Monday, June 8, 2009

Congratulations on "Democratic" Elections?

The results poured out late on Sunday and supporters of the March 14 coalition rushed to celebrate their victory of the majority of the 128 seats in the Lebanese Parliament. "Congratulations, Lebanon, on a peaceful, democratic elections," said every media outlet there is. Congratulations to whom? For what? Democracy? Liberalism? Secularism? What empty, hypocritical words used to describe our elections.

Congratulations, Lebanon, shining democracy of the Middle East. You have dropped from ranking 126 to 131 (out of 137) worldwide in the percentage of women in parliament. Today, we have 4 women out of 128. A few days ago we had 6. You thought that was bad? What we have now is 3.125%. Yes, that is among the lowest in the world. See the 2008 stats for yourself.

Among all the things I am fuming about right now - sectarianism being at the top of my list, I am fuming most about the amount of money spent on this elections. It was one of the most expensive elections per capita in history. Millions of dollars spent on plane tickets, leaflets, all that paper wasted, campaigns, ads, and the billboards. Yep. Who can forget the billboards? Maya Zankoul can remind you here. Sois belle et vote.. sois egale et vote.. almar2a oum wa oumma.. What a waste of the people's money, time, and intelligence.

And you know what's sarcastically funnier? The guys blame us. Yep. It's our fault we don't get engaged in politics. Why demand a quota? The floor is equally open to men and women. Women should run. And look! You got 4 women! So to run and win a seat in parliament, who cares what you want to do for women's rights. You have to ride the FPM ticket like Gilberte Zouein. You have to run for the dreams of your assassinated father like Nayla Tueni. You have to be the sister of an ex- (also assassinated) Prime Minister like Bahia Hariri. You have to be the wife of a popular party leader like Strida Geagea (only because he can't run himself).

Independently running Magda Braidy got 1966 votes in Zahle. Bravo, Magda. Good for you.

Here is the plain and simple argument for a women's quota in parliament. There are visible and invisible power dynamics that prevent women from running and even more from having a chance of winning. The overall sexism is an invisible example. Sure, you can't see it in a law or in the consitution, but it is there. Here's a simpler argument for you sectarianly-crazed Lebanese people. You love and uphold sectarian representation because - God forbid - a sect is not represented in parliament? Well, we need the same for gender representation.

Don't get me started on sectarianism right now - I am disgusted to the bone with how acceptable and important it is for Lebanese to refer to each other by their sects. It feels illegal to me. It feels like anyone who calls another person by her sect should be thrown in jail. That's how terribly it disgusts me.

Those poor lobbyists for the women's rights to nationality campaign. It’s been over 6 years of them screaming and shouting, and once again they ride the roller-coaster of empty promises. The domestic violence bill? We got excited about it for exactly 2 hours when we heard it was listed on the agenda of the Ministers’ meeting. And then it got bumped, just like that. Countless days of hard work gets thrown into the recycle bin by a mere few words from some guy in power.

And they had the nerve - both March 14ers and 8ers - to address women in their campaign and ask them to vote. And the women were ignorant enough - those hundreds of thousands of women - to volunteer countless hours for them, to go and vote for them. 3ala shou? What for? I am so disappointed in our social activists. Scratch the skin of most of them calling for women's rights and human rights and you will find a deep-rooted, subtle, malignant sectarianism and fear of the other. I am so disappointed.

This coming 4 years - just like the ones that have passed - we have to propose our plans for legal reform, for equality, for fair treatment, for all social justice to the same exact men in parliament. Either those or clones of them. And unless women get together somehow - beyond sectarian and partisan divisions - and demand (not request or ask for, but demand) equality in the true sense of the word - equality in all the visible and invisible manifestations of the word - we're not going anywhere with our rights.

So instead of wasting my time on anyone last Sunday, my friend and I drove around the polling locations in Beirut. We watched them in dismay. We got handed hundreds of little papers with candidates' names on them. We took pictures. One young woman wearing a "Je suis belle et je vote" t-shirt struck a proud pose for us in the middle of the street. It's true. She was beautiful and she had voted. And then we walked down the empty streets of Hamra and had coffee. And we drew a picture for what we thought was a truly democratic Lebanese election. And then we listed the 1million things we had to do over the next 4 years to make that a reality. And then we promised each other that we would devote every minute of our lives to fulfill that plan. And then we argued over the number of seats we wanted for women. She said 75, I said 50. We settled on 64 and then smiled at the issue we were arguing over. We have a long, corruption-infested road ahead of us.

And we'll see you in 2013.


Micheal said...

Best of luck buddy for 2013 elections. I hope you'll be able to achieve your goals pretty soon. My wishes and prayers are all there for you. Currently I am busy with avaya training, cisco training and mcts certification and I also want to do somethings for some greater cause. May ALLAH bless us all.