The Lebanese Deviation
Revolution. Last year was full of it, and the trend continues into this one. Hong Kong, Chile, Algeria, Spain, Ecuador, Bolivia, Iraq. All of these nations around the world have risen up in defiance of their governments in the hopes of ending political corruption, unemployment, and limited rights. One such nation has not gotten much attention but is just as important as the others: Lebanon, a small ethnically and religiously diverse nation situated on the Eastern Mediterranean coast. The country has been at a standstill since the beginning of the so-called “October Revolution.” Protests and instability are nothing new to the nation and have been present since it gained independence in 1943. Lebanon’s diversity and tremulousness led to civil war between the Christian and Muslim sects beginning in the 1970s and only ended with the signing of the Taif Accords in 1989. This peace deal split governmental powers between the various warring religious parties and led to the protests the world bears witness to today.
Since the government is built around fractures within society, leaders have been able to maintain power and create their own patronage systems, which hurts the masses as well as the economy. Corruption is not easily prevented, and necessities for modern life, such as waste management and water purification, are not adequately looked after by the authorities. People within all religious groups were disgruntled by these trends and only needed a push to challenge those in power. A literal spark initiated this movement. Large forest fires ripped through the country, marred large areas of land, and put the government’s corruption and gridlock on display. The government soon passed a tax on “WhatsApp” as well as other popular digital communication services and basic goods, infuriating a populous already suffering under an economic slump, and adding more fuel to the political firestorm. This was the last straw. On October 17th, the protests began in earnest, calling for the removal of the new taxes, better amenities, and a new governmental system. Those in power quickly abandoned the new tax but were not very willing to do much else early on. The protests continued with voices growing stronger for a change in government and a disposal of the old system of power. The Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, eventually was forced to resign with the rest of his cabinet on October 29th, giving the protestors a major concession. However, the protests still continue since many of those from the old government are still in seats of power.
On December 19th, a vote was held to determine the next prime minister, allowing Hassan Diab to come to power. Despite this, he is considered old establishment and is backed by Hezbollah, a terrorist group with significant political power within the nation. While he has called for reform, many are skeptical. His support from Hezbollah is seen as a major issue for some since their political prowess helped lead to corruption in the first place. Now many are beginning to question Hezbollah and have demanded that they disband--something that was unthinkable to say even a year ago. This is a major difference between previous protests and the “October Revolution.” The revolt has also cut across sectarian divides, a major turnabout from previous societal sentiments within the country. Protestors are from all religious backgrounds and demand the removal of officials without regard to the religious background of said officials. All citizens have experienced this corruption, and this has united them more than ever before. This leads to an interesting question: if a complete governmental change is achieved, will the people of Lebanon finally move on from their fractured culture towards a more united nation, or will the divides still stand? Only time will tell.