By Maya El-Moussaoui
On Monday, October 14 the Lebanese Prime Minister proposed adding a tax on WhatsApp voice calls and other internet-based messaging services, after receiving a very negative reaction the proposition was dropped. Within days, mass anti-government protests were held all over Lebanon. People gathered from cities across the country to stand against alleged government failure and corruption.
Two million people to date have gathered in unison, rejecting government-proposed reforms and demanding a new non-sectarian state to be voted on by the people.
Just three days into the protest, four ministers from the Lebanese Forces resigned from the government. Samir Geagea, the leader of the group has stated that he has a “lack of confidence in the current cabinet” and also urged ministers to submit their resignations.
On Friday 18, Prime Minister Saad Hariri gave his government partners a 72-hour deadline to create a solution to the abrupt outrage. He announced a set of reforms on Monday 21 that claimed to cut government officials’ salaries by 50% and tackle various issues such as tax increases and electricity cuts. However, citizens have not backed down, as they demand the resignation of all former politicians and continue to fight against the more deep-rooted problems of government corruption.
No politician has been spared in the wake of this uprising. Lebanon’s Foreign Minister, Gebran Bassil, has been a common target in chants and posters used throughout the demonstrations. He has faced extreme backlash after backing up his father-in-law Michel Aoun’s presidency and trying to return Syrian refugees to their homes under Assad’s regime. Bassil has been unwilling to resign as he claims a new government would be far worse.
Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nassrallah also refuted the current demonstrations, as he believes a new government would be far worse, and take more time to restore the country’s dire economic state.
There have been attempts by certain groups, claimed to be Amal and Hezbollah supporters to retaliate against current protesters. Groups of hundreds of men on mopeds were videotaped trying to scare off protesters in central Beirut but were detained by Lebanese Army forces on Monday 21. A group of Amal supporters also attacked civilians in Riad Al Solh. However, Hezbollah leader Nasrallah denied that he sent any attackers.
Protesters remain steadfast in their demands even though the government has responded in defiance. Many of the protesters want full coup of the current government and request for early elections.
The revolution has gained serious momentum in such a short amount of time. Social media has been a vital tool in gathering and popularising the movement, through the constant sharing of videos of the protests and the use of the hashtagثورة# meaning revolution. Even Lebanese citizens living in other countries have been supporting the movement through demonstrations happening in cities across the globe.
In a televised address to the nation on Thursday 24 October, President Michel Aoun, expressed his desire to meet demonstrators to find the best possible solution for the county’s issues, he also suggested that a government reshuffle was also being considered.