Tag Archive: Lebanon

The bell of an abandoned Lebanese public school rings again for Syrian students

“He grabbed his backpack, which his mother filled with a shabby pile of papers and a pen bleeding his family’s agony, and headed to school. He arrived after an hour and a half walk with cold gusts slapping his face red and howling trees mourning the innocence of childhood.

But it seemed that the trees’ shrieks were not louder than the past voices of his family members. He described how the sounds of the family’s weeping because of the father’s death were still resonating in his head and in his heart.

Ali Al Awad, a 12 year old Syrian refugee, marched on the path of education down a valley in Chanay Mount Lebanon to reach his new school. “I arrived to Lebanon 7 months ago. This is the first school I attend in Lebanon”, he said.” …  Follow Ali’s education journey in Lebanon and find out more about the education-related difficulties Syrian refugee children are facing in Lebanon by reading my article published on Your Middle East website. 

الطفلة جنى كمال الدين

يحب الكآبة عندما تغنى… عندما تصبح لحنا شجيا يطرب نبضات القلب…

يعشق الوحدة الخرساء …

لا أعلم لماذا حاول لبنان الانتحار لكنه لم يمت بل أمواج الموت باتت تلف من كل الجوانب…

تبحث في جيوب معطفها عن بقايا ذكريات… محرمة نسيتها في الجيب الأيمن تحمل آثار عرق يدها من شدة توترها عند سماعها طلقات الرصاص…

تبحث عن تلك اللحظة…لكنها ستجد دائما تلك الكلمة الماكثة في قعر فنجان قهوة ممولي السلاح…

يحب تلك الكآبة المرتدية قناع الفرح والمتعة متعة الجنون نعم…متعة الفوضى والسلاح… أحلام صغيرة تتحول إلى إعصار…

جنى كمال الدين تسأل بكل براءة  لماذا القتل “عن غير قصد”؟ ولكنها ستجد دائما تلك الكلمة: القدر

يرقَع حياة لا يملكها بأوراق الخريف..هل ينجح في تغطية الفتنة والطائفية  بأوراق الخريف المتآكلة؟ … لا يعلم لماذا وكيف يرقع…

لماذا معارك القتل؟؟

لبنان يريد سماع لحن الموت فقط لا غير …

*توفيت الطفلة جنى كمال الدين جراء الاشتباكات التافهة بين جبل محسن وباب التبانة



Logo of the United Nations (B&W)

A dispute between Lebanon and Israel over their respective claims to a maritime territory of 5 kilometers of the Eastern Mediterranean that potentially holds billions of dollars of undrilled gas reserves presents an intriguing paradox. In what ways the roles of sovereignty, international politics, and the United Nations are manifesting themselves in the framework of this conflict?

International laws like United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and treaties have been tools for each country to claim the ownership of the disputed “common area”. While international law is based on a set of universal principles, it can be subjected to a variety of interpretations via foreign relations of a particular government or party especially in the case of Lebanese-Israeli maritime dispute as regional and international interests have much impact in the region. How is the United Nations as a mediator approaching this issue amid various factions’ interventions in the matter?

Appealing to the International Court of Justice might be a good choice to resolve the conflict; yet, drawing on other countries’ experiences with similar disputes might reveal that agreeing on not-agreeing might be a temporary solution in the present times.

Vague laws including UNCLOS corresponding to demarcation of maritime borders

According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), a state is given the rights of exploring and exploiting up to 200 nautical miles (around 370 kilometers) from its shore. In case there is common Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) or when two neighboring states are along the same coast, delimitation negotiation among states through treaties is required.

States must deposit charts and lists of geographical coordinates of the EEZ to the UN Secretary-General according to UNCLOS article 75, paragraph 2.

Lebanon signed and ratified UNCLOS in January 1995, but Israel is not a party to UNCLOS.

In this case, should the UNCLOS be binding on both states if one state is signatory of UNCLOS?

According to Wählisch, an international lawyer, in general UNCLOS rules are considered binding on both states as customary international law even if in a certain maritime dispute one state is signatory of UNCLOS and the other state is not.

If the law is binding on both states, this means that Israel is violating international law (which is not a big surprise, really).

On the other hand, international law is not the only and ultimate decisive tool in demarcating maritime borders. In “Borders and Border Politics in a Globalizing World”, Ganster & Lorey (2005) mention that no given method is required by international law to delimit maritime boundaries rather,

“It requires that they be delimited in accordance with equitable principles, taking into account all of the relevant circumstances of the case so as to produce an equitable result. The equitable principles are indeterminate and the relevant circumstances are theoretically unlimited.”

The resolution of maritime boundary is ultimately a political process and UNCLOS seems a peripheral ado to the issue rather than a basis on which states should use to demarcate their boundaries

The only likely avenue for settling this outstanding jurisdictional dispute is through negotiation of treaties and the establishment of an effective mediator capable of finding a way to facilitate dialogue among the involved states.

So, if UNCLOS, the jurisdictional hand of U.N., proved to be ineffective in maintaining a vital role in this dispute, what about U.N.’s role as a mediator in this issue?


U.N. as a mediator in the mid of ghost wars

The Lebanese government since the beginning of 2011 asked the U.N. to protect its maritime boundaries and wealth. For instance, the former Lebanese Foreign Minister Ali Shami sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asking him to stop Israel from exploiting Lebanon’s maritime wealth. However, the first requests were refused by the U.N. based on its argument that UNIFIL resolution 1701 doesn’t state that U.N.’s role is to delineate maritime borders as stated by U.N.’s Spokesman Martin Nesirky.

