2019–20 Lebanese protests

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2019–2020 Lebanese protests
Part of the 2018–19 Arab protests and the protests of 2019
LebanonProtestsRingBridge Oct262019.jpg
Protesters blocking the "Ring Bridge" in Beirut on 26 October 2019.
Date17 October 2019 (2019-10-17) – ongoing
Location
Caused by
Methods
StatusOngoing
Concessions
given
Resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri
Parties to the civil conflict
Lebanon Individual People and Civil Society Organizations
Lead figures
Non-centralized leadership Lebanon Michel Aoun
Lebanon Nabih Berri
Lebanon Hassan Diab
Lebanon Saad Hariri (17–29 Oct)
Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah
Gebran Bassil
Samir Geagea
Flag of Kataeb Party.svg Samy Gemayel
Walid Jumblatt
Fares al-Saad
Talal Arslan
Suleiman Frangieh Jr.
Najib Mikati
Hagop Pakradounian
Casualties and losses
At least 7 killed and 540 injured as of 19 January 2020[3][4][5][6]
142 police injured as of 19 January 2020

Civil protests are taking place in Lebanon, initially triggered by planned taxes on gasoline, tobacco and VoIP calls on applications such as WhatsApp,[8][9][10] but quickly expanding into a country-wide condemnation of sectarian rule,[11] stagnant economy, unemployment, endemic corruption in the public sector,[11] legislation that is perceived to shield the ruling class from accountability (such as banking secrecy) [12][13] and failures from the government to provide basic services such as electricity, water and sanitation.[14] The protests first erupted on 17 October 2019. It has been 102 days since they have started.[15][16][17]

As a result of the protests, Lebanon entered a political crisis, with Prime Minister Saad Hariri tendering his resignation and echoing protesters' demands for a government of independent specialists.[18] Other politicians targeted by the protests have remained in power. On 19 December 2019, former Minister of Education Hassan Diab was designated the next prime minister and tasked with forming a new cabinet.[19] Protests and acts of civil disobedience have since continued, with protesters denouncing and condemning the designation of Diab as prime minister.[20][21][22] On 22 January, Lebanon named Hassan Diab as its prime minister to lead the new cabinet of 20 members, after three months of mass protests. Diab was appointed with the support of Hezbollah, its allies, and the Free Patriotic Movement led by Gebran Bassil.[23]

Background[edit]

Political background[edit]

According to The Economist, Lebanon's dysfunction and mismanagement, a cause of the protests, has its origins in the country's sectarian political system enshrined following the Taif agreement, which took place in 1989, almost thirty years before the 2019 protest began. The Taif agreement enshrines a sect-based political system, where political authority is allocated based on the religious affiliation of the public servant. This system is perceived as exploited by the current Lebanese politicians, many of whom are Lebanese Civil War-era sectarian warlords who still occupy positions of power and enjoy amnesty against accountability.[24] Lebanon is a mosaic of various religious factions. It is composed of 18 different sects. The 18 officially recognized religious groups include four Muslim sects, 12 Christian sects, the Druze sect, and Judaism.[25]

The outbreak of the protests was attributed to the accumulated crises within the preceding weeks in Lebanon. First of all, in Chouf and Saadiyat, among other places, fires have propagated, scorching nearby homes, and placing many people in danger. A large portion of greenery, an aspect of Lebanon that Lebanese people take pride in, was burnt down as a result. The Lebanese government failed to employ its planes to extinguish the fires and had to rely on Cypriotic aid.[26][27] [28][29][30] Moreover, the prices of both oil and bread had been increasing amid increased unemployment and poverty nationwide, with youth unemployment at 37% and general unemployment at 25% as of August 2019.[31] Since all of these issues are due to a lack of proper governance, the Lebanese people voiced out their opinions over the negative situation.

Furthermore, Lebanon has not had stable, 24-hour electricity since 1975, with eight-hour daily power rationing cuts being common across the nation; obtaining 24-hour electricity in Lebanon has since been dependent on obtaining a deal with the country's "generator mafia", which operates a ring of contraband gasoline power generators that contribute to the high level of air pollution observed in Lebanese cities.[32] Lebanon has also not had access to drinking water except through purchasing bottled water through private companies since the 1975-1990 Lebanese Civil War. Finally, the country suffers from a deficient sanitation and sewage infrastructure, which led to the 2015 "garbage crisis" that sparked the 2015–16 Lebanese protests.[33]

Days before the protests began, a series of about 100 major wildfires in Chouf, Khroub and other Lebanese areas displaced hundreds of people and caused enormous damage to Lebanese wildlife. The Lebanese government failed to deploy its firefighting equipment due to lack of maintenance and had to rely on aid from neighboring Cyprus, Jordan, Turkey and Greece.[34][35]

Protests started taking place in small numbers around Beirut towards the end of September.[36][37] Impetus for the revolutionary movement was apparent years before the protests began and was visible in Lebanon's arts and culture scene, as evidenced by pop artist Ragheb Alama's song "Tar Al Balad"[38] in December 2018 and rock singer-songwriter IJK's song "Chedd Halak"[39] in June 2019.

Economic background[edit]

Since 1997, successive governments maintained a pegged exchange rate between the Lebanese pound and United States dollar.[40] Forecasts for the Lebanese economy worsened over the 2010s and by 2019 GDP per capita reached its lowest since 2008 and the debt-to-GDP ratio reached its highest since 2008 at 151%.[41][42] As a result, international credit rating agencies downgraded the rating of government bonds.[43] The combination of an economic downturn in the import-dependent country with the continuation of its dollar peg saw an increase in the government's budget deficit and a reliance on using foreign exchange reserves from the nation's central bank to keep the currency peg.[44] A subsequent dollar shortage in late 2019 further affected the economy, as import businesses and citizens became unable to acquire dollars at the official rate and a black market emerged.[45][46] The coalition government led by Saad Hariri responded with an austerity program of general tax increases and spending reductions, with the aim to reduce the government deficit while maintaining the peg against the U.S. dollar.[47][48][49] The reduction of the national deficit was a condition of a package of USD 10.2 billion of loans and USD 860 million of grants agreed in 2018 with the World Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and Saudi Arabia.[50]

