By Gabrielle Huff
“The protests, honestly, all I can say is that, it’s not even a protest, it’s a revolution. At this point, it’s a revolution and I’m amazed at how peaceful it has been,” junior political science student Michelle Eid said about the recent demonstrations in Lebanon, where her family is from.
The country has been in the midst of protests that have quickly grown since Oct. 17 and are still going strong.
“What’s going on is, you could say, an explosion of feelings. It’s an amalgamation of things piling up over each other; economic strife, political strife. It’s not in a dire place, but the economy has been in a bad position,” Eid, co-president of the Middle Eastern and North African Association, said about the reasons for the political unrest. “The people are just sick and tired of not being able to live a decent life because of the economy and politics.”
Citizens have been outraged by the inaction of the government throughout the recent economic turmoil and were set off in the explosion of emotions that Eid described by newly proposed taxes on several things including gasoline and WhatsApp, among other online phone call services.
“WhatsApp is used there more than actual texting in between people. You can say that the WhatsApp tax was a trigger to what’s been happening for so long. The tax is what made them say enough is enough and we can’t do this anymore. It’s a commodity that they use every single day in Lebanon,” Eid stated.
Saad Hariri, Prime Minister of Lebanon, resigned on Oct. 29 in the wake of the protests spreading throughout the country. This did not appease the Lebanese people and the demonstrations have carried on. They are now calling for an entirely new government Eid said.
“A lot of the party leaders hope that it’s going to end, and a lot of times people would expect it to, but it’s persisting, and people are not giving up. This is the first time the Lebanese people have organized for so long. The fact that they’ve gotten past the few day mark shows they really aren’t backing down. This truly depicts the great extent that the power is within the people,” she said.
“A lot of the ministries are divided across the political parties and that’s what the people are fighting against. Each party is given a certain share of the ministries, but what the people are calling for now is the establishment of a technocratic government. For example, they want a financial analyst to be in charge of the ministry of finance and for each ministry to be specialized,” Eid said about the goals of the protesters.
The most magnificent aspect of the protests, to Eid, has been how incredibly peaceful they have been, “People are going down to the streets singing, dancing, chanting, you really haven’t seen many violent outbursts. Many countries have been very surprised at how peaceful it has been,” she said.
“It’s crazy, every time I watch a video I start crying. To see everyone united is amazing because it’s been so hard to unite the Lebanese people. There are so many denominations of religions in Lebanon and they’re usually tied to the political parties. For the longest time the people were so divided and they’re letting go of their political beliefs to stand together, chant together and sing the national anthem, it’s amazing,” Eid said.
When talking with friends and family participating in the protests, Eid said they are of course very tired, but feel joy, ultimate joy. “To see civilians just come together and give out free food or free clothes; the acts of kindness we’ve seen in this protest are just mind baffling. It’s been acts of kindness between everyone and they’ve forgotten all the boundaries that initially divided them in the first place.”
“At one point, in one of the cities, because they were protesting through the night, they had a DJ come and play music. It’s been constant parties on the streets,” Eid said, depicting how peaceful, and shockingly fun, the protests have been so far.
“One thing I would want everyone to know is, keep on researching, know your news outlets. When I have people come to me with skewed facts, it brings me down because they don’t know what’s actually going on.” Eid added, “They think everything that’s going on in Lebanon is a series of violent events, but in reality, it is a peaceful protest and peaceful revolution. All I want readers to know is that always check your news outlets, what you’re reading and who you’re reading from.”
It is easy to assume Lebanon’s protests are riddled with violence like many other revolutions have been historically across the world, but one cannot be so naïve, Eid stressed. The widespread protests that are approaching a month in age have peacefully made waves across the nation, sparked political action and given many Lebanese people hope towards a brighter future for the country.