The Leaderless Protest Series – Lebanon

The Leaderless Protest Series – Lebanon

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.

 

Recent Developments:

 

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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New Year, Same Brexit Headache

Brexit day is fast approaching, with the UK on track to officially leave the European Union in less than two weeks. In this article in our Brexit series, Rachel gives us an update on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and the future of Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Is Political Reform on the Horizon for Kazakhstan?

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The Leaderless Protest Series – Lebanon

Every day we are witnessing the kindled spirit of youth with their involvement in political protests throughout the world. With so much noise, sometimes it is difficult to understand what the issues are. In this particular article, Editor Deepthi Suresh helps us to understand recent developments in Lebanon.

Aung San Suu Kyi Denies Genocide at the International Criminal Court

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The European Investment Bank’s decision to divest from fossil fuels

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The Leaderless Protest Series – Hong Kong

The Leaderless Protest Series – Hong Kong

Over the last year, we have witnessed 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 Hong Kong.  

 

Umbrella Protests of Hong Kong (2014)

Hong Kong was ruled by Britain as a colony until it returned under China’s control in 1997. The city, under a “one country, two systems” arrangement, is considered to have more autonomy than the mainland, and its people enjoy more rights. Beijing is responsible for the city’s defence and foreign affairs. However, Hong Kong witnessed protests (also referred to as an Occupy Movement or Umbrella Movement ) that occurred from 26 September to 15 December 2014. The protests began after the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC) issued a decision regarding proposed reforms to the Hong Kong electoral system. This decision was seen as a widely restrictive and almost equivalent to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP’s) pre-screening of the candidates for the Chief Executive of Hong Kong. Thousands of Hong Kong residents from all spheres of the population occupied major  streets across the city, shuttering businesses and bringing traffic to a halt. Their claim was that Beijing had reneged on an agreement to grant Hong Kong open elections and their demand was “true universal suffrage”. 

 

2019 Protests

Five years since the Umbrella Movement, Hong Kong witnessed yet another massive protest in June 2019. Demonstrations began this summer over a bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China in certain circumstances. Hong Kong, despite being part of China, enjoys special freedom. This bill erupted a sense of fear among the residents that Beijing was bent on exerting greater control over Hong Kong and would largely endanger judicial independence and target social activists and journalists in Hong Kong.

Clashes between police and activists have become increasingly violent with police firing live bullets and protesters attacking officers and throwing petrol bombs. On July 1st 2019, after an hour long siege, protesters stormed into the parliament and defaced parts of it. Protest action at Hong Kong international airport in August also saw renewed clashes and led to hundreds of flights being cancelled.

The problematic bill was withdrawn in September, but the demonstrations have continued and now the demand has been for full democracy in addition to an inquiry into police actions.

Also, protesters feared that the bill could be revived. Protesters have formulated the following demands:

  • This movement should not be categorised as a riot
  • Amnesty should be granted for arrested protesters
  • An independent inquiry into the police brutality should take place
  • Complete universal suffrage should be implemented

 

Recent Developments

Protesters have continued their protests which include train disruptions and university occupations. However, these protests have subsided and the election on 24th November took place quite peacefully. Democratic candidates have secured about 90 per cent of 452 district council seats, which clearly has shown the public support for democracy. The landslide win has put immense pressure on Hong Kong’s leader who has pledged to listen to public opinion. Although the elections may have been local in nature, a result such as this where Democrats have secured the maximum number of seats is a sign that the protesters have the complete support of the public. The current head of Hong Kong has agreed to take public opinion into account but to what degree, only time will tell.

As a timely thanksgiving gift to Hong Kong, President Trump has signed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act in support of the pro-democracy protest movement. This will definitely lead to a backlash from Beijing further derailing the delicate US-China trade talks. The act was unanimously passed by both houses of the US Congress. Hundreds of Hong Kong residents including the elderly marched carrying the US flag as a sign of gratitude aimed at protecting human rights in Hong Kong. In response, China has suspended the review of requests by US military ships and aircraft to visit Hong Kong as of December 3, 2019, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying. She also announced that Beijing would impose sanctions on several US non-governmental human rights organisations that have been monitoring and reporting the state of protests in Hong Kong.

The relative calm over the past week is definitely not a sign of the protests losing momentum, but looks like players of the world have heard the voices and path-breaking changes may be fashioned in the new year.

 

Photo by Joseph Chan on Unsplash

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

 

New Year, Same Brexit Headache

Brexit day is fast approaching, with the UK on track to officially leave the European Union in less than two weeks. In this article in our Brexit series, Rachel gives us an update on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and the future of Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Is Political Reform on the Horizon for Kazakhstan?

