Posts Tagged ‘Lebanon’

First Swine Flu Death in Lebanon

October 26, 2009 Leave a comment

Here is what has most recently been reported in the news on Swine Flu in Lebanon.

From Middle East Online

Lebanon confirmed its first swine flu death on Monday, with the health ministry saying the A(H1N1) virus claimed the life of a pregnant 30-year-old woman.

“The deceased was thirty years old and eight months pregnant,” a ministry statement said, adding that the woman died on Saturday.

The woman had been suffering from respiratory problems and high fever but tests done “before and after the death show she was carrying the new flu virus,” the statement said.


From The Daily Star

[…] International College (IC) announced it would be shutting its middle school in Beirut for six days starting Tuesday because of the high number of students suffering from the virus. 

In a letter posted on the school’s website Saturday, IC President John Johnson said 50 students were absent from classes on Friday alone. “To date we have had 31 cases of this influenza in the Ras Beirut Middle School, 12 of whom have already recovered and returned to school,” he said. 

Johnson said IC was following regulations issued by the Center for Disease Control, which required siblings of swine flu patients to also stay at home for a five-day incubation period. All students are requested to stay at home and avoid contact with classmates until the school reopens on November 2.

Robert Fisk on freedom of speech in Lebanon

October 22, 2009 Leave a comment

I came across the following article written by Robert Fisk on the rights of journalists and freedom of speech in Lebanon. As an aspiring journalist myself, this raises a lot of concerns. Please feel free to comment.


Robert Fisk: End of an era for Lebanon’s free press

Once a bastion of journalistic independence, Beirut’s newspapers are losing their edge

From The Independent

By Robert Fisk

For decades, Lebanese journalism has been applauded as the freest, most outspoken and most literate in the heavily censored Arab world. Alas, no more. Beirut’s best-read daily has just shed more than 50 staff and LBC, one of the country’s best-known television stations, has just fired three of its most prominent presenters. The Lebanese media are being hit – like the rest of the world – by the internet and falling advertising revenues. But this is Lebanon, where politics is always involved. Is something rotten in the state of the Lebanese press?

Is it by chance that An Nahar‘s culture editor – whose supplement campaigned against assassinated prime minister Rafiq Hariri’s plans for rebuilding downtown Beirut – has been fired after the paper cosied up to the politics of Hariri’s son Saad, now the Lebanese prime minister designate? Is it a coincidence that the three senior presenters on LBC represented the last supporters of the old Lebanese Forces (of civil war infamy) still working at the channel?

Neither An Nahar nor LBC are saying anything. But the Lebanese are waiting to find out which of their more than 20 dailies will be the next to shed staff for “economic reasons”. Will the old lefty As Safir find that it has politically recalcitrant staff (unlikely) or will the lovely French-language daily L’Orient Le Jour – whose 18th century French is Royalist rather than Republican – have a battle with those writers who still love ex-General Michel Aoun, Maronite Christian ally of the Hizbollah?

The problem is not so much the politics of Lebanon but the feudal state of the press. You cannot start a newspaper in Beirut – you have to buy an existing title from someone else. This costs money. So the rich own newspapers. Not much different, you may say, from the rest of the world. But the system in Lebanon is archaic; there are families in Beirut who own newspapers but don’t publish them – they are still waiting for a buyer.

As Elias Khoury, the sacked culture editor of An Nahar, a prize-winning novelist and academic and one of 53 men and women fired by the paper, puts it: “Newspaper owners were originally journalists – and with capitalism, the system did not change. Television in this country are not the press – they are propaganda, owned by confessional groups or parties. It’s the papers that are real journalism.”

But “real” journalism is sometimes hard to come by. When the Syrian army was still in Lebanon, An Nahar was as careful as the rest of the press in making sure than no boats got rocked. Indeed, when the Syrian military first arrived in Beirut in 1976, its offices were raided – to make sure that its journalists realised that they would have to be as compliant as their colleagues on Al-Baath and Tichrin, those titans of Baathist journalism across the mountains in Damascus.