In July 2011, there was a change in U.N.’s stance regarding the issue of offering help in demarcating borders between Lebanon and Israel. During a tripartite meeting between Lebanon, Israel, and the U.N., UNIFIL commander in Lebanon Major General Alberto Asarta said that UNIFIL has the means and funding to accomplish the delineation, but it needs an agreement between Lebanon and Israel. This unfortunately is very difficult to accomplish… What is U.N. asking from Lebanon and Israel is actually convoluted and requires time.

In 2007, a bilateral agreement was signed between Lebanon and Cyprus in which the edges of the zones were marked by six coordinates maintained to be equidistant between the two countries. But this was considered a suicidal mistake for Lebanon. After using Point 1 as a terminal reference (Point 1 is far too north) serving as the point of intersection between the three states, Israel took advantage of this and signed an agreement with Cyprus in just two months after Lebanon submitted its southern maritime boundary proposal to the U.N.

Lebanon reestablished that Point 23 is the real terminal reference in determining the maritime borders. By then, Israel refused the new change claiming that this modification infringes the signed agreement with Cyprus; or more accurately, it doesn’t serve its own interests.

The controversy culminated in Israel’s July 2011 unilateral proposal of its northern maritime boundaries with Lebanon and Cyprus based on the 2010 Israel-Cyprus Maritime Agreement to the United Nations. The Lebanese government protested to the U.N. complaining that the zone defined in the Israel-Cyprus 2010 Agreement infringes on parts of Lebanon’s EEZ.

What we can understand from both countries’ treaties with Cyprus on defining their maritime boundaries is that things are becoming more complicated and that the issue is still stuck regardless of the attempts to reach a certain compromise. Under international law, Israel’s and Lebanon’s maritime boundary submissions to the UN are only unilateral proposals; that’s why chances for a near-future solution to the issue remain minimal.

International Court of Justice: U.N.’s last judicial solution?

According to Article 63 paragraph 2 of the statute of the International Court of Justice,

“Every state so notified has the right to intervene in the proceedings; but if it uses this right, the construction given by the judgment will be equally binding upon it”.

So far, neither Lebanon nor Israel referred their case to the ICJ. The principle of the binding decision might be a hindrance towards particularly Israel’s reach for the ICJ since from Lebanon’s perspective it is infringing on Lebanese maritime boundaries. Israel exceeded by signing contracts with companies like Noble Energy and its partners for drilling and gas extraction and is expecting production as of 2013 while Lebanon is still procrastinating the gas drilling and drowning into its own internal affairs…

Israel might not be reaching for the ICJ while Lebanon, which would benefit from appealing to ICJ, is busy as its sectarian politicians are fighting against each other to harvest the greatest amount of gas wealth into their own pockets…

ICJ isn’t the only judicial body the countries could appeal to; International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) could determine the maritime boundary. Since only Lebanon is a member to UNCLOS and the ITLOS was established as an international judicial body pursuant to Annex VI of the UNCLOS, any decision pertaining to the case between Israel and Lebanon, Israel would have to expressly agree to the jurisdiction of the ITLOS.

Adding to this, Israel seems to have few chances of winning over Lebanon claims of Israel’s breach of Lebanon’s maritime borders since Israel has not signed on UNCLOS. Its claims to international law, regarding both the potential offshore resources opposite the Gaza coast and with regard to the North adjacent to Lebanon, are problematic.

In light of the regime change in Egypt and the approach of Morssi, Muslim Brotherhood candidate, to win the presidency in the historic current Egyptian elections, Israel will face new challenges to the agreements over the Egyptian transfer of natural gas to Israel. For this reason, it is integral for Israel to have an alternative source of gas. That is why Israel (for its own sake), although it has already started drilling, should seek a fair agreement with Lebanon concerning the delineation of maritime boundaries and comply with the international law.

Source: gulfnews

The role of the United Nations is still ambiguous although UNIFIL said it was working with Lebanon and Israel to try to establish a maritime security zone close to the Blue Line in order to prevent any future exacerbation of the conflict.

Until the matter of its role is clarified, the United Nations may prove to be a persistent predicament rather than a positive model for resolving such conflicts. UNIFIL is not a solution, but a transient conflict management tool that serves as a means to an end. There remains a generalized lack of political will, particularly to pressure Israel towards reaching a final statement to the conflict.

The legal framework for maritime boundary conflicts is relatively clear, although the practical difficulties are complex especially if the conflict is crafted by regional and international interests. The outcome of the uprising in Syria, the developments in Egypt, and the dispute about Gaza’s offshore gas will likely affect the maritime conflict between Israel and Lebanon.

The vicious circle of legal and judicial tools of the United Nations will, voluntarily or not, give time for Israel to siphon out the gas resources and lead the way to a very prosperous near future for Israel while leaving Lebanon lagging behind.


