In the austere police station, after they are asked to undress, they are told to lean forward or crouch, submitting to a medical examination to determine their sexual orientation. Who are they? People suspected of homosexuality, a punishable offense in Lebanon, a country considered far more tolerant than other Arab countries.
This humiliating practice - well-known in homosexual circles - has recently been denounced by Lebanese associations.
The two neighboring countries of Lebanon and Israel have been at odds for years, but they have one thing in common: the highest concentration of billionaires per dollar of gross domestic product. Lebanon’s six billionaires are worth a combined $13 billion, or 22% of the country’s GDP. Same goes for Israel with sixteen billionaires worth a total of $50 billion, or 22% of its GDP.
Change is nothing new for this tiny country jaded from years of strife. What was unusual was that which remained unchanged. Lebanon now had its second consecutive billionaire as prime minister. Both made their money legitimately, before they gained office. Mikati's fortune is self-made, Hariri's inherited. They are no Mubaraks.
With a population of only 4 million, Lebanon can likely claim the highest concentration of billionaires per dollar of gross domestic product.
Rival Sunni and Alawite factions fought on Saturday some of the heaviest gunbattles seen in Lebanon's second largest city since the dark days of the the civil war which ended more than two decades ago. The latest bout of fighting here in Tripoli underlines Lebanese worries that the violence that has engulfed neighboring Syria over the past year is spreading across the border, aggravating unhealed wounds from the past and stirring fresh tensions that they fear could trigger a new civil war in Lebanon.
A recent bout of deadly sectarian clashes in this northern Lebanese city has stirred fears that the turmoil of Syria's uprising is beginning to spill over the border into Lebanon.
Lebanon long has lived under the shadow of its powerful Syrian neighbor and many Lebanese say that it will be hard for this tiny Mediterranean country to escape unsinged as Syria burns.
A meeting place of civilizations since ancient times, Lebanon has become a byword in recent decades for the many kinds of conflict that come from living atop a turbulent region’s fault lines.
A civil war raged for more than 15 years between the country’s Christian, Sunni and Shiite populations that ended in 1991 only with a peace imposed by Syria’s army.
Lebanon wasn't supposed to turn out this way. In March of last year, President George W. Bush was hailing Lebanon as a shining beacon of his Administration's "democracy agenda" for the Middle East. Close to 1 million Lebanese had flooded into Beirut to demand that Syria pull its troops out of Lebanon and end its 29-year domination of the country. The U.S. State Department coined the protests the Cedar Revolution, a more folksy title than the Lebanese term, Independence Intifadeh, which smacked of radicalism.
Lebanese President Michel Sulaiman's recent visit to Saudi Arabia, his meeting with King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz and his lunch with Foreign Minister Saud Al Faisal speaks volumes about how Lebanon is struggling to escape Syrian tutelage at a time when pro-Syrian Lebanese parties are aggressively trying to drag Lebanon into Syria's current mess. Had Syrian officials got their way, then this meeting would have never happened at a time when Syrian-Saudi relations are at an all-time low.
Lebanon itself groped with greater chaos after 1982. Entering the scene for the first time was Hizballah, a group of fundamentalist Shiite Muslims established by Iranian Revolutionary Guards to oppose Israel's invasion and as part of Ayatullah Khomeini's policy of exporting the 1979 Iranian revolution. The Reagan administration pressured the Lebanese government into signing the May 17, 1983 peace agreement with Israel, and sent peacekeeping troops to Beirut.
April 13, 1975 -- one of the darkest dates in Lebanese history. An attack on a busload of Palestinians in Beirut that day sparked a civil war that would rage for 15 years, leaving some 150,000 dead, the capital divided along sectarian lines and sections of the country in ruins.