Lebanon | 6 mei 2020 | by Pim Gerritsen

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Lebanon back in the streets

Lebanon is protesting again. Despite the lockdown measures that were implemented as part of the corona response, people are taking back to the streets. The revolution that started in October 2019 did not bring any positive changes and the corona crisis and subsequent loss of income and work for hundreds of thousands of people only exacerbated the existing problems. Especially in Tripoli, protests are turning violent and the army has been responding with violence. One protestor was killed. We talked to one of our partners in Tripoli to hear what is going on.

Thursday, April 30

Hi Taha. I’m looking at the news, and I see that people are back in the streets. What’s happening?

Yes, it’s very worrying what is happening. Things are getting out of control with a direct confrontation between the army and the people. There is so much violence in the streets, from both sides. I expect it will only get worse.

Why?

It’s very dangerous. The city is divided again. Most people in my [more wealthy] part of the city don’t sympathize with the protesters at all. They are afraid of the violence and are encouraging the army to stop the demonstrations.

So the solidarity that was there during the first part of the revolution is gone?

Completely gone. The privileged people see the demonstrators as a threat to stability. Previously, the political elite was still able to control the poor part of the city. What is different now is that the people are much angrier. The political elite has become the people’s main enemy. It’s a very dirty game.

How?

If the violence escalates in the coming days the army might withdraw from the city. This means that they will leave the wealthier part of the city to its fate. This has happened several times in the past. The people under attack will then call on the political leaders to bring the army back in  and provide protection. But this anger cannot be easily contained I think.

What efforts are made to de-escalate the tensions?

The municipality and civil society are mainly trying to de-escalate through the distribution of food. In my opinion, they are doing so in a very naïve way.

Why?

Their only solution to keeping people calm is to make sure they have food. But this is pointless. People want dignity.

I see. And giving out food baskets doesn’t provide dignity.

Exactly. Check out this Facebook post from one of my friends, I’ll translate it for you. I think this sums up what people are feeling:

“We’re always accused of being violent and being terrorists, but in fact it’s we who are treated with violence. People are saying, ‘Oh, pity those people, they need food, feed them.’ But that’s stupid. What we need is dignity. The regime always uses Tripoli as a stage for their dirty games and we’re not allowed to voice our pain, we’re not allowed to live in dignity. It’s not easy to be in Tripoli.”

Thanks. Let’s stay in touch. Take care and stay safe.

You too Pim.

 

See also research on the impact of COVID 19 on the humanitarian situation in Lebanon

 

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