On 1 October, the Central Bank of Lebanon announced an economic strategy that promised to provide dollars to all those companies in the business of importing wheat, gasoline, and pharmaceuticals, so that they could continue their imports. This was considered a short-term solution by economic analysts.[51]

In a cabinet session held on 17 October, the government proposed strategies to increase state revenue for 2020. There were 36 items to be discussed, including the increase of Value Added Tax (VAT) by 2pp by 2021 and an additional 2pp by 2022, making it reach a total of 15%. Additionally, the media reported there were plans of a USD 0.20 charge on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls, such as ones made on FaceTime, Facebook and WhatsApp.[52] The final session of the budget draft was to be held on 19 October, but was canceled upon the agreement of Prime Minister Saad Hariri and President Michel Aoun.[53][54]

2019 Protests[edit]

Beginning[edit]

Protests in Antelias, late night of 17 October

On 17 October 2019, approximately one hundred civil activists were protesting against the new proposed taxes in and around downtown Beirut, blocking important streets.[55] As the Minister of Higher Education Akram Chehayeb and his convoy passed by the area, protesters assembled on his car. One of his bodyguards shot stray bullets into the air, which further enraged the protesters; no injuries were reported.[56] Walid Joumblatt, the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, stated that he had spoken to minister Chehayeb who represents the party in the Lebanese government and requested the bodyguards be handed over to the police, as all people are "under the law".[57][58] A large number of protesters began appearing in Martyrs Square, Nejmeh Square, and Hamra Street, as well as many other regions around Lebanon. As the protests grew bigger, Prime Minister Saad Hariri called a snap cabinet meeting at the request of President Michel Aoun for midday on 18 October.[59] An announcement was also made by Minister of Higher Education Akram Chehayeb that all schools and universities, public or private, would remain closed the next day.[60] The Minister of Telecommunications Mohamad Choucair announced that "WhatsApp tax" idea had been scrapped at around 11:00PM.[61] Protesters saw the "WhatsApp tax" as the last straw, socially, politically and economically, against the entire political class, which was deemed corrupt and in need of immediate ousting.

Protesters in Riad el Solh square, Beirut. 22 October 2019.

Protesters in Nabatiyeh and Tripoli, on 18 October, vandalized the offices of the Hezbollah, Amal Movement, and Free Patriotic Movement political parties in an expression of disillusionment and in protest against perceived government corruption.[62][63][64] Other protesters aimed to enter the Serail, which includes the Lebanese Parliament building, but were stopped by the use of tear gas from the Internal Security Forces.[65] protesters created roadblocks on the major roads of the country, using burning tires and trash cans to stop access.[66][67] Civil servants announced a strike with immediate effect through League of Public Sector Employees, arguing that the proposed reforms would "undermine the rights of employees and pensioners in particular".[68] A cabinet meeting was due to be held in the afternoon, but ministers of the Lebanese Forces announced that they would not attend.[69] The leader of the Forces, Samir Geagea, called for the resignation of the Prime Minister, due to the "resounding failure to halt the deterioration of the [country's] economic situation".[70] After this announcement, the cabinet meeting was canceled by the Prime Minister.[71] Leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, Walid Jumblatt, called for a "calm and peaceful" move against President Michel Aoun's mandate, and organized rallies in Aley, Bhamdoun, and Baakline to voice their opinions.[72] Pierre Issa of the National Bloc voiced a similar opinion, calling for a "government of specialists, a government reduced from public safety". However, he criticized the involvement of political parties within the protests and argued it should remain something for the citizens to do.[73] In the evening, Prime Minister Saad Hariri addressed the nation, giving his "partners in government" 72 hours to support the reforms. If they did not come to an agreement, he suggested he would take a "different approach".[74][75] He tweeted "72 hours..." right after the delivered speech.[76]

First week: 19–24 October[edit]

Protesters wave Lebanon's flag in Beirut. Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque, 20 October 2019
Sign held during Lebanese Protest displays disapproval of Lebanese Government "Parliament of thieves". Beirut, 20 October 2019

Lebanese national Hussein Al-Attar was shot and killed during a protest on 19 October 2019.[77] Former MP Mosbah al-Ahdab's bodyguards fired on protesters, no one was killed, but four were injured.[78] The General Secretary of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, addressed the nation in the morning, speaking against the imposed taxes. However, he indicated that Hezbollah was against the government resigning and instead asked citizens to divert blame from Hariri's cabinet to the previous government, which was also to blame for the state of the economy.[79] As the protests carried on throughout the day, there were alleged reports of Amal Movement militant groups harassing and opening fire on protesters in Tyre.[80]

Protests were held around major European cities, as well as in North America and Australia, showing solidarity with the protesters in Lebanon.[81] Due to the mounting pressure from protesters, the Lebanese Forces announced their resignation from the cabinet. Samir Geagea, their leader, had previously blamed his opponents for "obstructing the necessary reforms," but since declared his "lack of confidence in the current cabinet." His party held four seats within the government: Minister of Labor Camille Abou Sleiman, Minister of Administrative Development May Chidiac, Deputy Prime Minister Ghassan Hasbani, and Minister of Social Affairs Richard Kouyumjian.[82]

On 20 October, hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered in locations throughout the country, making it the largest demonstrations since 2005.[83] Gunfire was heard outside the Tripoli office of Firas Al-Ali, an associate of Hariri. None were injured with the clash, and security forces were quick to act.[84] At 6:00PM, protesters across the country united to sing the national anthem together.[85]

Video of protesters in Tyre cheering a female activist singer on 22 October 2019

On 21 October, a general strike was called across the country demanding an end to the country's economic problems. Some protesters began clearing away demonstration debris in Beirut after a social media call to keep the streets tidy and clear.[86] In the afternoon, an emergency cabinet meeting was held. After the meeting, Prime Minister Hariri held a press conference in which he announced various economic reforms including halfing the salaries of legislators and members of parliament, reducing the deficit by about US$3.4 billion in 2020 with the help of the Lebanese central bank and the banking sector, distributing financial aid to families living in poverty and giving US$160 million in housing loans.[83] These proposals were unsuccessful at quelling protests. At night, several motorcyclists hoisting Hezbollah and Amal Movement were recorded heading towards the protests in central Beirut but were intercepted by the Lebanese Army. Soon thereafter, Hezbollah and the Amal Movement denied any involvement with the motorcyclists.[87]

Protesters in front of the Grand Serial, Beirut, carrying a sign that reads "No to Sectarian Rule". 23 October 2019.

