Medio Oriente


  • HUMAN RIGHTS: ‘People have a great desire for positive stories’

    Saleem VaillancourtCIVICUS speaks with Saleem Vaillancourt, a journalist and media producer who works to promote the rights of Iran’s Bahá’í community and to encourage positive action to realise human rights. Saleem works with the street art for social justice project,Paint the Change.

    Can you tell us how your work began?

    I work closely with the Iranian-Canadian journalist and filmmaker, Maziar Bahari. Maziar’s story is well known. He was jailed in Iran and held in solitary confinement in 2009 after covering the Iran election crisis. He was released after an international campaign and the book he wrote about his ordeal, ‘Then They Came for Me’, was made into a film, ‘Rosewater’, by Jon Stewart. Maziar was no longer simply a journalist; he was also a human rights advocate. Once released, he could talk about all the things going on in Iran that he couldn’t when he was working in Iran.

    Chief among these is the situation of the Bahá’í community, which is the largest religious minority in Iran. They are persecuted by the Iranian government because their beliefs come up against the fundamentalist interpretation of Islam practised by the government. Bahá’ís are routinely arbitrarily detained, held either without charge or under false charges and jailed. They are denied the right to go to university. There is a lot of misinformation and propaganda against them from the state media.

    I’m a Bahá’í and I worked with the Bahá’í community, and also as a journalist and in public communications, and that’s how my path crossed with Maziar. In 2014 he made a documentary, ‘To Light a Candle’, about the story of the Bahá’ís and particularly about the denial of their right to education, and their response, which was to create an informal educational project – an underground university – in which they created opportunities to educate themselves. This is a programme that for 30 years has given thousands of people an education, many of whom have gone on to pursue graduate studies in western universities. It’s a huge success and a major example of constructive resilience, or what Maziar calls peaceful resistance: meeting injustice not with conflict but by building a positive alternative to overcome the situation.

    I joined him for what was meant to be a short time to help promote his film and things grew from there. We created a campaign, ‘Education is not a Crime’, which is a street art and human rights campaign in which we use murals to talk about the story of the Bahá’í in Iran and more broadly to try to address education inequity and uneven access to education in other contexts as well.

    What are the key methods by which you work?

    We create murals, and then the murals have a social media dimension, because we share them online as videos and create local conversations, explaining why we are doing these, and especially relating what we are doing to local stories. For example we painted 20 murals in Harlem in New York, and people in this neighbourhood really saw a parallel in our work between Bahá’ís in Iran and the African-American experience of discrimination and the attempt to overcome discrimination, including in the area of education. We made a documentary about that in 2017, ‘Changing the World One Wall at a Time,’ which has been screened around the world.

    This led to an initiative in Detroit, where we’ve partnered with the City of Detroit and local schools. The city government was already working to encourage school attendance, which is something we care about in terms of access to education. They created a bus route called the ‘GOAL Line’ – GOAL stands for ‘get on and learn’ – but we observed that the bus route had no shelters, so we offered to build some shelters and put artwork on them. The artwork was created in art workshops through a partnership with local students and local artists. The works represent the community in a direct way and create a visual cue in the community around the issue of education. In this activity, we moved from the area of pure awareness-raising to a kind of indirect social action.

    We’re also starting to do a locally orientated street art project in London, producing work with local communities that celebrates local heroes, people who contribute to their community, whether they are known by their community or not. We put them on the side of buildings so they become positive stories that can encourage local young people.

    Another thing we have been doing is producing an oral history video series in the USA, about the Bahá’í community, not only about Iran but also about the work of the community to promote race unity over the past several generations. Again, this is about telling a positive story and something that perhaps helps others in US society to look again at the issue of race – something that is obviously very charged and challenging – and find other ways of addressing it.

    So that’s what I do. It’s a chance for both Maziar and I to talk about issues we think are important, but that are not limited to a focus on the Bahá’í community. Our work is at the intersection of human rights, social action and media. Sometimes it is about raising awareness or fighting instances of violations of human rights, as with the rights of the Bahá’í in Iran, but more and more now it is about finding positive stories and celebrating them through street art or a film or through other media. We want to do this in a way that can help a community see a positive version of themselves and put that at the centre of their own narrative.

