Beirut citizen portraits

In early 2011 I portrayed individual Beiruti citizens and asked them for short statements on how they perceive their personal situation in society.

Published in Du-Magazine 2011

I don’t want to go abroad, but I might change my mind if I don’t find a better work. For now it’s ok. Before I used to be much more enthusiastic about politics, now I’m interested but not active. I used to be an activist against the Syrians when they were still here. Being active is part of my personality, but now my energie goes more into social commitment. In my work I’m fighting for children rights! I don’t think that all of the politicians are corrupted, maybe you can find good people in any party but until now they have no voice. I’m a Christian believer but in some cases I disagree. I have my own understanding of religious concepts. With me and faith it’s like a process... My feelings towards Lebanon are very ambivalent: what I like the most is what I hate the most. Lebanese can be the most crazy and annoying people. And on the other hand: emotional but narcissistic, childish but responsible. There are contradictions in everything they do and think and feel. So sometimes I love them and sometimes I really hate them. They are self-centered and altruistic too. You won’t find an usual Lebanese mild-tempered about something. They’re always extremist about everything!

Maria, 34, psychologist

I see a similarity between the U.S. in rock’s golden age during the 1950s and 60s and the Middle East today: sexually repressed conservative societies dominated by religion and an ideological cold war. At the end of the day, sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll means freedom. We’re not a country that can handle big missions. One side wants us to spread democracy in the Middle East. The other side says that we’re the country that’s going to bring about the downfall of the Israelis and the Americans. They have been pushing the country into a state of survival. It’s an Arab thing: They always go back to the ruins and cry and remember their lovers. In Beirut it happens every decade – the city is destroyed and then rebuilt. It disappears and then reappears. That’s why it’s raw!

Carbel Haber, 33, artist

I got bored of all that bullshit, I think that they’re all running after their own interests and they try to get the people follow them. People are kept loyal with promises but will never get anything in return. At the moment I see very few reasons to stay, economically it’s not a stable place where you can grow. Beirut has become an ugly city with a lot of construction, pollution and noises. There’s not enough green. The people are sociable but not authentic. They don’t really care about each other. I think there is a stereotype about Lebanese being generous and welcoming but in reality Lebanese people keep very much to themselves, because they’re worried about what others would say or think about them and they take any opportunity they can to gossip about other people. It’s just a facade! During the war, when I was a small child, we went to England for a couple of years but then came back to Lebanon. My dad is Orthodox, my mam is Protestant, my grandmother is Maronite. I’m a Christian beliver but not affiliated to any of these. I do not practice at all! I want to go to the U.S., do a PHD in clinical psychology, get married and have my family there.

Rouba, 29, student in psychology

I am a Muslim woman who wears the veil and I am proud of my heritage. The hijab doesn‘t stop a woman from loving, living her own life, having feelings and strong emotions. My husband comes from a Maronite family but converted to Sunni Muslim before we married. But anyway we think that all people are equal and the crucial thing is how you deal with each other. To believe in one god or another only depends on the people’s personal choice! We never really thought of leaving the country but since the last war in 2006 we feel more and more disgusted by what’s happening in politics. Though, with our theater work we’re a part of a minority of people that want to keep their independence and work according to their convictions. Recently there is that hope with the young people that are demonstrating for a civil state but they’ll need quite a lot of perseverance. We also founded a group to fight against censorship. Each time we want to bring out a theater piece we have to get approvals by the Ministry of Interior and even pay for it. If you don’t, they gonna shut down the place!

Hanane, 48, theater director

I haven’t been abroad yet, maybe a roadtrip to Turkey would be nice this summer, it’s affordable. But I need to buy a car first. I love American muscle cars. When I’ll be working I’m going to buy a Dodge Challenger. I’m a social kind of guy, so I don’t think that it’s gonna be a problem for me to find a decent job. I like the way people think here, they have lots of generosity, and I love the community we live in. Of course we have some people strict and close minded but that’s their own loss. Politics, I think that’s a dump thing! Greed is so huge. They have to controle every territory, because it’s like a tribe here. Maybe we’re not civilised enough yet... We’re a Sunni Muslime family but my dad put me in a Christian’s school since I was a young child. Almost all of my friends are Christian actually, only fewer Muslims. Last year I spent Christmas Eve at a friends place: we ate near the tree, it was awesome. I don’t have problems with that! I don’t mind... we are all humans after all: we breath the same way, we talk and eat the same way. What defines us is who we are, not who we’re supposed to follow!

Houssam, 19, student in electrical engineering

I was born in Saudi Arabia because my father went there for work. We lived in a small compound with other Lebanese families, there was a swimming pool and a wide space where we could play. Then after having lived in Lebanon for six years, I left to France. It wasn’t my personal choice to leave Lebanon but my parents’. All I wanted was to stay in Lebanon with my friends and settle. But in my third year, I started appreciating my stay, and got closer to some people. Strong friendships were born and I enjoyed all the benefits of being there: culturally and artistically there were different ways of thinking and seeing things! But I always knew I’d come back: in my seventh year, I just felt it: now is the time! I love Lebanon for its energy, chaos, diversity, people, it’s ability to always struggle, certain traditions and mentalities. Though, since I came back, I realized that because of my background and my long stays abroad, I will always want to look elsewhere, discovering a new country. Also because here, we’re not there yet in anything: environment, human rights, woman and children rights, financial facilities, unemployment, good public hospitals, schools and universities. I’m a Maronite Christian and usually spend three evenings per week in the church. Recently I’ve started taking a two-months, weekly class about religions of the world: four weeks Hinduism, two Druzism, two Ismaelism, and one documentary to watch. It’s really interesting and I enjoy it.

Raghda, 28, drama teacher

My parents are Maronites and I have been raised with a strong religious background as my uncle was an archbishop. But I’m an Atheist! Maybe it’s because I lived in Saudi Arabia for 17 years and went to a French school with a secular system. With the 18 religions we have in Lebanon, I think secularism would be the only solution. I guess more than half of the people support anti-secularism, but not the powerful ones: it’s more a grassroot thing, it doesn’t really have leaders, it started as a facebook group. In Lebanon we don’t really have politicians in my point of view, they’re more traditional leaders, more than the modern sense of politicians. Most of them come from families that have dealt with politics for years, or are very rich, which made them go into politics. But, yeah, we’re in Lebanon, most of them, I think, are corrupt. And I do not feel represented by any of them. The people just follow their leaders here: they vote for the person and there is no political agenda! With how it’s done right now, I’m not sure if I would engage to change because we can see what happened to those who did: they’re in the grave right now! But it’s not about resigning, I don’t like to say that I’m pessimistic. I do believe in change but if I’m all alone I cannot do this change. If there was stability and balance, if we knew that we could have five years in a row without any political crisis, then I would stay here, because I’m attached to my country, because I belong here and it wouldn’t be the same anywhere else. You have people from all kinds of backgrounds, a mix of everything, you feel close to people more than anywhere else, you don’t have that in Europe.

Micha, 23, student in political science

This function has been disabled for Jens Schwarz.