Hariri met on 22 October with ambassadors from the United States, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and the European Union, along with representatives from China, the United Nations, and the Arab League. Hariri discussed planned reforms and stressed the importance of peaceful expression from the protesters. The representatives, who form the International Support Group for Lebanon, expressed support for economic reforms and protection of protesters, but urged the leaders of Lebanon to engage in open dialogue with the country's citizens.[88]

On 23 October, Hariri held a meeting with the ministerial committee in charge of financial and economic reforms, discussing a draft law on the recovery of public money and requesting suggestions on it from the Supreme Judicial Council within ten days.[89] In the evening, Hariri also held a meeting with members of the Progressive Socialist Party to discuss the latest developments in the country.[90] Sheikh Akl of the Lebanese Druze community called for government dialogue to safeguard the rights of liberty, security and stability.[91]

President Michel Aoun addressed the population on 24 October, stating his willingness to hold a dialogue with the protesters and find the best solution forward. He supported Hariri's reforms, but did confirm a need to "review the current government" within the "state institutions", and not through protesting.[92] Hariri supported this review through Lebanon's "constitutional mechanisms", but the protesters rejected any calls for dialogue until the government has resigned.[93]

Second week: 25–31 October[edit]

Despite calls for dialogue from President Aoun, protests and road blocks continued on 25 October 2019. Small scuffles broke out in central Beirut between protesters and Hezbollah supporters. One protester was injured.[94] A report by Standard & Poor's downgraded its credit assessment of Lebanon to "CreditWatch negative" due to the government's low creditworthiness and economic pressures relating to the reforms. The country's banks remained closed.[95][96] Hezbollah supporters again clashed with protesters in downtown Beirut, chanting in support of Hezbollah's General Secretary, Hassan Nasrallah.[97] Nasrallah held a speech in the evening, calling his supporters to leave the streets.[98][99] Within this speech, he praised the protesters for achieving economic reforms, but suggested that they were being exploited by local and foreign agents to start a civil war within the country.[100] Nasrallah also strongly suggested that the protests are part of an Israeli and American plot.[101]

A security meeting was held on 26 October in Yarzeh to discuss how the safety and free movement of protesters could be ensured.[102] Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea once more criticized the lack of response from the government towards the protesters' concerns.[103] Meanwhile, thousands of Lebanese gathered in over thirty cities around the world on the 26 and 27 October including Sydney, Paris, Houston and London in a show of support[citation needed].

Human Chain on Martyr place in Beirut (27 October)

Tens of thousands of individuals took part in a "human chain" which was held on 27 October at the coastlines from the Northern city of Tripoli to the southern city of Tyre - encompassing 171 km - organized with the intention to show the unity of the Lebanese people.[104][105][106] The Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi during a Sunday sermon in Bkerké considered that the people are living their positive and reformist revolution.[107] Pope Francis addressed the Lebanese people expressing their struggle in the face of challenges and social, moral and economic problems of the country, expressing he's praying that Lebanon can continue to be a place of peaceful coexistence, and urging the Lebanese government to listen to the concerns of the people.[108]

Black-clad[101] Hezbollah and Amal Movement supporters attacked protesters in Beirut on 29 October, tearing down and setting fire to the tents set up by the protesters, throwing plastic chairs, and beating anti-government protesters.[109] Many among the angry mob chanted: "God, Nasrallah, and the whole Dahyeh," in reference to the southern suburb that is a stronghold of the Iranian-backed militant group. They also chanted, "Shia, Shia", as a reverential reference to the country's Shiite Muslim sect.[101] The Hezbollah and Amal Movement supporters also attacked TV crew members and destroyed live broadcasting equipment for the MTV (Lebanon) and Al Jadeed television channels, claiming that they were upset at the roadblocks and insults to their leader.[110] Public squares across Beirut filled with protesters shortly after.[111] Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation in a televised address on the afternoon of 29 October. Several hours after the resignation of the Prime Minister, celebrations swept the nation with demonstrators cautiously welcoming the resignation celebrated through fireworks, songs, and releasing flagged colored balloons.[112]

On 30 October, tear gas was fired at protesters in the northern district of Akkar by the Lebanese Army trying to reopen the roads. Protesters also blocked roads in the southern city of Sidon and Bekaa Valley. In Central Beirut, dozens of protesters blocked the "Ring Bridge" while a big crowd returned to Tripoli's al-Nour Square to protest. The Lebanese Army intervened in many regions to prevent escalation.[113][114] Later that evening a statement released from the Presidential Office said that Lebanese President Michel Aoun will address the nation the next day.[115]

President Aoun delivered a speech on 31 October[116] in which he spoke about Lebanon's economic and financial crisis. He also spoke about his commitment in fighting corruption, ensuring political stability, eliminating terrorists and the return of Syrian refugees within the country. He also promised the new government will be made up by specialist instead of political loyalists.[117] Protesters took to the streets and blocked roads across the country almost immediately after President Aoun's address to the nation, demanding early parliamentary elections and the formation of a technocratic government. Demonstrators shut off roads in cities nationwide – including Sidon, Bekaa, and Khaldeh – with burning tires or by the sheer volume of protesters. In Tripoli, thousands of protesters started to gather at Al-Nour Square while In Beirut, protesters blocked the George Haddad highway which connects the waterfront road to the "Ring Bridge". The Lebanese Army and riot police were deployed across the country in an effort to reopen the roads.[118][119]

Third week: 1–7 November[edit]

Lebanon's banks reopened on 1 November 2019, after two weeks of closure, the longest bank closure in the nation's history.[120] "Unofficial" capital controls were imposed by individual banks to prevent a bank run, with personal withdrawals being limited to US$3,000 per week or per month depending on individual banks. Corporate banking activity was similarly heavily restricted, and international bank transfers from Lebanon were halted almost completely, subject to manual per-transfer approval.[121] Hezbollah's Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah offered a public speech in which he stated that Hezbollah feared a government overthrow, due to the consequent "vacuum" Lebanon would experience.[122] Nasrallah's then-latest speech was perceived to be unclear on whether Hezbollah supported or opposed the nation-wide revolutionary movement. Nasrallah again shed doubt on the motivations of the protesters during his speech, implying that they were being manipulated by foreign influences.[123] As Lebanese schools universities remained closed during the protests, public teach-ins and debates, organized by secular political groups and advocacy organizations (Beirut Madinati, Libaladi, Lihaqqi and others) were offered in Beirut.[124]

Protest in Tripoli, Lebanon, a city that was recognized as being a central source of energy for the protest movement.[125] 2 November 2019.

