By Mohanad Hage Ali
Across long, empty hallways where walls turned grey after failed attempts to paint them white, echoes of Soviet nurses’ footsteps intensify as they approach the sleeping hall of Michel Abou Rjeili and several other “patients”. The footsteps were an early warning sign for the anticipated injection, “enough to sedate an elephant”, Abou Rjeili recalls his vivid memory of this 1983 Ukranian psychiatric ward, where the word “patient” was often synonymous to “political dissident”.
Michel, then a student at Kiev’s State Theatre Institute, suffered a nervous breakdown after learning that both his parents, Fouad and Zmorroud Abou Rjeili, were among hundreds of civilians killed in a massacre in their hometown Bhamdoun at the peak of Lebanon’s Civil War. When admitted, a psychiatrist interrogated him “KGB style”, asking “no questions on the reasons behind the nervous breakdown”. After three months of injections, Abou Rjeily’s condition grabbed the attention of a visiting Lebanese Communist Party “comrade”. Checked out, he escaped Ukraine and the Soviet Union “for good”.
A North Korean delegation met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to improve relations recently, just days before the presidential elections. Assad stressed that the relations between the two countries “stem from the common destiny of their peoples.” The Official North Korean and Syrian news agencies, KCNA and SANA respectively, signed a cooperation agreement; both sides pledged “quality control” to match each other’s professional standards.
Lebanon has embarked on a magical phase of stability. Not long ago, the country was on the verge of a Civil War, with Sunni suicide bombers blowing themselves up in Shiite neighborhoods and a rabid political and media discourse, to say the least. There was no government in sight after former Prime Minister Najib Mikati resigned on March 22, 2013, while Syrian refugees crossed the million bar, a mere one fourth of the local population.