لا أفعل شيئا طوال النهار سوى مكوثي في نتانة ازدواجية قيم وأفكار السياسيين اللبنانيين والنظام السياسي-الطائفي المشمئز…أحاول أن أغير…أبعث بتغريدة توبيخ على تويتر… أكتب تعليقا هنا وهناك… أشارك رأيي على الفيسبوك… ولكن القليل القليل يلبي ويبادر بمبادرة فعلية لإسقاط النظام السياسي-الطائفي…لأن الكل مستفيد من هذا النظام بطريقة مباشرة أو غير مباشرة…

 هم منشغلون في سياسة الهرج والمرج اللفظي والقلبي لا الفعلي…والجمهور يصفق ويغني “واوا”… البرلمان يصرخ ويتألم… إنه يعيش حرب أهلية مستمرة… واللبنانيون يرقصون الدبكة على قبور ضحايا الحروب السالفة…

ازدواجية المعايير تطلق صفارات الانذار ولكن اللبنانيون منهمكون في أخد الصور على الزيتونة باي, غير مدركون لرائحة الفساد القادمة من وسط بيروت ,قبالة الشاطىء…

من القضايا الكثيرة العالقة (بالأحرى المعلقة عمدا) قضية المسجونين خلف قضبان الأسى… لا أفهم هذا البلد البائس والمتناقض مع ذاته… لا أفهم كيف طار هدا الجسد الملائكي النبيل من السجن وغط على الرابية ثم أكمل مساره المقدس إلى وكره… هل هو إذاعميل عميد أو عميد عميل؟؟؟… بعثت بتغريدة للرئيس ميقاتي حول قضية المسجونين… لم يجب…كنت متأكدة من ذلك…

أكتب كثيرا من الأحيان ثم ما ألبس أن أضع كتاباتي في ال recycle bin

لا أعرف لماذا أفعل ذلك؟؟ ربما لأنني اعتدت على ألا أكتب إلا إذا كنت متأكدة من معلوماتي وعندي مصادر موثوقة ولكن كتاباتي الشخصية مصدرها أنا.. “أنا” ونقطة على السطر… أشعر بالخوف من نشرها.. ليس ذلك الخوف من ردة فعل الناس  والمجتمع فقد طلقت أفكار المجتمع منذ سنين… لكن الخوف من نقدي الشخصي لنفسي… لا أريد مواجهة نفسي الآن… لا يوجد وقت لذلك

أكتب لأموت قليلا ثم أحيا… أكتب لمجرد رغبتي في إضاعة نفسي في العدم… نعم العدم… أريد أن أزرع نفسي في طيات صفحات كتاب ممحي… أريد أن أضيع الزمان,المكان, والأحداث… الأحداث تتكرر.. كل شيء يتكرر…وأنا أريد أن لا أتكرر…

أنا مدركة تماما أني وصلت مرحلة الجنون…لم أعد أفهم ما الذي يحدث أو لا يحدث…

ولكني أفهم أن الفوضى أوجدت لبنان ولبنان أوجد الفوضى… ولبنان غير مسؤول عن كل هدر للثروات بما فيها مصادر الغاز, السرقات والنهب المنظم,الفساد الإداري والبرلماني,و فضائح فساد الغذاء, المستشفيات وووو …

لم أعد أؤمن بلبنان!

الآن أستطيع إكمال فنجان قهوتي…

يمكنكم البدء من هنا:


“The Mediterranean’s foamy waves have brought more than the regular Lebanese garbage to the shore this time. They have brought with them the dirty Israeli methods for drilling, the deviated technologies that are employed to make the language of the sea more difficult to comprehend in this much exacerbated region…”

Will the mechanism of horizontal drilling be employed in the Eastern Mediterranean region by Israel and how would it affect the Lebanese gas resources?

Find out: http://www.hibr.me/content/something-rotten-eastern-mediterranean

This is a link to my article published on hibr



Reporting from Denmark-

The ghastly figures of the bloodied and removed-fingernails children who started the Syrian revolution hung over the frozen eyes of Mohammad S.’s three kids. The children’s “crime” of casting the famous spell of the Arab Spring “The people want to bring down the regime” on their school’s wall haunted the three kids’ minds defining for them what freedom of expression means.

“I couldn’t stand the fact that my wife and kids are in Hama and I’m in Beirut, so I asked them to come to Beirut,” says Mohammad S. who had been working in Beirut in cleaning the stores. He adds, “The situation is very difficult there. The killings start after 6 p.m. No one is allowed to walk on the streets after that time.” “They (his family) came and lived with me for a month, but I couldn’t afford their expenses so I sent them back.” When asked if he sought aid from charity organizations, he said that most of the aid organizations are situated in the north of Lebanon and he didn’t receive any help.

Not Enough Aids for 5,000 Syrian Refugees

Refugees aren’t facing only the bleak fact that there is no enough aid for them; some are actually being hunted down after crossing into Lebanon and other neighboring countries and are attacked by the Syrian forces. Ali al-Khatib was killed on Thursday when the Syrian army vehicles crossed the border near Saaba, in the Bekaa region in Lebanon and attacked farmers and their houses. On Monday, a similar event happened during the escape of some Lattakia residents to Turkey via Al-Hamboushiyeh. The security forces fired at them, which resulted in the death of a young man, Haytham Asfar, and two other people being injured. In other situations, kidnappings of refugees have taken place where the kidnapped Syrians were handed over to the Shabiha gangs and the Shabiha handed them over to the Syrian security forces, Mohammed Kizle, a refugee from Homs near the Lebanese border town of Wadi Khaled told Al-Arabiya.

