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LEBANON: A ‘Selfie’ Protest to Stop the Violence

NICOLE SABA WRITES – It all started with a series of deadly car bombings that happened in December. Other than the target of the initial explosion – Mohammed Chatah, former Finance Minister of Lebanon – four others lost their lives that day. Among them was Mohammed Chaar, a sixteen-year-old boy, who, in his last moments, took a selfie with his friends.

Chaar had been dubbed a martyr by many, which, according to CNN, led to complete outrage and the birth of the #notamartyr campaign on social media. Hamed Sinno, a musician and participant in the movement, told Huffington Post, “this martyrdom we shroud these victims with ends up negating the actual horror of what’s happening to people in Lebanon.” Reflecting Chaar’s last picture, the movement consists of individuals posting selfies with a written message on Twitter or Facebook, depicting their feelings about the violence and instability in Lebanon. According to BBC News, Dyala Badran, one of the first to use the hashtag stated, “I kept thinking to myself this isn’t martyrhood, this is murder.” Those behind the campaign claim that the word martyr is misused by politicians in order to politicize violence and dehumanize the victims, while avoiding the need for investigating the circumstances of their deaths. A statement made by the group read, “We refuse to become martyrs. We refuse to remain victims. We refuse to die a collateral death.”

Though NBC News explains that the online protest began with the security situation in Lebanon, people have begun using it as an outlet to vent their anger about other issues, such as sectarianism and corruption, and to promote resolutions for Lebanon. One pictorial message read, “I never want to hear ‘this is Lebanon’ used as an excuse.” A prominent Lebanese blogger, Raja Farah described a sense of helplessness in the Lebanese people as he stated, “I think, a lot of people feel like we’re sitting ducks waiting for our politicians to play some kind of sick game… martyrdom actually requires a kind of self-sacrifice. You have to be willing to die for something. And a lot of these bystanders that are being killed in these attacks never actually voiced any kind of interest in dying in a certain cause.”

Like supporters of the #notamartyr campaign, we also hope the Lebanese aren’t ready to give up on their country just yet.

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