Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, September 2011
The Need for 18 More Arab Revolutions
By Hassan Elkhalil
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, September 19, 2011
With revolutions rising in many Arab states, Lebanese are trying to figure out when would their revolution starts? Arab revolutions are changing the course of recent history and setting civilized example to the people of the world. When we utter civility, we need to look no further than the Egyptian people. Revolutionary change can be peaceful; case on point is Tunisia.
While many of the Arab states are busy restructuring the future of their countries, rewriting their constitutions, undergoing change, or preparing to launch their civil uprising; Lebanese people are helpless about the way to revolutionize their political system.
Lebanon, unlike many other Arab countries that have one President; there are 18 presidents, and or pseudo presidents, in this tiny country. To have a change in Lebanon, the Lebanese people need 18 revolutions; one revolution for each of the 18 sects; one revolution against the sect’s president or more appropriately, the head of the tribe.
In Lebanon, the political system is nomadic and undeveloped at best. We like to think that it is democratic but the reality is that the system is still based solely on failed sectarian distribution. In an effort to give legitimacy and portray the failed system as a contemporary political system, the head of each tribal sect is, ironically, called politician! Each tribal leader must maintain his share of power, for himself not for his sect. Any disproportion in the distribution of power, tribal leaders immediately start to wave the civil war flag. The so called elected representative acts as the head of the tribe and not as a national leader; he kidnaps the decision of the whole tribe, control all of its resources, without any accountability or even questioning. Heads of tribes in Lebanon are worse than any other Arab dictator. Most of them are corrupt, unqualified, and most notably, their loyalty belongs to a foreign country. What other country is in dire need for a revolution than Lebanon?
In Lebanon individual revolutions are almost impossible because the shiite will not protest against the Shiite speaker of the house, the Sunnis will not revolutionize against the Sunni prime minister, and the Christian will not demand the Christian president departure? Even if this tribal leader makes an unconscionable mistake, the Lebanese people will not protest against said leader and of course his own sect is normally in a long coma to even realize the aberrant act to do protest. I do not know what the secret behind this type of loyalty is! Sect members are willing to leave their country but not leave their tribal leader even if this tribal leader is sometimes a psycho!
To achieve a change, there must be a collective efforts and consensus among the populace to demand a change not only in the political governing but also in the core of political beliefs in Lebanon.
In the last several months, there were attempts to start a revolution but these attempts went unnoticed and failed because of deep sectarian divisions. Lebanese politicians, to maintain their hold on power, feed, on daily basis, the sectarian division to their constituents. If one sect demands a change, other sects do not support said demand only because there is no trust among the sects and there is no sense of nationality; change is not possible under these conditions.
It is time for the Lebanese to come to terms with their Lebanese nationality and conquer their sectarian partition by prioritizing their concerns for the sake of Lebanon. It is not ok anymore for a Lebanese to leave his or her country for the sake of the tribal leader, “Zaem.” It is not ok for the Lebanese to be forced to live outside of Lebanon while the Zaem is raping the country, its people, and its resources.
It is the time to put all of our differences aside and peacefully revolutionize against the Zaem for the sake of Lebanon. It is time to demand a modern political system that is based on democratically elected qualified Lebanese regardless of his/her race, sect, or religion. It is time to transform Lebanon into a modern country through peaceful collective revolutions.
It is Gratifying to Help Syrian Refugees in Lebanon
For the last three months, the Syrian people are being constantly subjected to the most brutal attacks by their government. The people’s media is reporting horrific stories about what is taking place within the iron walls of the Syrian regime. Syrian people are fleeing to neighboring countries seeking medical attention, safety and shelter. Divergent Lebanon; Turkey, with open arms, opened its borders, accepted and provided assistance to it neighboring Syrian people.
In Lebanon the government chose not to offer any assistance to the fleeing Syrian People. Instead of extending all of the help it can, the Lebanese government, in clear violation of the UN mandates to protect and assist refugees, is sending back to Syria fleeing injured soldiers and sometimes people to face torture if not immediate execution as the people’s media is reporting!
A refugee is a person who has been forced to leave their home and seek refuge elsewhere. Under the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951, a refugee is a person who "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country".
Protection and safety is what the Syrian refugees are missing; fear and persecution is what they are facing. Like Turkey, the Lebanese government should have opened its doors to the Syrian refugees. The Lebanese government threw against the wall its reputation, international good well, and more significantly its humanitarian obligations all for the sake of its relationship with the falling Syrian regime! Essentially, the Lebanese government is saying no to Syrian refugees in Lebanon! That is a shame.
I thought we in Lebanon pride ourselves of hospitality and mindfulness of human rights! We are the free people; we are the people who are in the forefront to expose tyranny and injustice, what happened to us, to our media, to our government? Did we just forget about our neighbors, whatever happened to Ahla wa Sahla!
Only from humanitarian perspective, regardless of political views, we must stand by our brethren, the Syrian people, in the time of difficulties. We should open our hearts, homes, and hospitals; we should provide refuge, safety and shelter for those who seek them.
It is a shame that we do not stand behind the values we preach. It is a shame that we are not supporting our brethren as they supported us during our difficult times.
Like any other Arab people, Lebanese and Syrian people are brothers, neighbors, and “Arabs.” What kind of brothers are we when we shy away from our responsibilities? Why do we not follow by the Turkish example?
The Syrian influence over Lebanese politician blinded them, the government, and some people of their God given responsibilities to help other human beings. Nonetheless, Lebanese people should play their role and act upon their values and be in the forefront to offer assistance to the needy; if for nothing else, only because it is gratifying to help others when they are in-need.
Hassan Elkhalil can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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