Abdallah Dabbousi, the head of the emergency and relief committee at the Islamic Medical Association in the north of Lebanon decries the shortage of funds,” The amount of aid is negligible. There are 5,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon right now. They have been here from around 7 months, so it’s not that easy to secure their basic needs for a long-period of time.” Rabih Dandachli, the President of the Muslim Student Association that lead one of the most prominent campaigns for collecting donations for the Syrian refugees in the north of Lebanon, says that they are left with less than $4,000 from the $35,000 collected donations. Dabbousi says in this regard, “We have a mobile clinic, a doctor, a nurse, and medicine. We had done so far 30 medical surgeries for which one had cost $17,000 and another had cost $12,000. We distributed 500 sleeping bags and 800 nutritional food units. But we are running of funds.”

Syrian refugees have been relying on support from the Lebanese government’s High Relief Commission (HRC), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), NGOs and the local community for several months since fleeing the fighting in nearby Syrian towns.


A Syrian refugee child looks out a window in Wadi Khaled, Lebanon's impoverished mountain area near its northern border with Syria, on September 21, 2011. (AFP Photo/Anwar Amro)


The Lebanese government not admitting the existence of a real crisis

“We have limited potentials. The Lebanese government’s role in providing help for the refugees is not crucial. There are 25 charity organizations involved though. It’s related to the political situation in Lebanon where the government currently supports the Syrian regime,” Dabbousi says.

Dandachli agrees with Dabbousi on this issue, “When the Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs states that the number of displaced Syrians in Lebanon reported by the media is inflated and denies the existence of the crisis, this means that the Lebanese government doesn’t have the will to help these refugees.  The Lebanese government’s role is bad. It’s even part of the current problem.” However, the Lebanese Prime Minister Nagib Mikati said on Thursday that Lebanon is committed to protect Syrian refugees in Lebanon. “My approach to these refugees coming to Lebanon is purely humanitarian. We are assisting these people … providing them with medical assistance, schooling and shelter.” Miqati told Agence France Presse. Regarding the schooling of the children of the Syrian refugees, Dabbousi acknowledges the government’s role in offering them free schooling at public schools.

What’s more ironical is that the media affiliated with the Syrian government and its allies consider the fleeing Syrian refugees as regular visitors paying visits to their families on the Lebanese border. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4Y9cSlfhqk)   

 A Cow-Slaughterhouse to accommodate Syrian refugees in Lebanon

The main problems at the moment lie in the housing and the medication of the refugees. “Currently, approximately 15 family members live in a small one-room apartment. Others who don’t have relatives in Lebanon to stay at their houses and who can’t afford the rent reside at regular shops or schools. One of our projects we are working on is building a refugee camp in North Lebanon,” Dabbousi says. He explains that the local community and NGOs found an abandoned cows’ slaughterhouse to which they hope to turn into a refugee camp after renovating it and making it suitable for living.

Amid the hostility of Russia and China towards the Syrians where they pushed the UN Security Council to reject imposing sanctions on Assad’s regime via their veto, the Syrian spring seems will blossom more blood. Syria’s spring seems also to witness more cultivation of thorny warnings where the first one came on Sunday announcing that the Syrian authority will retaliate against any country that formally recognizes the National Council set up by opponents of Assad.

This gloomy spring drove and is still driving many Syrians to seek haven in the already impoverished area in Akkar, north Lebanon and other neighboring areas permanently or temporarily as with Mohammad’s family.

I tend to be somewhat different from a person who has lived in Pakistan for a while or views Bin Laden as a hero and martyr… I also can’t argue with a radical salafist that only accepts one absolute interpretation of the Quran or even a very literal interpretation of its verses or of the Hadiths… The argument might go forever without reaching a consensus because we seem to view Islam from different perspectives… and by this I don’t mean that there are no well-established pillars that comprise the Islamic faith and that don’t change irrespectively of time; I mean that certain issues have been debatable in Islam and one can take into consideration certain opinions/fatwas of well-reputable Muslim scholars and dismiss the others because the interpretations of some verses might be explained differently by various scholars and might have new approaches with the development of our time and age… For example, the scientific interpretation of some verses of the Quran has only been recently revealed. (You can check some of scientific miracles here: http://www.miraclesofthequran.com/scientific_index.html )  Does that mean that we need to reject them because they weren’t explained that way years before??     

I had a meeting with one of those speaking against the law (and whom I valued her logical way of thinking) who explained the imperfections of the law and the ineffectiveness of it.  I agree with her that the problem is social in the first place and it is related to the patriarchy-related ideas and that it needs huge efforts regarding educating both men and women… However, this law as I understand aims at the extreme cases and at people who were used to such violent acts. They call it “العنف النمطي”. As defined in the document “Questions about the Protection of Women from Family Violence Law” by the lawyer Layla Awada, the “archetype violence” is the violence used by a person as an attitude in communication.

