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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Is Death Penalty the Answer?

I have been very angry lately, following rising crimes news in my country. Horrendous crimes, useless crimes, surreal crimes...
A man killing his own family, a man shooting two men to death over a bad coffee, young people killed with stray bullets fired by angry men, a young man killed coldly after a pursuit over a minor car accident, ...
 The list is too long, and heartbreaking. Crime is on the rise in our country, it's a fact.Violence is on the rise. We are in a vortex. It will end, but we're in the eye of the tornado right now.

Crime is on the rise. And every time it has the same effect: public outrage, social media backlash, and same angry and emotional request: off with their heads! kill them! hang them! free us!
I am convinced in abolition of death penalty. But my conviction, is not forcibly shared by others.
After reading many death penalty requests on my feeds, I decided to do the tough exercise of questioning my convictions (a highly recommended exercise).
What if I was doing what we usually do: only listen to what answers my conviction? What if death penalty really deters crime, sometime? What if my conviction was only based on studies backing abolition? What if public demand to kill was right? When the mass wants something, I have to acknowledge this need too!
I cannot diminish this widespread feeling. I cannot force conviction. Why not double check studies? Why not really listen to the other logic?

And this is what I have been doing for the past few weeks. I found tons of antagonist opinions. I read the pros and cons (especially the latter), I found one study that proved that death penalty deters crime backed up with numbers: each execution decreases 18 crimes... I digged deeper, intrigued. Then I found that this study is widely rejected by experts from all sides due to lack of scientific approach, some personal opinions, and lack of scientific questions not answered. For example, there is no comparison to deterrent effect of life imprisonment, no answers on would be murderers' perception(do they consider death penalty when committing a crime),...

On another side, hundreds of studies and researches done over 3 decades, with proven facts, and clear charts overflow the net, some with charts showing decrease of crimes in States abolishing death penalty, and many proving the following:
Death penalty is not linked to decrease of crimes, as abolition of death penalty is not too. 

In other words, being pro or anti death penalty is a choice, a debatable opinion, using values, beliefs and vision. But facts are there: whether you apply death penalty or not has nothing to do with crime rates. Remains ethics choice : do we value life or death? Do we think every life is precious?
This is why the world is moving towards abolition of death penalty (check map below).
Countries that abolished death penalty are not "simple minded", their crime rates are not affected. It is a political choice, sometimes not popular when a horrific crime is committed, but it is based on facts. 39 countries and US States are still applying death penalty... this did not deter crimes too.

World map of abolitionist countries: 103 total abolition-6 abolitionists for common rights crimes-49 abolitionists de facto(moratorium)-39 applying death penalty

Let's come back to the rising crime rate in Lebanon...
And let's try to answer some tough questions, away from emotions:
-Do we really think that death penalty will stop crimes?(are there proofs)?
-Do we really think it will end the growing frustration leading sometimes to commit crimes?
-Will death penalty end growing drug abuse, sometimes leading to crimes?
-Will death penalty end injustice in our system, a system that jails the least protected and spares the others?
-Will death penalty ensure equality of law enforcement, where we are all under the same roof?
-Will death penalty end the traffic crisis that bring the worst in some of us, sometimes unleashing the beast in some that become killers over a priority?
-Will death penalty end high unemployment rates among youth and all the frustration it brings, leading some to play with death ?
-Will death penalty end random guns ownership used in every silly argument?
-Will death penalty end the regional crisis affecting the core of our society on all levels, leading to unemployment, unpaid bills, poverty, anger, fear...pushing some "ready" minds to kill?
-Will death penalty stop a person with little values, and unstoppable rage, from committing a crime?
-Will death penalty affect the values system we live in leading some to play God?
-Will death penalty lead voters to choose wisely representatives that will deal with everybody equally? And enforce law and justice equally?
-Will death penalty be the trigger to change our jails? and help us create a correctional system rather than a revengeful one?
-Will death penalty become a lesson of anger management?
-Will death penalty eliminate a culture of male dominance accepting honor killing and domestic violent acts?
-Will death penalty help stop the culture of trivializing violence?

These are some the hard facts leading some to become criminals. These are some of the tough issues we need to address to change.
Problems are way too much to be resolved in revengeful acts, like death penalty, despite the fact that it might ease some pain and frustration on the spot. Revenge being a state we go through when feeling overwhelmed with injustice.
And as a mother, I can't but put myself in other parents shoes and ask for revenge when angry... But as this heartbroken lady said about the crime committed against her nephew:"would hanging the criminal bring back our son?" I come back to my senses, take a deep breath, and check twice.

We elaborated justice systems to stop our revenge urge out of anger, because we learned how devastating it can be.
Justice is cold blooded, calm, and thoughtful. It serves the mass, the common needs. It stops rage, it ends fear. Justice believes in humanity, in change, in correction.

Despite my anger, I am more than ever convinced of uselessness of death penalty as a tool to deter crime. But I know that deterring crime away from death penalty is a long process that takes energy and engagement, something many prefer not to do. Instead, they just ask for revenge: off with their heads.
Anger is a strong and dramatic feeling. It is triggered by fear, by sadness, it eats our souls. It seeks revenge to take control over what triggered it.
It is understandable, but dangerous if let alone and not questioned to see what is hiding below. I wish we always understand what lies beneath anger and rage. What we might find can lead us to think in a constructive way...

