Sunday, November 23, 2014

Syrian civil society in Lebanon: challenges and opportunities

(As published on Open Democracy on the 27th of October, 2014.)
Since the beginning of the Syrian uprising, even before the explosion of the humanitarian situation and the huge influx of refugees in summer 2012, Lebanon has been home to many of the activists who participated in the protest movement, organized many of its activities, and had then, to save their lives, to flee the country.
While Syria, during Baa’th rule, hasn’t had an atmosphere that allows an active civil society to flourish, its activists in surrounding countries such as Lebanon, in their exile, took the opportunity for the first time in four decades to fully invest their energies in creating vital civil society organizations, in parallel with the continuous efforts of their colleagues inside the country. This emerging civil society is facing many serious obstacles threatening its development, while demonstrating at the same time a remarkable resilience and ability to adapt to the challenging circumstances engulfing it.

The beginning 

From the start of the popular uprising in Syria, it was obvious that the regime’s first enemy was the non-violent movement. In this sense, one can interpret the systematic campaign launched by the different security branches

Friday, July 4, 2014

From Shatila with love

One of the main issues you face when you work in the field of development in such miserable places as the Palestinian camps in Lebanon -in addition to the absence of law and order and the possibility of being trapped in a war at any given moment- is that people look at your organization as the one who should be bringing salvation and resolution to all of the problems that have been accumulated over the years of neglect and abundance.

Monday, June 2, 2014

We do still have human beings in Syria to take care of

When I was invited to the Netherlands by IKV-PaxChristi last September, I was shocked by the reaction of people I encountered everywhere. Most of them considered what is happening in Syria to be more complicated for them to get involved in any way, even on the humanitarian level. Actually a friend of mine working in a humanitarian organization told me later on that his organization, which is based in the UK, managed to raise more money in 10 days for the Philippines than they could raise in an entire year for Syria. It took me only few discussions to realize that this was somehow due to the fact that the ordinary european citizen is getting most of his information about Syria from the mainstream media, which is more concerned about the news of battles and Jihadis than of those of the Syrian people and its daily struggle to survive.

I told my dutch friends then that I will try to write on my blog a different story about Syria every two weeks. Unfortunately, once I came back to Lebanon I was taken by the fast rhythm of my life and totally forgot about it. Actually I forgot about it until this afternoon when I saw a Facebook post by my friend Hania. She was talking about her daily positive contact, through her work as a journalist, with the good people of Syria who are still holding on to their non-sectarian principles. I wrote a comment saying that: "we need this kind of stories about Syria to be present more often in the western media. People in the west seems to have forgotten that we do still have human beings in this part of the world not just a bunch of murderers killing each others". I thought then that I should start with myself, So this is today's story about Judy and Jana...

I met this twin a year ago when their mother "Siham" asked for our help for a patient coming from

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Good morning democracy... good morning Syrian elections!

How bad is it to wake up on such a morning when social media is buzzing with western journalists thrill over the crowds at the Syrian embassy in Lebanon, waiting to vote in the presidential elections?!

As if most of Syrians in Lebanon are really giving a damn about the elections, while their most essential concern is SURVIVAL!

I don't think those who have been living under tents for the last two years do actually care about the elections, or do even care anymore about who would end up wining the ongoing struggle in Syria. Most of them are just longing for an end to the humiliation they have been through since they were forced to seek safety out of their houses and natural environment.

I even bet that most of those who are at the embassy willingly, without being pushed and threatened to do so by Assad's lebanese allies, are wishing if the paper they are going to drop can cast a spell in wish they can go back in time to what they had before, where they enjoyed the minimum requirements for a life of dignity (as much as possible under a totalitarian regime). And yes most of them are unfortunately ready to forget about freedom, regime change, or even political reforms in return to some of the stability they are missing.

If this thrill is showing anything at all, it shows how the west in general has failed us! They are just thrilled over new scenes of humiliation. It also shows how most of those correspondents aren't really aware of how deeply fear is rooted in Syrian's sub-consciousness, especially for those who believe that the battle of the people is already lost, and are already looking for an exit strategy in which they can go back home with the minimum amount of retaliation. Not to mention of course the fear of the blackmail and extortion mechanism that can be used against them in similar occasions, such as the obstruction of your official documents if you have no proof of vote, etc..

No sane person would think that one center is enough for the 1.5 million of Syrians who are living in Lebanon to participate in this pretended democratic manifestation. The crowd is intended to be as big as possible just for the purpose of propaganda! And I don't mean with it a propaganda aimed at the western public opinion, not at all. It is rather aimed at the Syrians themselves, its objective is to tell them very clearly that nothing has changed at all during the last three years and the regime is able to drag you and humiliate you in such a public shows because you still need him.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

From Beirut to Aleppo, few meditations and lot of sorrows...

a scene from Beirut. (my lens- winter 2014)

One of my greatest joys in Beirut is those small surprises I come through while taking an unplanned walk into its streets. It often happens that a similar scene stops me for a few minutes of meditation... and sorrow!

I call those buildings "The War Survivors". It amazes me to see few old buildings still holding on after