The second point I want to address is that the law protects the privacy of the families. And as I made clear in my previous posts, if in some cases of domestic abuse the privacy of the family is not protected, I’d prefer saving a soul rather than protecting the privacy… As mentioned in Layla Awada’s document, the provision that allows NGOs to file a complaint against an abuser instead of the victim was actually retrieved. Meaning that, the victim herself is the person eligible for filing a complaint and not the NGOs or the human rights organizations. (Check the document: http://on.fb.me/qJK9nF )

I know laws are imperfect… and they might be abused including Sharia’ laws… but as I mentioned before the filed complaint would be evaluated so if it was a false one the jurists won’t deal with it…

I don’t want to go further and debate the law itself because I’m not an expert in laws. I’ll leave this to the lawyers… I’m not going to judge how effective or not the law is going to be because laws aren’t my field of specialty.  What really distracted me out of this whole ongoing debate is that some Muslims are defending their “right” to use violence as a discipline, their ”right” to rape their wives, and their “right” to control every member of their households claiming that this is what Qawama obliges them to do…

The anti-law campaigners considered that this law is part of a well-established plan to eradicate the Muslim family through the introduction of some radical changes in the Muslim family and the Islamic faith. This, they argue, would be achieved through imposing UN conventions and through introducing “sugar-coated” laws like the introduction of the protection of women from domestic violence law as a first step. Some of the documents the anti-law campaigners used as a reference for rejecting the law is the document “العنف الأسري في الوثائق الدولية”( http://bit.ly/oKzKYP   ) I read it thoroughly and I noticed different fallacies that I found important to note.  

The document is written from a conspiracy theory perspective.  I don’t know how exactly Dr. Helmy, the writer of the document, managed to tie up the domestic violence issue to a conflict in the concept of gender concluding with Israel’s involvement in the matter.



Gender and the “natural roles” issue

Second, I’ve also observed many times in Helmy’s document that she connected the concept of gender to the LGBT concept… which’s not the equivalent terminology to use. Gender is a sociological term per-excellence and in the first place. Anthony Giddens observes that gender “concerns the psychological, social and cultural differences between males and females.” The term of gender is a wide range of complex concepts and must not be reduced to one ultimate definition. (http://www.who.int/gender/whatisgender/en/ ) There are the gender roles which are the learnt roles that concern different sexes with the help of social agencies such as the family. Here comes the concept of the traditionally and clearly-defined roles vis-a-vis the modern or the individual-created roles for men and women.  Men and women’s roles are socially-constructed and shaped. Helmy took one aspect of the gender term, generalized its use, and maybe wanted to understand the term like that without even looking at the context to which it was used… I really don’t agree about the “natural roles” of men and women.  It doesn’t exist in Islam… I support the conventions that will lead to abolish the division of work according to one’s sex.  Sometimes the woman who works outside her home from 8 till 5 goes back home to also work there: cooks and cleans whereas the man who might also work from 8 till 5 might not move his butt to help the woman considering the household duties are women’s work. Is this fair? Of course, we must work on abolishing these preconceived traditional ideas that don’t have any connection to Islamic views… Khadija was an independent merchant. She was the one who hired the Prophet, or do you want to forget that?

Third, Dr. Helmy assumed that the UN women committees embrace radical feminists’ agendas without providing any evidence for that. She went on explaining the ideas of radical feminists and digressed from the main issue under discussion… I don’t agree about what radical feminists say and there are others who don’t agree about what they say but not necessarily abandon their defense of women’s rights. I’m really shocked about how she links radical feminism to UN conventions.

A lot of terms, as observed from Dr. Helmy’s document, are put out of context when criticizing them… Concerning the issue of repression of female sexuality, this is not even mentioned in the law… In fact, the law criticizes the way people might look at it i.e. the attitude and not the actual act. By this I mean that the provision mentioned in the “Elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child – Report of the Expert Group Meeting-2006”, to which Helmy referred to, criticizes the emphasis on the virginity of females… and not as what Dr. Helmy suggests that a woman’s virginity is actually criticized and hence considered a form of violence.

One of the issues Dr. Helmy spotted the light on in her document is child marriage. Regarding child marriage, setting an age limit for it like 18 years old would solve different problems. If a girl wants to get married at the age of 17, well, why not get married and then after a year they register the marriage officially? I want to protect the 12-14 years old girls from marrying at this age. They’re kids; they haven’t decided what to do yet in life… Their parents might convince them that this is perfect for their lives; they might think they’re going to live a Cindarella story. That’s it.

The Dowry…

Dr. Helmy criticized how the dowry is considered as a price for the woman in return for the sexual pleasure she’ll grant her husband, but if we looked at what’s happening today this is actually happening. The concept of dowry is being abused both by men and women. It’s being used as a means for controlling women.  Saudis are selling their 12 year old daughters to Saudi men for the money. An 8 year old girl was going to get married to a 47 year old man: “The girl’s father, according to the attorney, arranged the marriage in order to settle his debts with the man, who is “a close friend” of his.” http://bit.ly/pSd70y   “The father agreed to marry off his daughter for a dowry of 30,000 riyals (£5,400) as he was facing financial problems.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/dec/23/saudi-arabia-human-rights What about this case http://www.algeria.com/forums/world-dans-le-monde/26819.htm ? Yes, they are sold in some cases. In some cases, the dowry serves as a price for the woman… the concept is being abused so why don’t we want to admit that it’s? In fact, the UNICEF report criticizes the violence-related dowry where women get killed because of their complaints when the issue of dowry isn’t settled yet… it’s not considering dowry as violence by itself.

From an Islamic point of view, women aren’t obliged to do household duties. Dr. Helmy criticized in her document UNICEF’s report. UNICEF’s report suggested that one of the factors that are leading violence to resume is women’s dependence on men in economic matters. This is because when women completely depend on men in financial matters, some men might take advantage of this and threaten to stop being financially responsible for them, so the complete dependence on men in financial matters MIGHT sometimes turn to act as a tool for subjugating women . Note: UNICEF’s document mentioned “dependence” and not partial reliance.

