Friday, 10 December 2010

One side of the story

Frances Guy, Britain’s woman in Beirut, has written about the  passing on of nationality to coincide with International Human Rights Day:

Nationality: an issue of human rights
Today, 10 December is International Human Rights Day.  The Lebanese League for Women's Rights will be demonstrating downtown.  Why?  For a change in the Nationality Law.  Think about it.  The right to pass on your nationality to your child is a basic human right.  In a world governed by states and state governments you need to have an identifiable nationality otherwise you are a paperless, stateless person without rights.  Nearly 200,000 people in Lebanon today have no nationality.  That's a lot in a country of about 4 million people.   A Lebanese woman does not have the right to pass on her nationality to her children.   That is simple discrimination and in contravention of a number of international conventions.

 On those grounds alone we should all be fighting for change.  But this position of principle hides the human facts.   Imagine the situation:  you are the child of a Lebanese mother, but a foreign father and that father has since left or died.  You were born in Lebanon. You have never lived anywhere else.   Your father can't renew your nationality anymore.  You have to re-register every year as a foreigner.  You have problems getting into school, problems getting health insurance.  Later in life, getting into university is complicated.  Some jobs are forbidden to you.  But in your heart you are Lebanese.  You don't want to live anywhere else.  You can't live anywhere else. But you are not recognised as Lebanese. You are effectively stateless.  You have no rights.  

The UNDP tried to raise a campaign for change in 2009.   In Lebanon, changes in nationality get tied up with Palestinian issues.  But the statistics show that relatively few Lebanese women marry Palestinians and Lebanese men who marry Palestinian women can pass on their nationality. 

So come on....  Let's do it. Let's change this discriminatory law.   Other Arab countries have.  Why can't Lebanon? 

 Only XY's need apply

Now, that’s all well and good. I wholeheartedly support the idea of equality between men and women. My wife would beat me if I didn’t.

But… to write a piece like the above and to not mention why the nationality law hasn’t been reformed is a little weak.

Perhaps she’s trying to avoid placing her foot in her mouth, again.

Monday, 6 December 2010

It's a man's world

So, the wife forwarded me this link.

My response to her: “It sucks to be you.”



Women cannot pass on citizenship.

Women cannot leave the country if their father or husband bars them.

There are no provisions made for domestic violence.

Marital rape does not exist.

Women cannot be the aggressors in a rape case.

Women cannot conduct an ‘honour killing’. That is to say, if they kill someone to avenge a crime, for example rape, these are not counted as mitigating circumstances.

Women can be jailed for up to three years if they chose to have an abortion.

However, they will benefit from mitigating circumstances if they are having an abortion as a result of an ‘honour crime’… which directly contradicts a previous point. – According to the article, it hasn’t happened yet.

Women can be jailed for up to three years for adultery. Note, the male equivalent has to take place in the marital home and carries a sentence of 1-13 months.

If she happens to be sleeping with another woman, the potential sentence is longer (this is same for both sexes).


There are others, but those are the stand outs to me. It also gets more complex when you add in religious law.

And to think, I thought it was 2010. Apparently not.

It’s when reading articles like this that I am profoundly thankful my wife and I are married by British law. The darker side of me also reflects upon the fact that, were my children able to hold Lebanese citizenship, my (potential) daughters might at some point be subjected to the above. And, the darker side of me, in our case, is quite grateful that the first rule exists.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Cucina casalinga

I recently had the pleasure of spending an evening with friends taking in a lesson on Italian home cooking. Hidden in the tangle of side streets that make up Jaitehwey, Italian Nina Betori invites you into the privacy of her own home to pass on the secrets of Italian food.

Nina Betori

Having bounced around Italy, including stints in Rome, Milan and Sicily, and having worked in restaurants in Italy and the UK, Betori’s a mine of information when it comes to doughs, pasta, breads and everything else in Italian cuisine. Full of culinary knowhow – for example, I discovered a new (to me) way of checking if an egg is fresh, you crack it and pour it into a bowl, if there’s a relatively thick area in the white, it’s fresh, if all of the white’s a little watery, it’s gone off – Betori passes on hints and tips while answering your questions with a smile.

