The Ronny Karam Case

Opinion, sarcasm, ranting, nagging, and more

A couple of weeks ago, my younger brother decided to take his 2 three years old twins to the zoo. I was thrilled to be invited; I’ve never seen wild animals but on TV. So you can imagine my excitement… [more than the kids]

We arrived to Nahr el Kaleb, to visit the Animal City zoo;  you are immediately greeted by an awful smell as soon as you open the car’s door. But I couldn’t care less: I thought this was normal, since I’ve never visited a zoo in my life.
The tickets are 7000 L.L. ($4.67) for the adults, and 24,000L.L. ($16) for the kids, who also got 2 free small bags of rotten apples to feed the animals. That wasn’t cheap, so my expectations got even higher; I started imagining dragons in cages, breathing fire to hotdogs sticks you point at them.

And we got in.
The first cage was… chicken! 2 roosters and around 10 hens in a 2 x 2m cage that smells like a dead body.
We immediately skipped it to the next one: pigeons. Same smell. Skipped again.
3rd cage: Peafowl (white peacock). Those were nice, but the smell kept getting stronger. It felt like the cages were never cleaned before. So we took a very short look at them, and kept walking.
Donkeys? Ok. We’re in Lebanon. I don’t know about today’s kids, but I’ve seen too many donkeys in my life, and I wasn’t impressed.
I skipped those to see the lamas; the picture was on the cage’s door. But the lamas were sleeping.
A few meters away, gazelles… those were nice. But they were too afraid. So I left them alone and kept moving.

Hyenas… Woohoo… finally something new. The kids rushed to feed them apples, same way they did with every animal they’ve encountered so far. I immediately jumped in to inform them that hyenas are carnivorous animals (animal channel), as the first apple landed in the cage; one of the hyenas jumped over it and started devouring the fruit. I was completely shocked. So I picked up my phone: “Ok Google…”
Apparently, when hungry, hyenas eat anything.
We moved on, from cage to cage. Cows, monkeys, sheep, bears… wait. Bears? Excited again. A big male and female light brown bears. They were fighting for the apples.

Animal City - Brown male bear

Animal City – Brown male bear


Left to the bears’ cage, *drum roll*… lions; 2 males, probably dead, cause they didn’t move a muscle, and were sleeping (dead) on their side with their butts towards the visitors. And 1 female, laying on the floor, watching kids, like lambs, throw apples at it.
I’ve never seen real lions before, but those looked sick to me. One apple landed 2 cm away from the lion’s head: it didn’t move.
Same thing with the 2 tigers in the next cage; they didn’t move.

Those are the animals I was really looking forward to see. But for some reason it wasn’t exciting anymore. It felt disappointing. I didn’t want to see rugs. I wanted to see animals that are alive, running, jumping, roaring…

Animal City - Lions' cage - Animals half dead

Animal City – Lions’ cage – Animals half dead


The rest of the visit, I was worried about the safety of the kids, and the well-being of the animals; the zoo was so dirty. Flies everywhere. Animals looked sick. The zoo keepers were untrained, and couldn’t tell the difference between a hyena and a wolf. Electric wires were popping out of the walls.

Animal City - Electric wires popping out of the walls

Animal City – Electric wires popping out of the walls


The rest of the trip turned into a shocking scene, when we reached the ducks and geese; the water was green. Not blue, nor transparent. Green. Potato chips bags and tissues were floating on the surface.
I know the Lebanese visitors are to blame for the trash, but it’s part of the Zoo keepers job to keep the animals, their environment and their cages/pounds clean.

Animal City - Goose in green pound

Animal City – Goose in green pound


What started as an exciting day, turned into a nightmare. The animals of Animal City zoo were living the Lebanese life as well; dirty and unsafe facility, poorly fed animals (remember hyenas eating apples), and untrained staff.
We skipped the rest of the cages and pounds, and rushed to the exit as flies and the unbearable smell kicked us out.

It’s up to you to visit Animal City zoo, but it’s better if you don’t expose your kids to such scenery and risk; it’s not worth it.
If you’ve watched any reports about Lebanese jails and how prisoners are treated, you wouldn’t expect zoos to be any better, or animals to be treated well. It’s a real disaster.

Baabda forests burned - May 2014

Baabda’s forests,… or what’s left of them
Original photo by: Rony Kahwach

Nothing describes the scene of flames devouring what’s left of the green spaces in Baabda, but the tears of the very few people who actually care.

Today, fires erased what construction haven’t reached yet; thousands of square meters of “air filters”, the closest to the over polluted capital, Beirut, were wiped off in a few hours.

Every forest in Lebanon is under threat [or what’s left of the 7%]. And every time, it’s the same lame excuse: our firefighters are not well equipped.

I’m sorry. But I’m not buying this shit anymore; our firefighters are never ready, are not well trained, and are not well equipped. Equipment is the addition that makes their jobs easier, faster and more efficient. But it’s not always the cause for their failure.

I’ve been living in the area for 33 years. Every time a fire starts nibbling a forest, we immediately contact the fire departments; trucks arrive 3 to 4 hours later. What was a small fire, that can be handled easily, becomes a raging sun storm.