On 3 November, thousands of Lebanese Free Patriotic Movement supporters attended a protest in support of President Michel Aoun, the founder of the party. During the protest, FPM leader Gebran Bassil made a personal statement for the first time in over 13 days.[126] Bassil claimed "We should block roads for MPs who refuse corruption-combating laws, politicians who escape accountability and judges who do not implement the law." He also demanded lifting banking secrecy on political officials' accounts and insisting accountability, as well as a return of misused or stolen public funds.[127] In the afternoon, tens of thousands of anti-government protesters flooded the streets across Lebanon in a "Sunday of unity".[128] Protesters gathered for the third consecutive Sunday since mass anti-government demonstrations began on 17 October, filling the streets and central squares of major cities including Beirut, Tripoli and Tyre. Dozens of main roads were closed by burning tires, mounts of sand and by the sheer amount of protesters, despite an ongoing threat of violence from political-party opposition. Acts of violence from party rivals consisted around Lebanon, such as the attacks on protesters in Beirut blocking public roads.[129][130] These attacks were presumed to be affiliated with Hezbollah.[131]

A candle-light vigil was held on 4 November in Baalbek in memorial of those who have perished in the Lebanese protest,[132] while physical tensions from road blocking persisted in Beirut.[133]

On 5 November, some students of American University of Science and Technology in Beirut showed attendance in protest, and were met with harsh engagement from soldiers of the Lebanese Armed Forces. General Directorate of General Security officers were recorded verbally threatening students that were recording the protests.[134] Protesters in Nabatieh, shut down companies such as OGERO, Liban Post, Banque du Liban and several banks despite state-exerted political pressure towards the protesters in this region.[135] Protesters were present outside electrical company buildings, frustrated with decades of inconsistent power and common outages.[136]

Thousands of students across Lebanon protested on 6 November in front of universities and schools refusing to attend classes until their demands are met.[137] Several student led movements have been organized since the start of the protests, in demand of a financial student contract, the reversal of the decision to change tuition fees to the dollar currency in some universities, independent student councils in each university, and a well-funded Lebanese University. On the national scale, they have been asking for social, political, and economic reform, in hopes of finding respectable job prospects after graduation without nepotism or sect bias. Pension and retirement plans are also being demanded, as well as proper health care coverage.[138] In the afternoon, protesters began to gradually grow across Lebanon and started protesting by the thousands in front of key governmental and private institutions and forced some of them to close their doors.[139]

Fourth week: 8–14 November[edit]

It was reported on 9 November 2019 that the dollar-rationing policies implemented by Lebanese banks were at risk of causing major shortages and price hikes in gasoline, petrol, food and other vital supplies. Suleiman Haroun, the head of the Lebanese Syndicate of Hospitals, said that medical stocks in the country "will not last more than a month" unless a solution is found.[140] During the weekend, news spread of a planned parliamentary legislative session on 12 November that would include a proposed general amnesty law, which could grant current and past members protection against prosecution for crimes such as corruption and misuse of public funds. In response, protesters called for a general strike to be held on the same day, and published a list of demands which included bolstering guarantees for a speedy trial, working towards a solution for the economic crisis, guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary and investigating the misuse of public funds.[141][142]

Flare shines light in group of protesters. Beirut, 10 November 2019

On 11 November, the Lebanese Federation of Syndicates of Bank Employees called for a general strike for its 11,000 members over "concerns for safety". This strike is unprecedented in the country's history and its impact is unclear. No end date was specified for the strike, and a general closure of all Lebanese banks may very well be the result.[143] Riad Salameh, the governor of Lebanon's central bank (Banque du Liban) gave a press conference in which he denied the possibility of capital control on the Lebanese economy, assured that a "haircut" on large accounts is not a possibility, and repeated that the central bank's priority remains on economic stability and confidence in the Lebanese Pound. When asked about the strike by the bank staff union announced earlier in the day, Salameh claimed to have not yet heard of it.[144] A few minutes after Salameh's press conference, Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri appeared on live television to announce that the following day's parliamentary session had been delayed until 19 November 2019, possibly as a response to protests called for during the weekend against the proposed general amnesty bill that was due to be discussed. Berri claimed the postponement was for "security reasons".[145] In the afternoon, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah gave a speech in which he made strong overtures towards a corruption investigation to be led by Lebanon's judiciary, offering for Hezbollah to collaborate fully with any such investigation and calling for a "strong, independent judiciary" to equally investigate all Lebanese parties without reservation.[146] Nasrallah also called for banking secrecy and any prior amnesty for public representatives to be lifted, "dating back to 1992".

On 12 November, speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri was reported to have sent resigned Prime Minister Saad Hariri a pot of Leben, a traditional Lebanese dairy product, along with a note that promised "eternal enmity" if Hariri refused to form a new government. Hariri thanked Berri for the Leben but excused himself as having ceased eating all kinds of milks and cheeses due to lactose intolerance, concluding that "indeed, the state of the country itself requires a new political diet or "regime", so to speak". The unusual exchange was covered in Lebanese media.[147] President Michel Aoun gave a live interview at 8:30PM, during which he rejected calls for a fully technocratic government, warned against a run on the bank further damaging the economic sector, and called for an immediate end to the protests to prevent a "catastrophe". Aoun accused protesters of "stabbing the nation with a dagger" and accused protesters that blocked roads of "violating international law". Aoun also stated that "anyone who cannot find faith in the current Lebanese government can leave Lebanon and live somewhere else".[148] Aoun's interview proved exceedingly unpopular with the protest movement, which began blocking an unprecedented number of arterial roads in Beirut and across Lebanon before the interview was even concluded including Qob Elias,[149] "Ring Bridge",[150] Dahr el Baidar,[151] Jiyyeh,[152] Nahr el Kalb,[153] Neemeh,[154] Beddawi,[155] Abdeh, Mahmara, Braqil,[156] Madina Riyadiyya,[157] Verdun,[158] Jal el Dib,[159] Hasbaya,[160] the Palma highway,[161] Aley,[162] Cola,[163] Dawra,[164] Sayyfi,[165] Corniche al Mazraa,[166] and Sassine.[167] Alaa Abou Fakhr,[4] a Lebanese national, was shot and killed in Khalde at the ensuing protests.

