This is Beirut

This is Beirut is designed to give voice to the millions of Lebanese who are suffering while the world sits silently. We are not interested in propagating hatred. We want the world to witness through the eyes of Lebanese citizens the destruction and the suffering that has been brought on in the name of defense. If you have a story, poem or letter to share, please email We will work together to end this violence.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Beirut is Burning

I get so frustrated sometimes I don't know what to write anymore. Fresh from a meeting with Dr. Reinoud Leenders, assistant professor of political science at the University of Amsterdam and former analyst with the International Crisis Group based in Beirut, where we talked about identity, politics, and corruption in Lebanon, I go to CNN and find out protesters have shut down Beirut and a number of Lebanese cities by burning tires and cars, throwing rocks, and blocking traffic to and from the airport. Obviously, people are not satisfied with the current state of affairs but this is not helpful!!

Now, I am all for political protest and the peaceful protests of previous weeks seemed to indicate that it was possible to make a statement without harming each other or the city of Beirut or the country that so many Lebanese people profess to love. I feel like all this destructiveness is throwing the country into a time warp. If we condemn the actions of Israel for the destruction of Lebanon, we must also condemn Lebanese who destroy their own land and hurt their own people. How will Lebanon ever move forward otherwise. The violence has to stop.
My hope is that people in the west don't take this as proof that Lebanon is a lost cause or that these are "birth pangs" for a burgeoning democracy. I believe that when you are surrounded by violence and have had violence inflicted upon you for decades, it because a part of who you are and how you think. The conflict in Iraq is spilling over into other states and essentially, all these conflicts in the Middle East, Palestine and Israel, the war in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon transcend intra-state conflicts as they impact the entire region continuously. I want to write more on this but at the moment, I am just sad to see the effects.


At 2:27 PM, Blogger walid said...

Two main points I thought should be raised regarding your post (even though I think it is rather late to do it now). Firstly that burning tires, blocking roads and protesting is in no way harmful for a country, whatever this country might be. When one looks at the “result” as being closing cities and roads, merely, one is firstly undermining, not to say ignoring, the meaning of such an action, namely a popular dissatisfaction that finds no other means to express itself (after having tried as you said all “peaceful manners”).

It is a lost bet to wait for a reaction of the Lebanese government without showing the popular weight of the opposition, and more importantly the economic one.

This is in terms of politics and popular movements of opposition (remember how European cities look during protests). The second point is the “sad” theme, recurrent in many writings concerning Lebanon. Many people express their sadness to see an image of Lebanon that is inconsistent with the imagination they have of this “country”. Of course I am talking specifically about the protest itself not the “reaction” to it (that is the clashes). What is sad? To see a reality that doesn’t fit what we hope reality is? To see the real image of Lebanon away from the orientalist myths of the pearl of the Mediterranean and the beautiful weather and the welcoming people? This has never been the case. Whomever thinks such a country exists has forgot more than half the history of Lebanon which is if one makes a small calculation in a constant state of war (2007 – 1943 = 64 then 1 (1958) + 15 (1975-90) + 17 (1990-2007) = 33 years of war out of 64 years of existence). What would make me sad as a Lebanese citizen, is to see the simulacra of Lebanon on the TV screen (a beautiful calm Beirut while underneath this image lies the seeds of a perpetual civil war) without seeing any “real” reaction to the state of denial that constantly defines the Lebanese society. What is sad is to restart the same errors of the past and act as if nothing was wrong.

At 12:20 AM, Blogger Lauren said...

Hi, I am an anthropology student at the University of Vermont in the USA. I am currently taking a course entitled Middle East Ethnography, in which we choose a country to research and write about. Part of the assignment is to research and comment on a blog written by someone from our country of which we are studying. I chose Lebanon, and came across your blog. This is both a response to your post, and to walid's. I agree with you in the sense that the people of Lebanon can not destroy their country to make a statement, however I also agree that protesting is (usually) a healthy way to have the thoughts of the everyday individual expressed. Also, no matter where one lives they are going to try to concentrate on pieces of their country's history when people were happy and healthy. This is not to say that that's reality, but it is something for people to hold onto during times of war. You both express interesting points, especially for those of us who know little about contemporary Lebanon. Thanks!


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