Stories from Afar & Up Close

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No such luxury

Last night in a bar in Gemmayzeh I was reading John Kerry's speech as it was being live-blogged by a local news source. I'm not a political junkie by any measure, but if bombs are about to be dropped on my head I'd like to be informed. My fellow foreigners, who had earlier asked me what I thought of the situation and what is going to happen (to which my answers were 'shit' and 'we can't know, can we') pleaded with me to have an evening without politics, to 'just forget about all of it for one night'. But you can't come to Lebanon, pretend to be living here, and then not know or not want to know. If you want safety and ignorance, there are many places in the world where you can go, but the Middle East is not one of them.

I wonder if the store management is aware of the political implications of the combination of this color and slogan... 

Of course I am aware that I am a foreigner too. That I have a passport that allows me to leave when things get really rough and dangerous.  That this is only my adopted home, the place where I spent a good part of the past 8 years and was hoping to spent many more, but not a place that I grew up in or that I am condemned be attached to by birth or nationality. But I also know that it hurts to hear my Syrian friend say "I'm dancing now, but tomorrow my country might be bombed." That I feel the direct threat behind Kerry saying "it matters here if nothing is done. It matters if the world speaks out in condemnation and then nothing happens. America should feel confident and gratified that we are not alone in our condemnation and we are not alone in our will to do something about it and to act", because this is not about planes flying somewhere dropping something – this is about planes flying over my head and dropping bombs on people I know, people I care about, and the inevitable retaliation destroying even more of what I know and love around me.

Many people have said many things about the political decision of the US to get involved in Syria militarily. I won't add my opinion to that, because my opinion doesn't matter. Nor does the opinion of all the people around me. I learned this during the war in 2006, and today's discussion is a not so gentle reminder of that lesson: it doesn't matter what the people on the ground think, feel or want. It matters what those in power decide, which leader needs to be punished for 'misbehaving' and going against the will and orders of whoever are running the world at the time. The well-being of those directly affected is only a word used when there are no other reasons left to justify their decision.

People here are scared. Scared of what military intervention in Syria, no matter how 'limited' or 'targeted' it may be, will mean for both Syria and the rest of the region. Will Hezbollah react? If so, where? And if that happens, will Israel react? If so, how? (We don't need to ask where.) What will ll this mean internally, with all the tensions between the different sects? Even as seasoned veterans of a long-lasting civil war, Lebanese people are starting to see that what's about to happen (or is already happening) is no longer in the hands of the sectarian leaders they love to hate – and those politicians themselves are coming to the realization that this is out of their control too. That a new war will not be one neighborhood against another, one town for this sect and another town for the other. It will mean Iraq-style bombings that cause death and destruction without a clear goal.

naharnet.com clearly has trouble taking the UN seriously... 

I know what I think of it all doesn't matter. But I still hope that those who do take the decisions that may lead to all of this will at some point remember that while they are playing their geopolitical game for power, I'm driving my Syrian friend's mother across town so she can arrange her will and her daughter's access to her bank account. Not because she's terminally ill, but because 'you never know when the bomb will drop.' All of this to say: these are real people and real lives. Don't forget that.

Zeker twintig doden bij aanslag in woonwijk Beiroet

Omdat ik me zo erger aan de tendentieuze berichtgeving in NRC: een gecorrigeerde versie van het stuk "Zeker twintig doden bij aanslag in Beiroet op Hezbollah-bolwerk"

Buitenland (15 augustus 2013)–  door [Jules Seegers] correcties door Nicolien

Een aanslag vandaag in Beiroet, waarbij volgens autoriteiten twintig burgerdoden zijn gevallen, is [gepleegd] gericht tegen Hezbollah. De [militante] shi'itische groepering was doelwit van de sunnitische beweging Brigades van Aisha.

De groepering eiste de aanslag vroeg in de avond op. Volgens Reuters belooft ze nog meer aanvallen op Hezbollah.

"Dit is de tweede keer dat wij bepalen waar en wanneer de strijd plaatsvindt... En jullie zullen dat nog vaker zien, als God het wil."

Vorige maand werd in een [buitenwijk] andere woonwijk van Beiroet een autobom tot ontploffing gebracht waarbij meer dan vijftig mensen gewond raakten. De ontploffing vandaag in de overwegend shi'itische wijk Rweiss had plaats in een drukke winkelstraat en was in de wijde omgeving te voelen, aldus ooggetuigen. Op de staatstelevisie was te zien hoe er grote branden in de getroffen straat woedden. Boven Rweiss stegen grote zwarte rookwolken op.

Zeker tweehonderd gewonden

Reuters meldt dat het dodental van de aanslag is opgelopen tot twintig. De explosie vond plaats in het zuiden van Beiroet, een [bolwerk van Libanons terreurbeweging Hezbollah] woonwijk waar veel aanhangers van Hezbollah wonen, een Libanese politieke partij met een gewapende tak die onlangs door de EU als terreurbeweging is aangemerkt. Volgens AP vielen ook zeker tweehonderd gewonden.

Volgens het Libanese leger werd een autobom gebruikt voor de aanslag. Diverse [gebouwen] woningen en flatgebouwen in de directe omgeving raakten zwaar beschadigd.

Het oplopende geweld in Libanon kan een teken zijn dat de sektarische burgeroorlog in buurland Syrië verder om zich heen grijpt in de regio. Tegenstanders van de Syrische president Bashar al-Assad hebben gedreigd met aanvallen op Hezbollah, dat in Syrië met [Assads troepen] het Syrische leger meevecht.

Home, unnoticed

Coming to Beirut is coming home. Not coming home in a metaphorical or existential sense of 'finally having found a place where I belong' – if anything, Beirut is the slut that makes everybody and nobody feel like she is theirs.

No, Beirut has become home in the way that a hometown is and always will be home: I walk the streets and pass places that I never actively remember when I am not here, but that are part of some kind of physical knowledge, my legs functioning like my fingers that can remember how to play something on the piano as long as my brain doesn't get involved.

Beirut is home because I have memories everywhere, but they, too, are more felt than remembered, not verbalized even in my head.

I've seen places disappear and new places come up, and some of those I've seen disappear as well. It's home because I see it and I don't see it at the same time, the initial place always dominating that location without the shock that it has become something else because I have changed with this city and we both know that all those old things are still inside us as well.

Beirut is home because I am no longer surprised by her.

Beirut is home because I don't notice her anymore.

Lebanon and the World Cup, explained

Remember when I told you about the dancing that Lebanese people like? And the football they go crazy for? Well, today I found out why they don’t have their own team to participate in the world cup…

The best of both passions, really! May it be a fun tournament. Cheers to the world… and let’s hope the Italians won’t win!