21 February 2009

* May Chidiac

Prominent journalist and survivor of a 2005 assassination attempt that left her partially handicapped, May Chidiac delivered a surprise on-air resignation during the Tuesday-night broadcast of her LBC political talk show. The following is excerpts:
- At the end, with heartache, yes, with heartache, I have decided to leave.
- I will say it simply: The time has come for me to say goodbye.
- Last week, I underwent my 30th operation. It is not easy. The 30th operation in three years.

- When I was fighting my suffering and pain … the result of the assassination attempt on September 25, 2005, I thought a lot.

- Initially, I was pleased, and pleased with myself, and at least I was honest with myself. I challenged myself and I went back to work ten months later, and I made those who tried to silence me see they could nail neither me nor my principles, nor my mind, which has remained intact, thank God, because this is the will of God and Jesus and Saint Mary and Saint Charbel. I am convinced that God alone decides, and not the hands of treachery. Whoever dies dies because their visit is over.

- It is not we who will judge whoever plants such large quantities of explosives [in reference to the assassination attempt], but God.
- I hope the Special Tribunal will succeed in nailing them and that we will not end up like Lockerbie.
- To my colleagues in this institution, who launched a relentless war against me, I say: I go when I decide to go and not when they wage their battles, and when their battles were lost, I say that I have decided to stop.

- Thanks [head of LBC] Pierre Daher

- I challenged everyone and I challenged myself.

- But I say this with heartache, because this [LBC] is my home.

- I stop today because my dignity is at stake. [cries]

- I can no longer hold back my tears. I can no longer appear objective and against my convictions.

- I am disgusted.
- It’s ok – bear my tears. This is the last time you see these tears.
- Do not tell me to be patient.

- [Thanks her team and all those who helped her] There is a new team that joined recently, and they are shocked now, because no one had news of the decision I made.

- But at the end, I can no longer betray the blood I shed. I can no longer betray my principles and my dignity to placate anyone who is below standards, whose name I do not even know, and who prevents anyone scheduled to appear [on her show] from appearing at the last moment. I am tired of people turning off their phones minutes before they are due to appear on the program. Why? Because I committed a crime: I am a martyr, a living martyr.

- No more deception.

- I cannot say more than that. They know themselves in any case.

- No, it is not true that those who committed all these crimes are no longer in Lebanon. We can at least wait for jurisdiction to make its decision.
- Sheikh Pierre, I want to tell you: I love you. [pauses] I have only one wish, and that is that [LF leader] Samir Geagea and Pierre Daher reconcile.

- I paid my dear blood.

- Bye bye.


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Lebanon Time-Line

Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.