Socialist Worker

Mass protest returns to the streets of Lebanon

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2703

Protesters in Lebanon demand fundamental change

Protesters in Lebanon demand fundamental change (Pic: Twitter/Christ Church)


Protests have exploded back onto the streets of Lebanon, as people battled cops and soldiers and set fire to banks over poverty and hardship.

Hundreds of people demonstrated in Beirut and Tripoli last week, as soaring inflation pushes people already struggling further into poverty.

Demonstrators in many cities torched at least a dozen banks during protests on Tuesday of last week.

The largest and most violent demonstrations took place in Tripoli, Lebanon’s poorest city, after soldiers killed a protester.

Fouaz al-Semaan died on Tuesday of last week after being injured on protests the night before. The 26 year old’s sister Fatima said the army had shot him.

Protesters began setting fire to banks after a funeral procession for Fouaz last Tuesday, fighting cops and soldiers late into the night.

Nearly 50 percent of Lebanon’s population live in poverty—and many are angry at a government that has tried to make them pay for its economic crisis.

Lebanon’s government failed to make an international debt repayment in March. 

As the value of the Lebanon pound plummeted, the government imposed restrictions preventing people from withdrawing their money in dollars.

One protester, Abdelaziz Sarkousi, said, “What you’re seeing is a result of accumulated problems. 

“We had a revolution, people were suffering, then came corona and people were locked in their homes for a month and a half without the state securing food and drink or anything else for them.

“Now we have reached a state where unfortunately you cannot control people anymore. People are hungry.”

Yehya, a protester in Tripoli, said, “People went to the streets because they have no jobs. Children are asking their parents to buy food and they do not have money to buy them any.” 

A mass movement against the government began in October last year.

Sparked 

Thousands of people took to the streets after the government tried to impose a tax on WhatsApp messages. The tax sparked anger in a country with high youth unemployment and where austerity has ravaged basic public services.

The government was forced to scrap the tax. 

But the protests spiralled into a movement against corruption that demanded fundamental political change.

Many protesters called for a revolution against a corrupt elite who have enriched themselves while ordinary people suffer.

The movement forced the resignation of former prime minister Saad Hariri. But his replacement Riad Salame didn’t represent the fundamental change the movement demanded.

Now the movement is back on the streets with angrier, more confrontational protests than before.

Activist Bilal Jundi told the Al-Jazeera news network, “We are hungry. 

“The revolution is against corruption. All officials say there is corruption, but what have they done?

“We don’t see any thieves in prison. Instead they are shooting at the people."


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