Author Archives: Leila Saleh
Never in my short blog life has a post caused so much hoopla. My recent blog post “The Syrian revolution is dead and maybe we should just accept that” resulted in personal attacks and dumb assumptions. So far, it’s my highest viewed blog and I’ve been told that the reasoning behind this is because it is “hilarious”. I honestly am flattered to have been your entertainment. I feel like I should make things clear, not because of me, but because of you.
Let’s go back to the dumb assumptions- because that, to me, is hilarious. I wanted to get offended by what people were saying about my blog but the idiotic methods they are using to belittle my views are simply that…idiotic. I mean, I was condemned for making the conflict “sectarian” by people bringing up my sect. I was scolded for my assumed “idolization” of Hezbollah by people who will not admit to the crimes of the FSA. The ironic hypocrisy of someone trying to argue that Hezbollah cannot be considered a resistance because of past operations is exactly what I was doing with my last blog but with the FSA. Yay for being original and different.
Then there are those annoying skim readers who already think they’ve got me figured out because they selectively read my tweets where I say I admire Nasrallah yet completely ignore how I have questioned him and his party and nearly every single thing regarding politics…even those who suit my views. This is because people generalize. Don’t play open minded if you’re going to shove me under the label of super Hezbollah Shia Bashar Iranian fangirl because I am not and that actually offends me. Just because I give credit where credit is due, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s called the truth and I’m not going to sweep Hezbollah victories under the rug to denigrate them. The same way I wouldn’t if the FSA ever has a victory.
I am incredibly capable of having two different views that contradict themselves…I am not a programmed robot. I supported the Syrian revolution, I see that it has failed, end of story. I hate writing these kinds of these because it feels like I am trying to explain myself to please people. I don’t dwell on what people think of me because that ship has sailed. But I really just want to point out how flawed these tactics are. If you don’t like what I write, argue it (see Maysaloon and Wala’s comments on my blog for examples)! If you mock me, you’re just going to look stupid. Provide me with information instead of calling me names and attempting to patronize me with elementary school insults. And yes, this is a challenge.
Back in February 2011, I would have told you that I supported a peaceful uprising in Syria- whether it be for reforms or democratic elections. I’m not a fan of the typical perception of “democracy”, but I feel that Syrians should have a right to elect whoever they want to be president, even though many will argue that Bashar Al Assad was a part of free and fair elections. This becomes a basic right, not necessarily “democracy”. However regardless of how democratic any election can be- opposition will always exist. And they have a right to exist. But how far can they go with their fight until it becomes illegitimate and not actually peaceful anymore?
As a southern Lebanese who’s land has been torn apart by a foreign entity, I know all too well about homegrown armies relying on the simplest of weaponry to defeat what they perceive is their monster. It takes decades and numerous amounts of martyrs, but victory is inevitable if you play your cards right. Establish a consensus and choose the right allies. It sounds relatively easy, no?
Probably not. For me, the Free Syrian Army has made all the wrong moves and should just go back and fold.
What started off as a somewhat peaceful revolution in Syria has become an absolute nightmare. And while I can sit here and blame the Assad’s regime and Syrian army for cracking down on protesters, one must look at the whole picture- the FSA is committing crimes and no one is acknowledging them.
(Warning: video is rated 18+ for violent and graphic images)
I, unsurprisingly, blame the media. Events in the past can prove this: see Gilles Jacquier. Initial reports flooded the internet and news networks claiming the Assad regime had killed the French journalist until the FSA took responsibility. And then we never heard about it again. Even today, people will still tell you the Syrian army committed this crime. They are so blinded and brainwashed that they can’t even believe statements that are coming from the Free Syrian Army themselves. This to me has made for pitiful journalism…I don’t even think they themselves are convinced but they report what they want anyway because everyone is already expecting the Assad regime to have done it. So they just go with the flow, because when it comes to Syria facts don’t matter.