    What would you say you do that is different from the conventional work of a human rights organisation?

    Because we are principally a media-driven group, we try to apply our media work to human rights issues and social issues, and we are looking to go beyond human rights awareness-raising to try to contribute to social processes in local communities. The Detroit project is an example of that. So that’s a kind of social action that’s distinct from awareness-raising as a conventional discipline.

    We are trying to do human rights work and social action work together. We see them as different sides of basically the same work. We want to reach audiences that perhaps haven’t been engaged in human rights discussions or social action before, through media and through education workshops. So our focus is not so much on informing policy-makers, but on trying to reach local communities through accessible media and artforms.

    What are the challenges faced when defending the rights of Bahá’í people in Iran?

    I am also involved in IranWire, an independent news website. I know through this that Iranian journalists are targeted. Our site was recently down for a few hours over the course of several days because of a sustained denial of service attack originating from Iran.

    Maziar is continually attacked on Twitter and by Iranian state media, as are other people we work with. Many people who have worked in the public space on the issue of the Bahá’ís are vilified by the Iranian media. When Maziar and others talk to United Nations institutions, they get criticised and there is a lot of disinformation spread about them. It’s clear that the Iranian authorities seek to discredit people through disinformation to try to limit their legitimacy in the international space when they talk about human rights issues happening inside Iran. The Iranian government attempts to control the narrative.

    Turning to your work outside Iran, what would you say the major successes and challenges have been?

    I think the big success we’ve had so far is the initiative to create the murals, especially in Harlem but also around the world: to create a story out of them, and for that story to be something that people respond to, and for us to find a way to relate that story to other situations around the world.

    In the early stage of developing these murals in New York, after we had produced one or two in Harlem, the questions of these parallels between the Bahá’ís and the African-American community started to sit up. It’s not a parallel in terms of scale or severity or even of type, but it’s a parallel in terms of individual experiences and the ideology that has created a situation. African-American people who learned about the project brought that parallel to the fore in our discussions. Here was one community that is struggling identifying with the struggle of another community, that was undergoing the kind of suffering that makes the community more empathetic and more aware of the struggles of another.

    We decided to tell that story as much as we could and in our work in Harlem to work with local artists and local community leaders as much as possible, and to hold educational workshops for young people around the creation of the murals. I think the fact that those murals became possible and were welcomed into the community, that there was the opportunity to see these parallels and to tell that story around the world, and that the story was broadcast inside Iran in Persian on satellite TV and seen by millions of people there, was probably the biggest success.

    I think there’s not so much one major challenge we have been unable to overcome, although there are things that are harder to do than others, but it’s more that nobody is particularly out there asking for anybody to do something positive. I think a lot of people have a great desire, appetite and thirst for encountering positive stories even if they address challenging issues, but it’s not something you see being asked for in market terms, and in terms of what audience there is, and what funding you can get to do projects.

    So it is a challenge to create the audience and explain our reasons for approaching our work as we do, and maintain these projects, because it’s not something that is being asked for in a commercial sense. I don’t necessarily mean commercial in terms of being driven by profit, but even non-profitable works need grants, and while there are grants that are tailored around work that tries to introduce positive narratives, it takes a lot of effort to identify them and to massage an idea into a format that would meet the requirements of a particular grant.

    What more needs to change, and what further support is needed, to enable your work to achieve even more?

    I think there are two levels. At the level of human attitudes, in general the world is in a very difficult place and much of what’s happening is turning people towards conflict. I think what needs to change – in order for the kind of stories we want to produce and tell to be more easily relatable and for people to be able to understand what we are getting at – is that people need to be orientated towards positive stories, towards sharing and finding them, and to seeing the world through the lens of positivity. This is not to deny there are negative things or pretend that everything is fine, but to say that we address a challenge or a difficulty not by more contention but by means of conciliation and friendliness. I think if people’s minds are orientated more that way they would be likelier to seek out or ask for the positive stories we try to tell. I’m not saying we’ve nailed that formula, but that’s our motivation and we’re trying to work in that direction.