Marital rape and Islam…

Regarding rape, whether it’s between married couples or not, it’s still considered marital rape. Women are to be treated well by their husbands in Islam. There are definitely reasons why women might not want to sleep with their husbands… A question for religious leaders who are against the law: why don’t you want to take into consideration other Hadiths and Quranic verses that ask men to treat their wives honorably? (Check these 2 links: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDEKJDgXO-U  http://www.suhaibwebb.com/relationships/marriage-family/spouse/hurting-homes/  ) I think it’s insulting for just not acknowledging the existence of marital rape. The ones who are arguing for it claim that men have needs and the wives are obliged to fulfill those needs. Assume it is halal for the husbands to rape their wives, don’t you think it is “good manners” the husbands to consider their wives’ physical and mental needs and conditions before satisfying their own desires? Don’t you agree it’s the husband’s “responsibility” in the front of Allah to comfort and understand his wife’s needs FIRST before thinking about his needs? The defenders of marital rape used this Hadith to justify the gruesome act: “When the husband calls his wife to his bed, and she does not come to it, while he spends the night angry with her, the Malaa’ikah (the angels) curse her until morning.” It’s important to notice that the Prophet did not encourage the man to force the woman who did not respond to his call. In fact, he states that the man stays angry throughout the night; i.e. that she never came to his bed – even by his force. Rather the punishment for disobeying his needed call is that of anger of the angels and thus Allah also. Again, just because it is haram for her to leave his bed upon his call does not mean that he then has the “blessed” right to FORCE himself upon her. How can Islam allow the husbands to rape their wives when Islam is one of the icons of women’s protection? Islam forbids harming others, which includes a husband harming his wife emotionally, physically, and financially. If a wife must refuse the husband’s call for a reason, then her refusal will not incur “the angelic curse”. And lack of sex interest in itself is a valid excuse, but something that must be worked on. There is a Hadith that says: “Let none of you come upon his wife like an animal, let there be an emissary between them.” When asked the meaning of emissary, the Prophet replied, “The kiss and sweet words.” It’s also significant to point here that certain issues in Islam might be debated using different Hadiths/verses with different levels of authenticity and by using different Fikeh schools/Mazaheb. Some scholars might cherry-pick Hadiths from here and there to prove the point they have in their minds exactly as those defending marital rape in Islam were doing.

Regarding honor killings, we know that certain men who just “suspect” that their daughters/sisters are in direct contact with other men, they commit these crimes…why don’t we save the victims in this case? Even in Islam, in order that a woman and a man to be convicted of adultery, there must be four eyewitnesses and this is somewhat “impossible”… Honor killings are not permitted in Islam. The Quranic verse is very clear in this regard: “The woman and the man guilty of fornication flog each of them with 100 stripes.”

Regarding the law, I say what’s “left” from the correct way of implementing Islam is really inadequate. People have abused Islamic Shariaa practices. We have a reality and this reality is inundated with different incorrect ways of implementing Islamic teachings… These laws aim at solving or helping to solve (and here I’m not discussing whether or not the laws are going to be effective) the incorrect ways of Islamic teachings and practices and not the Sharia laws themselves… There are different Islamic concepts that have been abused like Qawama. According to Ibn Ashour, a well-renowned Muslim scholar, the Qawama verse doesn’t mean that all men take care of all women, but this is the norm. There are women who support their men and when I mentioned this in my previous post, some criticized me saying what about the feelings of men? They will feel humiliated! Why? Why humiliated??? Maybe the man is sick and even paralyzed and can’t work, so what’s wrong in woman supporting her husband financially??? Polygamy is also another concept that has been abused. Polygamy’s conditions are very restraining… it’s also accepted in certain circumstances.

I’m also shocked how the law has been diagnosed by some anti-law campaigners as “Western” and incompatible with our society while some of the campaigners themselves support blindly other deemed “Western” icons like the Hariri tribunal without questioning it… I don’t want to delve into political issues but I just wanted to note this contradiction.


First of all, I can say that some Muslim clerks are fanatically scared of the hegemony of Western concepts… and its “threat” to their values… They’re afraid of the pervading surreptitious consequences of CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, that might affect Islamic traditions and lead to abrogate the Islamic family and society.

Muslim clerks overlooked many articles in the law that are advocating for enhancing women’s position in Lebanese society and judged the law from a minority of articles. Some of the women who were lobbying against the law whom I talked to said that they fear that if this law is passed, then the articles that don’t go in line with Islamic beliefs may be implemented forcefully.

Second, I’m pretty sure that Muslim clerks wouldn’t object on the issues that some articles of CEDAW call for and that DON’T conflict with religious teachings. Some of these issues include:

-Suppresses trafficking of women

-Helping mothers and families by providing access to maternal health care

-Ensuring the ability to work and own a business without discrimination.

-Providing educational opportunities, including access to education and vocational training

-Ending the discrimination in the field of employment, including the right to work, employment opportunities, equal remuneration, free choice of profession and employment, social security, and protection of health.

However, there are some articles that contradict with Islamic convictions. But before going into some of these articles, it’s crucial to point out that the issue of family privacy is sacred in Arab societies meaning that what happens in the family must not be disclosed to strangers despite the graveness of the situation. That’s why some men (and women) find it difficult that the law would allow women victims to report the assaults to the police station or other concerned body and expose their family issues even if the attack was a verbal one. This secrecy and the act of “tabooing” family relations is part of Arab culture. For example, even when a girl is abused (physically, sexually…) by a family member and even if the family member, say, is from the extended family, the family members would hush everyone and burry the case in the “3ayb” black hole.      