Kazakhstan has been under autocracy since it first began to be taken over by the Russian Empire in the 18th century, throughout its years as part of the Soviet Union, and since its independence in 1991. After all that time, could it be possible that the country is heading towards future democracy?

The Leaderless Protest Series – Lebanon

Every day we are witnessing the kindled spirit of youth with their involvement in political protests throughout the world. With so much noise, sometimes it is difficult to understand what the issues are. In this particular article, Editor Deepthi Suresh helps us to understand recent developments in Lebanon.

Aung San Suu Kyi Denies Genocide at the International Criminal Court

In the realm of international politics, few world leaders have incited such hope and then despair as Myanmar’s president Aung San Suu Kyi. Amidst allegations of genocide against the treatment of Myanmar’s Rohingya population, Suu Kyi has been summoned to the International Court of Justice to answer for her nation’s transgressions.

NewB: a bank to inspire others

NewB is a “new bank” based in Belgium that managed to collect €35 million in 6 weeks, in order to be granted a banking license by the European Central Bank. NewB wants to change the way finance is done and perceived by working to build an ethical and sustainable bank caring for human rights and mother earth.

The European Investment Bank’s decision to divest from fossil fuels

The European Investment Bank (EIB) recently announced that it would be phasing out investment in fossil fuel companies by 2021. The EIB is the biggest public lender globally and the move was celebrated by those within the banking industry and the environmental movement. It sends a clear message that markets are moving away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energies.

Short shorts film festival 2019 in Dublin – What to remember

Short shorts film festival 2019 in Dublin – What to remember

Earlier this month, the European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC) screened some of the best short films produced all over Europe, as part of the Short Shorts film festival. Screenings were hosted by language schools and embassies across Dublin. 

Close to a dozen films were shown, and the audience was asked to vote for their favourite. Films in  competition were: : Tutorial (Goethe-Institut Irland) Fig (Embassy of Greece), Una casa en el campo (Instituto Cervantes/AECID), Non mi posso lamentare (Istituto Italiano Di Cultura – Dublino), Creatures (Polish Embassy Dublin), Thermostat 6 (Alliance Française de Dublin), Nachsaison (Embassy of Austria), Dodgy Dave (British Council Ireland), Late Afternoon (Culture Ireland). What Remains (Irish Film Institute) and Mr Ripple (Cork Film Festival) were also screened but did not take part in the competition.

The movies were a delight to watch. The common theme across the festival was that of forgotten or rekindled human connections. Be it that of love through years, or that of a child looking after her mom, or a girl’s quest to get her voice heard.. The audience seemed to have taken a liking towards two films namely, Una casa en el campo, the entry from Spain, and Fig the official entry from Greece. My personal favourite was “Fig” because I am a closet romantic. An injured man struggles through every unimaginable obstacle to fulfilling his dying wife’s last wish to eat a fig. This story will resonate with the audience of all ages and for times to come (see the trailer here). However, the award for best short went to rightly deserving Una casa en el campo (see the trailer here). The short film cleverly portrays invisible human connections, especially those that are sometimes unwelcome. The film shows the encounter between two neighbours for the first time. Despite their houses being separated by a wall, one of them seem to know everything about the other’s life. By using humour, the film shows that walls may not necessarily keep your lives private after all. Definitely a thought to ponder upon!

 

Photo by France in Ireland on Twitter

 

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Short shorts film festival 2019 in Dublin – What to remember

Earlier this month, the European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC) screened some of the best short films produced all over Europe, as part of the Short Shorts film festival. Screenings were hosted by language schools and embassies across Dublin.

Samantha Power’s Book Review: The Ideal Woman for the Job

Samantha Power arrived at her home city of Dublin and was greeted in Trinity College Dublin’s Regent’s House to rapturous applause. Although she’s best known for her government career in diplomacy, it is her staunch moral compass and dedication to humanitarian issues which have underpinned her career, and do so again in her memoir.

The haunted lives of the Syrian workers

The haunted lives of the Syrian workers

Formalist filmmaking that has garnered several awards in the festival circuit, Taste of Cement directed by Ziad Kalthoum, is an unavoidable masterpiece. The visuals and sounds play an equally important role in the documentary. This documentary projects the plight of the Syrian migrants in Lebanon, who have little choice but to make a living by working on construction sites. The documentary demonstrates brilliantly the irony of the role of cement in their lives, where in one hand they are building a multi-story tower overlooking the Mediterranean sea while back home the only remnants of their homes are just cement and rubble. The vicious circle of structures being erected in one place and being demolished is the crux of this film and their lives disrupted by years of destruction as a result of the ongoing conflict.