Protesters began appearing in the early morning of 13 November near the heavily fortified Baabda Presidential Palace to express dissatisfaction with President Aoun's speech a few hours earlier, and picked up in pace as the day progressed.[168]

Activist and protester Khaldoun Jaber was released on 14 November after being detained by the Lebanese army in Baabda the previous day in mysterious circumstances. Jaber was shown to have marks of physical abuse upon his release, which he claimed were due to torture by the army during his detention. Jaber also claimed to have been exposed to psychological abuse.[169] During his detention, Jaber was not given access to a lawyer with even the location of his detention being kept secret. The reason for his arrest was unclear, with some sources claiming it was due to attempting to cross a security perimeter during the previous day's protest near Baabda Palace.[170]

Fifth week: 15–21 November[edit]

As the protests continue nationwide, Sleiman Haroun, the president of the Syndicate of Private Hospitals, threatened to have 15 November 2019 as a day of closure to all patients except the ones who have dialysis, chemotherapy treatment and emergency care, unless some immediate action is taken by the authorities in the government.[171] Haroun said the strike has nothing to do with the current protest and his purpose was to "raise awareness" and highlight the fact that the government has not been paying its full dues to the hospitals since 2011 and owes them a total of $1.3 billion as of today.[171][172] Since no direct response was received, all hospitals in Metn, Akkar and Nabatieh areas went on strike that day; doctors along with the hospital’s medical teams and staff were on the streets "breathing their last breath".[173]

Currency and payment issues are causing additional burden on hospitals. Hospitals are running out of medical supplies and equipment, because they are 100% reliant on imported supplies and equipment.[171] Due to shortage of US currency in Lebanon, banks have not been able to transfer fund in US dollar to the companies who import these supplies.[171] Suppliers now have to turn to exchange houses in order to get their US dollars, which end up charging significantly higher rates than the official rate of 1$ to 1,507.5 L.L., only if they had any dollars to sell.[174] Suppliers have also not been paid by the hospitals as a result of the situation. If this continues, hospitals will only have one month before they run out of their current shelf stock.[171] Hospitals have received no payment since the beginning of 2019 and salary reductions are being considered in many hospitals if the situation does not improve.[174]

Beirut Bar Association elections were held on 17 November. The independent candidate, Melhem Khalaf, won the majority vote (2,341 votes) to become the BBA's Council president and the first independent candidate to win against politically affiliated candidates in decades. Khalaf's contenders were Nader Gaspard, Saadeddine Al Khatib, and Ibrahim Moussallem. Pierre Hanna, who was backed by the Lebanese Forces, Progressive Socialist Party and the Future Movement, as well as twelve other candidates either dropped out or were not voted in, competed for council positions.[175]

Women protesters forming a line between riot police and protesters in Riad el Solh, Beirut; 19 November 2019

Parliament was set to hold two sessions in the morning of 19 November, including a legislative session that was opposed by protesters, due to it timetabling a controversial amnesty law that was perceived as potentially granting amnesty to crimes committed by the political class, such as misappropriation of public funds or corruption. The sessions were originally planned for 12 November, but were already once postponed due to protests. 58 out of 128 Members of Parliament were boycotting the session, but that number was not sufficient to prevent quorum. A human chain was planned around the Lebanese Parliament to prevent Members of Parliament from entering the premises and to thereby force the session to be postponed.[176] Protesters began gathering early in the morning. Convoys for some Members of Parliament were recorded shooting live bullets or speeding into crowds in an attempt to disperse protesters.[177] Many protesters were gravely injured. At around 11:20am, Secretary General of the Lebanese Parliament Adnane Daher confirmed to local media that both parliament sessions were postponed indefinitely. This was perceived as a victory by protesters.[178] Lebanese banks reopened for the first time since 11 November after the Lebanese Federation of Syndicates of Bank Employees ended its strike.[179]

President Michel Aoun gave a speech on 21 November, on the eve of Lebanese Independence Day, in which he called for an end to protests and "hateful language on the streets" and promised an "anti-corruption cabinet". Protesters expressed dissatisfaction with the speech by resuming the closing of roads.[180]

Sixth week: 22–28 November[edit]

Protests in the evening of Lebanon's 76th Independence Day celebration in Martyr's Square, Beirut.

Lebanon's 76th Independence Day was celebrated on 22 November 2019 with the nation's first-ever civil parade, which was organized by civil society groups in Beirut's Martyr's Square. An invite-only private military parade had been held in the early morning by the Lebanese government, and the civil parade was intended as a rebuke against the government organized by the "true Lebanese": the parade had "batallions" representing different groups from Lebanese society, including cooks, schoolteachers, retired military personnel, pharmacists, engineers, women's rights activists, bankers, athletes, performance artists and more. The civil parade coincided with a program of festival activities organized by independent groups, which included dancing and heat lantern lighting. Marches were held across the Beirut region in the morning, all arriving to the civil parade in central Beirut.[181][182][183]

On 23 November, five youths, including children aged 12 and 15, were detained by Lebanese military intelligence after taking down a banner which supported the Free Patriotic Movement, which is the party of President Aoun. Their detention was reported to the media by their families, and the children were released past midnight after the intervention of volunteer lawyers.[184]

A protest was held on 24 November outside the United States embassy in Lebanon to express opposition to U.S. interference in Lebanon. The protest came after Hezbollah accused the United States in meddling with and delaying the formation of a new cabinet, and after comments made by U.S. ambassador Jeffrey Feltman in which he said that "reactions to [Hezbollah] by Lebanese leaders and institutions fortunately coincide with U.S. interests".[185][186] Around noon, another protest was held across the Lebanese coastline to draw attention to the high level of environmental pollution in Lebanon.[187] Right before midnight, pro-government Hezbollah and Amal Movement supporters violently clashed with protesters in the "Ring" bridge and Jal el Dib areas, demanding an end to road blocks imposed by protesters. This came after protesters apparently physically assaulted two people after suspecting them of being Hezbollah supporters.[188] The Hezbollah/Amal supporters burned civil society tents, trashed cars and caused damage to public and private property. The Lebanese army intervened with tear gas and flash grenades hours later, dispersing one of the most violent evenings since the beginning of the protests.[189][190]

Hezbollah and Amal Movement supporters arrive to Martyr's Square on motorbikes. 25 November 2019.