As what I referred to above, some of the articles oppose Islamic beliefs. One of CEDAW’s articles call for ending forced marriages and child marriage, and ensuring that women have a right to inherit property. As one of those lobbying against the law explains: If a 17 year old girl wants to get married, the law wouldn’t legitimize it because she’s considered a child by the law and on the other hand, she can have a boyfriend. Illegal sexual relations of course are illegitimate in Islam… This is where the law conflicts with Islamic beliefs. The objection here relates to the issue of child marriage. In Islam, a girl must be consulted about the guy she wants to get married to and she must NOT be forced to marrying a certain guy. However, in Saudi Arabia, men are still raping children; all this in the guise of the holy marriage ritual. (http://news.change.org/stories/saudi-girl-12-sold-in-marriage-to-80-year-old-relative ) This is a dilemma!!! What to do in this case??? I know this is uncommon in Lebanon and prohibited in Islam, but dear Mufti, what if such thing happened in Lebanon, who’s going to protect the poor girl if Lebanese laws don’t and the father doesn’t abide by Islamic Sharia??       

The second issue is inheritance. We know for instance, inheritance rights in Islam are greatly misunderstood. Because in general men are responsible for the family financially (Islam OBLIGES men to financially take care of the expenses of every member of the family), women inherit half of what men inherit. It is crucial to point here that women sometimes inherit the same amount or even more than men. (http://islamicmisconceptions.blogspot.com/2008/08/inheritance.html )

Islam tends to protect weak members of the family. If for example, a family consists of five married men and one of these men died and has little kids, even if the connection (the father) between the heir (the children) and the predecessor (the grandfather) is broken down (deceased), Islamic Sharia gives them up to 1/3 of the inheritance whereas if the father was still alive, he would inherit 1/5. ( http://www.iicwc.org/lagna/iicwc/iicwc.php?id=529 ) I included this example to explain that the issue of inheritance is not a simple thing and it doesn’t ignore women’s and children’s rights. On the contrary, it takes into consideration the various cases of inheritance conditions and ensures fair distribution of property among members of the family.  

According to the law specifically to article 13, the state parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in other areas of economic and social life …to ensure equal rights between men and women in particular to (a) The right to family benefits. Islamic views towards inheritance might be at odds with this peculiar article as it might offer fair but not equal shares of inheritance.

Although article 16 of the law ensures equality in marriage and family relations, including equal rights with men to freely choose spouses and equal rights and responsibilities with men towards children, the law may not be applicable in a multi-confessional (and schizophrenic) society like Lebanon whereby each Lebanese citizen is subject to the laws imposed by his/her own religious background.

Examining paragraph 1, subparagraph (b) that states that “States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations…” in particular granting “The same right freely to choose a spouse and to enter into marriage only with their free and full consent”, Muslims fear that the law would permit Muslim women to choose to marry non-Muslim men which’s forbidden in Islam. I’m not going to delve into this debate to avoid digressing from the main issue here. It’s important to note that the Lebanese state has made reservations to article 16 (paragraph 1, subparagraphs c, d, f, g), among other articles, that pertain to giving women the same responsibilities as men during marriage and its dissolution, the same rights and responsibilities as men in matters relating to their children, the same rights and responsibilities as men with regard to guardianship, wardship, trusteeship, and adoption of children, and the same personal rights including the right to choose a family name, a profession and an occupation.  Although these subparagraphs don’t pose a “threat” to Islamic beliefs, they may conflict with the Middle Eastern traditions. Some Middle Eastern men and NOT NECESSARILY MUSLIM men fear that the patriarchy they once enjoyed could be threatened by the law.   

Mufti Qabbani should bear in mind that Lebanon is a multi-confessional society…there are also secular Lebanese…  This law is not directed to Muslims only…It’s not intended to banish Islamic societies (and for God’s sake when someone argue with me about this law, please give me another plea than this. This is way outdated.) With all the respect, rejecting the law is a mere act of rashness and bigotry…

Finally, I ask the Mufti and all the Islamic women organizations to reconsider the law with all of its articles. They’ve done wrong to Islam as they contributed to the already distorted image of Islam as a religion that suppresses women’s rights… I also ask his PR committee to consider the wording of the report and not to reject it as a whole but to have some reservations on it. (Consider the headlines of the various newspapers and you know what I’m talking about: http://www.assafir.com/Article.aspx?EditionId=1879&ChannelId=44278&ArticleId=2862&Author=سعدى علوه )

Note: I’m not an expert in laws or in Islamic jurisprudence.

It’s great seeing all these online petitions asking for fast internet and declaring that internet should be a HUMAN RIGHT for every Lebanese, but it becomes a bit ironic seeing all these people living within the Lebanese territories struggling to achieve the very most basic human rights from food, shelter, medicine, and proper living…

I volunteered to visit the Shatila camp in Beirut, to meet some of the families in their homes, and to learn about their dire conditions. This event was organized by Insight club at AUB.

Trying to make our way through the camp’s maze and to avoid the dangled combination of electric wires and water pipes, we grabbed tightly our hearts in one hand and our cameras in the other and entered the families’ dimly lighted homes.

