Pride of Country

One of the little things that makes Lebanon hard to love


All this morning I was haunted by this photo. On the face of it, this is a normal Lebanese school girl, happily waving her flag on Independence Day. She’s probably proud that she memorized the entire national anthem, the fruit of a mild process of indoctrination that all kids go through in Lebanon as they grow up in this country.

She probably sings happily: “سهلنا والجبل، منبت للرجال” (Our mountains and fields, birthplace of men), blissfully unaware of how literally that phrase is implemented in the land of men and Cedars. This girl, who lived and will grow up in Lebanon, whose first language is Lebanese, possibly with a regional accent, who takes a 3arous labneh to school, who plays with Lebanese kids and eats lebanese treats and sings Lebanese jingles. This girl will never get a Lebanese nationality and is a foreigner in her own country because only her mother is Lebanese. When she’s 18, she will need a visa –to be renewed every year– to live where she had lived her entire live. In theory, she could even be deported.

This gross unfairness becomes almost comical if you look at the Lebanese landscape today, with Syrian refugees making almost the quarter of the entire population. It’s almost funny to remember that the stated reason for this misogynistic law is to preserve Lebanon’s “fragile demographic balance”, where for some reason women who marry foreign men put more water in the Lebanese wine than men who marry foreign women.

This photo is also an allegory for love of country. If that girl knew what was waiting for her, she would have thrown that flag in the faces of her teachers and spat on their shoes. Instead, her mom wanted her to hold that flag and to sing the national anthem, a perfect symbol for hope in a country that is maddeningly difficult to love.

Happy National Day to you all..

Update: Imagine if that girl grows up and writes an article about her issue? Turns out you don’t have to imagine; Lama Miri wrote exactly such an article

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  • dirtykitchensecrets

    Beautifully written.

    • Mustapha

      Thanks Beth, glad you liked it..

  • Thoraiya

    I found this a hauntingly beautiful article, too. Happy National Day to you, from a dual-national Lebanese woman with a non-Lebanese husband and child.

    • Mustapha

      Thanks Thoraiya..

  • Christele Daccache

    Now this photo is haunting me. Beautifully written

  • Mac

    As my first son celebrated his second Lebanese Independence Day at daycare last week, where most kids dressed up in camouflage uniforms, and lots of the same thoughts you expressed in the article went through my head:

    Should I tell him to be proud of his country because he was born and raised in Beirut to a Lebanese mom and a foreign dad with great health care, his gramdma’s mojadara, and a loving family?

    Should I tell him to hate his country because his government treats him, his brother, his father, and his mother like foreigners – suspects to be deported at a moment’s notice?

    Should I not tell him anything and let him figure it out for himself, and try to limit the violence Lebanese politics: no military uniforms, no parades, no bs?

    Deciding between these options is not the job of a father… luckily kids (a great example is Lama in the article you referenced) are smarter that as long as we give them the chance.

  • Mac

    a couple of facts are wrong in your article and Lama’s:

    As of 3 years ago the children and spouses of Lebanese women can get 3-year renewable residency for free (this is generally accredited to former min of interior Ziad Baroud). And as of 2 years ago we can work without a work permit according to a decision made by the ministry of Labor.

  • Dania

    So well written Mustapha! What a sweet little girl. This stupid law should really be abolished.