But, along with As Safir, An-Nahar had an edge about it. It poached a wonderful analyst called Jihad Zein from As Safir, and under boss Ghassan Tueni it upheld independent journalism. “Tueni offered me the cultural supplement,” Khoury says, “and if he was still in control, none of this would have happened.” It is now his granddaughter Nayla who is in charge. Along with Khoury, Edmund Saab, co-editor in chief, Saha Bahasin and Georges Nassif also lost their jobs. They were told to collect their dismissal notes from a Lebanese postal official on the pavement outside the paper’s central Beirut office.

“One journalist came to work at 6pm on a Friday – when the postman had left,” Khoury adds. “He worked the Friday night and on Saturday and Sunday – and read in our rival paper on Monday that he had been fired! This reveals things about our work and about Beirut. The formula that our supplement is independent – that we can say what we want – is no longer acceptable. I didn’t fit. My supplement campaigned against Solidere [in which Rafiq Hariri held 10 per cent of the shares] and we got journalists and architects to write about how the company was destroying Ottoman Beirut and saving only the French colonial buildings. No-one stopped us. I could play the role of a leftist intellectual.”

No more. Nayla Tueni’s involvement in the majority March 14th movement, led by Hariri’s son Saad – who himself runs a rather dull daily called Al-Mustaqbal – means An Nahar has taken on a distinctly pro-government flavour.

At the same time, LBC has dismissed three of its best-known journalists, apparently because they were the final remnant of the Lebanese Forces on the channel. Diamond Rahme Geagea, Denise Fakhry and Vera Abu Munsif were sacked along with dozens of fellow staff members, including one woman who was six months’ pregnant, a fact which would normally make her un-dismissable under Lebanese law. Even the Christian Maronite patriarch, Nasrallah Sfeir, has expressed his concern.

The Lebanese journalists’ union has no mandate to help unemployed writers. “Who protects the rights of journalists?” L’Orient Le Jour asked last week. In Lebanon, it seems, the answer is no one.

A Lebanese expat’s poetry on Lebanon

October 21, 2009 1 comment

One of the contributions that came to The Cedar Tree was the following piece of poetry written by Ahmad Rai. Ahmad is a Lebanese expat in the United Arab Emirates. He writes poetry and prose in Arabic. Thanks Ahmad for sending this, regardless of what the sentiments expressed in the poem are.


تطلبين منّي أن أكتب عن لبنانِ
ماذا أكتب عن بلد جفاني
لفظني بعيداّ, بعد البحار أقصاني
رماني من جباله سرق منّي مكاني
قطع عنّي هواه, فتنفست سموم الغبارِ

أي مجرمة أنتِ
لترشقيني الاتهاماتِ
سرقت منّي هويتي و قلت عنّي لبناني
صدّقيني إنّي بعيد كل البعد عن الحدود الأوهامِ
صدّقيني إنما وطني واحدّ
يمتدّ بين الألف و الياءِ

اقرئي, فما أكتبه عن لبنان لن يرضيكِ
أنظري إلى كراسي الحكّامِ
هم نفسهم مجرمي الزمانِ
هم نفسهم أصحاب صبرا و شتيلا
و قطاع طرق كالجرذانِ
هم نفسهم يرفعهم شعبٌ أحمقٌ
يتغنّى بالديمقراطيّة و هو مهان
أيّ ديمقراطي ذلك من يقنع بالعيشِ
عيش القطعان
أيّ ديمقراطي ذلك من يقنع بالعيشِ
خارج الأوطان
أنظري إلى لبنان, ابحثي لي فيه عن شعبٍ
فلست أراه مأهولاّ سوى بفصائل الحيوان
ابحثي لي فيه عن فردٍ يمشي وحيداً
فلست أجد فيه إلا أسراب إنسان
طُبع على جباههم كلمات أوهامٍ
و أسماء أحزابٍ و عقائد أديان
و هم مذّاك يمشون بلا ضياءٍ
ينفّذون بلا فهمٍ و استفهام
أو على الأقل تعجّب و استنكار
شعبٌ ديمقراطي و لكن أعمى
شعبٌ حرٌ و لكن عطشان
مريضّ و ليس لدائه دواء

