A Major win for Gay rights in Lebanon

Judge Naji El Dahdah presiding over a case prosecuting homosexuality has ruled that a notorious piece of legislation criminalizing gay sex is not valid. The judge cleared a transsexual woman of having a same-sex relationship with a man, an act criminalized under Article 534 of Lebanon’s penal code. The article prohibits having sexual relations that are “contradicting the laws of nature”, which is punishable by up to a year in prison.
The news about this verdict broke out first in Arabic in Legal Agenda Page 8. It was later picked up by  Huffington Post and Lebanese Daily Star.

Judge el Dahdah ruling stating same-sex relations are not “contradicting the laws of nature” and cannot therefore be considered a crime.

Art censorship

According to Beirut.con article, On May 8, Fransabank launched the 9th edition of its JABAL exhibition at Hotel Le Gray to great success, with 18 of the 25 artists having sold their artwork during the launching event alone.
But one artist’s work – which appears in JABAL’s official catalogue – never made it to the actual exhibit. Mhammad Saad’s Farewell Beirut depicts Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah (in addition to various other Lebanese politicians, including former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea among others) as a character in one of Michelangelo’s most renowned works, The Creation of Adam.

Saad, winner of the Jury’s Prize last year at the 31st Salon D’Automne for his paintingAlleluia often conveys notions of politics in sarcastic or puppet-like environments in his work.
The artist told Beirut.com that his Farewell Beirut painting was removed from the exhibit just two days before the show opened because members of the Le Gray administration asked for it to be taken down.
The artist maintains that this particular work “isn’t disrespectful in any way to any leader,” explaining that “the image is a contemporary [take] on many internationally renowned paintings in the history of art… [and expresses] the ongoing conflict between the different Lebanese parties and its impact on society with a sarcastic twist. This is my newest creation and I was looking for a decent, respectful and established place to exhibit it.”
Meanwhile, Ms. Zeina Antonios, the spokesperson for JABAL, told Beirut.com the reason Mhamad’s piece was pulled from the exhibit was that it was “too expensive for the show,” and that they had to replace him with someone else at the last minute.

Dictateur” ‘s owner assaults clients for protesting breach of smoking ban

I received the following and would like to share with you.

On February 14, what began as a fun Valentine’s night for Dalal Mawad at Dictateur in Gemmayze took a turn for the worse. Dalal was doing her job as a responsible citizen by complaining about indoor smoking at the pub, but the manager was “sick of stupid people like her” and assaulted her in front of everybody else. Read the story at http://dalalmawad.com/blog/

Who protects responsible citizens like Dalal, who are trying to protect the law? Maybe HE Fady Abboud and HE Marwan Charbel can answer us. PLEASE SHARE!

Lebanese Mufti issues a fatwa against civil marriage

lmaLebanon’s top Sunni Muslim authority, Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani issued the fatwa branding as an apostate any Muslim politician who approves civil marriage legislation. “Any Muslim with legal or executive authority in Lebanon who supports the legalisation of civil marriage is an apostate and outside the religion of Islam,” he said on the website of Dar al-Fatwa, the official institution for fatwas. “There are predators lurking among us, trying to sow the bacteria of civil marriage in Lebanon, but they should know that the religious scholars will not hesitate to do their duty” and prevent the passage of such a bill. “[Such officials] would not be washed, would not be wrapped in a [burial] shroud, would not have prayers for their soul in line with Islamic rules, and would not be buried in a Muslim cemetery,” Qabbani added.

The issue of civil marriage gained momentum these past two days after President Michel Sleiman tweeted in support of a draft law to legalize civil marriage. Maronite Patriarch Rahi had already declared in 20112 that he endorses and the government should make it compulsory.

The first one to shoot down such law was our beloved Sunni Prime Minister who opposed such proposal because we “don’t need such controversial issues at the time being.”

So according to Sunni Grand Mufti and Prime Minister atheists in Lebanon have no right at all. Both of them are standing against the Lebanese constitution which states: “Lebanon is a parliamentary democratic republic based on respect for public liberties, especially the freedom of opinion and belief, and respect for social justice and equality of rights and duties among all citizens without discrimination.

