A Nation in an Expanding Mental Ward: Is Lebanon Now Chekhov’s Ward No. Six?
Anton Chekhov’s internationally renowned “Ward No. 6” in 1892 arose from despair over Russia’s collapse into the hands of ignorant rulers, perhaps comparing the decrepit hospital of his story to the state of the country. Over a century later, his story strikes a fresh chord — now more than ever following the Beirut Blast on August 4 that turned large parts of the city to ruin. In a recent Independent Arabia article, Lebanese poet and critic Abdo Wazen went as far as to compare the tragedy to Chekhov’s “Ward No. 6,” where the corrupted and negligent staff of a provincial mental asylum bear a painful resemblance to Lebanon’s highest office holders.
Rifat Chadirji (1926-2020): Architect Who Integrated Traditional Iraqi And Modern Architectures, Then Turned to Life of Writer and Scholar
Iraq and the Arab world of avant-garde architecture has lost Rifat Chadirji, an architectural theorist, critic, and designer who played a pivotal role in the post-war modernization of Baghdad. He died due to coronavirus complications on April 10, 2020 in London at 93.
Like many Iraqi intellectuals, Chadirji suffered under the monarchy and Baathist dictatorship and was jailed twice before going into exile. His second arrest changed the course of his life, marking the end of his design career and his transition into theory and lecturing.
Many will recall the image of Alan Kurdi, the child whose death at sea became the icon of Syria’s agony when his photograph was spread across the world in 2015. Though his story is five years old, that awful photograph comes to mind these days as desperate Lebanese families follow the same path in a desperate attempt to flee the economic, political, and humanitarian storms which rule the day in their country. The recent deaths of many Lebanese, including two children on a smuggling boat headed for Cyprus, provides us with yet more heartbreaking details of the suffering of the Lebanese people.
Perhaps the August 4th explosion is the most catastrophic in Lebanon’s modern history, but let us not forget that it follows other recent explosions – financial, social, economic, and even imminent starvation.
The latest explosion is disastrous by all accounts, leaving 350,000 homeless, more than 137 dead, 5000 injured, and a large number of people still unaccounted for. Office buildings and apartments across the capital are destroyed, as well as the country’s largest port, with reconstruction estimates ranging between 12 and 15 billion dollars at a time the government cannot even secure a two-billion-dollar emergency loan.
New Anthology Empowers, Celebrates the Role of Professional Women Journalists Covering the Mideast
“Don’t shy away from writing about your community, your people, or your home country or region, so long as you uphold the highest journalistic standards,” the late David Khatell told Lebanese-British journalist Zahra Hankir, which inspired her latest work.
“Our Women on the Ground” (Harvill Secker, 2019), edited by Zahra Hankir, compiles a groundbreaking essay collection by 19 Arab and Middle Eastern female journalists, reporters, and photographers. Divided into five sections, these essays combine memoir and reportage to give perspective into the obstacles women journalists face when covering news in dangerous and oppressive countries, where they often encounter sexism and harassment. In an interview with Pen America, Hankir said, “I made sure I included a broad range of contributors in terms of their religious and cultural backgrounds: nationalities, ages, ethnicities, and political learnings. My hope was to demonstrate the diversity of the region through their stories. I worked quite closely with almost all the contributors on shaping their essays, without ever instructing or coaching them on how they should speak their own truths.”