Since October 2019, Lebanon is under continuous wave of protests, followed by various events that have led to a chaotic situation in the country. The resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri after allegations of running a corrupt government, gave way to the political crisis in the country. The failure to provide basic services such as electricity, water and sanitation became the main agenda of the civil uprising in Lebanon.
The Lebanon protests that were initially triggered by the government’s planned taxes on gasoline, tobacco and online phone calls such as through WhatsApp, later engulfed other stagnating issues of the society, such as unemployment, endemic corruption in the public sector. The protestors blamed the government for shielding the ruling class, which in turn resulted in the failures. Not even Hariri’s resignation could stop the growing voices.
Observing the need to end the political crisis, former Minister of Education Hassan Diab was selected as the new Lebanese prime minister after Diab’s resignation in 2019, a move which further evoked the protests. Today, the once calm and peaceful Lebanon protests are turning violent, embracing huge unrest in the country. It appears as if Lebanon is now moving towards the brink of chaos and anarchy.
Sunday’s night protests appeared to be the worst since its origin. The fed up protestors, demanding a new government that would lead them out of the ongoing economic crisis, clashed with the riot police on the streets of Lebanon. The police in return fired rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon to disperse demonstrators hurling paving stones, fireworks and other projectiles.
The air in the atmosphere seemed violent and disgusted as the protestors chanted, “Not peaceful, not peaceful. This is a revolution, not a song”, while moving in the capital, Beirut. The slogans became a clear sign of protestors’ frustrations that have further created huge disruptions in the country. The question here is, if financial crisis is the root cause then why the government is not bringing in reforms to quell the opposing voices? Why is it using methods to suppress the crowd, rather than ending the cause of the protests?
The Lebanon protests have added the country to the list of other Middle-Eastern countries that are undergoing internal and external conflicts, while moving far away from its agenda of achieving peace at an international level. There might be a possibility that the forceful approach of the protestors in Lebanon is influenced by the regional chaos, since the three months of peaceful protests failed to bring any progress.
Not only that, the value of the Lebanese currency has plunged by half in three months, employers have stopped paying salaries, hospitals are running out of vital medicines, with the country gradually moving towards a humanitarian crisis. The circumstances have only forced the protestors to use a violent approach. The excessive use of force by the police to disperse the crowd has heightened the aggravation with the protestors resorting to assault the police lines with firecrackers, rocks, uprooted trees and potted plants.
One big reason for the change is that the protestors want their voices to be heard by the higher authorities. Meanwhile, the critics believe that the involvement of Iran-allied Hezbollah that has signaled its willingness to support the protest movement could lead to a surge in the ongoing violence. This is because some instances of violence were seen after the supporters of the Shiite, Hezbollah and Amal movements turned out on the streets to challenge the demonstrators, a year ago.
Hezbollah and Shiite people have long rooted for Diab’s government, so their involvement in the Lebanon protests appears to be a way to bring the government and the protestors together. Whether or not the protestors will get mixed up in the web of traditional politics just so that their demands of needing economic and financial aid are fulfilled, is yet to be seen.