Rear View – Lebanon in review (9 May 2021)
4 May: Families organise sit-in to demand answers
Families of the Beirut port explosion victims organized a sit-in at the port nine months after the explosion demanding answers and justice for their loved ones who were killed in the blast.
The demonstrators demanded that those involved to be held accountable and brought to justice as the investigation moved at a snails pace causing greater frustration and disappointment for the families.
On the 4th of May, Judge Tarek Bitar issued 13 judicial requests to countries with satellites over Lebanon, asking for pictures of the explosion site.
4 May: The Higher Council Bans Marriage of Minors
In an historic decision, the Higher Islamic Council has passed a new law forbidding the marriage of minors under the age of 15. Previously boys aged 12 and girls aged nine were permitted to marry under Islamic law.
The new law permits minors between the ages of 15 and 18 to marry only after a Sharia Judge reviews their case and deems that “they are physically, mentally and emotionally fit for marriage, and have permission from their guardians.”
The Council also banned marriage for underage girls without their permission and that of their guardians, giving the girls the right to dissolve the marriage if it occurs against their will.
COMMENT: Whilst this is a breakthrough and a step in the right direction, personally, 15 is still far too young for anyone to be getting married. Having raised three children who are now in late teens and early 20s, I still feel it is inappropriate for anyone to be getting married before they are 18 as they are still innocent and have had little real life experience to be able to make such an important decision.
4 May: Anghami Immortalises Teenage Rapper Killed in Blast
Elias El-Khoury dreamed of being a rapper before his life was cut short by the Beirut port explosion last year. After hearing about his story, Anghami, the first legal music streaming platform in the Arab world, created a verified profile on its platform and shared his songs for everyone to listen to, immortalising the teenager.
Before succumbing to his wounds in August 2020, the 15-year-old went by the professional name A$sca$h. Now nine months after the blast, his tracks are featured in a variety of playlists on the popular streaming platform and have been played nearly 7,000 times.
When the August 4 blast occurred, Elias, his sister and mother were seriously injured and hospitalized. The teenager spent 2 weeks in intensive care before passing away, leaving behind an artistic sprout that was crushed before it could grow and blossom.
You can listen to his tracks on this link: https://play.anghami.com/artist/7367391
5 May: Pop Star quits artist group in stance against corruption
Lebanese pop star Nawal Al-Zoghbi resigned from the Syndicate of Professional Artists after the body told members they could not criticize politicians saying she did not feel honoured to sit back and watch her “beloved Lebanon and its people” slide into the abyss.
Al-Zoghbi posted a two-page resignation letter on her Twitter account last week slamming the country’s ruling elite saying there was a “negative influence” from all Lebanese politicians and political parties and accused them of sluggishness towards the country’s current economic and political crisis.
Last month, actor Asaad Rachdan’s home was attacked by supporters of MP Gebran Bassil, the head of Free Patriotic Movement, for his criticism during a TV interview of President Michel Aoun, his son-in-law Bassil and their political party for their governance and blamed them for the current crises in Lebanon.
“I will not remain silent and I cannot be silenced except by killing me and I am not afraid to die,” Rachdan said.
6 May: Lebanese Comedian Summoned by Cyber Bureau
In a disturbingly growing display of censorship of free speech, something Lebanon has uniquely been a beacon for in the oppressive Middle East, stand-up comedian Shaden Fakih was summoned to appear before the Cybercrime Bureau last week over a satirical social media post that criticised the government.
Fakih, known for posting political comedy and satire, said she was not informed of the reason why she was summoned nor who made the complaint against her.
She rhetorically wondered, “Am I negotiating with (the enemy) Israel and giving them 30% of our territorial waters? No! Did I explode the Beirut port? No! Am I smuggling Captagon? Did I steal people’s money? No! What did you do, Shaden? You wrote a post on Facebook!” she laughed.
6 May: Pollution Kills Fish in Lake Qaraoun
Pollution is being blamed for tons of dead fish washing up on the shores of Lake of Qaraoun in eastern Lebanon last week with local fisherman describing the waste as unprecedented.
A preliminary report said a virus had killed the only carp in the lake, but a veteran water expert said their deaths were most likely caused by pollution. Hundreds of fish of all sizes lay dead on the banks of the more than five-kilometer-long lake, and the stench of their rotting flesh clung to the air.
Men shovelled carcasses into a wheelbarrow, as a mechanical digger scooped up more into the back of a truck.
The Qaraoun lake was built as a reservoir on the Litani river in 1959 to produce hydropower and provide water for irrigation.
But in recent years experts have warned huge quantities of wastewater, industrial waste, and agricultural runoff containing pesticides and fertilizer flooding into it have made it increasingly toxic.
7 May: France accuses Lebanese politicians of “Collective Suicide”
France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described as “collective suicide” the ongoing reluctance of senior Lebanese officials to form a government and aid in the country’s recovery from its current political, economic and social crisis.
Le Drian reinforced France’s threat to impose travel bans during his visit to Beirut last week stating: “If these officials do not start acting responsibly, they will have to bear the consequences of their failure and defiance to the commitments they undertook.”
He warned “the international community and France will not allow any attempt to postpone the next parliamentary elections in Lebanon” and said that “respecting the democratic deadlines in Lebanon is inevitable.”
Whilst he praised the “dynamic Lebanese civil society” some members of civil society groups were less convinced by his comments. Activist Dr. Mona Fayad told reporters: “It is no coincidence that Le Drian did not meet any of the independent figures. Ever since the Beirut blast, France has only tried to absorb the resentment of the Lebanese and has enabled the ruling class to remain in power despite their complete unresponsiveness to the French initiative.
“The core problem that France must address is Hezbollah and its main supporter, Iran. Hezbollah controls the power in Lebanon and has messed with the country’s independence.”
She said: “Laws in Lebanon are not applied to everyone and no one is held accountable for violating the constitution.”
Over 40 senior officials, including constitutional experts, meanwhile, signed a document with a list of President Michel Aoun’s constitutional violations that “affect Lebanon and its future and change its identity and nature of the regime.”
“The president took an oath and promised to a be judge and not to take sides, which is something we have not yet seen during his mandate,” the document said.
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