Pasta, or at least it will be...

In our two hour session we sat and watched as pollo panna e funghi, focaccia with tomatoes, red peppers and mozzarella, Pan Molle, frittata and dolce supreme were prepared. Obviously, we did all the hard work by wolfing it all down as soon as it hit the table.

You can help as much, or as little, as you like, the only limiting factor appeared to be the size of the group. Sitting around the table was a wonderful experience, to be honest, any thought of rolling up my sleeves and kneading dough disappeared after ten minutes, it’s simply great fun to sit, drink, eat and chat as someone who’s genuinely enthusiastic about food cooks for you.

Dinner by candlelight

While we learnt about Italian fast food (essentially because my friends and I are a lazy lot), Betori offers courses on traditional Italian meals and a specialised session in which she teaches you to make your own pasta.

As if all this isn’t enough, Betori donates a proportion of her earnings to Alpha, a Lebanese NGO aiming to implement psychosocial and educational activities for children affected by war in Tibnine.

So, you’re eating and drinking for a good cause.

And, finally, some shameless
product placement...

Give it a try, I strongly recommend it. The ingredients are included in the price and aprons are provided. Though, if you’re soaks, like us, you’ll have to bring your own booze.

Email Nina at or call her at 7 121 1891 to register for a class. Courses take placeTuesdays & Thursdays from 19:30 to 21:30 (“Italian Fast Food”)  and Saturdays from 16:30 to 18:30 (“The ItalianTraditional Twist”). Upon request catering for dinners for up to 15 people and children’s cooking classes can be organized.

You’ll soon have a chance to check out her skills in person when she performs a live cooking event at Zico House.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Phones, towers and rings

This is mainly for the non-Lebanese readers of my blog.

This article, and the information contained within it, has been the talk of the town of late.

Whatever the ramifications of the report, or even of this article, Lebanon seems set for turbulent times.

On hotels…

This weekend, the wife and I headed off to spend a night at Locanda Corsini in Naas /Bikfaya.

Following this post, I was eager to discover if I’d be tagged as a high roller with a Lebanese ‘companion’, but alas, no such excitement occurred.

We went through the usual ID handover and photocopying procedure without the receptionist batting an eye, despite the fact I handed her an AUB alumni card as my official ID and the fact that my wife and I don’t have matching family names.

I must say I was slightly disappointed. Firstly, I was looking forward to experiencing a phenomenon I’d only heard about previously, secondly, I clearly don’t look like a high roller.

Anyway, all of this leads me to think that, perhaps, slightly more expensive hotels might not enforce the policies mentioned in the previous post, even if they let the likes of me through the door.

As for the hotel, very nice. We were worried that it would be a little old fashioned and it was, to a certain extent, but it all came together nicely. The food was very good, however it was pretty pricey for what it was.

Monday, 22 November 2010


Sitting watching the parade this morning, it struck me that something quite incredible has occurred in this country since I starting coming here in 2002/2003.

I remember watching as a bemused newcomer as the furor following Rafic Hariri’s killing slowly changed into a genuine movement of unity. The, seemingly, countless bombs, deaths, pointed fingers, theories of external, internal and international actors.

Watching ‘The Gucci Revolution’ as a guest of Beirut was something to behold. The moniker was apt, but also unfair.

I remember sitting in any number of Gemmayze bars hearing the ‘inside story’ of the events, surrounded by Lebanese and foreign members of the press.

It was early days in terms of my time in Lebanon and the feeling was, genuinely, hopeful.

Sadly, these days, like so many others, I am worried for the future, but hope that the various parties involved will resolve their issues. Sectarianism is a fact of life in Lebanon, just like my home, just like my home, it needs to be addressed.