At around noon on 25 November, Hussein Chalhoub and his sister-in-law Sanaa al-Jundi died after their car hit a makeshift roadblock used by protesters to cut off access to the Jiyyeh highway. This inflamed tensions between protesters and pro-government Hezbollah/Amal Movement supporters.[5] Ján Kubiš, the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, issued multiple statements on Twitter warning against escalating confrontation between protesters and Hezbollah/Amal Movement supporters.[191][192][193][194] Later in the afternoon, pro-government Hezbollah and Amal Movement supporters began roving around Beirut, Tyre and other cities on mopeds and motorbikes, shouting taunts and provocations at protesters. Some physical clashes ensued, and the confrontations continued to occur sporadically until later in the evening.[195][196]

Resigned Prime Minister Saad Hariri formally announced on 26 November that he would not run again for the position.[197] Meanwhile, businessman Samir Khatib announced that he was "ready to form a new government", and seemed to accrue some level of endorsement from political parties.[198] President Michel Aoun announced that binding consultations to designate a new Prime Minister would be held on 28 November.[199] Overnight, clashes occurred all around Lebanon. In Baalbek, Hezbollah/Amal Movement supporters destroyed protester's tents and also their sound system.[200][201] In Bikfaya, Free Patriotic Movement (the party of sitting President Michel Aoun) supporters organized a protest in front of the home of former President Amin Gemayel. They clashed with Kataeb Party (Gemayel's party) supporters, which led to injuries and the destruction of private property until the Lebanese army intervened.[202][203] Clashes also occurred in Chyah and Ein Rummaneh. The Lebanese Red Cross claimed that dozens of people were injured including one female FPM activist injured to the head,[204] while the Lebanese army said that at least 16 people were detained for their involvement in the clashes.[205]

On 27 November, Lebanon's Syndicate of Gas Station Owners announced that an open-ended strike would begin the next day to highlight the "size of the losses sustained by the sector due to the presence of two dollar [rates] in the Lebanese market."[206] Hundreds of Lebanese mothers led a "mother's march" in Chyah to protest against sectarian violence on 26 November between youths.[207]

Sources at the Lebanese Ministry of Finance claimed to local media that the Lebanese Central Bank was scheduled to repay US$1.5 billion in Eurobond debt which matures on 28 November, putting to rest speculation that Lebanon could default on its debt. However, Lebanon still has outstanding Eurobond debt due in 2020, and media sources noted that the path towards refinancing necessary to handle that debt is unclear without a cabinet.[208][209][210] A protest occurred in front of the Lebanese Central Bank and other government administrative and judiciary institutions.[211] Arab League ambassador Hossam Zaki formally expressed "readiness" to help solve the political and economic crisis in Lebanon for the first time since the beginning of the protests.[212]

Seventh week: 29 November – 5 December[edit]

On 29 November 2019, protests occurred in front of the Lebanese Central Bank and some other judiciary and administrative government buildings and institutions, with the aim of preventing public sector employees from entering these institutions.[213] Multiple media sources claimed that Hezbollah had asked President Michel Aoun to delay binding parliamentary consultations, which were scheduled for 28 November, under the hope that resigned Prime Minister Saad Hariri would revert his decision not to lead the next cabinet.[214][215]

Protesters gathered on 3 December across the country in response to businessman Samir Khatib's nomination as possible new prime minister.[216] Several cases of suicide were being linked to deteriorating living conditions in Lebanon, most prominently the death of 40-year old Naji Fleity in Arsal. According to local media, Fleity committed suicide because he was unable to provide for his family after losing his job. His suicide sparked a large outcry of anger online.[217]

Protesters resumed blocking roads on 4 December following politicians' apparent consensus on designating Samir Khatib as the next prime minister.[218]

Eighth week: 6–12 December[edit]

On 7 December 2019, about a thousand people marched in Beirut to protest sexual harassment in Lebanon.[219] A man self-immolated during the protest and survived, with his motives being unclear.[220] The protest came after days of prolonged controversy surrounding a personal trainer in Beirut who was accused by over fifty women of sexual misconduct.[221][222]

Reports of women journalists being attacked also began to surface around this time. The Coalition For Women In Journalism, which has a special focus on women journalists, documented several attacks. "Covering large protests in many parts of the Middle East has always been so hard for women journalists — we remember the many terrible incidents that happened during the Arab Spring. Following which over the years we have seen many journalism support organizations and others in the industry to train and equip women reporters to be able to take precautions on the ground. But the scope of these attacks are now changing and diversifying." the organization's founding director Kiran Nazish said. "Unfortunately this is an ever more precarious situation and it is important to point out to Labenese authorities that they have a responsibility to protect the press. Not doing so or doing the opposite is rather reckless," Kiran added.[223]

On 8 December, Samir Khatib withdrew as candidate for prime minister after failing to get enough backing from the Sunni Muslim parties in parliament.[224] With Khatib's withdrawal, Saad Hariri became the only candidate for prime minister once again. Protesters then gathered outside parliament to condemn Hariri's candidacy and demand an independent candidate.[225]

Following days of heavy rainfall, a house collapsed on 10 December in Tripoli, killing two adult siblings.[226] Protesters, claiming that the house collapsed due to consistent municipal negligence, stormed the Tripoli municipal police office and demonstrated outside the house of the mayor. They smashed windows, set a room on fire, and damaged a car. The army intervened to stop the violence.[227] In Jounieh, four protesters were detained after attempting to block roads. They were released the same evening after another protest blocked the Jounieh highway.[228] In Beirut, protesters organized demonstrations outside the houses of current and former public works ministers. While attempting to reach the home of former public works and transportation minister Ghazi Zaiter, they were blocked at Rue Verdun by men dressed in uniforms of the Internal Security Forces. Cars were vandalized as the men dragged protesters out to beat them; a dozen people including reporter Paula Naufal were hospitalized for their injuries.[229]

