Solidarity is not a crime

By Yazan al-Saadi

In response to the latest developments, a close Syrian relative of mine said this to me:

He said: "I don't know, I'm really confused about this. I love Beirut. Its touristic sites, its summer. I love the city. I love the people. I don't know. I'm really worried. What do you think?"

Allow me here to say to him and to you, dear reader, that I think it signifies the dangerous tragedy of what is happening. The increased repression and discourses unleashed by the media and authorities is to create division. It is a classic divide-and-conquer tactic, which we have witnessed endlessly.

Let me be frank: They want to divide us - whoever we are with our nationalities, classes, ages, identities, genders, backgrounds, and more - within this tiny, cruel, lovely country we have all found ourselves living in. They want you all to squabble, fight, hate, and eat each other to deflect our energies from the real sources behind the social, political, and economic problems besieging Lebanon. They want you to hate thy neighbor, curse your friend, compete for resources, while continually denying and eroding the most basic of rights and infrastructure owed to you under the guise of security, fighting terrorism, and stability.

One has to ask: What is the value of security if I cannot wash myself with clean sweet water, or cool my body with a fan during scorching hot, humid days, or dream of an optimistic future? What is the value of stability where a woman cannot walk without being harassed, where the sidewalks are disappearing behind concrete barriers around homes of the elite, and where your income is never or barely enough to merely survive the day-to-day turmoil of life in the city? What is fighting terrorism when the threat of military trials and repression comes about for the strange ‘crime’ of simply calling for solidarity for the most vulnerable of communities in this land?

And this division allows the means to control you. You will feel anxieties, fear, and paralysis. You will find the urge to stay indoors, remain silent, bow your head low and carry on.

I understand this feeling. I truly do and I do not criticize those who feel they must do so.

But allow me to remark that if you seek something more than the fear, the division, the paralysis, and the anxieties, the best approach here is to hold on, hold on and have solidarity and compassion. I am speaking of compassion to the Syrian refugee and the Lebanese soldier, the migrant worker and the daily laborer, the young student and the seasoned grumpy elder, the activist and the citizen, those within these borders and those outside it, and all those human beings in between. Ultimately, the baton of repression will not discriminate when it comes down on all our heads.

Compassionate solidarity is a vital, radical, powerful act in this concerning times. We cannot allow them to break this, because with solidarity and compassion, all is not lost.

To quote the words of Egyptian poet Ahmad Fouad Najem: “Think, guess, work your mind. See who among us devours who. Who are they, and who are we.”

July 18, 2017

in arabic here