Monday, May 7, 2012

Laïque Priders take the streets!


May 6, 2012: For the third year in a row, citizens of Lebanon assumed their duties and gathered in Beirut to demand radical changes of the country's confessional system and called for a secular state where all Lebanese can be equal under the same set of laws. This year's protest focused on:

  • Enacting a unified Civil Code for the Personal Status Law. 
  • Passing the Law for Protection of Women from Family Violence submitted by KAFA to the Lebanese parliament. We denounce the parliamentary committee distortions to the law draft and demand the full adoption of Kafa’s original draft that included criminalizing marital rape. 
  • Abolishing article 522 of the penal law, which drops charges against a rapist if he marries his victim. 
  • Amending the nationality law for the full right of Lebanese women to grant their nationality to their children and spouses. 
  • Passing the Draft Law Prohibiting the Pre-Censorship on Cinema and Theatre launched by Maharat Foundation and Marsad Al-Raqaba. 
  • Withdrawing the draft law Lebanese Internet Regulation Act (LIRA) proposed by the Lebanese Ministry of Information. 

Photo Credit: Sarkis Abouzeid (Source)

The Lebanese Laïque Pride : Asecular march towards citizenship

Protestors gathered in front of Sanayeh garden in Hamra and walked together to Ain El Mraisse. This year, a remarkable new element was added to the march: a Speaker’s Corner at the corniche, where everyone and anyone was invited to speak up and answer the question: "How would you change Lebanon?" 

I was very happy to be able to make it with my one-year old daughter Mia and my sixty-one year old dad. Three generations marching for the same rights. For a better Lebanon. For a better future. 

Will Mia and her baby brother need to keep on walking for sixty-one years, like their grand-pa'? We do not know yet but one can only hope our generation can make a change, not matter how slight.

Photo Credit: Rouba Abouzeid (Source)

Some were quick to discredit the march, their main argument being it is not an organized group and the goals do not include a comprehensive political, economical and social agenda. That is correct. 

The Lebanese Laïque Pride does not pretend to be a miracle cure nor is it a political party. 

It is a popular movement that was born from the people, for the people and that insists on remaining as such. Free from the grip of politicians and their greed.

And that is where the strength of the Lebanese Laïque Pride lies, I believe. 

Organized political parties with their supposed programs and big slogans which are only heard at elections time have failed to meet the needs of the people. They are so fixated on discrediting their competition, they cannot even hear those people or comprehend their needs!

Maybe, a movement led by the people themselves can be the redeeming alternative to political campaigns driven by politicians with and for specific individuals' agendas.

I was actually a little disappointed by many people I know. To be honest, I expected to meet half my acquaintances yesterday. Only two people I personally know showed up! Two! Maybe everyone I know is indeed out of the country. Or on vacation somewhere. Who knows.

I come from a line of seculars. At our household, this is the only system we understand, despite where we come from: a town based on "families" and deeply rooted feudalism. My dad's life was threatened at the heart of his parents' home when he was a young activist, on many occasions. And yet, this is the only person he can be. This is the only person I can be. 

So we always feel very excited and empowered when we take part in secular endeavors. And we naively assume those we see everyday and who share those same values would be as eager as we are. So yes, "only two" was a disappointment to me. 

But I am not at all disappointed by the Lebanese Laïque Pride itself, far from it. So many people, young and less young, gathered in spite of the burning temperatures and walked in sweat to make their voice, a unified Lebanese voice, heard in the main streets of Beirut, but also in the smaller neighborhoods where eyes were staring from windows and balconies. 

Photo Credit: Rouba Abouzeid (Source)

No quotas. No majority. No opposition. One unified Lebanon, made of Lebanese citizens from all walks of life, fighting for one unified nation. Lebanese citizens. Citizens.

One of the most striking and painfully true chant I heard around me was "I am not a sheep"! Painfully true, because it is hard to imagine, in this day and age, we need to remind our (so-called) leaders of that fact.

My dad, the eternal optimist who believes any secular effort in the right direction launched by any group deserves our support, was extremely pleased with the turn up. He told me he is always pleasantly surprised by the new faces and young blood he meets at those events. It means secularism is not some faraway, imported concept. It is a real need. And as young minds grow and understand, they make that need their own. So it is no shock, every year, new people representing their younger generation join the fight. And we must support them in that fight for a better nation for all.

Photo Credit: Rouba Abouzeid (Source)

Political parties with their broad programs (or lack thereof, come on, you know it) can keep their wide national goals. At the Lebanese Laïque Pride we aim small (maybe) but specific and definitely achievable. We do not ask for much. But what we ask for is definitely reasonable. We do not claim to fix every problem there is in Lebanon. But we know those problems we focus on are fixable, now. And funnily enough, they do not require that much effort or any budget from our parliamentarians. Just some common sense and the will to actually make a change, not just babble about it.

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