عذراً… لم يعد لي وطن يدعى لبنان
لي وطنٌّ واحدٌ
رسمه أحمد مطر و نزار و النّواب
لي وطن أتمنى لو ترسم حدوده بين مخارج الأصوات
فيبدأ بألف عربية و ينتهي بالياء
لي وطن واحد أحلم بهِ
قويٌ, عادلٌ, حرٌ
يتغنّى بالفكر والجمال
لي وطنٌ أتمنى لو تسقط من خريطته الأسماء
فيبقى له اسم واحد و واحدة من الصفات
عربٌ, عربٌ, و بشرتهم سمراء
لي وطنٌ شعبه يمتد من صحراء موريتانيا إلى الصومال
و نحو الشام
لي وطن لغته واحدة
كتب بها عنترة و السموأل و بن عبد الله
لي هذا الوطن الصامد في عالم الأحلام
لي هذا الوطن الذي لن يتوطن طالما أن الشعب مخدّر نعسان
لي هذا الوطن الذي أفضّل العيش في أوهامه على أن أعيشَ في لبنان


Please note that the poem was posted in the center, so that none of the words get cut off.

Mika: If there’s an ounce of Lebanon in your family, it will take over.

October 18, 2009 Leave a comment

I came across this interesting article dated Oct.14, 2009 on the 26-year-old Lebanon born singer, Mika. In the following excerpt Mika talks about his Lebanese background. He also says that he grew up listening to Fairuz thanks to his parents.


Six weeks later, I visit Mika on an early spring day in London; he is a dual British and American national, but calls Kensington home and his flat is in the basement of the family’s grand house.

His mother Joannie is Lebanese (his father is American) and while the civil war in that country meant that the family fled when Mika was a baby, he says: “if there’s an ounce of Lebanon in your family, it will take over.

Ours is a Lebanese household: there’s incense burning; you’ll get fed within 10 minutes.

“There’s a survival trait, too,” he continues, curled up on his white sofa, “and I think that’s what’s odd about me. In Lebanon, there’ll be bombs being thrown, but the restaurants will shut down only when they have to.

“There’s this mentality that if you’re going to cry, you stand on the table, throw your hands in the air and scream as loudly as you can and you deal with it. I think it’s affected the way I make music, these extremes of emotion.”

The family moved to Paris — and Mika now speaks fluent French — before heading to London when he was nine because his father’s business was in temporary trouble.

Click here to read the whole article.

Credits: Photo via

Credits: Photo via

Read about Lebanon’s Man in the Cube

October 17, 2009 2 comments

Rami Eid, or currently known as the man in the cube, is living in a transparent cube on Ein El-Mreyseh until 18 October 2009. Why? This is part of a project  organized by The League of Independent Activists – IndyACT “aiming to raise global urgency on the critical dangers of global warming and to urge world leaders to take fast and effective action against climate change in Copenhagen this year.”

Rami’s keeping a blog with personal entries on how it’s like to be living in a transparent cube as “the last man on earth.” He was featured on the front page of Al Akhbar newspaper today.

You can follow the man in the cube on twitter or check out his blog.

After 56 years, Lebanon is once again a U.N. Security Council member.

October 17, 2009 Leave a comment

Lebanon, Bosnia among five new UN council members

From Reuters

Politically divided Lebanon and Bosnia were among five countries elected to the U.N. Security Council on Thursday, in a move diplomats hoped would help strengthen the two countries’ fragile institutions.

In an uncontested election, the U.N. General Assembly voted for Bosnia, Brazil, Gabon, Lebanon and Nigeria to serve on the council through 2010 and 2011. All five had been selected in advance by their regional groups.

From Jan. 1 they will replace Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia, Libya and Vietnam as non-veto-holding members of the 15-nation body, the powerhouse of the United Nations with the authority to impose sanctions and send peacekeeping forces.