Then there is the assumption that people are just too emotional to admit that the FSA cannot contain a peaceful revolution anymore. And while I fully support armed resistances defending themselves, things like Barack Obama signing “secret” deals with the CIA to support Syrian rebels in ways that are “unclear” leave me skeptical. Who are these rebels and what exactly are they doing? Why are they accepting weaponry from the likes of Saudi Arabia and Qatar who have done nothing but exonerate the crimes Israel has committed on Palestinians? Those who support the revolution and the FSA will tell you that Bashar Al Assad never truly cared for the Palestinian cause, but how is using weaponry from those who practically sold Jerusalem and accept the partitioning of Palestinian land? For me, as one would find hypocrisy in Bashar Al Assad’s support for Palestine, I find that the FSA too are using the cause in vain and this should be offensive to Palestinians.
Also the Syrian revolution has become somewhat of, and dare I say it, a fashion statement. The popularity of the Syrian revolution among the youth is not something unlikely, but how many of these kids are doing their research about the history of the FSA? I think one of the most important details being left out about their whole existence is their ties with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood- a sectarian faction consisting of extremist Salafi and Sunni Muslims who’s funding comes from Qatar, one of the countries where they sought refuge after they failed at an attempt to topple the late Hafeth Al Assad in the 80’s. It seems like a lot hasn’t changed since the so-called Free Syrian Army is again looking to old friends to revamp their dying revolution. See here.
And that’s exactly it- their revolution is dying. Does that mean the FSA has lost? No. Does it mean Bashar Al Assad will not fall? No. But a peaceful revolution, the kind Al Jazeera keeps trying to shove down our throats, is dead and buried. What we are now witnessing in Syria is a full blown civil war and it has been for the 16 months. Syria, the only country that bears any Arab dignity, is now left in fragments holding on to dear life. Its people are bleeding and stability might never be seen again. Syria’s future is slowly becoming present-day Lebanon.
It all comes down to one question- was it worth it?
Recently on Twitter I have witnessed an increase in support for the Lebanese army. It seems as though these days, the Lebanese army is the only group of which majority of our very divided community can agree on. With things getting heated in Tripoli between Salafis and Alawis, it is the duty of the Lebanese army to maintain safety especially with the crisis in our sister country Syria influencing the stability of Lebanon.
While many can argue that the army is incompetent and unequipped to fight a war, and this has been made evident on numerous occasions, the support for Lebanon’s soldiers is tenacious as they have been able to provide at least internal security between rival factions and sects. With the help of European and Russian training and weaponry donated by several countries, the Lebanese army is able to keep things settled down.
However, in Lebanon I’ve come to find that adoration has made it easier for exoneration. Many Lebanese will deny the crimes in the past, or present, to simply suite their political views. I found this to be the case recently.
As I said earlier, I can understand the dedication to Lebanon’s army. No one can deny those who have fought and died to keep permanence internally. But it seems to me, in these few weeks, the army has been glorified in a way that has made them seem flawless. And this is most definitely not the case.
Yes I am talking about the Palestinian refugees of Lebanon, a very controversial and tense topic in Lebanon due to previous clashes between Palestinians and Lebanese. With the 2007 Nahr ElBared conflict still fresh on the minds of Lebanese everywhere, tensions have only become worse within the two communities. Since then, the camp has been besieged by the army making life there that much more difficult that it already was.
From my observations of visiting the Bourj ElShamali Refugee camp in South Lebanon, I witnessed the Lebanese army humiliating young Palestinian refugee scouts simply trying to leave the camp to visit a presentation on psychological and physical illnesses. As perhaps the only one of Lebanese descent t in the bus, I was incredibly ashamed at this action. I knew from previous accounts that this was not the first or last time this had happened and this was not the only camp that had been made victim to this type of humiliation. I could not fathom what the purpose of that was and if it was absolutely necessary that the army had to stop us to search a bus full of kids.
Lest we forget the crimes of the army on June 15th, when Lebanese soldiers shot and killed an innocent 16 year old bystander, Ahmed Qassem, in Nahr ElBared after an argument with others. News of the murder was conflicting and untypically, much unconfirmed news hit the world wide web- some even claiming that the victim was a part of an armed faction.
