I was happy to be invited to the KIP Project this year held at the American University of Beirut (AUB), since I was extremely sick for the past week, I could only attend it on the 1st of April (I missed the first day).
*Whereas all the panelists truly inspired me and scratched my head, I will only mention those who somehow triggered my senses more than others.*
Panel (Highlighting Discrimination through Art & Media)
One of the panelists, Bahaa Harmouche, is a creative director and works on the stigmatized HIV Positive outcasts in our modern societies – more specifically the homosexual HIV Positive people in the Middle East. He speaks on behalf of them saying “Accept Us and Love Us, we are not your enemy.”
Homosexuality is still an extremely controversial issue in the Middle East where all religions completely reject it as being un-natural and devilish. Individuals are living an internal conflict day after day, especially those who belong to extremely religious families. HIV patients – often persecuted by (somewhat) hypocrites that mainly engage in the same actions they did, but were luckier to not contract such a fatal disease – victimize themselves due to their little awareness, education, and luck.
“The gay society is already marginalized in our societies. The homosexual HIV Positives are even marginalized in the gay society itself,” claimed Bahaa during his panel.
It was definitely the first time I hear such a panel – a taboo, an unspoken battle, and a condemned group by even the minority sub-culture – a courageous topic to address.
Heather Jaber, an independent researcher, discussed the fact that homosexuals are often portrayed in Lebanese series as depressed, and are sent or exiled to other countries. While this portrayal of reality has its positive aspect where it shows that these individuals are unaccepted in society, other questions arise like: why isn’t the media showing us the successful happy homosexuals in Lebanon as normal characters living with us everyday – and are WE giving them the option of either living with depression, committing suicide, or unintentionally sending them to extreme exile? Why is the sexual orientation the only layer a character is described with in Lebanese cinema and why is homosexuality the only artifact that is leading gay characters into depression?
Panel (Marginalized Groups in the Lebanese Political Sphere)
Carmen Geha and Krystel Tabet shared with us the findings of their research of the little engagments of females in the political life. “Politics is masculine” she said, “women are usually brought up in Lebanon to be honest, thinking about the benefit of the community rather than personal benefit whereas men usually possess more ego, aspire to be powerful and are more interested in politics.” Other reasons discussed were the patriarchy of sectarianism and the (debatably) little resources of women, their little effectiveness in national institutions, and their less availability (since they are mostly also mothers and house wives).
Reem Saab’s research highlighted a slight difference in the degree of political voting among men vs women (men are more likely to vote by 1.2% than women) yet a rather great-low representation of women in politics, due to lack of interest, lower chances of employment, and lower education levels.
Nada Anid, representing the NGO Women In Front, shared with us her findings of Lebanon being ranked 180/187 (in Women Parliament Representation) and 143/144 (in Women Governmental Inclusion). She states that a better Quota of women will only happen under one condition: Real Political Will.
In addition to the absence of a Feminist Block and the misconception of the role of politics, one can not but note that the seats in the Lebanese Parliament are barely fitting our politicians that are almost devouring each other for one seat, what if a WOMAN was to take that seat? Unfortunately, giving a seat to a woman is regarded as more of a gentleman act than anything else in the Lebanese government.
Perhaps these issues are disregarded in oppose to what our country is facing these days, however there exists a definite misconception of the role of politics.
Women and activists are less likely to consider politics due to the global interests/lobbies that do not appeal to the interests of such individuals. However, the KIP Project reminded all its attendees that politics is not about Russia, USA, France, or the Middle East, it is about our daily life struggles.
The representation of labor in the syndicates and unions has a direct effect on the rights of the practitioners of a certain labor force. The municipalities are responsible for the concerns of its citizens and we (and our votes) are to be blamed for the traffic jam we are stuck in every day. The government is held responsible for the tax, the double-electricity, and our endless expenses. Politics is not whether Iran and USA are on in “tsingof” or “TGIF” mode. Politics is the daily stress or distress we live with every single day.
The panel (Art as an Alternative Catalyst for Change In Lebanon) featuring the Kesserwany sisters reminded artists that usually have no interest in politics to address social change in their own creative way. Yes, even artists are responsible for fixing Lebanon, no one is exempted – not the women, not the homosexuals, and not the artists. We are all in this together.
I hope one day all Lebanese People find this as interesting as the numerous pointless memes circulating our useless whatsapp groups,