    At the structural level I think the kinds of grants, and often the kinds of initiatives that organisations want to support or are asking for, need to change. Again, it is possible to do that in terms of some grants that exist, but there is a lack of a structure and approach that says: this organisation really wants to find positive stories because positive stories change the nature of a society’s view of how to deal with challenging issues.

    So much of what civil society does is about countering things that are negative. This is important work, but I also think that civil society should be going towards what it wants to see in the future. If there could be a harmonious sense across civil society about what the future ought to be, how human rights ought to be respected and what the nature of society should be in order to realise those ideals, then I think we could move towards shared civil society agendas that make it possible to work for these goals more easily.

    In the civil society space, the media space and the human rights space – and partly because we are all too busy but also because there is no clearing house or central organising system – I don’t know who in civil society would want to work in the same way. But I’d love to know more about who’s out there and what they’re doing, in order to more easily find the appropriate partners.

    Civic space in Iran is rated as ‘closed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with Paint the Change through itswebsite.


  • IRAN: Political humour as a tool against authoritarian regimes

    Ahead of the publication of the 2018 State of Civil Society Report on the theme of ‘Reimagining Democracy’, we are interviewing civil society activists and leaders about their work to promote democratic practices and principles, the challenges they encounter and the victories they score in doing so. CIVICUS speaks to the Iranian-born political cartoonist Nik Kowsar, who was jailed for his humorous criticism before eventually emigrating to Canada, where he became a citizen. A former recipient of the international Award for Courage for Editorial Cartooning, he currently resides in the United States.

    1. Would you tell us the story of that crocodile you drew, and how it changed your life?

    Iran CartoonI was born in Iran, and I had always lived in Iran until I had to get out of the country in 2003. I was a geologist by training and a cartoonist by trade. In 2000 I drew a cartoon and went to prison for it. My drawing apparently caused a national security issue: thousands of clergy students gathered and shouted for my death and they sat there for four nights, until I was arrested.

    All I had done was draw a crocodile that was shedding crocodile tears and strangling a journalist, while claiming that the journalist was killing him. The name that I gave the crocodile rhymed with the name of an ayatollah. Of course, I denied any resemblance between the two, but still, you know, there was a political message there. From that day on, I became a sponsor for Lacoste – they didn’t sponsor me, but I started buying the shirts with the crocodile logo for myself, and I always wear them as a symbol and a reminder.

    Long story short, I went to prison and underwent interrogation, and eventually I walked free. But I didn’t quit my job as a cartoonist and I started receiving death threats that eventually got serious, and in 2003 I had to escape. I had to leave my wife and daughter behind – they were only able to join me in Canada four years later, in 2007.

    2. Did you see cartoons as a safer means of expression, a way of saying some things without saying them, when speech is heavily censored?

    In Iran we used to say: ‘We have freedom of speech, what we don’t have is freedom afterspeech’. When you produce content that powerful people or organisations dislike, no matter how that content is packaged, they will try to shut you down by all means, including allegations and criminal charges like undermining national security, working with the enemy, indecency or attacking Islam. Anything can be used against you in Iran – and in other Islamic countries as well. I’ve been working with Tunisian and Palestinian cartoonists, and they all have problems with their governments.

    What is said with a cartoon is more difficult to erase than anything else: a good cartoon is even more valuable than a thousand words, because it stays in your mind for ages. A ‘joke’ is a serious matter: it goes directly to the point, it exposes the absurd. In a way, cartoonists can be the conscience, the moral compass of a society – it is not a matter of right and left, but a matter of right or wrong. So, cartoonists are very important, and it is not wonder that many governments – from Iran to Equatorial Guinea to Turkey – are trying to pressure them into silence.

    3. What have you done since leaving Iran?

    While in Canada, I studied journalism and worked with a news agency for three years. I joined IFEX in 2008, and starting in 2009 I ran a news website specifically for and about Iran. This became one of the top news websites on Iranian issues, although it was filtered and firewalled in Iran. At some point, however, we stopped getting funding; we understood that the Obama administration’s policies towards Iran, their efforts to connect with the regime, were a major reason why other organisations stopped funding us. We had to let it go.

    As a cartoonist with fibromyalgia, who has had to stop drawing as a professional, I now work with Cartoonist Rights Network International. I was once a client, now I am a board member. We are a human rights organisation, focused on the freedom of expression, and we support cartoonists in distress: cartoonists who are oppressed by the regimes in their countries, threatened, arrested or sent to prison.