Protesters in Tripoli resumed blocking roads on 11 December.[230]

Ninth week: 13–19 December[edit]

Riot police used tear gas against groups of men that attacked protesters' camps in Beirut on 14 December 2019.[231] In the evening, protesters in central Beirut attempted to reach Nejmeh Square, chanting slogans against Saad Hariri, who was expected to be named Prime Minister by Monday, and Gebran Bassil. The protesters were met with violence, tear gas and rubber bullets by the Lebanese internal security forces.[232][233] At least 46 people were hospitalized with injuries according to the Lebanese Red Cross and Lebanese Civil Defense.[234]

Saad Hariri Twitter
@saadhariri

Arabic: ولما تبين لي انه رغم التزامي القاطع بتشكيل حكومة اختصاصيين، فإن المواقف التي ظهرت في الأيام القليلة الماضية من مسألة تسميتي هي مواقف غير قابلة للتبديل، فإنني أعلن انني لن أكون مرشحا لتشكيل الحكومة المقبلة، ٢/٣


And as it became clear to me that despite my categorical commitment to forming a government of specialists, the reactions of the past few days regarding my nomination were uncompromising, I announce that I will not be a candidate to form the next government, 2/3

18 December 2019[235]

In Beirut, protesters clashed with security forces on 15 December for the second night in a row near Nejmeh Square. According to the Lebanese Civil Defense, 46 people were treated for injuries and another 14 were hospitalized.[236] A group of counter-protesters, themselves supporters of Amal and Hezbollah, also briefly clashed with protesters until the army intervened.[237]

Roads were blocked in northern Lebanon on 16 December. At noon, President Aoun delayed scheduled parliamentary consultations, where Saad Hariri was widely expected to be renamed Prime Minister. This was because Hariri was now no longer being supported by the main Christian parties in parliament.[238][239] At night, protesters gathered close to Saad Hariri's Beirut residence to reject his reappointment.[240] A separate group of protesters descended upon Beirut as well, expressing outrage at a month-old video of an expat insulting several Shi'a religious leaders. Amal and Hezbollah released statements asking the men to fall back, but these calls were not immediately heeded.[241] Protest encampments in several places, including Beirut, Saida and Nabatieh, were ransacked and destroyed during the night. At least two cars in Beirut were set on fire.[242][243]

On 18 December, Hariri announced that he did not want to be reappointed Prime Minister, calling on the president to designate a new Prime Minister immediately.[244] Later that day, Al Jadeed claimed that the remaining candidates for Prime Minister were now Tammam Salam (the 34th Prime Minister, 2014–2016), jurist Nawaf Salam (former representative of Lebanon to the United Nations), Khaled Mohieddin Qabbani (former Minister of Justice, 2005–2008) and academic Hassan Diab (former Minister of Education, 2011–2014).[245] Diab was the apparent favorite, because he had the support of Hezbollah and Amal.[246][247] Protests continued in Nabatieh and Kfar Remen despite threats of retaliation by Hezbollah and Amal supporters. Cement walls and blocs were erected around Beirut's central district, blocking off streets leading to and from Riad Al Solh Square as well a parliament.[248]

Parliamentary consultations took place on 19 December and Hassan Diab was designated as the next Prime Minister to succeed Hariri.[19] The announcement of Diab becoming Prime Minister was immediately followed by street protests and road blocks in Tripoli and Beirut. Near Beirut's Nejme Square, hundreds of protesters sang an anti-Diab chant.[249]

Tenth week: 2026 December[edit]

Road blocks in response to Diab's Prime Ministership continued across the country on 20 December. Schools were closed in Tripoli.[250]

On 22 December, thousands protested against Diab's nomination on Beirut's Martyrs' Square, many of them coming from the north of the Beqaa Valley.[251] Protests in Beirut continued on 23 December with a lower turnout.[252] Later that day, hundreds of people shared a Christmas dinner benefiting the poor on Martyrs' Square.[253]

On 24 December, it was reported that tourism fell by 80% because of the protest movements. Additionally, 265 restaurants and cafes closed their doors in the last two months.[254]

Eleventh week: 2731 December[edit]

A group of pro-Hariri Sunni Muslims protested on 28 December 2019 in front of the new Prime Minister Diab calling for him to resign.[255] On 29 December, protests continued asking for Hassan Diab's resignation although he is still continuing consultations to form the government.[256][257]

2020 Protests[edit]

Protests resume[edit]

After weeks of relative calm, mass protests resumed across the country on 14 January 2020. Highways and major roads were blocked in Beirut, Tripoli, Akkar, Sidon, and Zahle by protests and burning tires. In Beirut, protesters clashed with security forces outside the Central Bank. Protests also took place outside Hassan Diab's house for failing to form a government. President Michel Aoun blamed obstacles in the delay of formation of a new government.[258][259] The Times of Israel added that school and university students participated in some of the demonstrations.[260]

On 15 January, protesters gathered in front of the Helou police barracks in Beirut demanding the release of more than 50 protesters who were arrested the night before. During the protest, riot police fired tear gas and practiced excessive violence to separate protesters. Additionally, an estimated number of 15 protesters were dragged into the barracks. The Lebanese Media reported that there have been more than 30 injuries as a result of the clashes that happened between the protesters and the riot police. The Lebanese Army also arrived at the scene later on that night.[261][262] It was reported by the Red Cross that the wounded people on Wednesday had reached 45, according to DW.[263] According to Reuters, Lebanon’s Minister of Interior has issued a statement criticizing the violence and urging the protesters to remain peaceful.[264]

As the Lebanese protests enter its fourth month on 17 January, protesters blocked several main roads across Lebanon, including a vital road connecting central Beirut’s east and west. Hundreds of protesters were said to have also gathered outside the Lebanese central bank and close to the parliament, the Times of Israel added.[265] On Friday morning, the roads were also blocked in second city Tripoli by protesters, but later in the day the roads were cleared, according to France 24.[266] Human Rights Watch has urged authorities to free detainees that haven’t been charged with a recognizable crime and that the Ministry of Interior should quickly hold security officers responsible for the excessive use of force on protesters.[267] HRW also claimed that protesters and media officials had been struck by riot police, according to Al Jazeera.[268]

Escalation of violence and arrest of journalist[edit]