What Mufti Qabbani failed to understand or grasp is that we do not live in an Islamic state run by Shari’a law. In addition, Muslim deputies are elected not only by Muslims but also by Christians and atheists. He raised the sword of apostate against any Sunni Muslim legislator if he vote for legalizing civil marriage in Lebanon. The verdict according to Muslim Shariaa against the apostate is death.

For the past few years, I heard many Christian Lebanese repeating like parrots what they leaders told them: “They (Sunnite Muslims) came to us”. Meaning they follow us now. How many times, I repeated that this is a false statement and Muslims will only follow their Muslim Shari’a. It is their religion, this is what they believe in and it is their right to do so. But a Mufti can’t send Lebanese Muslim lawmakers to death because these lawmakers work for their constituencies and not for Muslims only. In addition, you can’t label a Muslim lawmaker as an apostate because he is abiding by the Lebanese constitution which asks him to respect the social justice and equality of rights and duties of all citizens without discrimination.

Few week ago, when Christian political leaders and lawmakers supported a law which allow Christians to vote for their lawmakers and same for the Muslims, they were accused of driving Lebanon backwards and against the evolution and coexistence.

When many Lebanese realize that this country is based on religion and sects and ask for implementing a decentralized system or a federal system, they are accused of separation and division in the country. But these Lebanese totally understand that to be a Muslim, you have to follow your religion. A religion that controls the spiritual and social life of its followers. At least these Lebanese are not labeling others as apostate and not infringing on Lebanese rights to live equally in the country. On the contrary, it allows all Lebanese to live the way they desire to do so.

What Mufti Qabbani missed is that for around $1500, a couple can fly to Cyprus (24 minutes), get a civil marriage, return to Lebanon and their marriage is recognized in Lebanon. The proposed law states that civil marriage is optional. No one is forcing Muslims to have a civil marriage. So how the hell the Mufti saw this “optional” marriage an attack on Islam?

Syrian Orthodox and Catholics appeal for aid in Hassake

Source: Fides

brken-crossHassake (Agenzia Fides) – Hassake, the capital of Mesopotamia (Eastern Syria), is a ghost town, isolated from the rest of the world. The population is suffering from the cold weather, there is no fuel, water is scarce, there is only one hour of electricity a day. Over 25 thousand Christians (Syrian Orthodoxs, Syrian Catholics, Chaldeans, Armenians) are crowded in the city, many of whom have sought refuge from the surrounding areas, have launched an alarm for survival through some of the messages sent to Fides Agency.

After the appeal issued two months ago by the three Bishops of the region, who “launched an SOS to avoid catastrophe” (see Fides 23/11/2012), “nothing has been done: no one cares for the exhausted population of Hassake, who urgently need humanitarian aid,” the Bishops affirm. The Bishops, such as the Syrian Catholic Mgr. Jacques Behnan Hindo and the Syrian Orthodox Mgr. Matta Roham, are intensifying contacts with other Christian Syrian leaders and with humanitarian organizations, but the response they receive leaves no loopholes, “It is impossible to bring aid to Hassake because it is too dangerous and lacks minimal security conditions.”

After the town of Tall Tamr, the region is infested with Islamist groups and terrorists that impose several checkpoints on the roads. These are the militants “Jubhat el Nosra,” Salafist faction that even the United States has recently added to the black list of “terrorist groups”. They are added to common criminals who commit robbery, kidnapping, looting, even in the city. The population “is slowly dying, left to itself,” stresses to Fides Fr. Ibrahim, a Christian priest resident in Hassake.

“The people are hungry and living in fear,” he says. “Every day, at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, there is a sort of curfew, because armed groups roam the streets. This is followed by kidnappings, sometimes with ransom demands, not always. In recent days, two brothers of the Bashr family and two young members of the Fram family were killed at point blank range on the street. Young Christians are threatened and terrified, 90% have fled the city. If young people leave, what will our churches be needed for? ” He says sadly.

