Discover more from Sa'alouni El Nas
Guest Feature: Aya Majzoub
This week, former Lebanese prime minister Hassan Diab sued Lebanon over the state’s investigation into the Beirut blast in August 2020. Of course, Hassan Diab served as prime minister at the time of the blast.
Totally fine! Totally normal!
In just over a month, Judge Tarek Bitar, who is overseeing the investigation into the blast, has faced 14 separate legal challenges, primarily from former officials charged by Judge Bitar in the probe.
In classic fashion, the Lebanese political elite will do anything and everything to hamper any meaningful investigation that seeks any semblance of justice and accountability. It seemingly won’t end.
Okay friends, let’s get into it. I am honored to introduce this week’s guest feature: Aya Majzoub!
Aya is the Lebanon researcher for Human Rights Watch (HRW), based in Beirut. In her role, she has conducted a range of investigations into a broad range of issues, including the catastrophic explosion in Beirut’s port, excessive use of force against protesters during Lebanon’s October Revolution, torture in detention centers, the criminalization of peaceful speech, and the impact of the economic crisis on the right to health, education, and an adequate standard of living. Her work has appeared on local and international media, such as CNN, the BBC, Aljazeera, the New York Times, and Democracy Now. Before joining Human Rights Watch, Aya was the Deputy Head of Digital Investigations at the Commission for International Justice and Accountability, where she investigated war crimes in the Middle East and built criminal cases against high-level perpetrators implicated in war crimes and crimes against humanity. Aya holds an M.A from Harvard University and a B.A. from the University of Cambridge. In her free time, she loves to cook and surf.
I and so many others have come to rely on Aya heavily for her thorough updates on everything happening in Lebanon and courageous activism holding the Lebanese political elite accountable. It’s hard not to admire Aya for her fearlessness. Her work and her voice are absolutely invaluable, and even with everything happening in Lebanon she graciously found time to briefly escape into these musical questions (for which I am immensely grateful):
1. What is your favorite song right now?
“Ilha de Santiago” by Mayra Andrade – I first came across this song on a beautiful, sunny drive from Beirut to Anfeh and I fell in love with it. It is happy, soulful, and tropical. The song is Portuguese, so it also reminded me of one of my favorite cities in the world, Lisbon, where I used to live before moving to Beirut. Listening to the song conjures up very happy memories of Lisbon and of summer in Beirut.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
“Betwannis Beek” by Warda – this is my shower song. I blast out “Betwannis Beek” and bellydance (or try to) in the shower almost every single day. Pure happiness.
Also Anderson .Paak’s Tiny Desk Concert is probably my most played YouTube video of all time. I dare you to not smile while listening to this set.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
This is a cliché for every Lebanese person, but I have to say Fairuz. All of Fairuz’s songs, but especially “Bektob Ismak ya Habibi”. I have very vivid memories of my grandparents sitting on their balcony drinking coffee every morning, listening to Fairuz while my jeddo (grandfather) put jasmines around a piece of string for my teta (grandmother) to wear around her neck.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
Every single Britney song. She was my idol growing up (#FreeBritney). “Oops, I Did It Again” is the first CD I ever owned (and was the only for a while, pre-internet days), so I listened to the album on repeat for a good two years. Those lyrics are seared into my memory, and I would never miss a chance to belt out “Baby One More Time.”
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
“Turn Me On” by Kevin Lyttle. It is an absolute tune. Whenever, wherever, I will dance to this song.
Big shout out to Aya for joining and sharing her song selections! All of Aya’s songs are included in this week’s playlist too, so be sure to take a listen. And please, follow Aya on Twitter and keep up with her and her colleagues’ vital work at HRW.
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Flows by Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Artists 🎧
Lahab - Swani
Décalage Horreur - Raja Meziane
Online - MarSimba featuring Salvo Riggi
Bianco - Abdeelgha4 featuring NEGAPHONE
Waka Waka - Dareen featuring VoidHaze
Mamlaka - Abyusif featuring Perrie
Illi Fi Bali - Diana Haddad
Desert Rose - Saint Levant featuring Bayou
Mafi Wagt - Autostrad
Aaref Halak Meen? - Molotof featuring LAÏ
🎤 Vibes by Latinx & Hispanic Artists 🎤
Cosas De La Vida - Paloma Mami
Reasons - Desta French
Guitara - LATENIGHTJIGGY
NÓMADA - Manú featuring Beéle
Accidente - Melaner
Awipipio - La Sista featuring Brray, Joyce Santana, and Ñengo Flow
Mejor Sola - Kim Loaiza featuring Zion & Lennox
Tik Tok - Amara La Negra featuring Kairo La Sinfonia
Canción Confinada - Vozterra featuring Marta Gómez
Tu Weekend - Chesca
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
Isii Nafta - Nimco Happy
Yout - Cooley featuring Tyrellington
Pick A Side - Raiche featuring Ty Dolla $ign
Beautiful - Lana Del Rey
L’Épine - Juliette Armanet
Rockin’ That Shit - The-Dream
1080p - Elujay featuring HXNS
Lose Control - Amaria
Best Of Me (Unlocked) - Alicia Keys
Wonder Woman - WSTRN
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
Costly and Unsustainable: Where Lebanon’s COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign Went Wrong - Yara El Murr, The Public Source
“As infection rates rose with the arrival of the Delta variant, Lebanon’s multiple COVID-19 committees placed their bets on an expensive, slow, and disorganized vaccination drive. The National COVID-19 Committee committed to a chaotic, ad-hoc strategy that has already let thousands die.”
