Lebanon’s protests move from spontaneity to organization

Lebanese rally in Beirut on the 4th day of demonstrations against tax increases and official corruption, on Sunday. (AFP)
Updated 03 November 2019

Lebanon’s protests move from spontaneity to organization

  • ‘The people want everyone in power to resign and not only the prime minister’

BEIRUT: Lebanese protesters are determined to continue with their activities even after the expiry of a 72-hour deadline, given by Prime Minister Saad Hariri to his partners in power, to agree to reforms to save the country from economic turmoil, which ends on Monday at 7 p.m. “The people want everyone in power to resign and not only the prime minister. They want a mini technocrat government whose goal is to establish an electoral law that will ensure proper representation, to hold early parliamentary elections and elect a new president,” said Mahmoud Fakih, protesting in Beirut’s Riad Al-Solh Square.
Fakih called on politicians to “not bet on the waning of the momentum of the protests in the street. The more you speak, the more the people will reject you, that is what we saw after the televised speech of Hezbollah’s secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, on Saturday. The Lebanese people saw the results of his party’s presence in power.”
The protests, now into their fourth day, have heard chants of “the people want to topple the regime.”
Protesters have been waving Lebanese flags at the central sit-in in Beirut. Tents belonging to activists have been erected, distributing the flags, as well as hats and water bottles free of charge to the public.
“We are paying from our own money and we are not resorting to any external funding so that no one can say that there are outsiders behind our action. We will continue to support people as long as people continue to take to the streets,” said activist Karl Abu Malhab.
The protesters have devised various ways to express their peaceful movement, through colorful dress and painted faces, as well as through vast Lebanese flags extending dozens of meters, and through the dabkeh dances. Some have even taken pets with them, and set up barbecues and grills.
Sarah Sultan, who came to the protests with her husband Abdul Rahman, called for an end to the Taif agreement, because it divided the country into sectarian and partisan quotas. “We have to hold accountable those in power, even the directors general of public departments,” she told Arab News. “These protests shall not end, because people are suffering,” Rahman added.
Aref Jouaidi and his wife Kawthar brought their baby twins to Riad Al-Solh Square. Aref said: “I am here because of my children — I want them to have a better future. We want to cleanse the power of the corrupted. I will continue to protest — already there is no work and we lose trade for our business every day.”
Another protester, Ryan Al-Habal, said that he did not belong to any political party. He took to the street, he said, because he “saw on TV how the barrier of fear of expressing our opinion toward politicians and party leaders broke. We have full freedom to express our suffering. People no longer tolerate the politicians because they have brought us to ruin.”
Darine Dandashli, an activist distributing Lebanese flags, said: “The activists are paying out of their own pocket — I have so far paid $1,000 — as we do not want anyone to distort our movement. It started as a spontaneous civil movement that needs now some organization.
“We are forming committees of activists, one to take over the streets, one to handle logistics, and another that will work out an alternative solution by explaining people’s demands in an economic and political working paper. There is also a constitutional committee working on how to move after the resignation of the current government to an interim government whose role is limited to holding early parliamentary elections whose members are from outside the ruling authority,” explained Dandashli.


Major roads reopened in Lebanon after 2-day closure

Updated 47 min 46 sec ago

Major roads reopened in Lebanon after 2-day closure

  • The roads linking Beirut with the country’s south and north were opened shortly before noon Thursday
  • Thousands of people attended the funeral of a 38-year-old father who was shot dead by a soldier at a protest Tuesday night

BEIRUT: Lebanese troops reopened major roads around Lebanon Thursday after a two-day closure triggered by a TV interview with President Michel Aoun in which he called on protesters to go home.
The roads linking Beirut with the country’s south and north were opened shortly before noon Thursday, as well as others around the country.
Protesters have been holding demonstrations since Oct. 17 demanding an end to widespread corruption and mismanagement by the political class that has ruled the country for three decades.
Aoun said Thursday that the demands of protesters are being followed adding that “they will be among the top priorities of the government that we are working on forming in the near future.”
Aoun expressed hopes in comments released by his office that a new Cabinet “will be formed in the coming days” after removing obstacles that have been delaying the formation.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned his government on Oct. 29, meeting a key demand of the protesters. Since then there have been disagreements over the new Cabinet as Hariri insists it should be made up of technocrats who will concentrate on solving Lebanon’s worst economic and financial crisis in decades while other politicians, including Aoun, want it to be a mixture of technocrats and politicians.
“Dealing with the developments should be based on national interests that need cooperation from all sides to achieve pursued goals,” Aoun said.
Caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil tweeted that the priority is to form a “salvation government” and prevent anyone from taking the country into a confrontation. Bassil is Aoun’s son-in-law and close aide.
The opening of the roads came a day after protesters started building a wall inside a tunnel on the highway linking Beirut with north Lebanon leading to an outcry by the public who saw it as a reminder of the 1975-90 civil war.
In the town of Jal Al-Dib, just north of Beirut, troops pushed away protesters from the highway and removed barriers that had been blocking the road since Tuesday night.
In the town of Choueifat south of Beirut, thousands of people attended the funeral of a 38-year-old father who was shot dead by a soldier at a protest Tuesday night. Alaa Abou Fakher’s death marked the first such fatality since the economically driven demonstrations against the government engulfed the country last month.
That protest was ignited by comments made by Aoun in a televised interview, in which he said there could be further delays before a new government is formed.
Abou Fakher’s coffin was carried through the streets of Choueifat as women dressed in black threw rice on it from balconies in a traditional Lebanese gesture.
Bank employees announced they will continue with their strike on Friday for the fourth day amid concerns for their safety as some of them have been subjected to insults by bank clients who were not allowed to withdraw as much as they wanted from their accounts. The country’s lenders are imposing varying capital controls that differ from bank to bank, fueling the turmoil.