And where are those planes we supposedly bought to fight fires? The army helicopters… were helping. But that’s all they can do. Help. It took a helicopter 5 runs to put down the fire raging on a single tree.

Sad. It’s a really sad day for Baabda, and its surroundings.
As our politicians fight to hold on to their piece of the pie, our forests lost the fight against the fires, and soon, against the buildings which now have the right to exist where the green trees exist no more.



The Trash that binds us

Trash People of Cologne

Trash People from HA Schult in Köln / Cologne 2006
Original photo from:

The Lebanese people realized, after years of neglect, that nothing is accomplished by itself. If you want something done, you have to block a road, burn some tires or start a war [or occasionally kidnap some Turks].

For as long as I can remember [20 some years], our politicians have completely turned their eyes away from every problem facing this country; if the media doesn’t shed light over a misery [mostly for political reasons], a building collapses over its habitants, or hundreds die from food poisoning, no one would even mention anything about what the citizens of this God forsaken country are facing daily.

While Lebanon is a typical 3rd World country, and whatever happens here is completely expected [and accepted], some of its people [very very few] just had enough [the rest just nag about it].

A few days ago, people, living near by the Naameh trash dump, decided to take matters into their own hands, after 15 years. 15 years! 15 years!? [repeated intentionally, because this is how long things take in Lebanon]
After 15 years of random dumping, the toxic gases [ landfill gases ], released in the air, are causing lung cancer, especially among children [not to forget the horrible odors, the bug invasion, and the polluted water].
The “temporary” [15 years !!!] dump, which was set to only bury non recyclable materials [approx. 10% of all garbage in Lebanon], is being filled with everything; it’s the main final destination to all types of garbage collected [approx. 90%], including organic and toxic non treated material.

For once [since March 2005], Lebanese, from all types, religions, and beliefs, joined the movement; while this is excellent, it took Trash for us to agree on something useful. It took Trash to open our eyes to what Sukleen is doing to our health, soil, water and forests. It took Trash to make us realize that nothing is more important than… us; people still ignore their rights. People still praise their leaders, and believe they need them to survive.

Let’s hope, that for once, things go the way the habitants, of Naameh and its surrounding, hope.
The garbage problem in Lebanon is not just that of Naameh, and everyone is invited to join and support the movement.
If you don’t fight for your rights, no one will.


Original photo by: Dan4th Nicholas

You can say whatever you want about us, Lebanese, but we know for sure that we’re special.
You don’t have to see us as “special” as we are, and we definitely don’t care, because… We’re special […and you’re obviously jealous].

Everything we have is better. Everything we do is right. We know everything. We interpret things the way we want. We build, destroy, fall and rise again. We’re unique. And we know it. But most of all, we “Love Life”.

Bullshit… (cough..!)
[end of sarcasm]

Being so special, our society interacts in the most systematic way ever; our social behavior is governed by a series of equations [and their derivatives], which define mainly everything about our past, present and future.

“Me and my brother against my cousin; me and my cousin against strangers”, Lebanese proverb

A lot of you might be familiar with this quote, as it’s still used; what you might not know, are the invisible expressions that only a Lebanese can identify. And the proverb becomes:
Me and my brother, no matter how wrong he is, against my cousin; me and my cousin, no matter how wrong he is, against strangers.

“No matter how wrong he is…”. This is the Key.

One can argue, that he’ll be standing by his family no matter what [theoretically, depending on how tight those family bonds are], but, the proverb is just a point on a long list of predefined, programmed reactions that dictate the Lebanese behavior.

You can replace “brother” and “cousin” with anyone or anything, and the equation still stands in our community:
Me & my city [Key] against the invaders [people from other Lebanese cities].
Me & my politician [Key] against the tribes [other politicians, parties and their followers].
Me & my religion [Key] against the blasphemers [other religions, believers and non believers].
Me & my company [Key] against the incompetent [other companies and competitors].
… And the list goes on and on and on.

Those equations simply translate to self interest, blind obedience, extremism and stupidity.
There’s nothing weird [to a certain extent] about the above, till one introduces the “Key”.
“No matter how wrong he/it is”.

And through it all, the law is absent. There’s no mention of it. Mainly because no one respect the law. And for a good reason: the law, in Lebanon, is selective, and only applies to those who aren’t connected to powerful people.
Yes, in Lebanon most citizens are above the law. And this is how we wish things to stay. Not because we’re not used to be abiding citizens [check us out abroad], but because the law is written that way [by the people who break it], and because it’s fun to break the law. It gives us pleasure, power, and a laugh at those who follow the rules and obey the law.

[One can easily get away with murder, if he knows the right people.]

We can “pretend” to be smart, but we know things can’t continue like this.
We will fall again and rise… again. But, we will never move forward.
Our irresponsibility, lack of judgement and ignorance will always block our advancement as a nation.
As long as our definitions of right and wrong derive from our primitive barbaric intentions, they will alway project corruption, inequality, extremism and a misinterpretation of what being civilized is.