A selection of articles, features and investigations undertaken in Lebanon, including a look at Lebanon's underground BDSM scene, the use of deadly Lannate poison on Beirut's streets and how one town's mayor resorted to burning trash.

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A selection of articles, mojo packages and radio pieces undertaken worldwide, including video reports on Scotland's relationship with the EU and refugee integration in Berlin.

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A collection of interviews and stories on the refugee crisis worldwide. Particular focus on Syrians now living in Scotland, told from their own perspectives.

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Lannate: Highly toxic and widely used in Lebanon


Rachel Haddad’s dog Bo was friendly, lively and large, weighing in at 45 kilos. When out for a walk with her mother and young nephew this summer, Bo swallowed a pellet off the ground. He was dead in 12 minutes.

That pellet, according to an autopsy done by the Haddad’s vet, turned out to be Lannate, the trade name for Methomyl; a broad spectrum insecticide designed in 1966 to treat agricultural crops. It is highly toxic to animals and humans, particularly if ingested or absorbed through the eyes.

In fact, the substance is so toxic that even if someone were to pick up a pellet with his/her bare skin there would be some reaction. It is regularly found to be the cause of death of stray cats and dogs, along with pets, across Lebanon.

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Beirut’s underground BDSM scene

Sitting outside a coffee shop in Sassine, Ziad gestures to himself and says, “Look at me. Who could guess I like to whip women? ”

It’s a fair question, like other members of the clandestine Lebanese BDSM community with whom the Daily Star spoke, Ziad comes across as an average, middle-aged guy, the kind you’d expect to see at the office or chain smoking in a cafe. Human sexuality comes up in ordinary conversation often, but BDSM – an umbrella term for bondage, dominance, submission, sadism and masochism – is not a sexual preference many understand.

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Glasgow’s Story: A very Scottish welcome

A Night of Notes (image courtesy of Owen Cook)

A Night of Notes (image courtesy of Owen Cook)

“I thought of the old bigot and the taxi man…do they really not understand? That refugee, asylum seeker, economic migrant…just make our Scotland so much more vibrant”              – extract from Tiff Griffin’s poem Nae Offence

It was a night to celebrate new arrivals, with Glasgow-based singers, songwriters and poets performing pieces inspired by locals’ welcoming letters to refugees.

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Maggie’s Story: A tiny Scottish charity in Arsal

Burnt out camp in Arsal, Lebanon in August 2014. Picture courtesy of Maggie Tookey

Burnt out camp in Arsal, Lebanon (August 2014).  Picture courtesy of Maggie Tookey

Cut off from the rest of Lebanon and accessible by just one road is Arsal, the battle front with ISIS of which you’ve probably never heard.

Largely abandoned by the Lebanese state, the north eastern town on the border with Syria has had to absorb, at a low estimate, over 80,000 Syrian refugees into its population of just 35,000.

At the height of its security problems, when all other aid groups had pulled out over safety fears, it was a small, volunteer-run Scottish charity, Edinburgh Direct Aid (EDA) that was first on the scene.

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Helena’s Story: A Scot in Lesbos

Boats off Lesbos

In the first 6 months of 2015, 137,000 people crossed the Mediterranean Sea into Europe. The vast majority, according to UNHCR, were “fleeing from war, conflict or persecution.”

A third of those men, women and children who made it across the sea into Italy or Greece were from Syria.

The journey is not for the faint of heart. In April alone, 1,308 people drowned or went missing trying to cross the Mediterranean.

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Aamer’s Story: A Syrian in Scotland (part one)

Aamer keeps a handwritten note in his bedroom. He found it alongside a donated microwave when he moved to Edinburgh last month. It was a welcome note, whose anonymous writer had wished Aamer all the best in his new life in Scotland.

Aamer is not one of the Syrians who have been flown to Scotland from the camps in Lebanon and Jordan. He fled Syria at the start of 2012 and hasn’t been back since.

Over the course of three years he spent time in Egypt, Turkey, Greece, England and now, having finally received his refugee status, has decided to make new life for himself in Scotland.

His journey is one of a young, relatively well-off Syrian man, studying computer science at university to a refugee, separated from his family and starting anew in a foreign country

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Marwa’s Story: A Syrian in Scotland

Marwa is from Aleppo in Syria.

The country’s largest city, and one that has suffered greatly in power struggles between the regime and rebel forces.  At the time of writing the sole supply route to the regime-held areas of the city has been cut off by an ISIS advance, leaving hundreds of thousands stranded with the price of basic goods sky rocketing.

Marwa’s father, sister and extended family are the city, suffering the day to day “hell” of existence there. She, however, lives in Scotland with her husband and children. She was here when the war broke out, working as a teaching fellow at a Scottish university.

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Wissam’s Story: A Syrian in Scotland

Wissam is frustrated.

We’re sitting in a cafe in Edinburgh talking about how he came here from Damascus. Our interview was less interview, more informal chat – aided by his friend Keefe who he met through Re-Act.

He jokes that she is his translator – she shakes her head and explains that they have been teaching each other one word here and there.

He twirls his finger by his head – “You remember?”  – “Majnun,” she replies.

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New president for Lebanon ends political stalemate


Downtown Beirut

IT WAS political theatre writ large – four rounds of voting, two cancelled due to an extra ballot, along with a vote for Zorba the Greek and another for the wife of a former rival – but Lebanon finally has its 13th president in Michel Aoun.

Fireworks were heard across Beirut as supporters of the octogenarian former commander of the Lebanese army and Hezbollah ally celebrated his election yesterday, the 46th attempt to fill the void left when former president Michel Sleiman’s term ended back in May 2014.

After a dizzying array of about-faces, Aoun’s election brings to an end a paralysing political stalemate that has prevented parliament from legislating or holding elections, and crippled the country’s state institutions.

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