I‘m a video artist specialising in music videos. My clients and audience are from different parts of world. I started out making videos in Beirut and moved to the international scene few years ago. In 2015 my work in Lebanon slowed down because of the economic situation (the beginning of this failed state), reaching a full stop by the end of that year. I think people in arts and entertainment get affected first during such events… I’m one of the lucky ones who was able to take their art to Europe, I can’t say the same for other fellow artists in Lebanon. The catastrophe killed my hopes of doing any future work in my home country, however my work had anyway stopped years before due the significant rise of corruption in 2015. I think every Lebanese person has experienced a love-hate relationship with Beirut. For me it was constant heartbreak until October 2019 and the revolution…Suddenly my faith in the country was restored. People like me with broken dreams were finally speaking up and rising up against this corrupt system! Not just in Lebanon but the Lebanese around the world also fuelled the uprising. This revolution was the awakening and unity we’d all been waiting for.
Women played a very significant role in the uprising, they were on the frontline! One of the famous slogans of the uprising was “the revolution is female”. This wasn’t only about taking down a rotten system but also a fight for basic rights and women’s rights are at top of the list. Today Lebanon is in great danger, a country whose people can’t decide their own fate…We are losing our freedom of speech and being held hostage by an extremist religious militia that not only threatens our fate as citizens but could put an end to the role of women in society all together. Female artists play a vital role in preserving the culture of Lebanon as a liberal country in the Arab world.
Like many other Lebanese I’m in absolute state of despair. I grew up with the sound of bombs… I thought nothing could shock me anymore but this really broke me. I have faith in the revolution but I’m well aware of the kind of criminal system we’re up against. Seeing how the people are helping the people, whilst the state does nothing, gives me hope…I include some beautiful art works that reflect the situation by the Lebanese filmmaker and actor Remie Akl.
Almost a month has passed but I still can’t process it. The death toll from the blast keeps rising. Everyday I find out about a new injury from friends and family, 40 people are still missing. I live in fear and uncertainty. I feel like we’re losing our country. The Lebanon we know has changed forever, it might become an Islamic state run by an armed militia. There is, of course, the dream of rebuilding our country together…A civil state for all the people, but it’s a long fight and will be bloody by the looks of it. I feel weak, heartbroken, and angry. The banks froze our accounts and stole our money, a few months later we became poverty stricken overnight, after the currency lost 70% of its value. A war might break out any minute. I’m trying to move my family to Europe but feel ashamed for doing so. I’m still stuck in August 4th and feel guilty for carrying on with my life. I fear that no one will be punished for the blast, just like all the other crimes in Lebanon.
I did a film with the Swiss singer/songwriter, Ajay Mathur, which is a call for action to raise awareness of the situation and raise funds for women artists in Lebanon which we made a month after the explosion.
Talk about Lebanon! Talk about Lebanon! Talk about Lebanon! And I can’t stress this enough. I feel that tragedy and violence in the Middle East isn’t met with as much uproar in western media, because the Middle East is perceived as a conflict zone and things like this happen all the time. It’s not normal to call your friends to make sure they are alive. It’s not normal that your home gets blown up and you’re suddenly on the street. It’s not normal to get shot in the eye while protesting your basic right after your government blew up your home and killed your loved ones.
Suzie Selman has set up a fundraiser for women artists in Beirut please donate if you can!