A Murder in Beirut

Back when I lived in Dubai I spent an evening in my flat in the company of three women: an Australian, a Russian, and an Uzbek (who was staying with me at the time). We were sat around my bar drinking tequila when the Russian, who was in her mid-twenties, started telling us about the problems she was having with her boyfriend, a Lebanese chap. Two nights previously she had gone out for a drink with another Russian woman and started receiving text messages from her boyfriend. As the night wore on the messages got increasingly angry and accusatory – a pattern which many women (and men) will know well. By the time she went home, rather distressed, her boyfriend was openly accusing her of going home with another man. She went to bed and heard a pounding on the door. Then she heard glass breaking. She went downstairs to find her boyfriend had put his fist through a window and was shaking with jealous rage. She let him in and he belted her one, but after much sobbing they both calmed down. She told us she didn’t know whether she should stay with him and try to work through his anger issues. At this point I asked how long they’d been together. Two weeks, she said. I reached for another tequila.

When I lived in Dubai I heard a lot of stories about women, particularly British and Russians, getting involved with Arabic men and things getting ugly. I know a Russian woman who unwisely entered into a relationship with an Egyptian waiter who regularly beat the shit out of her in a jealous rage; she at least had the sense and courage to eventually leave him. Just as Anglo-Saxon men go funny in the head around Asian women, and Frenchmen lose their senses in Africa, European women often get all giddy over swarthy Middle Easterners. (There’s a theory that this explains why white, liberal women vote to allow more refugees and migrants in, and there is probably some truth in it – stories like this certainly lend weight to the theory, anyway.)

I remember taking an English girl out on a date in Dubai and the first thing she did when she got into my car was turn off the bluegrass, switch to the radio, and retune the damned thing! She entered some station called Habibi (love, in Arabic) and explained the songs alternate between English and Arabic and she and her Lebanese ex used to listen to it. Bear in mind we’d barely left the car park at this point. She breathlessly went on about how charming the Lebanese are, and how romantic they can be, but he was shagging anything that moved and she dumped him (or him her, I wasn’t paying much attention). I’ll leave you to guess how the rest of the date went. I also met up with a Ukrainian girl who within minutes handed me a photo album four inches thick. I flicked through pictures of what looked like a group of gangsters in tracksuits stood beside a murky river a mile wide (this was her family on holiday) and found myself wading through a hundred photos of some dodgy looking Lebanese stood beside a pimped-out Camaro. She then rabbited on about how this guy was the love of her life, and very charming, and bought her flowers, and…you get the picture. Only he was “crazy”.

Now I actually got to know some of the Lebanese men in Dubai, one of whom became a good mate of mine (I stayed with him and his family in Beirut in 2010). He told me two things. Firstly, Lebanese men are only interested in serious relationships with Lebanese women, ones who their family will approve of. There are a few exceptions, but it’s a general rule that Lebanese men intend to marry a Lebanese woman (preferably a virgin) at some point, but until then they want to shag as many loose women as they can, regardless of quality. The Lebanese are descended from Phoenicians, and are first and foremost traders. The thing they like selling most of all is themselves, and Lebanese men are particularly gifted at telling gullible western women exactly what they want to hear in order to get them into bed. British men, when viewed alongside, seem plodding and unromantic. Secondly, my friend said a lot of the Lebanese men you encounter are rather low-class, hailing from farms in the mountains rather than universities in Beirut.

There’s something I observed, and learned the hard way myself, in my travels around the world. Working out the class background of somebody is extremely difficult if you’re not from their culture. I can pick out a British chav in seconds simply by the clothes, habits, and vocabulary. I’ve learned to do it with Russians too, but that took some time. Otherwise, if I’m honest, I have no idea who’s who when I first encounter them. This poses a problem for men turning up in Thailand, for example. They have no idea that the girl they met in the bar is actually a peasant from the jungle on the Cambodian border who grew up in hut and has four years of schooling. Middle-class Thai women exist, but they don’t mingle with foreigners on holidays and sure as hell don’t dance on tables in bars in Pattaya and go home with some fat fuck on the back of a scooter. A lot of the guys who turned up in Sakhalin didn’t realise the pretty, seemingly-classy women they fell in love with spoke a rough version of Russian littered with profanity and grammatical errors – something which would mark them out as lower-class in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