Unresolved political and security issues have meant that both Lebanon and Bosnia are subject to Security Council scrutiny. Lebanon has some 12,500 U.N. peacekeeping troops in its south, stemming from past conflicts with Israel, while Bosnia, torn by war in the 1990s, has a European Union force.

Click on the link above to read the whole article.

Climate Change and the Cedar Trees!

October 15, 2009 4 comments

So where is Lebanon’s famous Cedar tree in all of this climate change talk today? Ladies and gentlemen, I bring to you the very sad answer.

Lebanon’s majestic cedar trees are now on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list as “heavily threatened” species. The Cedar trees need rain, frost and snow in order to survive, but with the ever-increasing temperatures and change in climate, less snow is falling on Lebanon’s mountain tops, and therefore endangering the trees of disappearing from the mountains. Some of these trees have stood strong for over 2,000 years now. That’s NOT 2, 20 or 200 years. We’re talking 2,000 years!  

Action needs to be taken NOW.

Part of the Blog Action Day ’09.

Interfaith marriage for Lebanese is 150 miles away!

October 14, 2009 2 comments

In Mideast, marriage too can be a battlefield

From The Associated Press

In the Middle East, civil marriage doesn’t exist and no religious authority will perform an interfaith wedding. Lebanon and Israel are different in that they recognize civil marriages as long as they’re performed abroad, and the closest venue abroad is Cyprus, 150 miles from Lebanon and 230 miles from Israel.

So this little island, which claims to be the birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, has made mixed marriages something of an industry. Its municipalities charge around $415 for express processing and $190 for others, while travel agencies in both Lebanon and Israel offer packages including travel, luxury hotel, marriage fees and flowers for the bride.

Last year, by Cyprus government count, 523 couples from Lebanon and 1,533 from Israel were married here.

Wakim, 39, and Ghamloush, 33, met at work, fell in love and decided to marry. Their problem was, he’s a Maronite Christian, she’s a Baha’i. So Cyprus was their best bet.

Their wedding at City Hall in Nicosia, the capital, was quick and unadorned. A photocopier next to the Wedding Room whirred and creaked as municipal workers handled paperwork. The groom slipped outside for a quick smoke in the parking lot.

Then the marriage officer arrived, recited his lines in English, and the couple exchanged vows. It was over in 10 minutes.

They snapped a few photos of themselves on the steps of City Hall, then hurried off to finish the paperwork. They were catching a 40-minute flight back to Beirut that evening.

Click on the link above to read the whole article.

Excuse me, but I have the right to vote.

October 13, 2009 Leave a comment

At a workshop held on the reform of electoral laws yesterday, Interior Minister Ziad Baroud said that the right of expatriates and handicapped persons to vote and the use of pre-printed ballot papers were among the anticipated reforms, according to a Daily Star article published today.  “Baroud added that he hoped an election supervisory commission would one day replace the Interior Ministry in taking charge of elections, reminding the audience of his earlier remarks: ‘I hope to be the last Interior Minister to manage general elections and I hope that an independent commission would handle this task.'”

According to a recent AFP article, after the June vote in Lebanon, the European Union presented a list of 36 recommendations to improve the electoral process. “Among the 36 recommendations made by the EU is for Lebanon to gradually reduce emphasis on confessionalism in the electoral system, introduce a degree of proportionality, the use of officially printed ballots, and establish an independent election management body as well as better representation for women.

The report also noted that a law that prevents Lebanese women from passing on their citizenship if married to a foreign national was discriminatory as it barred their offspring from voting.

Out of 587 candidates in the run-up to the vote, 12 were women and only four were elected to the 128-seat parliament.”

The question is: when will these reforms become the law?

Lebanon, you can do better than 175.

September 28, 2009 1 comment

Beirut ranks 175th globally for quality of living

From The Daily Star

The annual survey on the quality of living in 215 cities around the world ranked Beirut as the 175th most desirable city for overall living standards and 16th among 21 cities surveyed in the Middle East and North Africa region in 2009, as reported by Lebanon This Week, the economic publication of the Byblos Bank Group. 

 To read the whole article, click on the link above.