When Young people express themselves…



When Young people express themselves… Mohammad, rebel
Anti-USA, Anti-Israel, Anti-Imperialism, Anti-Capitalism, Guevarist, Leftist. On the homepage of his Facebook account, the tone is marked. This young rebel evolves with his own convictions in spite of the very traditional atmosphere that reigns at his parents’ home. Mohammad is 25 years old. He lives with his parents like the majority of single Lebanese young people. They live in Chiyah. His mother welcomes her guests with a huge smile. She quickly arranges the streak of hair escaping her veil. Mohammad rejects his confessional identity. Praying and fasting make no sense for this young Shiite. He evolves in a bubble of his own beyond the dogmas and the traditions of his family circle. He is an unemployed sports journalist who spends his evenings far away from the chic areas of the capital. Hamra is the cosmopolitan district of Beirut, symbol of Lebanese diversity where confessions and identities mix. At the “Baromètre”, a bar where all the leftist inhabitants of Beirut meet, Mohammad feels at home. Listening to the jazz melody of Ziad Rahbani (son of the iconic Fairouz), Mohammad makes a toast to youth is search of a better future.

Nayla, “I am what I am”
A young Lebanese woman should respect the convictions of her society. She shouldn’t live with a man before marriage. She has to be a virgin. Nayla has managed to overcome the gossips of the Lebanese traditional society – not without turmoil. She did not respect society’s rules. The young girl lives a double life but this doesn’t seem to bother her. She has forged a double identity. In Beirut and then in Québec, the young lady has been brought up between two cultures.
This afternoon Nayla is finding it hard to manage her timetable. She had to delay her appointment at the hairdresser not to miss her nail polishing session. Tonight, she’s out to party. Gemmayzé or Monot, it depends on her mood and she’ll decide once she’s there. Nayla is a delicate and discreet girl. Long hair, a malicious look that tells her story, skin-tight jeans and high heals. A brilliant law student hides behind this fashion victim. Careful. Her nights out or her love stories are not to be mentioned during Sunday family reunions. The sensitivity of traditional mentalities cannot be infringed. Is her way of life schizophrenic? Not really…At least not for several Lebanese girls.
Serge survives.
To arrive at Serge’s house, one has to wander in the streets of Bouri Hammoud. They all look like each other. But this labyrinth seems so easy for him. In the main room of his two-room apartment, the flies are teasing his dog. His 8-year-old sister is watching us from the other room. The television is the only home appliance in the house. He could have applied at the public university but his timetable wouldn’t have enabled him to continue his studies. Fatherless, the 18 year-old adolescent has to provide for a diabetic mother and a young sister. Today, he’s a newspaper deliverer. His day of work starts at 3 o’clock in the morning. He has never been a bad student at school. Given the situation, he is happy to have a secondary education certificate. He was 15 when his mother fell sick. Since there is no help from the government, he provides for his little family. Serge doesn’t know what the future holds for him. But he knows that nothing will be easy.

When Young people express themselves… Tony, views of the future.
Some would like to live their youth. Others prefer to prepare their future.
At 25 years old, Tony spends most of his time at work. At 5.30 pm he heads to the fun centre. Far from having fun, the young man works as an accountant till early morning. At 2.30 am, he leaves to have a few hours rest. A well-earned rest as at 6.00 in the morning, Tony has to wake up to arrive at work on time. He is a sales director in an industrial equipment enterprise. And what if he had followed his friends? He would have started off by failing his high school diploma, hanging around in the evenings, partying all night…The young man is caught between the desire for comfort and the need for stability. His friends describe him as courageous and persevering. His clever look melts with the steam of the Turkish coffee he is sipping. Cigarette in mouth, he tackles things with a disturbing tranquillity. The rise in housing prices and the unstable economic do not stop him from buying his own apartment. On the contrary, his friends always apprehend the future. He who seeks, finds. To those who complain about the high standards of living in the country, he replies – Zen attitude – “I have secured my future with the sweat of my brow.”

Fatima does not veil her beauty
This Saturday, Fatima has an appointment with Aya to go shopping in a trendy shopping centre in Beirut. Very fashionable, Fatima closely follows the latest trends. Lightly made up, a pair of jeans and matching heels, the 25-year-old young woman carefully chooses every single detail of her look. Out of vanity, she opts for a fuchsia veil. Her eyes outlined with kohl and her deep look, foretell a wise and radiant woman. Blonde, brunette or redhead? We will never know. Submissive woman? Never, ever. “No way” she’ll say. Very Lebanese, Fatima juggles with English, French and Arabic. She has studied translation and then became interested in journalism. People have always fascinated her. If the hijab rhymes with decency and conviction, her femininity has not suffered as such. Fatima does not bury her beauty behind the veil. Her proudly worn hijab announces her virtue; this veil merges with her personality becoming a second skin. Being attached to her values, she still doesn’t forget her vanity. A paradox? No. She has freely opted for the veil. Same thing for fashion.



Janine Ayoub
Translated into English by Elizabeth Grech
February 2010






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