Calling for Life for Life’s Sake

The recent death of a 16-year-old has inspired an online peace-building campaign that is spreading among Lebanese youth who say they want life, not death, to be the basis of their identities.

If not for their voices, Mohammad Chaar’s death in a car bomb explosion targeting a politician could have passed into history like those of many other casualties: in resigned silence, with a few channels calling him a martyr.

But this time, that silence was broken by an online “selfie protest created by “I am not a martyr”, a grassroots initiative that rejects the label “martyr” for victims of political violence and asks Lebanese to declare instead what they want to live for. 

In homage to the carefree “selfie” Chaar posted just before he was killed, the campaign invites Lebanese to post photos of themselves with their own hand-written messages about what they want for their lives and country. These wishes include:

“I want criminals to be held accountable.”

“I want to raise my kids in Lebanon.”

“For a country without censorship. For a country that doesn’t bury teenagers. For a country that doesn’t exile talent.”

The author of the latter, Istanbul-based critic Arie Amaya-Akkermans, explains: “For me personally, it’s about not letting it go. Young Lebanese are tired of being played around. They are not sure what they want, but definitely something other than the present situation.”

For more info – I am NOT a martyr’s Facebook page

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Jennifer MacKenzie

Poet, writer and teacher Jennifer MacKenzie grew up on Bloomcrest Dr. in Bloomfield Hills, MI, which inspired her to wonder about places with patterns other than floral. Following her education at Wesleyan University's College of Letters and the University of Iowa's Writers Workshop, she followed a zig-zag course that included a pilgrimage across the top of Spain and a long sojourn in Syria in pursuit of the language of Muhammad al-Maghout and Moudthaffar al-Nawwab. While in Damascus she completed the books of poems "Distant City" and "My Not-My Soldier" (forthcoming from Fence Books) and edited the magazine Syria Today. Her poems and essays can be found in numerous journals including the Kenyon Review online, Guernica, Quarterly West, and Lungfull. She currently lives in New York.

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