When I was in Lagos I had a colleague who was British-Nigerian, and he’d married a British-Nigerian woman. She came out to visit for a while and joined us at the pool in the Eko Hotel. There’s a bar area next to it which is a favourite spot for the local prostitutes to pick up expats, and my colleague’s wife saw this and her eyes went wide. What stunned her was that these western men were talking and canoodling with absolute, low-grade peasant women, the types ordinary Nigerians stay well clear of. Being a middle-class Nigerian she could see what class of women they were, but the expat men couldn’t. She was still talking about how shocked she was when she came to leave two weeks later. Similarly, my well-educated and middle-class Turkish friend is absolutely astounded by the willingness of British and Russian women to sleep with Turkish barmen, waiters, and boatmen who come from remote villages in the country’s east and can barely read, write, and hold cutlery. These women would never in a million years be interested in some villager from their own countries, but faced with a swarthy foreigner they can’t pick his class and are blinded by the exoticism. The same was true for the girls who dated Lebanese men in Dubai.

This is all a very long-winded prelude to my comments on this story:

Police in Lebanon investigating the murder of a British woman who worked at the UK embassy in Beirut have arrested a man, a source has said.

Ms Dykes, who is believed to have been in her early 30s, had been working in Beirut as the programme and policy manager for the Department for International Development since January 2017.

It is thought Ms Dykes had spent Friday evening at a going-away party for a colleague in the popular Gemmayzeh district of Beirut, the BBC’s Middle East correspondent Martin Patience said.

After leaving the bar at about midnight it appears she was abducted. Her body was found close to a motorway on the outskirts of the city.

What I’m about to say is complete speculation, and I may be completely wrong. It may well be that Ms Dykes was jumped by a complete stranger when alone outside a nightclub in Beirut and murdered, that is indeed possible. But I’ve been to Beirut and it’s not really that kind of place, especially where expats hang out. There is terrorism there, and political violence and kidnappings, but it’s never been known as a place that’s unsafe for foreign women. Your average Lebanese is a pretty decent sort and if a western woman has been abducted and murdered fresh off the street it is a very unusual occurence.

Which makes me think she knew the guy who killed her. Whereas I can’t imagine a Lebanese guy deciding to abduct a stranger, I can well believe a Lebanese guy could fly into a rage and murder his western girlfriend. Let’s do some more speculation, the kind of which her family wouldn’t want to read. She’s around 30 and there’s no mention of a husband or kids, so we can assume she was single. She works for the Department of International Development so she’s probably a bit of a lefty, maybe a do-gooder type. Lefty, do-gooder women in their 30s often have this bizarre belief that the greatest danger to their well-being is from old, white men and foreign thugs won’t hurt them. Indeed, I’d hazard a guess that any sexual harassment training women get in the Department of International Development – even in the embassy in Beirut – talks more about white men making lewd remarks than foreign thugs who view western women as nothing more than sluts.

So here’s my guess. She arrived in Lebanon in January and started frequenting the expat bars and nightclubs. At some point she’s got into a relationship with a local (or perhaps someone from a nearby country) without having any idea what the guy was like, or his history. She’d have been blinded by the initial charm and exoticism, and assumed he was the same as the educated Lebanese she’d met at work. The embassy would – like everyone else – have heard plenty of horror stories about western women who get entangled with the wrong sort of local men, but don’t want to actually warn their staff about it as that would deviate from the approved narrative. The result is a dead employee.

We probably won’t ever hear the truth about this case and I might be completely wrong anyway, but I reckon the smart money is on the killer being someone she was (or had been) romantically involved with and he won’t have a university degree.

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36 thoughts on “A Murder in Beirut

  1. A chap once introduced me to the concept of ignorance arbitrage; that is you are prepared to pay a higher price for something overseas, because you don’t really understand the market. At home, you’d laugh the deal off because you know what things are worth there.

    This concept applies equally to cross-border shagging.

  2. I still don’t understand the propensity of Western women to get involved with dusky types who are obviously going to slap them around the moment things go wrong.

    I suppose they’re no stupider than Western guys who put 51% of their Thailand home in the name of the bar girl they’ve been knocking off…

  3. Tim, I’m curious: were the Lebanese you have encountered outside of Lebanon mostly Muslim, Christian, or any other?

  4. Tim, I’m curious: were the Lebanese you have encountered outside of Lebanon mostly Muslim, Christian, or any other?

    Mostly Christian, although the friend with whom I stayed was Druze (meaning he could be Muslim, Christian, or Jewish depending on who he was trying to sell something to 🙂 )

    The behaviour towards women was mainly cultural, not religion-based.

