Lebanese penal law allows rapists to walk free

A controversial law protecting rapists in Lebanon is expected to be reconsidered in parliament this week. Article 522 in Lebanese penal law allows men who rape women to avoid prosecution if they marry their victims.

The law can also suspend any conviction for a person who has committed rape, kidnapping, or statutory rape. The only stipulation is marrying the victim.

In December, members of the Parliamentary Committee for Administration and Justice announced an agreement to repeal the law, but a decision has not been formally made. The law must go before the full Lebanese parliament for review.

“The current law allows for a second assault on a rape survivor’s rights in the name of ‘honor’ by trapping her in a marriage with her rapist,” said Rothna Begum, Middle East women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Protecting honor should be about ensuring that attackers are punished and promoting social attitudes that support survivors of sexual violence instead of stigmatizing them.”

The renewed push to repeal and reform this law is coming from Lebanese women’s rights groups, namely Abaad, a group that has invested thousands of dollars in advertising, public campaigns and billboards to end the law. They also created the hashtag #Undress522.

Ali Awada, advocacy manager for Abaad, told Public Radio International that the group’s public service campaigns are working.

“It worked at the policy level with different decision-makers,” says Awada. “After this series of lobbying meetings, we managed to get this draft law discussed inside the parliament with different political affiliates, and the final voting will be this week, with hopefully a ‘yes’ to abolish article 522.”

Awada points to tragic examples when similar laws have resulted in serious women’s rights violations.

In a widely publicized case, a Moroccan teen committed suicide in November 2013 after her family forced her to marry her rapist, according to Al Jazeera.

The suicide happened amid 2013 efforts to repeal Moroccan penal code Article 475, which also allows rapists who marry their victims to walk free.


Hariri reportedly bans photojournalist for “unofficial” photo

BEIRUT – Prime Minister Saad Hariri has reportedly banned a Lebanese photojournalist from covering events at Beit Al Wasat, Hariri’s upscale mansion, according to a report in Global Voices.

Photojournalist Hussein Baydoun photographed Hariri with one finger in his mouth during a press conference on Oct. 20. He later posted the photo to Twitter with a comment in Arabic that translates to, “For your eyes.”

Baydoun, who works for a London-based Arabic news outlet, was reportedly told he could no longer cover Hariri’s events because the photo was “unofficial.”

Wael Yaman, director of digital and social media at the Future Movement, acknowledged on Twitter that Baydoun could no longer attend events at Beit Al Wasat.

According to a Global Voices article, the prime minister’s office said Beit Al Wasat will be restricted to “permanent reporters” only.

Baydoun’s employer, The New Arab, is standing by its photographer, according to the article.

“I am fortunate that my newspaper is next to me, offering full support,” he told a Global Voices reporter. “We need to have a real photojournalists’ syndicate that fights for our rights.”

Lebanese couple engaged after meeting for first time

(BEIRUT) — A Lebanese couple who connected on Facebook and had a long distance relationship for 10 months met face-to-face for the first time in Beirut, and were engaged moments later.

Ramez Yassine, who lives in Lebanon, and Inaam Allaham, who lives in Dearborn Heights, Mich., spent months dating through online video chats.

But when Allaham flew to Lebanon to meet Yassine for the first time, Yassine had other plans. This wasn’t just a meet-and-greet; Yassine staged a full-blown engagement party in the Beirut International Airport parking lot.


“I’ve never seen her or felt her hand, or even smelt her scent,” Yassine said, in a YouTube video posted on Oct. 5. “But somehow I’ve never felt more in love with a person like that before.”

Moments after Allaham landed in Beirut, she was engaged!

“Today is going to be the first day I ever meet her,” Yassine said, before heading to the airport. “We chatted on Skype, Tango, and every possible video audio chat you can ever think of.”

WATCH the proposal:

Austrian mountaineer climbs Baatara Gorge in Tannourine

Austrian climber David Lama chose Lebanon as the location for his latest adventure and fixed his sights on setting a route in the untouched Baatara Gorge.

It was a bold move for the 25-year-old climber and he successfully set the new route Avaatara, which is a 5.14d climb.

“If you get to travel roads that have already been discovered, you’re basically just following,” Lama said, citing the reason why he chose to visit Lebanon. “But if you go somewhere no one has ever been you’re basically in the lead and that’s something I really like.”

“Lebanon is definitely a special place, it’s somehow a little bit exotic, a place that you don’t actually plan to go to as a climber, as it’s not really on the climbing map, and that’s one factor that drove me to come here.”