According to what Georgius tells Fides, a Christian university student whose family is in Hassake and has taken refuge in Lebanon, “the militia with black flags of the Jubhat el Nosra group have targeted all young people who were born between 1990 and 1992. They look for them, accuse them of being soldiers for the national service and kill them cold-bloodedly. They want to terrorize young people to prevent them from enlisting.” The population of Hassaké, weary and tired, reports Georgius, “fears the final assault on the city that could cause the definitive exodus of Christians from Hassake.” (PA) (Agenzia Fides 17/01/2013)

Lebanon and Internet Privacy

“This leaked request asks the Ministry of Information to turn over the contents of all ‘DATA Sessions,’ Meaning the Data sessions of all 3G and 2G data subscribers in Lebanon. These include log files. The log files detail access to Internet websites and IP addresses. Aside from the log files, the requests ask for usernames, phone numbers, addresses, names, passwords, and so on. The request asks for personal information including the applications that are used on the mobile phones of subscribers. The request asks for all data of this nature within the time-frame of 13/9/2012 until 10/11/2012.’”

In search for leads in the assassination of General Wissam al-Hassan, the Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF) asked the Ministry of telecommunication to hand over the content of all SMS text messages sent between September 13 and November 10 of this year, as well as usernames and passwords for services like Blackberry Messenger, Whatsapp and Facebook.

There is nothing wrong in intelligence services in the country to monitor the internet activities of certain people or group that might be a danger to the security of the country. It could be understandable if the ISF asked for all the SMS or Messages sent via different apps on specific dates and in the area of the assassination, if they don’t have any suspect. In case they have a suspect, the ISF would need a judge order to collect his data. What is shocking is this blanket request for digital communication data.

As usual, this is Lebanon and everything is politically charged. We understand the ISF eagerness to find who is behind the assassination of one its officers but that eagerness should not cross the line and steps upon the privacy of millions of Lebanese. The ISF should not label everyone as a suspect in their search of the real killer. It is illegal and must stay illegal to dig into the chats and messages of millions without a court order.

Lebanese ministers voiced their rejection of the ISF’s request for all mobile phone SMS and internet data in the two months prior to the assassination of ISF Intelligence Chief Wissam al-Hassan. Lebanese Telecommunications Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui said that his ministry will give the Internal Security Forces’ intelligence branch the SMS activity data without the content of the SMS messages. With a court order, the ISF should get the SMS activity in the area of the assassination. If a certain activity looks suspicious or might generate leads in the investigation, another court order must be provided in order to reveal the content of the data.

From his part, Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi referred to Article 104 of the Lebanese Constitution to determine the legality of the data request made by the security forces. “Article 104 of the constitution stipulates that a judicial committee should be set up to determine whether the request is legal or not.” Qortbawi said that “the judicial committee agreed that the request is illegal … The French system, which is at the base of the Lebanese Constitution, prohibits the access to nationwide information.”

Any request by any security or intelligence service in Lebanon must be inline with people personal privacy.  It is illegal to treat people millions of Lebanese as guilty of an assassination in order to find leads and those behind the assassination.

The National Campaign to prosecute Lebanese civil war criminals

Nayfeh Najjar

Nayfeh Najjar, Martyr of humanity, in a country where its killers are the rulers with no compassion. They kidnapped her only son on al-Baribir Checkpoint. He was 13 years old back then. She wrote to him 4 letters and were published in al-Saffir newspapers where she worked. She waited for the return of her son for 9 month (same as the time she carried him in her womb), then she drank her poison. She left him a farewell message in his drawer:

“Tomorrow, my son, if you return, you will find that my ship has sailed to the shores of closing stages. You’ll ask about the fast departure but you’ll excuse me. Tomorrow, my son, if you return you will find out that I was fed up of waiting, no news and no information about you (…). Tomorrow, my son, if you return, you will carve your way in life without me. You will continue walking like you used to and like your mother raised you. You’ll forger the ugly hatred caused by the weak soul’s executioners.
Forget my son. Please forget the period of time in which you were prevented from pursuing your life… Go back to your Humanity (…) I hope that they haven’t sown in you the plant of evil… Uproot it my son. Pull it out from its roots and return it. It is for them and not for us (…)
Tomorrow, my son, if you return, read these words and remembers your mother’s commandments.”

Nayfeh Najjar, Odette Salem and thousands of crying mothers. We will never forget you and the cause of the missing will remain our cause.