Security issues, long-standing political stagnation, lack of job opportunities, and a seemingly perpetual economic slump; any way you look at it, Lebanon has been put through the wringer for years. The explosion in Dahiyeh on January 2 - the latest in a string of deadly bombings across the capital, and the protracted and violent standoff in Tripoli (among others) are proof that the ordeal is far from over.

When faced with this kind of rampant insecurity, people have different ways to cope. A lot has been said lately about our tendency as a nation to dismiss, to forget, to move on. But frustration is an ongoing issue and "heyda lebnen" seems to no longer be an acceptable excuse. So some people have decided to leave and look for greener pastures where they feel they have a better chance to find them. Not all of them leave Lebanon per se, but more often than not, their decision is born out of a certain feeling of hopelessness with the country, and a desire for change.

(Credit: AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Youmna, the young professional looking for a new start

Youmna Chagoury has decided to go back to Benin. The small African country where she grew up is not really a model of peace and order, but the 27-year-old feels at home there. Her decision to leave is more of a personal choice: she's looking for a professional change, and a fresh start.

"I don't think anyone leaves a country specifically, unless they truly hate it. People leave looking for a better job, a better salary, a better quality of life, which they feel their country can no longer provide," she tells

But life in Lebanon has also started to annoy her. "Over the years, I've had several mini breaking points," she says. "One of them is increased road rage. Lately, I've been unusually angry all the time. I can no longer stand being stuck in traffic in Beirut everyday. The way some Lebanese people behave on the road is very representative of how they are in life: bitter, angry, aggressive."

"There's a moment in life when you realize that you've changed on a personal level, and you start to reflect on what made you change. Road rage may seem like a superficial excuse, but it's a manifestation of a new side of me that I don't like."

Youmna also says there's a materialistic side to Lebanon that she doesn't identify with. "I don't think it's my place to change the country. I would love to make certain things better, but at the end of the day, I feel like I'm living in a society that forces me to behave in a certain way."

Fida, the expatriate with dual citizenship

Fida Chaaban's decision to leave is more explicit. Born and raised in Canada, she moved to Beirut three and a half years ago to help launch RagMag, a lifestyle magazine. She wasn't entirely sure what to expect when she got here, and describes it as a "rude awakening."

"For me, the final breaking point was the bombing near the Iranian embassy [in November 2013]. I was already at the point where I'd had enough with the country, and writing yet another condolence message for the magazine was too much. It just wasn't what I signed up for."

During her stay in Lebanon, Fida says things have gone from burning tires and blocking roads to gun fights, bombs, death, and mayhem. “It's a state of civil unrest and chaos that I'd never seen before in my life.”

She also says she’s exhausted by the “constant anger that permeates the air.” “I live in Hamra, so I hear people screaming at each other on a daily basis. I've seen fights break out in the middle of the street. The emotional toll that Lebanon takes on you is almost unbearable.”

“Everybody keeps giving their ultimate best to just move on and pretend that things are "normal,"” she adds. “But no matter what illusion you want to live under, this is not normal.”

“And I know a lot people want to leave but can't, whether they can't afford to or don't have the right documentation. They're kind of stuck. It's unfortunate, and I don't like to say "stuck," like Lebanon is some kind of cage, but at times, I feel like it is. It's like being trapped in a zone with no prospects, at the mercy of a handful of people. We are, as a country, being held hostage.”

But as an out-of-towner who’s often encouraged non-Lebanese friends to come visit, Fida admits that the country is a great place to live in for a week or two. Tourists tend to get a kick out of the everyday frustrations, the lack of water, the sporadic electricity, and the slow Internet, which all make for funny anecdotes to tell back home. "But these people are not here when the going gets rough.”

“I've had a wonderful time here and I've met amazing people, but that's no longer enough,” she concludes. “I wish I had it in me to stay, but Lebanon is no longer a feasible place to live.”

Abir, the fed-up activist

Abir Ghattas left for Marseille in late December to take up a job opportunity. Shortly before her departure, she wrote a blog post titled "the day I left Lebanon," a final farewell permeated with her anger and irritation. "If Lebanon was not my country, I wouldn't have chosen it to be," she quips in an imagined confrontation with Gebran Khalil Gebran.

An activist, Abir has experienced firsthand some of the country's most frustrating aspects. And her assessment of the situation is unequivocally bleak. "The country is going down the drain," she says. "It's not only about the bombings and assassinations or lack of security, it's also about the contempt for basic human rights. We claim that we are a democratic country and that we have freedom of speech, but we don't."

In the past couple of months, while extensively working on labor right issues, Abir says she experienced what it truly feels like not to have freedom of speech. "I've actually been sued a couple of times for "defamation and slander," because of things I wrote and posted on my blog. I felt helpless. This helplessness and anger really started to consume me. I'm not the kind of person who can forget and forgive, and only worry about happy hour. I wish I were, but I'm not."

Abir also says that the mere fact of being in Lebanon started to affect her behavior and her mood. “For a while, I stopped watching the news, I stopped going on Facebook, and I stopped blogging. I felt like no one cared. No one cares if a woman is raped by her husband, or if employers violate their staff's basic rights. We've become numb. And I just couldn't handle the idea that I might also become someone who does not care."

But Abir says she's definitely not "giving up on the country," and stresses the importance of raising awareness. "It's romantic to call it hope, but I want things to change. I want a revolution. I will keep fighting, and I will keep writing and blogging from France." She also has every intention of coming back some day. "I don't want to relinquish Lebanon to the people who are currently in charge. They don't deserve it."

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I'm the 4th women who left Lebanon 6 months ago searching for new place to call home!!! So Sad...

Lara Fakhri on Jan 8, 2014 via web