  5. The behaviour towards women was mainly cultural, not religion-based.

    Well, culture and religion are kind of an chicken-and-egg thing. But yes, I sort of expected you’d say ‘Christian’, as I had the impression that it’s mostly Christian Lebanese who have been leaving their home country for many years now.

    Also, people behave differently when they are at home and abroad, for better and worse.

  6. A colleague of mine who is Somali by birth but brought up in the Gulf States before settling here has an amazing ability where when he hears an Arab speak can tell you where they come from , their education level and probably where their mother-in-law shops. However he is totally befuddled when he deals with the Lebanese we have as he tells me they change their accent and style of Arabic totally depending on who they are talking to.

  7. You got me sold. I believe, statistically, most women are murdered by a man they know regardless of geography, so the odds are good in this case, too.

    FWIW, my Russian teacher in Odessa told me that there was a growing trend of Ukrainian women marrying Turks. They considered Turks and their Islam to be a source of strength and a belief in something. This was deemed better than an unserious Ukrainian man full of moral nihilism and bottles of vodka. I can’t speak to the Turks’ true piety or the success rate of the marriages but thought the phenomenon was very interesting. Meanwhile, it was certainly common knowledge in Odessa that married Turkish men liked to take “business trips” to Ukraine. Wink wink.

    Lastly, I was always amused by my Russian friends’ talents for spotting someone “from the villages” based on their dialect. It was far more bold than what I experience in the U.S. The Russians I knew were very particular about how to speak Russian and who to avoid.

    Okay, random thoughts complete.

  8. Having worked in a large multinational organisation, I can state with a fact that cultural stereotypes are indeed broadly true – otherwise the stereotypes wouldn’t exist. There’s always exceptions (as a multilingual Brit I am one myself), but on average they hold.

    And it does seem likely that Tim’s analysis is true on this basis.

  9. MC
    You’re a little confused. Thai law doesn’t permit foreigners to own property so the house either totally belongs to the missus or, if you’re being a smart arse, 49% to each of you the balance being held by your Thai lawyer who will hopefully side with you if she wants to sell. In any case, my place cost me about 9k to build so we’re not talking breaking the bank here.

    Tim
    “The jungle on the Cambodian border”. It’s almost like you know me. 😀

  10. I still don’t understand the propensity of Western women to get involved with dusky types who are obviously going to slap them around the moment things go wrong.

    Women like alpha males. Cf. also Western women and bikers, boxers, MMA fighters, cops, etc. The thinly veiled capacity for violence is what attracts them.

  11. FWIW, my Russian teacher in Odessa told me that there was a growing trend of Ukrainian women marrying Turks.

    I shan’t repeat my Turkish friend’s opinions on the sort of Russian or Ukrainian women who marry Turkish men, nor the sort of Turkish men Russian and Ukrainian women marry.

  12. Anecdote as work-displacement activity.

    So my sister-in-law (US-ian) did the whole peace corps thing in Africa. What was interesting was the literature that came with it, to help the bright-eyed young things with going out and coming back, and to help their relatives deal with it too. Now, Peace Corps types are… well, “types”, like the recently deceased Ms. Dykes, although typically in the 20-25 age bracket. Part of the info was – in plain English translation – about how when they come back they can be a bit full of themselves, never shut up about their experiences, about how life is better scraping a subsistence living in the sandy soil of Upper Kakistan (knowing you’re coming back) and so on.

    Slight tangent – SiL’s best mate also did Peace Corps, in a village in Africa – one of the women of the village was taken into the woods and killed for being a witch. She tried to intervene and was told in no uncertain terms this was not of the white girl’s business. True story. She’s kinda blasé about it because, well it’s their culture and who are we to judge?

    Aaaanyway, SiL’s adventures got Mrs reading around various Peace Corps blogs for some reason. And she comes across a story about some bright-eyed unjudgmental young thing who had read the official advice that, when in Africa, don’t boink the locals cos 40% HIV infection rate. Fairly obvious, sound advice. However, she thought it was judgmental, bigoted, stereotyping etc. and decided to ignore it. You can guess where this is going.