As someone who is avid in the cause of Palestinians in Lebanon, I was disgusted by these claims. The Lebanese army have been oppressing Palestinian refugees in Lebanon for decades, humiliating them and depriving them of easy access to to obtain basic necessities. While many will argue that it is to maintain stability, and while that may be justified with many cases, the downright lack of respect for refugees by the army is absolutely unacceptable and unforgivable. The army shows little patience for Palestinians and usually results in poor restraint when it comes using violence against them. To me, the army is using similar tactics of the Israeli army by disallowing even the simplest action of patience and understanding. Maybe if we had a little bit of that, young Ahmed Qassem’s life would have been spared.
Read “Ramblings of a tired Arab girl” about my feelings regarding Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.
33 Yom (33 Days) is a Lebanese film based in the Southern town of Ayta Al Shaab which is roughly 1KM from the occupied Palestine border. The film, which is said to be funded by Iran, shows a fictional story from the Battle of Ayta AlShaab in the July 2006 War leaving hundreds of soldiers dead and many wounded.
The film commences with a battle- a fuzzy view of resistance fighters and Israeli soldiers in combat at what looks like the Lebanese and now-Israeli border grabbing the audience from the very beginning, inviting them to the reality of what the 2006 war was about from a resistance fighter’s point of view.
As the film officially initiates, it shows the civilian lifestyle of these fighters: taking the audience into their homes and humanizing those who are often perceived as terrorists. It begins with a wedding, a time of happiness, with people dancing and having a joyous party- only for it to be wrecked by a walkie-talkie call to Mohammed, who appears from the very start to be one of the main operators of the defense battles throughout the movie. Through that walkie-talkie, the news of an attack on Lebanon by Israel is clear and war quickly starts. Having lived through the 33 day war in South Lebanon, the echoes of denial that attacks would last long from nearly all the main characters were all too similar to those of conversations in my home in 2006. Many did not believe Israel would have the audacity to try to annihilate and reoccupy South Lebanon once again, even despite having seen their capabilities in the occupation. This shows how surprising, even to those who had suffered for so many years at the hands of Israel, the war was and how quickly it claimed the lives of thousands of Lebanese civilians.
Without giving to much of it away I want to say how much this movie, although fictional, really sits next to reality. The characters may be made up but throughout the history of Israeli invasions, similar things have happened and are capable of happening again. The women of resistance fighters, for the past 30 years, have had to deal with their husbands disappearing for large amounts of time to protect their country from Israeli attack, many of whom probably never made it back home. Many families have a martyr in their family, not necessarily a resistance fighter who was martyred but children, parents, grandparents, cousins etc. just as I do in my family.
33 Yom also played fair when it depicted it’s Hebrew-speaking Israeli soldiers, particularly one woman soldier who stood up to a top Israeli commander, whom she adored, telling him he had no right to do what he was doing to the Lebanese people. This to me, was unique as it showed the side of Israeli soldiers that choose to rebel against their government’s disgusting war policies.
The film was not a propagandist one at all and really focused on Ayta AlShaab and the resistance fighters. It does not even mention Hezbollah once, however many reviews often link the two together as it was Hezbollah’s war and pictures of Chief Sayyed Nasrallah painted the set. But it really showed how the 2006 was a war of man vs machine- where on one side Lebanese fighters had an emotional motive for fighting, having been tortured by Israelis previously and on the other, Israeli soldiers scattered around unknowing of the situation boastfully carrying their enormous weaponry that in real life played no match to Hezbollah’s strategies.
Many critics argued that the movie was too simple, but one needs to consider that it was based only in one of the hundreds of affected villages and it was still very intense. The battle of Ayta was only one battle, one area, one small village in South Lebanon that was pulverized into rubble. But the passion from the villagers, the civilians…this existed throughout all of south Lebanon. Many stayed and refused to leave their homes, giving the enemy any benefit whatsoever. I remember watching an elderly man on the news holding a half eaten packet of biscuits saying “I have nothing left to eat but these biscuits, but I will never leave my home even when I run out”.
All in all, as someone who viewed this war “live” I VERY much enjoyed it and thought it was executed well. I advise anyone who comes across it to watch and share.
Please read this first: Truth does not bother Israel. Pushing buttons do.