David Lama climbs the first ascent of Avaatara (5.14d) in the Baatara Gorge near Tannourine, Lebanon on June 18th, 2015. (Corey Rich/Red Bull Content Pool)
David Lama climbs the first ascent of Avaatara (5.14d) in the Baatara Gorge near Tannourine, Lebanon on June 18th, 2015. (Corey Rich/Red Bull Content Pool)

The Baatara gorge sinkhole is a waterfall in Tannourine, Lebanon, which drops 255 metres into the Baatara Pothole, a cave of Jurassic limestone located on the Lebanon Mountain Trail.

Lama is the first person to ever scale the sinkhole.

37 Lebanese couples tie the knot in mass wedding

(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — A group of 37 Lebanese couples tied the knot on Sept. 6 in a mass wedding blessed by Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Beshara Boutros Rai at the Maronite Catholic Patriarchate in Bkerke.

Rai stressed the importance of a marriage “commitment,” adding that the 37 married couples should adopt a “church setting” in their new family home.

The mass wedding was organized by the Maronite League, a non-profit organization that serves Maronite Lebanese interests, according to their website.

According to Lebanon’s French language daily newspaper, L’Orient-Le Jour, the Maronite League covered the wedding expenses and offered each couple a $2,000 gift to begin their married life.

VIEW photos of the ceremony below:

Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Mar Bechara Boutros al-Rahi poses with couples who took part in a mass wedding at the Maronite Patriarchate in Bkerke on September 6, 2015.
Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Mar Bechara Boutros al-Rahi poses with couples who took part in a mass wedding at the Maronite Patriarchate in Bkerke on September 6, 2015.

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WATCH: The sights and sounds of a Lebanese revolution!

(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — A short online documentary published on Sept. 2 takes us through the historic ‘You Stink’ protests which have caught global media attention for weeks now.

Thousands of Lebanese protesters have gathered in downtown Beirut over recent weeks for the largest anti-government demonstrations in the country’s history.

Many protesters are calling for a revolution to end political corruption which has literally left Lebanon drowned in trash.

The activist group ‘You Stink’ started the movement earlier last month in response to the trash crisis, which began when residents south of Beirut barricaded a landfill to complain of toxic fumes.

The documentary was directed and shot by Jackson Allers, and edited by Inaam Attar for Audio Kultur — a self-described platform for music, art, and culture.

WATCH: You Stink Protest – Beirut, Lebanon:

Malala Yousafzai visits Lebanon; opens school for Syrian refugees

(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — Malala Yousafzai, the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, celebrated her 18th birthday in Lebanon on Sunday by opening a school for Syrian refugee girls and called on world leaders to invest in “books not bullets”.

Malala became a symbol of defiance after she was shot on a school bus in Pakistan 2012 by the Taliban for advocating girls’ rights to education. She continued campaigning and won the Nobel in 2014.

“I decided to be in Lebanon because I believe that the voices of the Syrian refugees need to be heard and they have been ignored for so long,” Malala told Reuters in a schoolroom decorated with drawings of butterflies.

The Malala Fund, a non-profit organization that supports local education projects, paid for the school in the Bekaa Valley, close to the Syrian border. It can welcome up to 200 girls aged 14 to 18.

“Today on my first day as an adult, on behalf of the world’s children, I demand of leaders we must invest in books instead of bullets,” Malala said in a speech.

Lebanon is home to 1.2 million of the 4 million refugees that have fled Syria’s war to neighboring countries. There are about 500,000 Syrian school-age children in Lebanon, but only a fifth are in formal education.

Malala Yousafzai, center, poses with girls for a picture at a school for Syrian refugee girls in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley on July 12. The Malala Fund, a non-profit organisation that supports local education projects, paid for the school in the Bekaa Valley, close to the Syrian border. (Jamal Saidi/Reuters)
Malala Yousafzai, center, poses with girls for a picture at a school for Syrian refugee girls in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley on July 12. The Malala Fund, a non-profit organisation that supports local education projects, paid for the school in the Bekaa Valley, close to the Syrian border. (Jamal Saidi/Reuters)

Lebanon, which allows informal settlements on land rented by refugees, says it can no longer cope with the influx from Syria’s four-year conflict. One in four living in Lebanon is a refugee.

The U.N. says the number of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries is expected to reach 4.27 million by the end of the year.

“In Lebanon as well as in Jordan, an increasing number of refugees are being turned back at the border,” Malala said. “This is inhuman and this is shameful.”

Her father Ziauddin said he was proud she was carrying on her activism into adulthood.

“This is the mission we have taken for the last 8-9 years. A small moment for the education of girls in Swat Valley: it is spreading now all over the world,” he said.

