians' homes, infrastructures bombed is shameful and humiliating. What is even more humiliating is having this foreign power occupy our capital which represents our state's sovereignty, as well as the southern territories of our beloved country. Being under occupation, thousands of martyrs' lives taken away was definitely a "hit the bottom" for us.

But what cannot be tolerated nor forgiven is the fact that thousands have perished on the hands of people from their very own country, neighborhood, region, and even religion just because they had a different political belief. What cannot be forgiven is that heads were cut, people were bombed, bodies were mutilated, women and kids were raped and men were abducted and tortured because of their sect by people who share the same blood and fall under the same flag that should unite us all; the Lebanese flag.
What is enraging me most is that on April 13th 2014 almost 39 years after this dark and barbarous phase our country encountered, faces from that specific war are still in power, and people are still following them blindly and re-electing them despite the gallons of blood on their hands. Almost all of them remain unpunished and still roam around the country in their fancy cars, with sheep clapping for them wherever they go.
So I guess to me, the civil war represents the absolute reincarnation of inhumanity, mainly because it has been done by us Lebanese. Our parents and Grandparents have allowed unwillingly this war to take place and to last for a long period of time because of the lack of knowledge and faith in Lebanon.

On this day, I would like this article to be an open call to the Lebanese Youth, to not let this regretful event to occur again, and that is by choosing their representatives freely during the next elections, to open their eyes and protest against those who want it to happen again.

May the souls of all martyrs rest in peace.

Never forget

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

#BlogActionDay : Refugees in crisis.

Sometimes in this cruel word, people out there can make a difference in somebody's
Iife or even an entire nation's lives. That is the purpose of this article. I am trying to be one of those people, and if it weren't for them I wouldn't have came back to blogging. Today is Blog Action Day, initiated by Amnesty International, uniting bloggers of the world to post about the same topic in the hopes of sparking a global discussion, and the theme is Human Rights.

As most of you have noticed, we are having a global crisis concerning human rights; expulsions, refugees, chemical weapons, torture in all means possible. And in most of these cases we didn't get the chance of doing anything about it. War crimes and unlawful killings in Sri Lanka, expulsions of Roma's in Europe and making them go through hell. But on the other hand, we really started changing the course of humanity, like with Herman Wallace's case, the man that was unjustly put of solitary confinement for 41 years and who was, thanks to a lot of you, released but only had 3 days of freedom, for he died from liver cancer. Another breakthrough in human rights this year was the Arms treaty that would regulate the selling and buying of arms worldwide. Being a member in Amnesty has given my life a meaning, being part of those achievements gave me self satisfaction. But there is one special topic we couldn't do much about and is affecting our everyday lives, specially in Lebanon; Syrian crisis.

For more than 2 years now, refugees seeking protection have been flooding to Lebanon through the open borders, and their number is increasing in a worrying way. We in Lebanon see them everywhere; streets, schools, camps, hospitals. Though a lot of people are starting to become bothered by their presence, we cannot ignore the fact that they are like brothers to us, people who lived just on the other side of our borders, people who have welcomed us on their land during the July 2006 war, people who have helped us escape through their airports when ours was bombed. These kids and elderly you see on the side of the streets begging, or selling things have had their families killed, houses destroyed, relatives tortured, jobs ruined by this crazy war. Some people do a lot to help them, but that is not enough. Lebanon was the only country to host ALL Syrians without looking at their backgrounds and rejecting them. And that's what is ruining our country as well; our politicians are encouraging violence there, some of the refugees with evil minds sabotage our lives (the number of rapes and assaults in our streets is dangerously in rise). All that because other Arab countries didn't bother opening their doors for them.

I can clearly state that except for Lebanon and Jordan (who eventually closed their doors for these refugees) no Arab countries have hosted refugees and went to the extreme by deporting them such as Egypt. What is this Arab union you long talked to us about? This Arab league who did nothing but condemn the killings and the chemical attacks there. Why won't Saudi, Emirates, Egypt and others help Lebanon with providing protection for these fellow Arabs who have been suffering the consequences of the chaos going on on their land? The countries I have listed are way richer and way more stable economically and politically than Lebanon who is in debt and who can't get itself out of his own interior problems. Why do we as Lebanese have to be the only ones with feelings of Arab compassion and fellowship? The people of Syria need help more than ever and I don't think we should be the only ones to get them out of this. Gulf countries are stronger, larger geographically and more organized than us.