    Cartoonists are vulnerable, and even more so after the Charlie Hebdo massacre. There is increasing solidarity among them, and they are better connected now, through our organisation and others – but still, they are in danger. What needs to be done is provide a means of sustenance for cartoonists who are in trouble. That’s very difficult, because non-profits are not rich, and also because a cartoonist cannot live off assistance funds forever – they need to be paid to do what they do best.

    Finally, as a geologist and an expert on Iran’s water problems, I am back to working on water issues. Iran has a big water problem, which is possibly going to create big chaos in the near future. There was an uprising in December 2017 and January 2018, and only in cities hit by water crisis and drought, where people were too desperate and felt they had nothing left to lose, were the protests not easily contained and people were killed. We will see more and more clashes in areas that are hit by drought.

    4. Do you think environmental issues, including water, should be treated as political issues?

    Most definitely. That is exactly what I am working on. Water may easily become a major political issue, in Iran and in the whole Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, an already unstable one. Iran has always been a dry country, with rainfall about a third of the median around the world. But for 3,500 years Iranians were able to manage their water resources through various technologies. Over the past 50 years, however, mega-dams and deep wells have ruined our environment and most aquifers have been depleted; as a result, 85 percent of our groundwater is now gone. Climate change has only made it worse: last year, we had 78 percent less snow storage in our mountains compared to the previous year.

    Now, Iranians may be oppressed because of their beliefs and ideas, but when there’s not enough water to drink and produce food, they have reached a tipping point. In Syria the drought worsened from 2006 to 2009, as a result of which a million people from the north-eastern provinces had to leave their lands and migrate to the margins of bigger cities. When the Arab Spring started, it sparked protests in Syria as well – but in this case, they led to civil war. We are talking about farmers and herdsmen, people who had lost their livelihoods, many of whom had joined militant groups. Factor in an intolerant, authoritarian government that could not manage the protests, and there you go. Something similar could happen in Iran.

    5. Are you saying civil war is a likely outcome for Iran? Isn’t there any way pro-democracy forces could turn the discontent in their favour?

    That’s what some of us are worrying about. Pressure for water could, maybe, lead to a democratic opening as well. We are educating the public about the water situation. Unfortunately, many political groups have no clue about environmental issues – they have never cared about them, don’t understand them and don’t see how they could connect to their political struggles. In trying to change this, I am currently working on a documentary about water, connecting the struggles with water shortages that we are seeing in places as diverse as Cape Town in South Africa, Seville in Spain and even the Vatican City and some parts of the US. Our contacts in Iran are collecting material for us and documenting the situation as well, and we are doing a collaborative bilingual project, in English and Persian, to educate the public, including academics and politicians. Because if we don’t do anything about it, rather than democracy what we will get is more uprisings, repression, and hundreds or thousands of people killed in places hit by drought.

    Civic space in Iran is rated as ‘closed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor,indicating overwhelming restrictions in the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression.

    Get in touch with Nik Kowsar through hisFacebook page, or follow@nikahang on Twitter.


  • LÍBANO: ‘Esta crisis debe manejarse con una visión feminista’

    CIVICUS conversa con Lina Abou Habib, una activista feminista basada en Beirut, Líbano, acerca de la respuesta de la sociedad civil a la emergencia causada por la explosión del 4 de agosto de 2020. Lina enseña Feminismos Globales en la Universidad Americana de Beirut, donde integra el Instituto Asfari, y preside el Colectivo de Investigación y Capacitación en Acción para el Desarrollo, una organización feminista regional que trabaja en Medio Oriente y África del Norte. También se desempeña en la junta de Gender at Work y como asesora estratégica del Fondo Mundial para la Mujer en Medio Oriente y África del Norte.

    Lina Abou Habib

    ¿Podría contarnos acerca del momento en que ocurrió la explosión?