My social media sister @occpal and I have decided that we are going to wage a war. No not a violent one, mind you…but a figurative war against the media. We, and I am sure many others as well, are fed up with the silence regarding Palestine in mainstream media (MSM for the cool kids). We can join social media websites like Twitter and Facebook and complain about it all we want, but where will that take us? Perhaps, we should target the media instead of just ranting about it. Hopefully, this will eventually encourage people to do offline protests in front of BBC, CNN or what have you…there are no rules here!
We are compiling a list of media online (mostly on Twitter for now), for you to contact when tweeting angrily about Palestinian suffering. The media plays a great role, because the more people know about the truth of Israel, the less they will support it. The more people hear the word “Palestine”, the more they will want to learn about it.
What I’d like for everyone to is give me a list of reporters/journalists/news from your country. That way, I can put them on this blog and everyone can just pick and choose who they want to direct their Palestinian related tweets to. I will be accepting politicians’ twitters as well.
I’ll start with US media and Lebanese politicians on Twitter, as well as a few from a couple of European countries. Feel free to add to this list in the comment box below and it will be updated into this blog.
Also, I want to stress: Do not pester these people. Be relevant and logical at all times. You don’t want to end up like this.
Trending for freedom- social media activists have taken action by using twitter hashtags to trend for untold stories of injustice and suffering. It was done for Khader Adnan and Hana AlShalabi, both who starved for freedom…protesting Israel’s administrative detention where they were held without being charged for a crime. There is no denying the passion, strength and determination these two had…but it was not loud enough for some. Without the help of persistent activists all across the globe, the media would’ve let their stories go untold. Activists mobilized with what they had to bring themselves together, to unite for the sake of two people who desperately wanted to live. They used the internet, they used the power of a keyboard, a mouse, a monitor. And thanks to the willpower of Khader and Hana, for surviving for so long, people got their stories heard and they were freed. They were no longer dying to live, because they were alive to hold their mothers, their daughters, their wives, their brothers once again. The internet truly saved their lives.
Bilal Thaeb and Thaer Halahleh are both on their 76th day of hunger strike and their state of health is not looking good. Thaer is losing his hearing while Bilal is losing sensation in his feet. They are slowly dying and the world is still silent. Despite the victories for Khader and Hana, people have turned a blind eye yet again.
That is not the only issue at stake.
While Bilal and Thaer are barely living, over 1000 Palestinian prisoners have joined them in protest and solidarity hunger strikes for 27 days. Yet the media is still silent. There is a revolution going on in Palestine- the most peaceful, selfless revolution…and it is not enough for the world to get angry and do something about it.
We, the world, have to say enough is enough and help these people. We, the world, who are fortunate enough to eat, to walk down the street, to live, to love freely…we need to share that with our Palestinian brothers and sisters who DESERVE, perhaps more than I do, to be able to do those things as well.
So I beg of you, great activists and regular humans, please join us in our trends for Palestine: our hashtags for hunger strikers EVERY NIGHT AT 9PM PALESTINE TIME (Use this website to convert the time, you will have to use IST unfortunately to get Jerusalem) and send an email to email@example.com in order to get more updates about hashtags to trend on Twitter. We have done #75DaysVSApartheid which trended for approximately 20 minutes on Saturday (May 12th) and #Yom76 today (May 13th) which unfortunately did not trend at all.
The main focus is to tweet the media, journalists and politicians with twitters in attempt to pressure them into reporting or condemning Israel’s illegal detainment of innocent prisoners. Please, tweet with restraint and I ask that you TWEET POLITELY TO THEM AND DO NOT BE RUDE. I understand that there is frustration but no one will listen to us if we are mean. Here I have conducted a list on who to focus on, mostly western outlets/politicians.
@AJEnglish (Al Jazeera English)
(If you need to contact me on Twitter in any case, I am @Lsal92 and my name is Leila!)
AGAIN: Do NOT harass the journalists/reporters. We don’t want to flood them with tweets and annoy them until they block you (trust me, half of them have me blocked…) so please just keep it at two tweets from each twitter user if we have a lot tweeting. Let’s be respectful, please.
