Illicit Traffick in Cultural Property in Lebanon: A Diachronic Study

Currently Associate Professor at the Lebanese University and Advisor to the Minister of Culture, Dr. Assaad Seif was coordinator of the archaeological research and excavations / Head of the Scientific departments at the Ministry of Culture – Directorate General of Antiquities (DGA).
Currently Associate Professor at the Lebanese University and Advisor to the Minister of Culture, Dr. Assaad Seif was coordinator of the archaeological research and excavations / Head of the Scientific departments at the Ministry of Culture – Directorate General of Antiquities (DGA).

By Dr. Assaad Seif –  Antiquities, particularly ancient works of art, belong to the country in which they were produced in the past. They form an integral part of the past of the inhabitants of that country, and hence are in reality communal property forming cultural roots for the present day inhabitants. Like natural resources, cultural heritage forms anon-renewable resource base, every bit that is lost, broken or sold is a fragment of past identity removed and hence an impoverishment of today’s identity. If the loss is due to ignorance, it will be paid for by future generations whose cultural memory will have been wiped out (Seeden 1992a: 110). Download full study in pdf (illicit_traffick_in_cultural)

On the 80th Memory of Gebran Khalil Gebran

I leave you with his own words:

khalil_gibranMy Countrymen

What do you seek, my countrymen?
Do you desire that I build for You gorgeous palaces, decorated With words of empty meaning, or Temples roofed with dreams? Or Do you command me to destroy what The liars and tyrants have built? Shall I uproot with my fingers What the hypocrites and the wicked
Have implanted? Speak your insane Wish!
What is it you would have me do, My countrymen? Shall I purr like The kitten to satisfy you, or roar Like the lion to please myself? I Have sung for you, but you did not Dance; I have wept before you, but You did not cry. Shall I sing and Weep at the same time?

Your souls are suffering the pangs Of hunger, and yet the fruit of Knowledge is more plentiful than The stones of the valleys.
Your hearts are withering from  Thirst, and yet the springs of Life are streaming about your Homes — why do you not drink?

The sea has its ebb and flow, The moon has its fullness and Crescents, and the ages have Their winter and summer, and all Things vary like the shadow of
An unborn god moving between Earth and sun, but truth cannot Be changed, nor will it pass away; Why, then, do you endeavour to Disfigure its countenance?

I have called you in the silence Of the night to point out the Glory of the moon and the dignity Of the stars, but you startled From your slumber and clutched
Your swords in fear, crying, “Where is the enemy? We must kill Him first!” At morningtide, when the enemy came, I called to you Again, but now you did not wake From your slumber, for you were Locked in fear, wrestling with The processions of specters in Your dreams.

And I said unto you, “Let us climb To the mountain top and view the Beauty of the world.” And you Answered me, saying, “In the depths Of this valley our fathers lived, And in its shadows they died, and in Its caves they were buried. How can We depart this place for one which They failed to honor?”

And I said unto you, “Let us go to The plain that gives its bounty to The sea.” And you spoke timidly to Me, saying, “The uproar of the abyss Will frighten our spirits, and the Terror of the depths will deaden Our bodies.”

I have loved you, my countrymen, but My love for you is painful to me And useless to you; and today I Hate you, and hatred is a flood That sweeps away the dry branches And quavering houses.

I have pitied your weakness, my Countrymen, but my pity has but Increased your feebleness, exalting And nourishing slothfulness which Is vain to life. And today I see Your infirmity which my soul loathes And fears.

I have cried over your humiliation And submission, and my tears streamed
Like crystalline, but could not sear Away your stagnant weakness; yet they
Removed the veil from my eyes.
My tears have never reached your Petrified hearts, but they cleansed The darkness from my inner self.

Today I am mocking at your suffering, For laughter is a raging thunder that
Precedes the tempest and never comes After it.

What do you desire, my countrymen?
Do you wish for me to show you The ghost of your countenance on The face of still water? Come, Now, and see how ugly you are!

Look and meditate! Fear has Turned your hair grey as the Ashes, and dissipation has grown Over your eyes and made them into Obscured hollows, and cowardice
Has touched your cheeks that now Appear as dismal pits in the Valley, and death has kissed Your lips and left them yellow As the autumn leaves.

What is it that you seek, my Countrymen? What ask you from Life, who does not any longer Count you among her children?
Your souls are freezing in the Clutches of the priests and Sorcerers, and your bodies Tremble between the paws of the Despots and the shedders of Blood, and your country quakesUnder the marching feet of the Conquering enemy; what may you Expect even though you stand Proudly before the face of the Sun? Your swords are sheathed With rust, and your spears are Broken, and your shields are
Laden with gaps, why, then, do You stand in the field of battle?

