William Wallace in the movie “Braveheart” said, “Every man dies, but not every man truly lives.” For us to survive, we need the basic elements — water, air and food. For us to live, we need freedom.

The United States and its people paid a dear price in both world wars and rioted for the civil rights movement. After addressing its own problems, it decided to raise the flag of freedom and human rights in foreign policy. This is why I am addressing you in the name of freedom and human rights.

I am a Lebanese man, born and raised during the war and post-war period. I recently found myself forced to leave my country because of a deteriorated political situation with thousands of others. We all know how the media manipulates the course of life events through selective and exaggerated reporting of facts. The media played a huge role in distorting the truth in Lebanon, and overlooked the sufferance and misery of the Lebanese people.

I am taking this opportunity to reveal something that people forgot and that the media has turned a blind eye to. I am reaching out to every freedom seeker and human right defender. My country has suffered tremendously; the harsh reality is that many civilians and innocent people were killed, dying in the name of freedom.

Foreign and neighboring countries fought their wars (and still do) in our land, thereby imposing the wrong image upon a country that once was called “the Paris of the Middle East” and the cradle of democracy in the region. Lebanon has always been invaded, but has never invaded any of its neighbors, and the country has paid a huge price because of Middle Eastern conflicts.

But this should be no more. I am addressing you to convey a simple message: We need peace and freedom. My country is undergoing what France experienced with the Germans in the past, having an appointed regime — “The Vichy government.” The Syrian Army has been occupying my country for 25 years to this day. There is a serious intellectual brain drain and exodus because of the Syrian hegemony.

In the Lebanese government, many politicians are appointed to serve the Syrian presence, and the occupation has reached its fifth element. The first element was military occupation, the second element was political invasion, the third was economic exploitation (most of the investment, trade and business deals have to go through Syrian dictatorship taxation), the fourth element was a social invasion, and now we have reached the fifth element: the cultural invasion.

Students go to jail if they protest in the name of their human rights. Journalists undergo investigation if they raise the Syrian oppression issue. I wonder if I would be still allowed to visit my country after writing this column. The judiciary, legislative and executive branch are controlled and monopolized by Syrian officials.

My country is shrinking and sinking. I am crying for help.

Freedom of speech died a long time ago in Lebanon. People who stood up for freedom are either in jail or have left the country. I left home like many others, but my heart and soul remained there.

Dear readers, I am just asking for peace and freedom for Lebanon and other occupied countries. All we want is to apply the 1982 United Nations Resolution expelling non-Lebanese forces, giving us freedom from Syrian dictatorship. As Ghandi once said, “Human dignity demands the courage to defend oneself.”

Paul Moawad was born and raised in Lebanon. He works as an intern architect in New Haven.