And if you have anymore to share, please drop a comment. Thank you so much, everyone. Don’t let Palestine down, she needs us. FREE FALASTEEN.
This July will mark my 8 years of moving to South Lebanon from the cement jungle that is known as Los Angeles, California. Since embarking on this strange endeavor, I can tell you I’ve experienced way more than I would have if I had stayed in the cult-like bubble that is the United States. Here, in Lebanon, I have been smacked back into reality on a daily basis…granted, it has made me a pessimist but what good is life living under false hope if it’s just going to lead you to more disappointment?
And I’m sure Lebanese people know all to well about disappointment. There hasn’t been one generation of Lebanese which hasn’t witnessed some sort of violence whether it be Israeli brutality, like war and occupation, or internal violence like a civil war which tore our country apart.
In short, I want to tally up the corruptions of Lebanon, which might actually be fun, of the barely born 2012. You see, thanks to revolutionaries in Egypt and Tunisia, the thought of a revolution has been instilled in my blood. I catch shake it off…I want it so badly. And hopefully I can convince others to join me.
Perhaps Lebanon has not gone through anything different than any other Middle East country or isn’t particularly special. And like every other Middle Eastern country, the Lebanese have chosen to keep silent about their countries ever-growing flaws and just roll with the changes. Yearly, Lebanese are often subjected to all kinds of political corruption, one of them being that 28 billion of their taxes go into the pockets of Lebanese MPs who are not even in the parliament anymore.
When more money is going into the hands of retired politicians then helping disabled children or perhaps tackling Saida’s trash problem, surely this would anger Lebanese into standing up for their rights. With the recent uprisings sweeping the Middle East, the Arabs have had zero tolerance for any sort of corruption that comes their way.
But, alas, the Lebanese have remained silent. In all fairness, Lebanese do know what is right and what is wrong. On May 3rd, Lebanese decided they wanted to tackle another issue at stake: the continuing rise of gas prices. With 20 liters of gas being at a whopping 40,000 Lebanese pounds (26 USD), a protest was to be held but was then postponed until May 24th for “negotiations”.
What fazed me about these “negotiations” is that it is possible an attempt to simply shut Lebanese up. What could the government possibly do after negotiations? The most that will probably happen is lowering prices to back to what they previously were which still makes Lebanon one of the most expensive countries when it came to gas prices. I’m not a fortune teller, but I know Lebanese will not react to this and just accept whatever happens after these so called “negotiations”, even if they are just paying 300 ll less.
Lest we forget the recent poisoned food scandal, where tons of poisoned meat, chicken, fish and dairy products were allowed into the country to be sold to it’s civilians. I cannot sit here and simply not blame the government, who obviously does not check what is being let into their country (maybe all that money going to retired MPs can be used to investigate import/export). My family, who own a small market in the South, have found many spoiled produce including dried beans and cereals that were infested with bugs like moths and worms. Most recently, a few laban (yoghurt) products that still had 2 days until their expiry date which looked like it had been expired for a year.
I have become afraid to to even eat in this country! But instead of storming government buildings, Lebanese have just insisted on not purchasing so much food anymore which ultimately weakens the economy, making things even more expensive than they already are! Read “If the food is bad, what is good about Lebanon?” for more information about the poisoned food saga….
Now this might not be a new problem, but don’t you worry, I have not forgotten about the electricity crisis. That got it’s own blog post here.
I can sit here and bring up every issue Lebanon has, but I think I’ve said enough. Not only are all these problems nauseating, but I keep scrolling up and that laban photo is grossing me out.
Laban photo aside, I am left with one question: where is Lebanon’s revolution? What I stated in this blog is simply a drop in the ocean of Lebanon’s difficulties, a drop that we, the people, can slowly dry and build a liveable land on. Don’t Lebanese feel pressure from other revolting Arab countries to better their own? I cannot understand the mindset, where if Lebanese don’t like something, they simply leave. Abandoning your country does absolutely nothing but make it more vulnerable. While I am not condemning protests for Syria and Bahrain in Lebanon, I would much prefer that Lebanese looked in their own backyard and thought, “hm, maybe I should be the one asking for rights.”
