Friday, August 28, 2009

Lion Cub Saved

Members of the Lebanon-based group Beirut for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (BETA) gather around the cage where a lion, found left to die in the sweltering Mediterranean sun, is kept at a centre that specialises in the care of wild animals in the Lebanese town of Aley, in the mountains southeast of Beirut, on August 28, 2009. BETA activists found the lion cub in the morning after receiving an anonymous call saying that it had been spotted on waste ground in Karantina, just east of the Lebanese capital Beirut.

Image and caption via Daylife. NOWLebanon has the story.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hizballah: Sunni Disturbances

NOWLebanon gets boots on the ground and talks to the villagers to ascertain what exactly happened on the day that villagers from the predominantly Sunni village of Marwahein in southern Lebanon purportedly resisted attempts by Hizballah militiamen to store weapons and ammo in these villagers' homes:
“It started with Abu Alaa, three days ago, but it got bigger,” he explains. “They brought around 200 armed men, and all the people in the village came out to fight them. The army came. The police came. Then the secret police came. We called the mufti from Tyre, and somebody senior from Hezbollah was also here, and it is all settled now. Nothing happened. But God knows what will happen next.”

According to Khaled, the problems with Hezbollah started after the July War in 2006. Until then, there was peace and quiet in Marwahein and the other Sunni villages of Em al-Tout, Yarine, Al-Boustan and Bouhaira, which all sit on the Israeli border.

“They do this to us because we are Sunnis, and there are political problems in Beirut,” Khaled says. “Nothing like this happens in the Shia or Christian villages. But here they beat the workers on the land. They beat the women looking for wood. They beat the kids taking care of the cattle. They want to be in charge in this village.”


He leans back on his chair and sighs. “We are not against Hezbollah. Make sure you say that in your report. They are Lebanese like us. They helped us during the war. We don’t want the Israelis to get our land. My sister and my brother-in-law had seven children, and they all died in the July War. All we want is to live in peace.”
Meanwhile, allegations continue to surface that Hizballah is arming extremist Sunni groups in northern Lebanon. Naharnet has the latest.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Off the Wall

From the NYTimes Sunday Book Review:
The visual language of rebellion has a few commonalities that are adapted to individual cultures and countries. The images in Zeina Maasri’s Off the Wall: Political Posters of the Lebanese Civil War (I. B. Tauris/Palgrave Macmillan, paper, $29.95) are stylistically similar to some of the underground comics created in the ’60s. But the messages in Lebanon from the ’70s to the early ’90s were decidedly more serious than those in the United States. Underground comics were concerned with sex and drugs, among other favored themes; the Lebanese activists were concerned with survival and victory. American undergrounders faced nightsticks and Mace when they demonstrated against government policy; the Lebanese factions used lethal weapons.

This is not a picture book per se, although it is well illustrated with black-and-white and color plates. Maasri, an associate professor of graphic design at the American University of Beirut, provides a detailed analysis of the nature of graphic propaganda and of the issues Lebanon faced during its civil war, along with explanations of various symbols and motifs. The book also includes a provocative chapter on martyrdom. Most of the images reproduced here did not break any new design territory — which makes sense. They were meant to function in a cluttered visual environment amid many messages. There are the requisite portraits of martyrs and a few anti-Israel protests (one with the swastika embedded in a Star of David). But there is one poster in particular that caught my eye for its conceptual curiosity. The designer is anonymous, and it is titled “Towards Independence.” It looks pixelated, like a Whitman’s Sampler box, and depicts a figure running with a torch. In the heat of a civil war, such a well-designed composition makes it seem as if the conflict were basically the Olympic Games.
Here is a write-up on the book and a discussion with the author in the Economist.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Some Reads

Here are some reads to help you ease into the working week:
  • Michael Young finds Samir Geagea, and the Maronite-Sunni partnership of which he is a foundation, in Syria's sights;
  • Matt Nash reveals the President's plans to push through constitutional reforms;
  • Michael Totten posts an extensive interview with the Kataeb Party's Vice-President, Salim Sayegh, and;
  • Mustapha allows for no excuses in Walid Jumblatt's political acrobatics

German Public Radio July Interview - On Iran

Below is a transcript from an interview I did about a month ago with a German public radio station regarding the protests in Iran. I typed up my responses to the questions while in transit and so I chose to keep the details to a minimum. What are your views on the matter and what would you have answered to some of those questions?

