We are strangers wherever we go. We are strangers from the first breath we take when we are born in this desperate country, Lebanon, until the day we die in our exile, wherever it is, in this wide world.
We are strangers even in our hometown. We are discarded, marginalized, and unable to fit-in with that big symmetrical terrifying image that includes the entire society. We are strangers because we decided to swim against the current that does not include nor protect anyone except those who seek revenge, and are ready to fight, kill, and die for the sake of their grandiose leader. We are strangers in our homes because we cannot and will not accept to bow to the outdated heritage that is based on long-dead concepts about honor, manhood, big brothers, and fathers.
We are strangers in our villages and towns that were neglected by the state along with their schools, farms, and hospitals, and were forced to live in the dark to light the luxurious hotels and the palaces of thieves and war criminals living in the center of Lebanon. We left our towns with our heads bowed seeking education and work in Beirut, searching for a glimmer of hope for a life, even if it was much less than normal.
We are strangers in Beirut, we were like locusts attacking a city. The true Beiruti people became rare gems among the coal. Our sects made us strangers in the neighborhoods dedicated for any other sect, and poverty made us strangers in the rich neighborhoods of Beirut. Here we are, away from our hometowns, and tortured in houses that lack water, electricity and even the minimum public safety requirements.
We shed more tears and admit for the first time that despite what we have written and said about this city, and despite what we have suffered, our hearts are still strolling along Gemmayzeh Street, back and forth, unable to afford one night out in one of its bars that are filled with foreigners. We truly love Beirut, but we cannot reach it.
Nothing embraces us here except for the slums and Beirut’s poorest areas that alienate us more and more until our souls feel trapped in strange bodies and long for eternal sleep. In adolescence, we were unemployed and we used to hangout in the corners of the neighborhood. It was enough for us to have enough money for our cigarettes and weed so our day would go without any bloody fights. We thought moving to the capital, “Switzerland of the East”, would finally give us a sense of belonging to this country and reduce the cruel feeling of homesickness, how naïve we were! “Switzerland of the East” only welcomed us with never-ending waves of sadness and alienation. In Beirut, the disgusting presence of the government was clearly seen in the thugs of the security services and political parties when they assault, kill and blind us and our peers in the streets. We never utter the government’s name except when we swear and curse it every time the power goes out in our houses for more than 15 hours daily, to say the least. We are strangers in a country where we never feel the presence of its pimps except when their pompous parades walk over our bones in the streets, protected by mad dogs that do not distinguish between kids and elders who belong to the “dirty people” that will spoil the view for the biggest pimp.
We got nothing from our troubled relationship with Beirut “the center” except more alienation. The more we love it, the more it hates us. The more we write about and for it, the more it suppresses us. Beirut cruelly drains and burns our souls whenever we try to accomplish anything. We try, we cry, and we let go of ourselves for the sake of it until we reach a dead end.
We’re too frightened to commit suicide, too honorable to join and exploit a party, and too smart to turn into commanded slaves who kill their people, to defend who kills and tortures us. We are too poor to afford a living in this city of monsters, and that’s why we leave…
As simple as that, those who are lucky enough find themselves at the airport crying on their mothers shoulders, bidding them farewell, and leaving parts of their hearts with them. Then they leave towards more alienation.
We are strangers abroad, like extraneous parasites that live on bodies that are not theirs. How could we explain to the indigenous people here that we are not rich Arab tourists? That we did not make the choice to leave our country, but were expelled from it at gunpoint? We are forced to learn a new language from scratch as if we were little children. We live in daily cruelty since day one in a foreign country where we do not know how to buy a bottle of water. We endure insults for fear of expulsion, we convince ourselves that we love this new food, music and the pleasant plants in the balconies, but even those plants are foreign to us …
We did not want all of this. All we wanted when we left was survival, but today we want something simpler than that. We just want a little hug from the members of our families, to remove the mountains’ weight from our chests, which the murderous Lebanese authorities have accumulated. We wish to hear any good news from Lebanon, just one … but unfortunately, our homeland only sends us sorrow, misery, oppression and more alienation.
Over time, we get used to the shape of our new lives, our guilt begins to grow with every achievement, no matter how big the achievement is. A cruel sense of direct responsibility for all the damage that is being inflicted on our homeland, from which we were expelled, is killing us. We are being destroyed by a stark contradiction that steals our right to express any opinion or position on an event while we are abroad, for fear of being perceived as the pampered theorists.
But how could you explain to them that you are a direct victim of the injustice of your state, that instead of providing us with the simplest life requirements in our homes, they kicked us away to beg others for them?
Every heavy breath we take here, away from our families and our loved ones, is a shame on everyone in a suit or a turban in Lebanon. Every sigh that comes out of our family members when we talk to them over the phone and ask them about their situation is a new crime that is added to the endless crimes of the ruling authority in Lebanon. Every loud laugh we utter here will inevitably end up with a pang for being away from the people we love, “We wish we were with you,” we say… then we thank God we are here and not there, considering the last phrase just “child’s talk”, made up of nostalgia.
Then, amid these attempts and contradictions, came the overwhelming news yesterday: “A massive explosion in Beirut’s harbor, killing and injuring dozens, and causing great destruction and damage to the houses in the capital” As for the cause of the explosion, it is, if the claim turns out to be true, that explosive materials, which were confiscated in 2014 and have not been disposed of since then, caught fire.
This is simply a new deliberate massacre committed by the Lebanese state against its defenseless people, causing more than 100 deaths until the moment. When we say a deliberate massacre, we do not say that as a metaphor, because the deadly shipment was stored there under a judicial order in the center of the capital, near people’s homes and a few meters away from the wheat silos, the backbone of Lebanese food security. The harbor director, Hassan Quraitem, then admitted the crime when he said that he and his colleagues knew that the stored materials were dangerous, but not to that extent.
We rushed to our phones, the only way to contact the beloved ones left there, and we cried more than we spoke. We made use of the situation to cry out about all our oppression and all our woe, and we feel the pain of the blows we were stricken by this murderous, Mafioso regime since our birth, while we try to reassure ourselves that our loved ones are safe. We cry out for our deep sense of alienation since we were in the wombs of our mothers. We received photos of our people’s homes and loved ones in Beirut destroyed, photos of our friends covered with blood, photos of the house we used to live in without doors or windows, photos of those streets that have rejected us, drowned in destruction, sadness and blood smears. We shed more tears and admitted for the first time that despite what we have written and said about this city, and despite what we have suffered, our hearts are still strolling along Gemmayzeh Street, back and forth, unable to afford one night out in one of its bars that are filled with foreigners.
We truly love Beirut, but we cannot reach it.
This is simply a new deliberate massacre committed by the Lebanese state against its defenseless people, causing more than 100 deaths until now. When we say a deliberate massacre, we do not say that as a metaphor, because the deadly shipment was stored there under a judicial order in the center of the capital, near people’s homes and a few meters away from the wheat silos, the backbone of Lebanese food security.