    La explosión de Beirut ocurrió el 4 de agosto de 2020, alrededor de las 18:10 hora de Beirut. Yo estaba en mi casa y desde hacía una hora que sabía que se había producido un gran incendio en el puerto de Beirut. Cuando el fuego empezó a extenderse, el cielo se oscureció a causa del humo. Yo estaba mirando hacia afuera, y lo primero que sentí fue una sensación aterradora, similar a un terremoto, y apenas una fracción de segundo más tarde ocurrió una gran explosión. Los vidrios a mi alrededor se hicieron añicos. Me tomó un par de minutos comprender lo que acababa de suceder. Lo primero que todos hicimos fue llamar a nuestras familias y amigos cercanos para asegurarnos de que estaban bien. Todo el mundo estaba en un estado de completa incredulidad. La explosión fue tan poderosa que cada uno de nosotros sintió que había sucedido justo a nuestro lado.

    ¿Cuál fue la respuesta inmediata de la sociedad civil?

    Es importante subrayar que junto con la respuesta de la sociedad civil también hubo una respuesta individual. La gente salió a las calles para intentar ayudar a los demás. Nadie confiaba en que el Estado fuera ayudar de ninguna manera; de hecho, el Estado era el responsable de lo sucedido. Las personas asumieron la responsabilidad de ayudarse unas a otras, lo cual supuso abordar problemas inmediatos, tales como despejar las calles de escombros y hablar con otras personas para averiguar qué necesitaban, por ejemplo refugio y comida. Cerca de 300.000 personas se habían quedado sin hogar y lo habían perdido todo en una fracción de segundo. Hubo una reacción extraordinaria por parte de gente común que se dispuso a ayudar: personas con escobas y palas comenzaron a quitar los escombros y a distribuir alimentos y agua. La indignación se convirtió en solidaridad.

    Se trató de un momento de gran empoderamiento, que aún continúa. En este mismo momento hay personas voluntarias y organizaciones de la sociedad civil (OSC) que básicamente están haciéndose cargo de la situación y no solo brindan ayuda inmediata, sino que también ofrecen toda clase de apoyos a la gente en dificultades.

    Sin embargo, estos actos de solidaridad y cuidado también han sido criticados. La principal crítica ha sido que son contraproducentes porque eximen al Estado de cumplir con sus obligaciones y hacer sus deberes. Entiendo esta crítica, pero no estoy de acuerdo con ella. Para mí, los actos de solidaridad realizados por la sociedad civil y la gente común constituyeron nuestras principales historias de éxito, historias de poder y resistencia de las que es bueno hablar. Es necesario resaltar la respuesta inmediata brindada individualmente por las mismas personas que habían experimentado daños o habían perdido mucho. Las propias comunidades de trabajadores migrantes, que viven en condiciones extremas de explotación, racismo y abuso, salieron a limpiar los escombros y ayudar a otras personas. No creo que debamos ignorar el significado de estos actos de solidaridad.

    El Líbano ya estaba atravesando una profunda crisis económica, que se vio agravada aún más por la pandemia de COVID-19 y la explosión. ¿Cuáles fueron los grupos más afectados?

    Los peores efectos los sintieron quienes ya se encontraban en las situaciones más vulnerables. Un claro ejemplo de múltiples formas de discriminación que se superponen y se refuerzan entre sí es la situación de las trabajadoras migrantes en el Líbano. No es una situación nueva, sino que ya lleva décadas. Primero, las mujeres migrantes trabajan en el ámbito privado, lo cual las torna aún más invisibles y vulnerables. En segundo lugar, no hay absolutamente ninguna regla que sea obligatorio seguir para contratarlas, por lo que básicamente están a merced de sus empleadores. Se les mantiene en condiciones de cuasi esclavitud sobre la base de los denominados “contratos de patrocinio”. El aire mismo que respiran depende de la voluntad de sus empleadores y están completamente atadas a ellos. En resumen, se trata de una población de mujeres procedentes de países pobres del sur global que se desempeñan como trabajadoras domésticas y cuidadoras, posiciones que las vuelven increíblemente vulnerables al abuso. No hay leyes que las protejan, y siempre ha sido así. Por tanto, son quienes acaben siendo dejadas atrás cuando ocurre una crisis de seguridad o una crisis política.