Not much happens throughout the film. The director has avoided interviews of the characters in this movie but mastered his craft of piecing together the images and finds harmony between sound design and the background scores. There are hardly any dialogues except for the occasional voiceover by an unnamed worker describing the memories of his father coming back home to Syria decades before from Beirut, smelling of cement. His rough hands told him stories of a life that would eventually cast upon himself in years to come. A new generation of Syrian men embarks upon this journey to build the future while their own lives crumble beneath their feet back home. 

Cement is everywhere. In the air of construction in Beirut and in the howls of fear in Syria. The shocking images of rescuers trying their best to scoop out rubble to get to people who may be buried underneath are haunting. This contrasts with the silence of the Syrian construction workers quietly retiring to their living quarters to the bottom of the poorly lit tower by 7 pm while succumbing in silence to the shrieking images they watch on their mobile phones.

This film is ultimately a film on war and refugees who struggle for their lives in a world that has snatched their freedom to live.

 

Photo ©Basis Berlin on IMDB

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

Book Review: Klein Gifts Us With Tools to Unite Climate Action in ‘On Fire’

Naomi Klein is as accessible as ever as she dissects the scientific and economic jargon of climate change, while simultaneously injecting empathy and passion in her fight to hold corporations and fossil fuel companies accountable. On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal, has the possibility to unite the movement once again and inspire action on a scale that humanity has never accomplished before.

Book Review: New York Times Journalists Take On Weinstein in ‘She Said’

New York Times journalists, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey broke the story about Harvey Weinstein in October 2017. The publication of the first piece on Weinstein led to an influx of messages into Kantor and Twohey’s inboxes from women who had also experienced sexual harassment or assault. In She Said, they explain the process behind their investigative journalism.

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Gods of Molenbeek: a look beyond terrorism

Gods of Molenbeek: a look beyond terrorism

A notorious place in Brussels known as a Jihadi hotbed, Molenbeek, has been in the news for all the wrong reasons for the last few years. In her debut feature called Gods of Molenbeek, Finnish director Reetta Huhtanen tells us the story of this neighbourhood through the eyes and voices of 6-year-old residents. She definitely acknowledges its reputation but is certainly far from damning its residents. 

The superstars of this documentary are the six-year-old Aatos and Amine who are extremely deep thinkers, curious and bright. They ponder upon god, life and life after death. Aatos is Finnish and Chilean. He speaks French, Finnish and Spanish and attends a Steiner school while Amine is from a Moroccan Muslim family and is learning Arabic at school.

This film is a delight. The ever so interesting children of Molenbeek bring hope to the audience. As used to singing Happy birthday song in almost every other language, the social understanding of life and God is ever so varied with respect to every little kid growing up in this district. The director has responded to the label of Jihadi hotbed by keeping her point of view as close to that of the boys as possible. Molenbeek therefore, through this film, is shown as an accepting place with people from all faith and ethnic backgrounds living together and accepting each other. The child’s perspective showers throughout the movie reminding the audience where the truth lies and lets the audience ponder on what is forgotten which is to accept each other.

 

 

Photo by GeoMovies on Twitter

 

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

Book Review: Klein Gifts Us With Tools to Unite Climate Action in ‘On Fire’

Naomi Klein is as accessible as ever as she dissects the scientific and economic jargon of climate change, while simultaneously injecting empathy and passion in her fight to hold corporations and fossil fuel companies accountable. On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal, has the possibility to unite the movement once again and inspire action on a scale that humanity has never accomplished before.

Book Review: New York Times Journalists Take On Weinstein in ‘She Said’

New York Times journalists, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey broke the story about Harvey Weinstein in October 2017. The publication of the first piece on Weinstein led to an influx of messages into Kantor and Twohey’s inboxes from women who had also experienced sexual harassment or assault. In She Said, they explain the process behind their investigative journalism.

Review: Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman’ is a Mob Drama of Epic Proportions

Scorsese’s latest $150 million passion project details the life of the mob hitman Frank Sheeran, and his involvement with the Bufalino crime family as well as the disappearance of the union leader Jimmy Hoffa.

Book Review: “Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!”

“Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!” is a collection of powerful essays, interspersed with beautiful illustrations, that tell the stories of female human rights defenders from Egypt, Kuwait, Palestine, Tunisia, Turkey, Somalia and Sudan. Behind each story is a meeting of two women. Here is our review.