Monday, April 10, 2017

If I was that child...

Dear World,
Dear Killer,

Hope my postmortem letter finds you well along with your family, children, and beloved ones.

    My name is Ahmad, or Maryam, or Aylan, or Morcos,  or Aya, or Yasmina... you can give me any name now, since I left this world. I am that kid you raped, tortured, gassed, drowned, killed.

    I did not choose to come to this world. I was just "born". I quickly noticed that I was protected and loved by people around me. I wasn't alone, all kids around me were cherished and protected. I loved being here.

    Until the day you decided I wasn't important. The day you decided to kill me.
I keep telling myself you were surely fighting for a good cause. No one starts killing just for the pleasure of it. You kill because you are defending your values...
See, this is something that surpasses my understanding. How can you kill me to justify your right? How can you kill me for power and not blink?
Gassed twins-Khan Sheykhun-Syria, in daddy's arms

    I was asleep when you gassed me. I woke up choking. It was so hard to inhale or exhale. Everything became blurry, I was shivering, convulsing, vomiting, peeing. It took long minutes before I was relieved.
When I stopped fighting to breathe and live...
Can you try to hold your breath for me? try it until it suffocates you, until you feel you can't bear it anymore. My suffering started after that ugly feeling you're experiencing... So now you can imagine how I felt...

The youngest victim of deadly Palm Sunday in Egypt
    I was celebrating Palm Sunday when you shredded my tiny body into pieces. I was wearing my new clothes and carrying my candle. A long awaited celebration. I saw you walking the isle heading towards me. I smiled, but you did not return the smile. You had empty eyes and a closed face. I didn't have enough time to try smiling again... You disappeared in a big ball of fire taking me with you...
    I didn't know hatred and death had a human face. I was relieved so fast I forgot I had no body anymore...

    I was in the shelter, with no water, no electricity, no food, no play. But alive with my parents and family. Every time I tried to sneak out to play I was pulled back either by my mom, or by the bombing sounds. But it was okay, I trusted grown ups around me to protect me. Until the day I suddenly swallowed dust. It was all white concrete around me, and my body fell under something heavy. It took long minutes of unbearable pain, of desperate seeking for breath before I was relieved.
    Try to put a wall on your chest and face for a minute, sprinkle your face with dust...
Imagine how it feels... just try to imagine. Now you can have a glimpse of what I went through.

Suicide bombers children with their father-Damascus
   I was just playing with my sister when you told us we must die to help your cause. We trusted you as our father, so we let you wrap us with a bomb and give us instructions to go to the police station pretending we lost our parents. We both hugged you and mom and went. But once there we wanted to pee. You pressed the button then... We were everywhere on the toilet walls... or were no more... But I still don't understand why you let us go, daddy.

Aylan Kurdi alive
    I was on a makeshift boat on my mother's lap. Daddy told me we were going to live in a beautiful land, where I would never be afraid anymore. Where I would go to a beautiful school. The water was deep, cold and scary. Suddenly I slipped from their hands, and fell like everybody in the cold water. I didn't know what to do. I saw my father try to grab me, but I slipped. I started swallowing salty water. Even coughing was impossible. I fought as much as I could, but I couldn't breathe.
    All I wanted was to breathe! I could see the sky above become blurry and disappear...
 It took long minutes of unbearable pain before I was relieved.

    I thought my death would make you stop. Apologize. Empathize.
Aylan asleep
I thought by seeing my suffering you would feel such a pain that you'd say: wow stop stop stop! this is madness.  We have to find   another way.
 I thought by seeing my death live on your screen you'd be so  moved, you'd say: sorry.

You were supposed to protect me.
You were supposed to spare my life.
You were supposed to think of me when fighting for your reasons.
You were supposed to wake up from the madness when watching me die.
You were supposed to save me.

    What if I was your child? Would you kill me?
But I am your child. I am in my humanity. How could you kill your child like you did to me and not even blink? Not even be sorry? Not even stop!?

Was I supposed to grow up and become like you? Merciless? Heartless? Hateful? Angry?
Was I supposed to grow up believing that killing innocents is just "collateral damage" in wars?
Was I supposed to grow up killing in the name of a so-called value? What value is worth killing?
Was I supposed to grow up to become YOU?

    I didn't choose to live. I didn't choose to die too.  I just wasn't ready to die yet.
I wanted to live, to hug my mother, to play. I wanted to dream.
You stole everything from me. You watched me die and you moved on.

Who are you going to kill tomorrow World? Who is next on your death penalty list?
Every time you killed me I thought my death will be your wake-up call...
And every time you failed my expectations...

    I have nothing to say to you anymore. And I don't expect you to be moved by words, when broken lives won't even reach your heart.

I wish you mindfulness.
I wish you love.
I wish you inner peace.
I wish you innocence.
...Without me...

                                                                                           Not yours truly anymore,
                                                                                           Every killed child