    Tres hechos consecutivos afectaron su situación. El primero fue la revolución que se inició el 17 de octubre de 2019, un momento increíblemente importante que fue la culminación de años de activismo, y en el que también participaron las trabajadoras migrantes, que fueron apoyadas, sostenidas y orientadas por jóvenes feministas libanesas. Como resultado de ello, hubo en el seno de la revolución trabajadoras migrantes que se rebelaron contra el sistema de patrocinio, que las priva de su humanidad y las expone a condiciones de trabajo equivalentes a la esclavitud, y exigieron trabajo decente y una vida digna.

    A ello se sumaron el colapso económico y la pandemia de COVID-19, los cuales sobrevinieron cuando aún continuaban las protestas. Como resultado de la crisis económica, algunas personas optaron por no pagar los salarios de trabajadores domésticos y migrantes o, lo que es peor, simplemente se deshicieron de ellos dejándoles en la calle durante la pandemia.

    Y luego ocurrió la explosión del puerto de Beirut, que nuevamente afectó particularmente a los trabajadores migrantes. Fue una sucesión de crisis que afectaron ante todo a los trabajadores migrantes, y en particular a las mujeres, porque ya se encontraban en condiciones precarias en las que sufrían abusos, su trabajo se daba por descontado y eran luego descartados en las calles, olvidados por sus embajadas e ignorados por el gobierno libanés.

    Como activista y feminista, ¿cómo evalúa la respuesta del gobierno ante la explosión?

    No ha habido una respuesta responsable de parte del gobierno. Ni siquiera llamaría “gobierno” a esto que tenemos, sino “régimen”. Es una dictadura corrupta, un régimen autoritario que sigue simulando ser democrático e incluso progresista. El régimen dice ser la encarnación de la reforma, pero nunca la lleva a cabo. Por ejemplo, diez días después de la revolución, en octubre de 2019, el presidente se dirigió a la nación y nos prometió una ley civil de familia igualitaria, algo que las activistas feministas hemos exigido durante décadas. Fue toda una sorpresa, pero resultó que no era en serio, ya que no se ha hecho nada al respecto. Las autoridades simplemente dicen lo que creen que la gente quiere escuchar, y parecen estar convencidas de que la ciudadanía es demasiado ignorante para darse cuenta.

    De modo que debemos situar la respuesta a la explosión en el contexto del reciente levantamiento. La respuesta del gobierno a la revolución ha sido no reconocer los problemas que la gente señalaba: que había vaciado las arcas públicas, que seguía ejerciendo el nepotismo y la corrupción y, lo peor de todo, que estaba desmantelando las instituciones públicas. La única respuesta del gobierno ha sido cerrar el espacio de la sociedad civil y atacar las libertades de asociación y expresión y el derecho de protesta. He vivido en este país la mayor parte de mi vida y he pasado por una guerra civil, y creo que no hemos experimentado una represión de las libertades de la magnitud que estamos viendo ahora mismo bajo este régimen. Nunca habíamos visto que las personas fueran citadas por la policía o las instituciones de seguridad por algo que dijeron o publicaron en las redes sociales. Esto es exactamente lo que este régimen hace, y lo continúa haciendo. El presidente actúa como si tuviéramos una ley de lesa majestad y no acepta crítica alguna; quienes lo critican pagan por ello con su libertad. Es la primera vez que vemos a activistas detenidos por esta causa.

    En resumen, el régimen no ha hecho nada significativo en respuesta a la explosión. El hecho de que haya enviado al ejército a distribuir paquetes de ayuda alimentaria no tiene gran importancia. De hecho, se han negado a entregar artículos de ayuda alimentaria a personas no libanesas que fueron afectadas. Esto pone en evidencia la forma en que interactúan en este proceso sucesivas capas de corrupción, intolerancia y mala gestión.

    Tras la explosión, la gente volvió a salir a las calles a protestar. ¿Cree que las protestas han tenido algún impacto?

    El sábado siguiente a la explosión hubo gente protestando en las calles. Yo estaba allí y me asustó el despliegue de violencia de las fuerzas de seguridad.

