Diaries: Live from Lebanon

Lebanon Bloggers Roundup: Sectarianism and Peace Groups

The fears of sectarian strife may be the reason why a good number of bloggers wrote about sectarianism this week. However, as one may expect, bloggers do not agree on how to define or confront this issue. While some see that it is blown out of proportion, or that ignoring it may bring calamity, others think that it is a blessing and a Lebanese exceptionality. Nevertheless, many anti-sectarian youth peace groups have popped-up in Beirut in an attempt to save Lebanon from the seemingly inevitable future of a civil war or violence such as those occurring in neighboring countries in the region. 

Curfew and questions in Beirut

Today, January 25, 2007, violence broke out around 2:30pm at the Beirut Arab University, which is around the sports stadium close to the airport road. According to one report, it seems like the original conflagration occurred in the cafeteria and was then taken out into the streets. By now most people have seen images of the chaos that ensued. Many of us learnt about it when we first tried to use our phones and found all lines down. It is 11:30pm as I sit to write this; I am locked in my apartment along with the rest of the residents of Beirut. There is a military enforced curfew that went into affect at 8:30pm and will last until tomorrow morning at around 10:00 or 11:00am. 

The Cedar Revolution Goes South

Two years after the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, America’s Cedar Revolution in Lebanon has gone “Citrus”. The chic Lebanese divas with maids in tow wagging protest signs on their employer’s behalf are absent. Riad El Sohl Square in downtown Beirut is now occupied by a working class tent city with “Citrus” supporters from the Opposition: Religious Shias — Hezbollah (yellow), secular Shias — Amal (green), and Christians of the Free Patriotic Movement (orange). But all are united under one banner “Clean Up the Government!” 

Strike or Riot?

It has been an insane twenty-four hours in Lebanon. It began when a photojournalist friend called to invite me out to accompany him on his shoot. The first stop was the tent city sit-in downtown. I’ve been there many times, but he was going around with Aoun and Hezbollah officials so I was excited to have an opportunity to speak with them while my friend shot his pictures for a European newspaper. It’s so interesting periodically walking around this space. Each time I go there I see new elements of a mini village set up. One tent in the Aoun area has potted flowers and tents all around it and last night I met the woman who stays in that tent. 

I love life ... with dignity

Yet another set of slogans written also in red and white letters are being trumpeted on billboards around Lebanon. The slogans, written in French, English and Arabic, are installed side by side to the previous set of slogans: “We want to live,” and “I love life.” These new billboards are signed by the Lebanese opposition under a rainbow that includes the colors of all Lebanese parties, for the opposition as well as pro-government. “The campaign is a response to those who are accusing us that we do not want to live and that we do not love life,” say representatives of Hezbollah and Aoun Parties on a NTV television broadcast. 

Diverse allies in Lebanon

Ibtisam Jamaleddine stood in the room of her dead son, Maxim. Maxim was 18 years old when he was mistaken for a fighter and killed by an Israeli missile during this summer’s war between Israel and Hezbollah. Pictures of Che Guevara and soccer players as well as a plaque dedicated to Shiite Islam’s most revered imam, Ali, adorn the walls of his room. They tell a story unknown in the West, of the complex nature of forces that fought Israel last summer. 

Saddam Hussein and Lebanese Politics

The last week in 2006 wasn’t just about the celebration of the holidays. There’s also the anti-government protest, the hanging of the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, and politics in the Middle East. The environment was the concern of Dove’s Eyes View, who comments on the Bush’s administration most significant concessions to date on the dangers of global warming as it proposes protecting the polar bears. And Layal voices the concern of a Lebanese youth who refuses to leave Lebanon despite the current political conditions and even though all of her high school and university friends are traveling abroad. 

We love life whenever we can

Unconsciously, I started to recite this poem, written by Mahmoud Darwish in the eighties, as I first came across the “I love life” and “J’aime la vie” slogans written in red and white letters and carried on billboards around Lebanon. Even before I knew the story of the slogans, the poem came to mind, because the slogans felt cut: We love life whenever we can! But there is so much anger from occupation, imperialism, and injustice around us. The omitted part from the slogan gives a fantasy of a choice of being able to live a life we want in the current state of the world. 

Lebanese bloggers roundup: Foreign Intervention and Economics

The Lebanese bloggers are united this week in wishing their readers all the best during Christmas, Al Adha and the New Year. Some of these bloggers have taken up the issue of foreign intervention in the region as a subject of reflection while others highlight the sad state of economy and the effects that the political situation is having on it. The Lebanese bloggers also addressed the March 14 investigations and media coverage thereof. 

The cradle of revolution

Cradled in the beautiful southern mountains of Lebanon, a revolutionary impulse born of desparation created by Israeli terror and American oppression has turned into feverish nationalism. Here in Beirut yesterday, 10 December 2006, over a million people, perhaps two million, gathered in a historic first for Lebanon and possibly a historic percentage of any nation any one time any where. It was a crowd in motion, literally. I watched the rivers of people weaving through the masses and the islands of those who stood still. Their shifting patterns, a natural motion, is a rare experience.