The judge leading Beirut blast probe: Discreet and defiant - Sarah El Deeb and Bassem Mrou, Associated Press
For eight months, he has quietly investigated one of the world’s worst non-nuclear explosions with only four assistants — and a lot of powerful detractors trying to block him. In that time, Judge Tarek Bitar has become a household name in Lebanon and a staple on every news bulletin.
How Corruption Ruined Lebanon - Rania Abouzeid, The New York Times Magazine
The deadly port blast, the triple-digit inflation, the energy shortages — Lebanon’s many crises have a shared root: misrule by a self-dealing elite.
These three children were killed in the Beirut blast. Their parents want to know why - Claudia Farhat, SBS News Australia
Political interference is stalling an investigation into last year's explosion at the port of Beirut. The families of those killed - including an Australian toddler - say they won't rest until they get answers.
Women’s representation in Parliament: A tale of plentiful proposals but limited political will - Rana Tabbara, L’Orient Today
In Lebanese political life, every step forward for women’s representation is usually followed by a setback.
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
This Is How to Stop the Coup in Sudan - Mai Hassan and Killian Clarke, The New York Times
“The prospects for democracy in Sudan certainly look grimmer today than they did a week ago. But all is not yet lost.”
The Festering Wounds of Yemen’s Taiz - Adam Baron, New Lines Magazine
A return to Yemen’s third-largest city sheds light on a country still reeling from war and a people struggling to heal.
'All this death for money': Kuwait’s migrant workers and the unchallenged dangers of COVID-19 - Yousef H. Alshammari, The New Arab
A recent study found migrant workers suffered over a 70% increase in mortality as COVID-19 hit Kuwait, leaving an already defenceless population to fend for themselves.
From Cradle to Grave - Louisa Loveluck and Mustafa Salim, The Washington Post
In Iraq, where civilization emerged between the Tigris and Euphrates, climate change is poisoning the land and emptying the villages.
Ali Mustafa was forcibly taken from his home in Damascus in July 2013. Eight years on, Ali’s Skype account is filled with messages from his eldest daughter, Wafa. She can clearly hold her own in this battle orchestrated by men, her story captivating the attention of international media channels, inexhaustible in her fight for justice.
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
J Balvin and Tokischa’s ‘Perra’ video removed from YouTube amid criticisms of misogynoir - Suzy Exposito, Los Angeles Times
While the inclusion of voices like Tokischa’s may herald a more socially progressive reggaeton, the overall mission of Balvin’s multinational and multiracial “Latino Gang” will require much more fine-tuning.
Arabpop: Metamorphosing Italian anti-Arabism into a creative media marvel - Farah-Silvana Kanaan, The New Arab
The anti-Arab sentiment is still persistent in Italian politics & society, but a new literary and cultural magazine aims to challenge these damaging stereotypes and orientalist framing by focusing on the everyday lives of those in the Arab world.
Who Writes the Arabian Gulf? - Noor Naga, The Common Magazine
“In a region where the majority of the population are outsiders, merely passing through, do questions of authenticity become irrelevant? Is the literary Gulf just a free for all?”
Justine Skye Is Ready To Speak For Herself - Darian Symon Harvin, Mic
Nearly a decade into her career, the teen phenom is now an industry veteran. And she's ready to make music on her own terms.
The novel ‘Dune’ had deep Islamic influences. The movie erases them. - Haris A. Durrani, The Washington Post
The resulting film is both more orientalist and less daring than its source material.
📚 Other Reads 📚
How Cities in the American North Can Reckon with Their Monuments - W. Ralph Eubanks, The New Yorker
There are no statues honoring the Confederacy to be found in Boston or Cambridge, but there are plenty of historic memorials that obscure the achievements of Black Americans.
The World ‘Has Found a Way to Do This’: The U.S. Lags on Paid Leave - Claire Cain Miller, The New York Times
The U.S. is one of six countries with no national paid leave. The Democrats have cut their plan to four weeks, which would still make it an outlier.
How Immanuel Quickley Became the Exciting New Name at Madison Square Garden - Mirin Fader, The Ringer
Quickley got to New York as something of an unknown, but after his first season, he’s become a fan favorite. Now, he’s eager to see what both he and the Knicks at large can accomplish in Year 2.
Facebook’s language gaps weaken screening of hate, terrorism - Isabel Debre and Fares Akram, Associated Press
Arabic is among the most common languages on Facebook’s platforms, and the company issues frequent public apologies after similar botched content removals.
How Climate Change and Gang Violence Intersect in Honduras - Mark Scialla, The Nation
As climate impacts worsen in this struggling country, migration increases and that puts many in danger of gang violence.