Everyday we are witnessing the kindled spirit of the youth across the world. Political autonomy, corruption, powerlessness, poor economies, climate change and social media seem to be the chief contributors to the mass protest rage that has taken over. The large anti-government demonstrations have not been peaceful, with the number of human losses increasing as every day goes by. From Algeria, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, France, Hong Kong, Iraq, Lebanon, Iran and Pakistan and more, the story seems to be the same: voices that were never heard are gathering together for a scream to bring about a much needed change! Does it mean the people’s voice will finally be heard?
In this particular article, Editor Deepthi Suresh helps us to understand recent developments in Lebanon.
When and Why?
Large scale protests took over Lebanon on 17th October 2019 shortly after the government announced new tax measures – in particular, this included a proposed ‘Whatsapp Tax’ charged at $2 a month for the use of all free apps on mobile phones. The closure of Lebanon’s banks for two weeks from the start of the protests fuelled anger, as people were denied access to their money.
Underlying frustrations with the government and the political elite have been accumulating within the state for years. These frustrations include the Lebanese government’s failure to find solutions to an economic crisis that has engulfed the country, particularly over the past year, due to corruption, wastage of public money and other issues. According to the World Inequality Database, nearly a quarter of income is held by the richest 1% in Lebanon.
The Lebanese protests have witnessed scenes of tens of thousands of protesters from different religious and class sectors of society assembled in almost all cities across the country. Thousands of protesters have made their voices heard by waving the Lebanese flag and chanting demands for the “fall of the regime”, with many slogans including “all of them means all of them”. Despite government attempts to placate the protesters with announced reforms, demonstrations have continued in Beirut, Tripoli, Zouk, Jal el Dib, Saida, Nabatieh, Sour and Zahle. On the thirteenth day of the protests, Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation.
The protests, however, have taken a more violent turn since they first began in October. Dozens of people were injured in clashes between protesters and the security forces in central Beirut on December 15th. It is believed that Lebanese security forces used water cannons, rubber bullets and teargas against protesters who in turn pelted rocks and firecrackers. This time around, the protest chants were targetted mainly at interim Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, who is widely expected to be named head of the next government.
If the parliament’s next choice is anything like the last, Tripoli billionaire Mohammad Safadi who was briefly nominated before widespread protests convinced him to withdraw his name, it is highly unlikely that the protests will deescalate. Unlike older generations, today’s protesters in Lebanon are unwilling to compromise. As we begin the new decade, it appears Lebanon is gearing up to be leaderless amid continuing protests for the foreseeable future.
Photo by Nadim Kobeissi
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