  • What have you felt when you saw the pictures of the young people demonstrating in Iran?

In all honesty my first thought about the protesters was a sort of worry for the protesters. We anticipated what the authorities’ reaction could be – night time raids, arbitrary arrests, beatings, kidnappings, murder. Such are the ways of an autocracy desperately holding on to power.

My second thought was closer to home. No matter the immediate outcome of the protests in Iran, it is clear that a domestic struggle has begun for that country’s future. A struggle that could have serious consequences for the region as a whole, and Lebanon in particular given the presence of Hizballah, a proxy militia integrally attached to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

  • Do you think that the youth of Iran can be an ideal?

I think the youth of Iran have decided that they want to have an active place and voice in the affairs of their country. The blatant electoral fraud engaged in by the regime in that country came in addition to unpopular economic and foreign policies implemented by the regime. It was the stick that broke the camel’s back.

  • How was the reaction of your friends, and the people of Libanon in general, as to the protests?

Our reactions were conflicted. On the one hand, we’ve aspired to define our sovereignty on a national level, attempting to limit our involvement in regional affairs due to the heavy cost those affairs have inflicted on our country. With this in mind, it was difficult for us to even advocate paying attention to what was going on in Iran – we didn’t want to have anything to do with that country’s regime and we didn’t want them to have anything to do with us.

On the other hand, it was hard for us to turn away. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves had taken to the street to protest an injustice (here I’m referring to the Hariri assassination).

Finally there was some worry and some hope with regards to what a destabilization of the Iranian regime would mean for the stability of Lebanon given that that regime maintains a proxy fighting force on Lebanese territory.

  • Do you see a similarty between the Protest in Iran and the Protest in Libanon after the assassination of Hariri?

As I mentioned earlier, I think both protests arose out of an injustice that came after a long history of injustice.

  • Politic need symbols. What were the symbols of the Demonstrations which most have impressed yourself? Do you think, that this symbols will also will have an influence of your political work?

Over the past several weeks we’ve seen a number of symbols emerge out of the protests in Iran, from the stark, shocking images of a young woman dying before our eyes to motorcycle “policemen” chasing down female students and beating them with batons. As a young English language blogger from the Middle East, two images have resonated especially with me. The first was the image of smashed computer screens in university dorms following a Basij raid on them. This came in light of the broad-based phenomenon of social networking providing a voice to the outside to those who could not, for years, find a voice on the inside of this theocratic autocracy.

  • In Germany we think, that a lot of young people in the MidEast are attracted by radical religious groups like the Hizbollah or the Hamas. I don’t know if this is true, but do you think, that in the succession of the protests there could be grow a countermovement?

Extremist movements around the world, no matter what their ideological underpinnings, feed on a society’s weakest and most neglected portions. In the Middle East there are huge demographic changes in progress. Vast portions of countries’ populations are below the age of 25, in many of countries this demographic makes up the majority. Economies in the region face difficulties in providing opportunities for these young people, meanwhile these economies are burdened with wealth distribution issues which worsen feelings of neglect, and decrepit political systems which prevent the expression of political will normally available in countries with more developed democratic systems. These factors therefore end up driving some youth towards radical symbols of protest and disruption. But if the youth of Iran have shown us anything it is that they, and other youth in region in general, want to be active members of the world, and don’t want to be regarded as terrorists.

  • Do you think, in the future, there could be a cross-border movement of young people in the mid East, towards more liberality?

Each country in the Middle East is different, with unique social and economic structures and politics. Of course, there are overriding universal humanitarian principles towards which the civil societies of each of these countries will aspire. The path they will take to reach these principles will be tempered by each country's domestic factors.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Political Spectrum Quiz

My Political Views
I am a center-left social moderate
Left: 2.38, Libertarian: 0.01

My Foreign Policy Views
Score: 2.67

My Culture War Stance
Score: -2.4

Political Spectrum Quiz

How do you score? Take the quiz and share your results in the comments section!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Guess Who's Back

(click on the pic to find out)
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