    Ante tantas calamidades, la única razón por la que la gente no se ha volcado masivamente a las calles es la pandemia de COVID-19. En ese sentido, la pandemia ha sido para el régimen un regalo del cielo. Ha impuesto toques de queda, ha destruido las carpas que los revolucionarios habían armado en la Plaza de los Mártires y ha hecho arrestos y detenciones, todo ello con el pretexto de proteger a la gente del virus. Pero, por supuesto, no logra engañar a nadie. Los niveles de contagio aumentan en lugar de disminuir. El hecho de que el régimen sea tan corrupto que básicamente no tengamos un servicio de salud en funcionamiento, realmente no ayuda.

    Las limitaciones creadas por la pandemia y los temores de la gente por su propia salud están limitando seriamente las acciones contra el régimen; sin embargo, no creo que esto vaya a detener la revolución. La gente ya ha tenido suficiente. Mucha gente lo ha perdido todo. Y cuando te ponen contra la pared, no te queda otro lugar a donde ir como no sea hacia adelante. El régimen seguirá usando la fuerza bruta, seguirá mintiendo y administrando mal los fondos y los recursos, pero esto se está volviendo totalmente inaceptable para una porción cada vez mayor de la población.

    Creo que la movilización callejera ha tenido éxito en varios niveles. Uno puede estar en desacuerdo y señalar que el régimen todavía está en el poder, y es verdad que todavía tomará mucho tiempo para que caiga. Pero el éxito inmediato de las protestas fue que quebraron un tabú. Había una especie de halo o santidad en torno de ciertos líderes que eran considerados intocables. Ahora es obvio que ya no disfrutan de esa protección. Aunque el régimen no esté dispuesto a ceder, apenas está ganando tiempo.

    A mi modo de ver, un logro importante ha sido el rol de liderazgo desempeñado por los grupos feministas a la hora de pensar el país que queremos, los derechos y prerrogativas que reivindicamos y la forma de gobierno que deseamos. Junto a 40 organizaciones feministas publicamos una lista de demandas. Pensamos juntas y establecimos cómo debe ser una reconstrucción humanitaria desde una perspectiva feminista y estamos utilizando esto como una herramienta de incidencia ante la comunidad internacional. La forma en que estamos interviniendo indica que esta crisis debe manejarse con una visión feminista.

    Además, por primera vez la comunidad LGBTQI+ ha sido parte integral en la configuración del proceso de reforma, el proceso de transición y la configuración del país que queremos, tanto en lo que se refiere a la forma de estado como en lo que concierne a las relaciones humanas. También se ha amplificado la voz de la comunidad migrante. Para mí, estos logros son irreversibles.

    ¿Qué apoyo de la comunidad internacional necesitaría la sociedad civil de Beirut y el Líbano?

    Hay varias cosas que podrían hacer. En primer lugar, necesitamos formas tangibles de solidaridad en el campo de las comunicaciones, para amplificar nuestra voz. En segundo lugar, debemos presionar a la comunidad internacional en nombre del movimiento feminista libanés para que el régimen libanés rinda cuentas por cada centavo que recibe. Para dar un ejemplo: recibimos unos 1.700 kilos de té de Sri Lanka, pero el té ha desaparecido; parece que el presidente lo distribuyó entre los guardias presidenciales. Necesitamos la influencia y la presión de la comunidad internacional para que este régimen rinda cuentas. En tercer lugar, debemos que los principales medios de comunicación internacionales amplifiquen estas voces.

    Quiero enfatizar el hecho de que la ayuda internacional no debe estar exenta de condiciones, ya que el régimen gobernante no opera con transparencia y no rinde cuentas. Por supuesto que no le corresponde a la sociedad civil reconstruir lo dañado o poner en pie la infraestructura. Pero cada centavo que vaya dirigido al régimen para estos menesteres debe entregarse bajo condiciones de transparencia, rendición de cuentas y debida diligencia. Debe empoderarse a la sociedad civil para que desempeñe funciones de control. Esto significa que las OSC deben tener la voz y las herramientas para monitorear. De lo contrario, nada va a cambiar. La ayuda internacional se desvanecerá; sólo ayudará al régimen a prolongar su dominio mientras la ciudad permanece en ruinas.

    El espacio cívico en el Líbano es calificado de “obstruido” por elCIVICUS Monitor.
    Contáctese con el Colectivo de Investigación y Capacitación en Acción para el Desarrollo a través de supágina web, y siga a@LinaAH1 en Twitter.