Let this article be an open letter to everyone out there who wants to help, let us urge or at least try to raise the awareness of Arab countries about the crucial role they can play in this human rights crisis. As Ghandi once said "Be the change you want to see in the world". Try to be part of the solution you want the Syrian people to witness.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The real extremists

I've been meeting a lot of people recently, from fellow Amnesty members to fellow Rotarians. I honestly am amazed by the similarities we all have despite the fact that we all come from different cultures. Some, in particular, shocked me, and not in a good way. Just when I thought the days of ignorance and disrespect towards a religion different than yours were over, I saw that some people think that "Muslims" shouldn't be allowed to join Rotary or any other International organization or to be integrated within the International Community.
I don't even know how they even "allow" themselves to think that way or to even say that publicly. What puzzled me even more is that those people are not only Westerners (like most of us will tend to think), they are a lot closer than we think, in regions such as South Asia and Latin America. Having a really curious spirit I went searching for answers.

"Islamic terrorists", "Muslims fundamentalists", "Extremists". Those were the labels I got when asking. The media's portrayal of Islam often misleads those whose knowledge is limited, about religions in particular, in making negative assumptions about this peaceful religion, and often in making fools out of themselves as well.
Let me tell you something, muslim does not mean terrorist. I would really like to know what "their" definition of terrorism is. What do they call those people who go out and kill innocent children in USA? We cannot deny the fact that some terrorist organizations are muslim, but are they all? What about the Italian Mafias? I don't reckon they are.
Muslim does not mean  extremist. I am muslim, I believe in my religion, I fast and pray, do I go and try to margenilize people from other religions? People often ask me about my religion because they can't guess what religion I am, because I do not impose it on them. Some don't even bother asking, they only care about the values and moral standards of the person, and I deeply admire that way of thinking.
On the other hand, concervative does not mean extremist and an extremist isn't necessarly a terrorist. I know a lot of concervative people, and none of them go and massacre people from other religions and would never consider hurting a human being.
Thinking that all muslims are like Al Qaeda or Taliba is wrong and unnaceptable. Generalizing a small group of people's twisted and sick minds hungry for blood on millions of people is just not logical at all. I wonder if the people who think that way know that Islam itself denounces terrorism. It is clear that taking a person's life, including your own, is strictly forbidden by the religion and will be punished.
So my friends, people with limited thinking and analyzing capacity, who don't know a thing about religions and yet tend to judge are called IGNORANTS no matter what degree of education they have. They should lock themselves inside a dark room, as dark as their minds and that would make the world a better place. We are in 2013 for God's sake. If them who come from "developed" countries and are called the "intellectual" class of the society think that way, how dare we even call them "educated"?

Accepting others is a MUST in our times. If they cannot respect the religion of an enormous number of people and judge everyone who belongs to it, I would like to know on what standards are they basing their judgment? Who do they think they are, and who made them think they are better than the others?
Well that leaves me wondering who the real "extremists" are.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mind over matter

So I've been thinking about this whole Mind or Heart thing because it's something I'm currently dealing with. And it seriously puzzled the hell out of me.
So basically people always told me to follow my heart and not to listen to anyone but myself because it's my very own happiness. Listening to your heart seems to be the right choice. Not giving up on people you love, and not letting them go. But what happens when those people are the ones who bring all the drama and sadness to your life? Do you still choose to stick around through the worse? You ask yourself the same question everyday, would you prefer to suffer while you're with them or feel miserable for not listening to your heart and being miserable without them?
Well let me tell you something, between someone you love and who doesn't treat you right, or someone who treats you like a princess and who doesn't own your heart, you would be stupid to choose either one of them.
You can't be with someone if you're still thinking about the previous one, and if you didn't get the closure you need. Trying to get over someone by dating another person is a pure waste of time. Eventually you're going to end up friend zoning the poor guy.
And when the person you love treats you like a piece of crap and makes you feel worthless, leaves you in a very uncivilized way and hangs you on for months , then waltzes back into your life and expects you to be fine and act like nothing ever happened, you're going to fucking act like nothing ever happened. And you're going to choose the path of the heart. But that's just wrong, because by giving them the chance to come back to your life you are giving them the opportunity of ruining your life again, specially when you realize they didn't change the second they talked to you. They will never ever change.
Months. Your words have come real, all those dark seconds minutes hours days you put me through. I tried giving chances until now, but in this very moment I can't reach out to meet your words, you are making it go. Your words did and are still going through my veins, but the difference now is that they're leaving as soon as they came. I won't feel a thing anymore.
Thank you for never saying what I thought I deserved to hear back then, Thank you for making me love myself without even doing a thing.
Unless you do something about it, I am choosing the mind, because being with someone who doesn't treat you right is not called love anymore, its called stupidity. And stupidity goes against all the principles I chose to stick to in my life.
Because its mind over matter. I don't mind, and you WON'T matter.