Hypocrisy is your religion, and Falsehood is your life, and Nothingness is your ending; why, Then, are you living? Is not Death the sole comfort of the

Life is a resolution that Accompanies youth, and a diligence That follows maturity, and a Wisdom that pursues senility; but You, my countrymen, were born old And weak. And your skins withered And your heads shrank, whereupon
You become as children, running Into the mire and casting stones Upon each other.

Knowledge is a light, enriching The warmth of life, and all may Partake who seek it out; but you, My countrymen, seek out darkness And flee the light, awaiting the
Coming of water from the rock, And your nation’s misery is your Crime. I do not forgive you Your sins, for you know what you Are doing.

Humanity is a brilliant river Singing its way and carrying with It the mountains’ secrets into The heart of the sea; but you, My countrymen, are stagnant Marshes infested with insects And vipers.

The spirit is a sacred blue Torch, burning and devouring The dry plants, and growing With the storm and illuminating The faces of the goddesses; but
You, my countrymen, your souls Are like ashes which the winds Scatter upon the snow, and which The tempests disperse forever in The valleys.

Fear not the phantom of death, My countrymen, for his greatness And mercy will refuse to approach Your smallness; and dread not the Dagger, for it will decline to be Lodged in your shallow hearts.

I hate you, my countrymen, because You hate glory and greatness. I Despise you because you despise Yourselves. I am your enemy, for You refuse to realize that you are The enemies of the goddesses.

The most corrupt groups in the region.

“In Lebanon, numbers are alarming as nine in ten people (92 per cent) say that they think corruption has increased. Government officials, tax officials and members of parliament are perceived to be the most corrupt groups in the region” according to the new Transparency International new survey.

“In some countries the situation is perceived to be particularly bad. In Yemen and Jordan three quarters or more of respondents (84 per cent and 75 per cent, respectively) say that they think corruption rose in the 12 months prior to the survey. This rises to over nine in ten people (92 per cent) in Lebanon, which was the highest of any place we surveyed in …. Citizens in Yemen and Lebanon think that the public sector in their country suffers from particularly widespread corruption. More than two-thirds of respondents (68 and 67 per cent, respectively) say “Most” or “All” individuals working in these institutions are corrupt, while a further quarter say that “Some” are corrupt (26 and 22 per cent, respectively). Only one in twenty (5 per cent each) thinks that the national public sector institutions are completely free from corruption …. People in Yemen and Lebanon are particularly critical of government efforts to address public sector graft. In Lebanon three-quarters (76 per cent) rate their administration’s efforts as either very or fairly bad, while in Yemen this proportion rises to nine in ten (91 per cent) …”

Rubbish job: dissatisfaction in Lebanon’s waste services Citizens in Lebanon are very critical of their government efforts at fighting corruption, with over three-quarters saying it is doing a bad job (76 per cent) in this area. Recently, many people have taken to the streets in Lebanon to protest over the government’s failure to dispose of waste in the country’s capital, Beirut, as part of the “You Stink” campaign, and public dissatisfaction is reportedly growing in the country over the extent of alleged corruption. iv Garbage collection services were stopped in some parts of the city in July 2015, after the country’s largest landfill site was closed. It took until February 2016 for the government to agree on a new site for the city’s refuse to go to – while, in the meantime, the growing piles of rubbish are causing a terrible stench and posing a significant public health risk to the city.  Campaigners blame potential corruption and political paralysis for the delay in solving the crisis. In Lebanon, refuse processing can be part of the bargain used by politicians when exchanging favours behind the scenes. The lack of transparency in such types of deals means that citizens can foot the bill for inefficient or expensive service delivery. The failure of the political system to deal swiftly with the garbage crisis has caused greater attention to be turned to such behind-the scenes-deals, as people became tired of the slow response from their elected representatives.


Citizens in Morocco, Algeria, Lebanon and Egypt are more divided on this issue. Only around a half of the citizens of these countries (from 50 to 53 per cent) agreed that ordinary people can make a difference in fighting corruption, while a sizable minority feel disempowered…  People in Lebanon are the most pessimistic; a third (32 per cent) of citizens there say that there is nothing people can do … The second most common reason why people don’t report more cases of corruption is that they feel that it won’t make a difference, as nothing will be done about it (19 per cent). In Yemen and Lebanon (26 and 30 per cent, respectively) this is particularly the case, which perhaps reflects the lack of government capacity in both these countries.

The widespread extent of corruption in Yemen, Lebanon and Sudan in particular is also considered another factor why more cases of corruption are not reported there. In these countries respondents are particularly likely to say that the reason why people don’t report is that corruption is normal and everyone does it (between 11 and 14 per cent), or that the officials to whom they would report corruption are often also involved in it (between 14 and 15 per cent). When corruption is endemic within communities it triggers a feeling of resignation and apathy, which is why greater efforts need to be made to tackle bribery and other forms of corruption head-on.

