‘Zapping with the Stars’ Returns Hope to Lebanese Children with Heart Defects


Beirut – One more time, the heart of Beirut will beat with music to save 300 Lebanese children born with heart malformation. Seeking to achieve its humanitarian goal to treat children suffering from heart diseases, the Heartbeat Foundation organizes its annual musical event “Zapping with the Stars” at the Biel center in Beirut.

For two consecutive evenings, 22nd and 23rd of April, more than 100 artists including singers, musicians, and dancers participate in the concert.

The event will be preceded by a diner and an auction featuring old antiques and drawings. The auction, aiming to collect donations for children, is expected to host around 1,000 person.

Concerts will include special musical shows to honor late stars like Elvis Presley, Dalida, and Zaki Nassif – in addition to many other currently active stars like Beyoncé. Lebanese talents like Anthony Touma, Manal Mallat, and Ingrid Nakkour will have special appearances during the event. Many doctors and students also volunteered to sing in those evenings to fulfill their promise in helping children suffering from heart conditions.

Heartbeat is a Lebanese association with a mission to treat children with heart diseases. It was founded in 2005 by a group of medical doctors from Hotel-Dieu de France Hospital. After facing difficulties in providing free treatments for many children, the foundation decided to organize an annual musical event that could contribute in saving those little patients who represent 1% (up to 600 Lebanese children) every year.

Concerts’ tickets are sold at all Virgin Megastores branches for $25 up to $100.

The treatment of one child suffering from a heart birth defect costs around $5000. Till this date, Heartbeat secured the treatment for around 2,500 children, who received all kind of procedures including surgeries, catheter processes, and all the required follow-ups and medication.

All cases usually end up with success, however, five percent of the conditions can be complicated, and persist because they require long-term treatments.

Three medical committees are assigned to study the portfolios of children without receiving any information on their identities. The first committee prepares a report on the case, the second assesses the social status of the kid, aiming to give priority to children of families with lower incomes. The third committee is assigned to tackle managerial missions, as it includes doctors who supervise the cases and give the approval to asses the chronic conditions which require immediate treatments.

As per the musical concerts, they are set to include many dancing shows including the Lebanese Caracalla theatre.

The event will also feature visual shows performed by students from the school of medicine, the Saint Joseph University (USJ).

Rim Baltaji, director of production affairs at the foundation said the concerts are expected to attract over 2000 guests. Heartbeat has set different timings to hold its two concerts.

Till today, the foundation didn’t reject any case that it had received, and further seeks with hope to grow its financial capabilities so it can treat more kids suffering from heart diseases.

Afghan Female Rock Fest Triumphs, But Anxiety Over Future Looms

An Afghan youth performs onstage during "The Sound Central Festival" at the French Cultural Center in Kabul on May 1, 2013. Source: AFP Photo/Sham Marai
An Afghan youth performs onstage during “The Sound Central Festival” at the French Cultural Center in Kabul on May 1, 2013. Source: AFP Photo/Sham Marai

Kabul, Reuters—More than 400 Afghan women and girls jumped from their seats, screaming and even headbanging to rock and rap music at an all-female music festival in the capital of Kabul, which organisers say was the largest such event in the country’s history.

It may also be one of the last. In ultra-conservative Afghanistan, women’s rights remain precarious.

Afghan women have won back hard-fought rights such as education and work since the Islamist Taliban was toppled 12 years ago, but there are fears these freedoms could shrink once NATO-led forces withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of next year, ending their fight against a Taliban-led insurgency that began in late 2001.

“I’m worried that when the troops leave, we’ll be stuck in our homes like we were in the past,” said 16-year-old student Shabona Nabizada, shouting above the din of electric guitar.

“As women we’re ridiculed and harassed. I feel free being able to come here and leave all that behind,” she added with a timid smile.

The rare women’s day, part of a multi-day Sound Central concert, was held in a city concert hall on Tuesday and drew a boisterous crowd – mostly teenagers in the high school uniform of grey tunic and white hijab, but also abuse victims from shelters and even a few grandmothers.

Increasing insecurity is deterring some women from pursuing work outside the home, and rights workers accuse the government of not doing enough to safeguard women – claims that President Hamid Karzai’s administration denies.

The women-only festival kicked off the 4-day Sound Central rock fest, now in its third year, featuring acts by Afghan-American singer Ariana Delawari and Kabul-based expat rockers White City, whose British lead singer Ruth Owen sent the crowd into a frenzy.

The number of women attending the women’s day more than doubled from last year’s debut event, said its founder, Australian multimedia producer Travis Beard. He publicised the concert by sending out fliers and teams of women to schools to convince teachers and parents that the festival would cause young women no harm.

“Women’s day is the most significant part of the festival. Just having this kind of attendance for the first time in the country, at a rock concert, is groundbreaking,” Beard said.

As local rap artist Ramika took to the stage, dressed in turquoise leggings and an oversized t-shirt, several wide-eyed Afghan soldiers guarding the event crept in to steal a look at the show, which only female press members were allowed to cover.

To one side of the audience sat a small, solemn group of young women from shelters that give refuge to abuse victims, many of whom have escaped violent homes and unhappy arranged marriages. The unmarked and often hidden shelters around the country face an uncertain future, with recent government attempts to bring them under their control.

Last year, Justice Minister Habibullah Ghaleb called the shelters houses of “prostitution and immorality”, provoking a barrage of condemnation from Afghan women.

One shelter director, who only gave her first name, Horshid, said coming to the music festival was a way to “temporarily bring the girls back to life”.

Horshid, who runs a shelter attached to the Afghan Women’s Skills Development Center, a non-governmental organisation, said women are increasingly concerned by the government’s attempts to establish peace talks with the Taliban.

“If the Taliban regain any power, our rights will be the first sacrifice,” she said.