The sad grimaces on the faces of the eight children welcomed us in the two-room house. We noticed that they don’t attend school. The mother explained that she can’t afford the schooling costs although the “UNRWA provides primary education for the population of officially registered camps whereas secondary education was never considered to be within UNRWA’s temporary mandate.” (http://prrn.mcgill.ca/research/papers/abuhabib.htm )   She sells candies with her eldest daughter at the streets in order to afford medication for her mother who is seriously ill.


This woman ,featured in the video (link above), suffers from osteoporosis, urinary problems, glaucoma, and depression. She explained that she had a medical prescription, but she is postponing buying the medicine till next Ramadan hoping that some charity could help her afford it. She doesn’t have anyone to support her financially. Her depression, as she told us, became severe especially that she doesn’t have electricity in her house and when it is dark she goes down to the street to avoid darkness… and maybe the darkness of her life.

Among the constraining conditions Palestinians suffer in Lebanon is that they can’t own property, they can’t work in every profession and they aren’t eligible for social security. According to the Palestinian Najdeh Foundation, “unemployment rates are at about 60 percent of the total population and only 7 percent of working Palestinians have fixed contracts, 90 percent of which are with UNRWA [the UN Relief and Works Agency]. The rest are essentially employed on the black market.” (http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArchiveDetails.aspx?ID=193163 ) The volunteer guide from the Palestine Red Crescent Society explained that it is illegal for Palestinians to practice medicine in Lebanon so they either end up traveling or working “illegally”. The main aspiration for most Palestinian youths wanting to go to university, or for those who have completed it, is to emigrate which is becoming more difficult with the increasingly xenophobic immigration laws.

Shatila camp had suffered brutal massacres and is still is today with the drastic humanitarian conditions. On 16 September 1982, under the watchful eye of their Israeli allies who had encircled the area, Lebanese militiamen (preferably not to mention who) started a three-day slaughter battle that left innocent civilians dead.

Looking at the names of the martyrs in Shatila camp

The 95-year-old woman reminiscing on her abject escape from Palestine during the 1948 Nakba

After we finished our visits, we engaged in focus group discussions. We agreed to work on awareness campaigns within the camps and tutoring sessions including extra-curricular activities for youth along with other activities and long-term projects.

Little Maryam's smile: a mixture of pain and joy

“I don’t think social media is tomorrow. I think social media is yesterday.” These prominent words seemed to stealthily creep through the stage, to strike everyone speechless, and remain there for a while before melting into thin air. Octavia Nasr, said these words, filling the Gulbenkian stage at LAU with her enthusiasm, her positive view of the world, and her vivacity that originated from her offline and online interaction.

She started her lecture by pointing out the fact she prefers not to talk about the past especially about what happened in the summer (the CNN-tweet dilemma) because “everything that can be said was said”, as she puts it. She stressed that people who would show up in public places and ask her questions about such issues shows signs of what she called “lazy journalism”.

She moved then to talk about social media and tackled two essential questions “How did social media affect our lives? What is the relationship that exists or should exist between traditional media and new media?” She made the point that the level of reach one can get through social media is unpredictable. Diverting her sight to where LAUsocial students were sitting who were live covering the lecture (You can check their live coverage of Nasr’s lecture by clicking on this: http://www.lausocial.com/Live.html ), Nasr said that #LAUsocial students were lucky to study social media while in university. “I know that social media is going somewhere and I want to be in the driver’s seat. I want to set the agenda.” Nasr said enthusiastically.

Octavia Nasr between traditional media (represented by photographers) and new media (represented by #LAUsocial)

Moving to speaking about traditional media’s views of social media, she said that she would like to “tell traditional media how wrong they’re in being afraid from new media. I want to tell them how they are wrong in treating social media as traditional media because it’s not traditional media and it’s anything but traditional media.” She explains further that her mission in life today through her Bridges Media (http://blog.octavianasr.com/2010/10/octavia-nasr-launches-bridges-media.html) is to bridge the gap between what traditional and new media.

Octavia Nasr joined twitter in 2008 and wasn’t active until 2009 and in the process she thought that she would like to meet ordinary citizens. She wanted to hear about something new rather than the recycled talk of the politicians and journalists. She searched through the region for those people and organizations that were on twitter and were active. She monitored them for a while before she made the decision to follow them. “In social media, you really have to be yourself if you want people to listen to you.” On twitter, people are smart, Nasr stated. Most of them aren’t passive about what’s diffused to them from media outlets. They are “La Crème de la crème”, as Nasr puts it, except that their voices are not heard according to Nasr.

To highlight the potency of social media in delivering factual material and allowing citizens’ voices to be heard, she gave an example of a report she made using social media tools. She tweeted the following: “Are you Arab? Will you be monitoring Obama’s trip to the Middle East? “and so on… and provided her email address. Some retweeted and others replied directly or via email. She ended up live tweeting as Obama was speaking in Cairo and they came out with a hashtag before hashtags were popular at that time. Also she ended up doing a report from a purely social media perspective. It was a test, but the result was amazing, as Nasr puts it.

The way she thinks, the positive outlook she has towards what happens to her, her ambitious view towards making a change in the world, her humorous and witty way to criticize the traditional media whether in Lebanon or outside Lebanon, and her diligent communication offline and online made me appreciate that a person like Octavia Nasr exists among us.  

You can check a video  I took at the lecture: http://youtu.be/6Li-fNjDnhQ?a

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