Lebanon and Yemen stand out in the region as having the most negative ratings by citizens. Since Yemen was on the verge of collapse when the survey was conducted, these ratings indicate a larger malaise within the country just prior to the civil war and the imminent crumbling of public infrastructure and services. Lebanon, which is divided along sectarian lines, has failed to produce a functioning government since the former president stepped down in 2014.The public sector suffers from high levels of corruption according to its citizens, who are critical of government efforts at fighting corruption…

Way to go my fellow Lebanese. What are you going to do about it? Will you do something about it? When will you? Municipality elections coming up in couple of days, will you start there? I doubt.

If these don’t make people seek change, what will?

lebnon-flagA parliament that extends its own term. A paralysed government. A constitutional council that colluded with an unconstitutional extension. A Vacuum in the presidency for more than a year. A disabled country due to a disabled government. No electricity. No water. No jobs. A garbage crisis. A corrupt system from top to bottom. Traffic crisis. No jobs. Crime on the rise. Over 1 million Syrian refugees in a country of only 4.5 million people. Sectarian division, terrorist cells, armed groups, …. Yet the average Lebanese is not revolting. He keeps following his traditional, religious and sectarian leaders even if he has to starve to death.

I thought after the withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon, the people will wake up, throw away those who took him to war, kept him under Syrian occupation ….. Instead, at the first opportunity, they voted those leaders in power. But hey, the Lebanese are proud of being the smartest in the region and defenders of democracy. Eh Ahlen.

Rise Above Lebanon

You have to rise above Lebanon to see its beauty. I had mixed feelings when I watched this video. I loved every scene and region (couples were left out). It reminded me why I have this deep love for this country even though when there are times I feel like I hate it with passion and lost hope in it. On the other hand, I felt sad and angry. We have a beautiful country and instead of enjoying and make it better, the Lebanese are following corrupt leaders and are divided by their sectarian sects. I still doubt that one day we will have a decent country without corruption, religious division, hate, and Zbeleh – garbage (be it real garbage or political garbage). Enjoy this short touristic ad about my beloved country and maybe one day the children of my children enjoy it from the street level and not from above.

LF-FPM Declaration of Intent

Finally, Michel Aoun and Samir Geagea met today and revealed the declaration of Intent between both parties. After the meeting Samir Geagea said:” I’m happy to be here in Rabieh (Aoun residency) … We should have this meeting years ago … The LF and FPM are the largest two Christian groups in Lebanon, if they meet they can offer a positive outcome to Lebanon … this is point zero and now the dialogue starts …. we both want a strong president for Lebanon … we both agree that special session for the parliament should start with new election law as well as Lebanese citizenship law …” From his part Aoun said:” … I can’t repeat what Geagea said but I support it … It is a positive day and a gift to the christians of Lebanon … The decision is in our hands and we don’t want to damage the relations with others …”.

Well it is a great start and I hope that the two men realize that their unity is needed now beyond anything else. They must put aside their respective parties political interest and focus on what Lebanon need instead. I hope this will not be the last meeting and things progress faster between the two parties. Maybe these guys can prove me wrong one day but so far more is needed from them. A positive step in the right direction but it’s too little. A major step must be made fast to save what is left ….

The following is the LF-FPM Declaration of Intent:

  • We stress the need to endorse an independent foreign policy while building honest ties with all countries. Israel is an enemy and we reject normalization and call for a two-state solution.
  • The two parties call for the election of a strong president who is embraced by his community and capable of reassuring the other components of the country. The two parties agree to strengthen state institutions and resort to the law to resolve any sudden dispute. They agree not to resort to arms or violence and to support the army because it is the institution that can preserve sovereignty and national security.
  • The two parties underline their commitment to the Document of National Accord that was endorsed in Taef and call for avoiding anything that would manipulate the stipulations of the Constitution.
  • The two parties stress commitment to the approach of dialogue and underline their faith in Lebanon, the coexistence formula and the Constitution. They agree to endorse the principles of sovereignty in tackling the regional issues.

Violence against Women: He shot her 20 times

She filled charges against her husband for allegedly beating her over 20 years so he emptied 20 bullets in her body. Ali al-Zein killed his wife, Sara al-Amin, using an AK47 in the suburb of Dohat Aramoun, about 10 kilometers south of Beirut.

One of the sons told Al-Jadeed TV his father had kicked his mother out of the house over the weekend following a quarrel presumably linked to her pressing domestic violence charges against him earlier this month. He said his mother returned overnight before the murder and got into a fierce argument with her husband, adding that he and his siblings woke up to the sound of gunfire, only to find their mother lying on the sofa soaked in her own blood with their father still holding his weapon. The son said his father “had been beating my mother for 20 years,” adding: “We want justice.”

How many women need to be beaten and killed to put down rules to protect women? How many deaths are needed to develop a national strategy to educate people about violence against women? Family Violence is the most common form of violence experienced by women in Lebanon.

When will this chauvinist society understand that a real man doesn’t hit a woman with even a flower????