Another Bomb in Lebanon, Another shock

This is how it happened.


I was out on the field working on a story about the Khalil Gibran International Academy. I actually thought that is what I was going to blog about today. Then I got the phone call -from my Lebanese roomate who lives in New York as well. "Did you hear?" he asked. "There was a bomb in Beirut. A really huge one."

My heart stopped.


Like I said, this is how it always happens because this has happened quite a lot in the last year. But it has the same effect everytime: shock, sadness, and inevitably, worry -for my entire family and all my friends who live there.


So I did what I usually do: I went down my list of calls to make, starting with my father and my sister. I dial their numbers but I already know I'm never going to get through. The phone connections are so busy there, they get saturated. I send out text messages hoping I'm going to get replies.


Then I start getting bits of information -the bomb was in Sin El Fil, a Christian neighborhood of the capital -I worry a little because that's right where my best friend works. I said "I worry a little" because the truth is, when these car bombs happen, usually 2 or 3 people die, and the chances that someone you know was there are very slim. So I casually sent her a text message, just to make sure and ease my mind.


"They killed another parliement member - Antoine Ghanem," my father told me when I finally reached him on the phone. "Ok," I thought.


This is terrible. My country is falling to pieces. We're a week from the presidential election, an issue that has us on the edge for months -maybe for the last three years actually. And more parliement members from the western backed majority are being assassinated.


The third this year -the eighth since the assassination of former prime minister Rafic Hariri. A symbolic assassination which shows us that even though Syrian military and intelligence services are not on Lebanese territories anymore, even though the war with Fatah Al Islam is "over," we are still not safe from interference -and those who do not want stability in Lebanon are making sure they are getting their way.


It's even worse when you realize that people are dying for no good cause -and even worse when you know one of the people who died.


That's what happened today.


Two months ago when I was in Lebanon, MP Walid Eido was assassinated too. I went to the bomb site, as a journalist. I saw dead bodies for the first time and I let my emotions come through. But it was more sadness for my country, knowing that things would just get worse and that one more person had died in vain.


My best friend texted me back. She was ok -alive. But another one of my friends, her cousin actually, was missing. His parents had called his cell phone and a policeman answered it. The policeman was at the bomb site. He found his I.D. but couldn't tell them whether their boy was injured or dead.


The dead were almost unidentifyable, because of the powerful blast. Hours later we got confirmation -he was one of the 9 people who died in the explosion. He lost his life, like dozens and hundreds and thousands who have lost their lives in Lebanon over and over again in the last 35 years.


I thought about for a minute: why is it so different when you actually know one of those who lost their lives? They are always someone's father, someone sister, someone's friend. Someone else suffers the loss every singe time. But when it's your father, your sister or your friend, it hits you -this could really happened to anyone.


Looking at it from a distance -the really far away distance of my New York apartment- I feel helpless. There's nothing I can do and yet someone had to do something.


Because lives cannot continue to be lost in vain. This isn't just politics anymore. This is people, regular, everyday people who just want to have a country where they know they can live without the constant pressure of maybe getting killed. Being at the wrong place at the wrong time happens too often. You're not the target and yet you still lose your life.


They're going about it the old fashionned way: there's a majority in the parliement. They don't want the majority to decide of the next president. So they kill the majority party's MPs until it is no longer a majority. Maybe they want to try and kill every presidential candidate they don't like to make sure they don't get elected.


So much for democracy.

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About Yasmina Hatem

Yasmina Hatem was born in Beirut, Lebanon where she spent most of her life. She started writing for a French weekly newspaper for teenagers when she was 15 years old and has been active in journalism ever since. She attended Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism and obtained her Masters of Science in May 2007. She currently lives in New York City and works for Al Arabiya News Channel at the United Nations.

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