Lebanon Protests


(Photo: Omar Ibrahim/Reuters)

Musa Jabbour

On October 17, thousands of people gathered in the streets of Lebanon protesting for the resignation of their Prime Minister, Saad Hariri. These protests began in response to the taxes the Lebanese government imposed on online calls, such as those conducted through WhatsApp.

After clashes between military forces and protesters, the Lebanese government withdrew the proposal of the controversial tax; however, the crowds on the streets did not cease. Protesters have declared that they are not going to leave the streets until the prime minister resigns, as the focus of the protests have shifted from the controversial tax proposal to the poor management of the economy and public services in Lebanon.

What was the government’s reaction?

Following more protests, Prime Minister Saad Hariri approved a package of economic reforms, including a 50 percent reduction in salary for former and current politicians and ministers, after protesters declared a general strike. “Your movement is what led to these decisions that you see today,” Hariri said in response.

According to Hairiri, this new economic reform package will help fix the economic crisis that Lebanon is facing without hitting the public with more taxes. “The decisions that we have taken might not fulfill your [the protesters] demand,” said Hairiri, “but they fulfill what I have been calling for.” However, this wasn’t good enough for the people of Lebanon and did not stop their protests.

(Photo: Reuters)

The impacts of the protests on people’s lives 

The protests in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, have caused several banks to close for the time being. They are “waiting for the general situation to stabilize in the country,” according to a statement made by the Association of Banks in Lebanon (ABL) this past week. In addition to banks closing, Lebanese children have not been able to go to school for fear it might be too dangerous on the streets. Furthermore, many streets have been closed as a result of the protests, preventing people from being able to go to work.

What makes these protests unique? 

Lebanon hasn’t seen a major protest in over 14 years. Protesters claim that this movement is bringing them closer together, and uniting the country as a whole. As seen in the past, countries close in proximity to Lebanon, such as Syria, have had protests that have resulted in deadly war. However, the Lebanese people do not fear what might happen in the future. They are proud of being Lebanese, and are hoping that their fight against government corruption results in a country like the one before Saad Hariri’s government rule.

(Photo: AFP)

What now?

Hariri’s senior adviser, Nadim Munla, said he expects foreign donors to react positively to the reforms, which he said demonstrates how serious Lebanon is about cutting its budget deficit. Meanwhile, protesters have kept their promise of remaining on the streets until the complete removal of the current Lebanese government.

The Lebanese people are motivated to seek change, and the number of people in the crowds is growing night by night. Their objective is to occupy squares and streets in cities across the country. The protesters are saying they have made their mark, as seen in the changes the Lebanese government made in a week, but they haven’t overthrown the government yet. With neither the government nor the protesters backing down, no one quite knows what will happen next in the upcoming days.