Malala was feted with songs and a birthday cake. Moved to tears by the girls, she was modest when asked for advice.

“They are amazing, I don’t think they need any message, I don’t think they need any other advice because they know that education is very important for them.”



Beirut lands on list of ‘7 cities that will change your life’

(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — A U.S.-based magazine has named Beirut, Lebanon among the “7 cities that will change your life” for its history, cuisine, and “haven of calm.”

Inc. magazine, founded in 1979 and based in New York City, is an American monthly publication focused on growing companies. The digital edition features fast-growing U.S. companies and tips for entrepreneurs.

The recent article published on July 2, was featured in the ‘Life’ section of the business magazine.

“Changing your scenery, if only for a short while, might be just the thing you need to trigger your personal growth and success,” wrote Peter Economy, the author of the article.

Economy encouraged Inc. readers to “abandon (their) preconceptions of the Middle East and find beauty where you’ve never looked before.”

In all of the Middle East’s turmoil, Beirut continues to stand as an untouched haven of calm. The Lebanese city has been called the “Paris of the Middle East,” a bastion of culture and light. Walk in the footsteps of the Romans and Ottomans, who once stalked the land. Chat with the street vendors on the Corniche’s four-kilometer-long seafront. Eat the food. Definitely eat the food.

Other cities on the list include:

  • Istanbul, Turkey
  • Hanoi, Vietnam
  • Cape Town, South Africa
  • Grindavík, Iceland
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Kyoto, Japan

In December 2014, Beirut was among seven cities selected as a “New7Wonders” city, beating out more than 1,000 competitors.

Lebanese-American chef competing on FOX cooking show

(DEARBORN, MI) — Lebanese-American chef Amanda Saab has made it to the final rounds of Fox’s home-cooking competition “MasterChef.”

Saab, 26, is the first Muslim woman to compete on the Fox program, hosted by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay.

Saab moved to Seattle, Wash. in 2012 from Dearborn, Mich., where she grew up baking with her mother and grandmother. Dearborn is home of one of the largest populations of Arab-Americans in the country.

One of the meals she created on “MasterChef,” lamb kafta with sumac and jalapeño-dusted potatoes, represents her Mediterranean style.

“I really love Mediterranean flavors, things that are fresh with lots of garlic and olive oil and lemon,” she told the Seattle Times. “I love that flavor profile.”

Saab started posting photos of her meals to Instagram, which resulted in friends asking for recipes. Last July, she created AmandasPlate.com and started posting recipes.

Now she’s one of the country’s up-and-coming chefs. Muslimgirl.net called her the “first headscarf-wearing chef on American prime-time television.”

The home chef winner ultimately receives a cookbook deal, $250,000 and the title of Master Chef. The competitive cooking reality show is open to amateur and home chefs.

Lebanese-American food blogger releases first cookbook

(LANSING, MI) — Michigan-based food blogger Maureen Abood is a second-generation Lebanese-American whose passion for authentic Lebanese cuisine led her into a writing career, which has helped popularize the rising trend of Lebanese food.

Abood, who grew up in Lansing, Michigan, recently penned her first cookbook called Rose Water & Orange Blossoms: Fresh & Classic Recipes from my Lebanese Kitchen (Running Press, $30).

The book is based on Abood’s award-winning blog, which is updated frequently with new recipes and family stories of Lebanese cooking.

“I think that I have a great opportunity to form a bridge, to open a door and to say, have a look at this piece of Lebanese culture — of Middle Eastern culture — because this might be not exactly what you expect,” Abood told the Lansing State Journal.

Abood said the cookbook intertwines her love of cooking with the importance of family and ethnic traditions — something that’s highly valued in Lebanese culture, she says.

Rose Water & Orange Blossoms has been described as a “love letter” to Lebanese food and a “rich” and “delicious” family story.

According to Running Press, the cookbook presents more than 100 recipes of popular Lebanese favorites with an American twist, including spiced lamb kafta burgers, avocado tabbouleh in little gems, and pomegranate rose sorbet.

Weaved throughout are the stories of Abood’s Lebanese-American upbringing and the path that led her to culinary school at Tante Marie’s Cooking School in San Francisco, California. Abood said her family is originally from Deir Mimas, a small town in south Lebanon.

“Maureen is a special kind of cookbook author – insightful, mindful of tradition, always appreciative,” said Heidi Swanson, author of Super Natural Every Day. “She uniquely uses charm, experience, warmth, and evocative storytelling to invite us into the seductive realm of her Lebanese table.”

To learn more about Abood’s cookbook, visit MaureenAbood.com.

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