by adam rasmi in


 (Courtesy Shutterstock/The Economist)

(Courtesy Shutterstock/The Economist)

WITH only the clothes on her back and a toothbrush in her pocket, Mariney, a Mexican-American NGO worker, flew from Beirut to Cyprus in April. It was a routine visa run made by many expatriates in Lebanon before the expiry of their two-month “tourist" visas, which are free on arrival. But when Mariney was clearing customs, security officials told her she would not be allowed to return to Lebanon.

Two months earlier Mariney’s employer, a Chicago-based human rights organisation, had started the paperwork to get Mariney a work visa. That led to months of back-and-forth exchanges with a disorganised and overwhelmed Lebanese bureaucracy, ending in nothing but flagging up Mariney to the authorities.

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 Charred books in Tripoli's Al-Saeh library. (Courtesy Hussein Malla/AP) 

Charred books in Tripoli's Al-Saeh library. (Courtesy Hussein Malla/AP) 

DAYS after a fire wreaked havoc on Tripoli’s largest library, much of it is already restored. Shelf after shelf holds books neatly wrapped in plastic to protect them from the humidity. Residents from the northern Lebanese city gather in the backyard eagerly discussing the library’s reconstruction.

On January 3rd, Tripoli’s Al-Saeh library was set aflame, purportedly by Salafists, fundamentalist Muslims, after rumours circulated accusing Father Ibrahim Sarrouj, a Greek Orthodox priest and the library’s founder, of writing a pamphlet insulting Islam. Among other things, the article was alleged to say that Abu Bakr, Islam’s first caliph, the leader of the Muslim community after Muhammad’s death, once beat the prophet’s wife Aisha with a newspaper.

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by adam rasmi in


 A blood-soaked man marches in this Ashura procession. (Courtesy James Haines-Young)

A blood-soaked man marches in this Ashura procession. (Courtesy James Haines-Young)

THE excruciating wail could be heard without the microphones. On November 14th, thousands of women clad in black abayas and children watched the army of the caliph Yazid slaughter Hussein, a grandson and would-be heir of the Prophet Muhammad, in a theatrical recreation of the battle in 680 AD that split Islam into its Sunni and Shia branches. 

Below the stage in this town in southern Lebanon, groups of young men prepared themselves for a bloodier part of Ashura, as the day of mourning for Hussein’s death is known. Men used razors to carve small incisions on the scalps of the men and boys, some as young as two-years-old. Cries of “Ya Hussein, Ya Hussein” echoed through the streets as men pounded their foreheads, blood streaming down their faces.

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