    Anyway, she meets a nice local who sees a ticket to the land of milk and honey in the US who starts a relationship with her. Ultimately, the hormones get the most of our bright-eyed early-20-something, and she puffs on the pantella without any form of barrier. Of course, he swore blind to her that he didn’t have HIV (he was about to get his pantella puffed after all, and coming from a short-time-preference culture as he does why wouldn’t he?), and it’s not the absolutely most risky of penetrative activities, but COME ON…

    Yes, so anyway, she ends up HIV positive.

    Which she treats as some kind of cosmic karma for…… having been too judgemental.

    Err, no love – you got HIV because you utterly rejected sound advice because you considered it judgemental. If there is cosmic Karma, it works in the opposite way to which you think.

  13. Having worked in a large multinational organisation, I can state with a fact that cultural stereotypes are indeed broadly true – otherwise the stereotypes wouldn’t exist.

    To be fair, I didn’t want to perpetuate a stereotype that Lebanese men are violent thugs; most of them are funny, sociable, and quite generous. When I say a lot of them treat women badly, usually it’s only a case of picking up gullible fools and feeding them a wheelbarrow of bullshit and keeping multiple such women on the go at once. My point was more that western women don’t seem to be able to spot the violent low-lifes in their midst, of which there are many. And let’s be honest, there are plenty of low-life Brits as well and any woman who hangs around them is likely to end up beaten, lied to, and sometimes killed. The difference is the British women can spot them and avoid them, but are blind when it comes to foreigners.

  14. However he is totally befuddled when he deals with the Lebanese we have as he tells me they change their accent and style of Arabic totally depending on who they are talking to.

    Yup, that’s the Lebanese! Every one of them a trader at heart!

  15. Yes, so anyway, she ends up HIV positive.

    Fucking hell. What an idiot. I bet her parents were hippies.

  16. “panatella”

    Seriously? I though they were all at least robustos out there, if not Churchills?

  17. Well, ravished by a robusto would work and you’d at least get something out of it yourself.

    Why would anyone want to provide a BJ without some form of reciprocation? Just bearing the white woman’s burden I suppose.

  18. Abacab
    She was stupid; but then the risk of catching HIV from fellatio is pretty low…

  19. In her photographs, Ms Dykes does look a little naive and idealistic – there’s something of St Jocox about her – so she might well have fallen in with some Levantine low-lifes.

  20. Pfft, call yourself a novelist Tim?

    Clearly an SIS field officer who got burned at a dead letter collection. The early morning flight home should have been the giveaway for you.

  21. Ultimately, the hormones get the most of our bright-eyed early-20-something, and she puffs on the pantella without any form of barrier.

    Ah wait, she says she caught HIV through giving him a blowjob? Sorry, no she didn’t: she had sex with him. Doctors will tell you it is theoretically possible to catch HIV through oral sex and sure, the health warnings all say “wear a condom at all times” but it is pretty much impossible short of her having a wide-open cut in her mouth pissing blood and he’s in the early stages of infection. This was even proved in the early stages of the AIDS outbreak in the US: when they went around the San Francisco bath-houses they found infected men who were engaging in mass orgies practically every night, but none of those who were “orally gay”, i.e. they only engaged in oral sex were infected despite sometimes giving dozens of blowjobs each night to God-knows how many infected men. I did some research on this and found there is not a single recorded case of a person catching HIV through oral sex; it remains theoretically possible only. My guess is the girl in your story did a lot more with the guy than she let on; being American, it’s likely she’d confess to a blowjob quicker than she’d own up to sex.

  22. If Theo’s link is accurate then I stand corrected: it looks as though she was murdered by her Uber driver.

  23. On this subject, here’s a nasty joke from 1994 or so.

    Q: What’s the similarity between Ayrton Senna and Freddie Mercury?
    A: They both had blood on their helmets.

    I’m here all week – try the fist… I mean fish…

  24. FWIW, my Russian teacher in Odessa told me that there was a growing trend of Ukrainian women marrying Turks.

    I shan’t repeat my Turkish friend’s opinions on the sort of Russian or Ukrainian women who marry Turkish men, nor the sort of Turkish men Russian and Ukrainian women marry.

    Oh sure, leave out the best parts. I can certainly imagine, though.

  25. @D Ream – alpha males don’t hit women. That’s for losers who can’t get the upper hand without using their hands.

  26. “I did some research on this”

    I almost stopped reading at this point, having dropped my eggs in my coffee, but glad that I didn’t.

    The pursuit of science is a worthy cause and all but…

  27. There a reason that middle-aged expats marrying younger women and vice versa is a common joke across cultures

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