With the Syrian government vehemently cracking down on the media a year after what has become a controversial uprising in Syria, one can imagine how difficult it is to get unfiltered, professional news from on the ground. Syria has found itself in a tough position media-wise, similar to the one the Ahmadinejad regime faced in 2009 when “The Green Revolution” ignited instability, claiming Iran had witnessed a fraudulent election. Because of what he claimed was biased and over exaggerated media, Ahmadinejad was forced to banish all foreign media from entering the country- leaving activists participating in the uprising to rely on social media. Fast forward 2 years and Bashar Al Assad’s regime has been doing nearly the same, however allowing selected journalists to view the country under the watchful eyes of a guardian who works for the government.
Many have criticized that these measures are aggressive, unfair and limit the capability of journalists- who are there to report on the uprising. Taking part in government tours obviously restricts journalists from roaming freely, gathering their own information. This leaves the media to resort to what might possibly be one of the most resourceful types of journalism technology has to offer: social media. Again, the fate of stories being passed around are in the hands of citizen journalists.
Although, how professional is it? Can it be credible? Well, it depends on if we want it to be.
Lately, the world of journalism has fallen victim to vile hypocrisy, where some social media news stories are immediately dubbed “trustworthy” and other stories go through a detailed researched process, like it would for legitimate news corporations. Let us compare the situation of Syria and a recent conflict claiming a coup d’etat was taking place in Qatar.
A while ago, I decided to create a fake Twitter. It was simply for my own convincing, that social media cannot always be a safe source of news. I was not intending for it to go far, nor harm anyone in the process. It was personal, to see the measures I need to take in order to confirm news. I wanted to see how far an anonymous alias can go with spreading false information.
I pretended I was a Syrian activist in exile, living abroad whilst my family was living in Homs, Syria. I had approximately 5 followers, my account was up for 3 days and I did not post a real name. In fact, I used the name Haifa Wehbe when contacting twitter about my account. I went by the username “@RebelliousSyria” and used a image I found on Google, with a foot clamped on a picture of Bashar Al Assad’s face. What I did was tweet a few misinformed tweets, one of them where I tweeted “Death toll risen to 37 in Homs! #Syria” and tweeted it to prominent Twitter star and columnist Mona ElTahawy and to my surprise, she retweeted it- to over 100,000 Twitter followers that follow her account.
This account went on for a few more days, until it got suspended by who I presume was pro-regime supporters reporting my account into oblivion. However, what struck me was the lack of professionalism that social media has to offer. Here I was, a newly formed account with absolutely no credibility spewing complete and utter nonsense and it meant no difference to those retweeting or sharing my news. This to me, seemed like a dangerous game. Blatant lies being spread could potentially put innocent lives in danger, if facts are not checked.
But here is where it gets interesting:
When the situation of a possible coup d’etat in Qatar was brought to light on April 16th, it was plummeted into darkness only minutes after…again, on Twitter. Qatar has also been labeled as “not free” when it comes to freedom of journalism, as journalists often hold back from reporting the full story. Also, the Qatar based network and practically Qatari mouthpiece Al Jazeera, owned by Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer Al Thani a distant relative of the Emir of Qatar, has come under fire for its lack of coverage on Bahrain. However, this doesn’t seem to strike anyone into thinking that possibly a type of censorship may exist in Qatar and it’s not just happening in Syria.
Those facts didn’t change anyone’s mind when it came to denying rumors about the coup d’etat. But why isn’t this the case for Syria? Are we just too used to being misinformed?
Have we become so used to unverified, unconfirmed news on Syria, that we ourselves are too lazy to do research ourselves? When even large news corporations have decided to just sporadically report unconfirmed news, why should unpaid unprofessional citizen journalists be any different? Take Al Jazeera’s Syria Live Blog. With words like “allegedly”, “unconfirmed reports” and “activists say”, why should we do our research?
I was told by a journalist once that they need to use these words, as a caveat. But what are they warning the viewers? That they themselves don’t know what’s going on?
And the information continues to be spread. Whether it is out of ill intention or desperation, is it really helping keep the revolution legitimate?