In an attempt to break up gatherings of anti-government protesters attempting to reach Martyr’s Square on 18 January, dozens of people have been injured as security forces used water cannons and tear gas to dissipate the protesters. Furthermore, demonstrators have been spotted at Martyr’s Square throwing rocks, fireworks and Molotov cocktails at security forces, as well as shining lasers at them to interrupt series of tear gas rounds, CNN reported.[269][270] In the evening, President Aoun summoned in the armed forces to the streets in order to safeguard private property, as well as peaceful protesters, the ABC News reported.[271] About 30 people were said to have been detained due to Saturday’s unrest, the state-run National News Agency stated, though the detainees were later released.[272] More than 60 wounded people are believed to have received treatment, while at least 40 people have been rushed to the hospitals, the Lebanese Red Cross stated.[273] In total, Reuters reported that more than 370 people had been injured in the day's protests.[274]

On 19 January, an American freelance journalist Nicholas Frakes was arrested on the allegation of sending footage of anti-government protests to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, according to the Washington Post.[275] However, Haaretz Newspaper has rejected any connection to Nicholas Frakes, arguing that the live video feed of the anti-government protest uploaded on their Facebook account was from Reuters, the Jerusalem Post added.[276] The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) claimed that since 14 January, journalists reporting anti-government protests in Beirut have been arrested, attacked or molested by police officers, according to the International Business Times.[277] According to France 24, In light of this week’s World Economic Forum, the expected participation of Lebanon’s outgoing foreign minister Gebran Bassil has triggered a strong public protest, demanding the cancellation of his invitation.[278] However, Bassil maintains that the protesters who chanted against him do not make up the majority of Lebanese and that he believes the people of Lebanon want change, but he argued that he’s not leaving until voters drive him out in elections, according to the Washington Post. The former foreign minister further claimed that he came to Davos “on his own expenses”.[279][280] As of 21 January, there has been an increase in the number of injured people in the Lebanese protests to more 540, according to The Times of Israel.[6]

New government formed[edit]

On 21 January, Prime Minister Diab announced the formation of a new cabinet of 20 ministers, bringing an end to several months of impasse that has left the country in a deepening economic crisis. According to CNN, during an interview with Lebanon’s state news agency, Diab portrayed the newly appointed ministers as "technocrats" who he believes would operate without loyalties to political parties.[281][282] Even before the new cabinet was unveiled, several groups of protesters had gathered in the streets of Beirut, obstructing a main street in the center of the capital, according to France 24.[283] The Times of Israel added that the protesters made an effort to take down barbed wire near the parliament building and throw rocks at security forces, who in return used tear gas and water cannons. Some protesters maintained that they would remain in the streets, till their claims for a technocratic government and early elections were met, according to Al Jazeera.[284][285]

According to VOA, despite the fact that the newly formed ministers are experts and academics, protesters are still accusing political groups of participating in forming the new cabinet.[286] On 22 January, as Lebanon’s new government convened, protesters in the capital gathered to discredit the meeting, smashing windows and breaking down security blockages encircling the parliament building.[287]

Amnesty International, based on evidence collected, has accused the Internal Security Forces of using rubber bullets unlawfully at close range, besides beatings, water cannons and tear gas in an attempt to disperse protesters on the weekend, which has left hundreds wounded.[288] 25 January marked the 100th day since the protests began.[289] Protesters gathered in Beirut and breached several security barriers around the central government building.[290]

On 27 January, the Lebanon Parliament passed a 2020 budget, amid the debilitating financial crisis. The state budget came as the protests outside the Parliament in Beirut were held back by the security forces.[291] Four people had been injured and taken to the hospitals in Beirut, with 8 other people sustaining minor injuries, the Lebanese Red Cross announced.[292] The state-run National News Agency stated that only 70 out of the 128 members of parliament attended Monday’s vote, with 49 lawmakers in favor of passing the budget, 13 against and 8 forgoing.[293] According to Al Jazeera, analysts argue that the endorsed 2020 budget barely attempts to resolve Lebanon’s financial and economic crisis.[294]

According to SBS News, the parliament budget committee chairman Ibrahim Kanaan stated that the purpose of the new budget is to lower deficit of gross domestic product to around 7%.[295] Experts have warned that the direction in which Lebanon is heading could ignite more instability, as the newly formed government is not expected to convince Lebanese protesters to end their demonstrations against the ruling elite, according to VOA.[296]

On 2 February, a protest was held outside the United States embassy in Beirut, by hundreds of Lebanese and Palestinians, in opposition to the US plan for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. [297] Protesters were gathered on a road leading to the US embassy, northeast of Beirut, waving Palestinian flags, with some of the protesters chanting “Death to America! Death to Israel! We will die and Palestine survive," according to France 24. [298] It was reported by the VOA News that around noon, security forces used what seemed to be pepper spray to stop some of the protesters who had removed the barbed wire and reached a metal fence set up by security forces. At least three protesters were said to have been carried away in the process of the struggle. [299][300] According to Arab News, 24 hours prior to the protest, employees of the US embassy were advised to stay clear of the area of the protests. [301]

However, in an attempt to prove to the government that the Lebanese people are united in their quest for political change, protesters were also reported to have gathered in Tripoli, the country’s poorest city on Sunday, according to Al Jazeera. [302]

According to the Middle East Monitor, In a statement issued by the Lebanese Information Minister Abdul Samad 6 February, he disclosed that the new government of Lebanon has agreed to the approval of a new policy statement, which is believed to include a clause calling for the return of refugees back to their various countries. [303]

On 10 February, women’s groups at the local level in Lebanon, including other alienated groups, are demanding for their rights to be honored by the Lebanese government, Al Jazeera reported. [304]

On Tuesday, the Lebanese parliament held a nine-hour session, in which the legislators passed a vote of confidence, supporting the newly formed cabinet by the Lebanese government, and its financial rescue plan. [305] Protesters attempted to disrupt the meeting from holding by throwing stones at security forces, and tried to block the path leading to the parliament. [306] The parliament meeting was attended by 84 members of parliament, with 63 of them voting in support of the government, France 24 added. [307] In an attempt by protesters to evade security checkpoints, they started to form up at various points in Beirut, but some lawmakers reportedly spent the night in the parliament ahead of the meeting, in order to avoid being prevented by protesters. [308]

On 14 February, Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri delivered his first speech after leaving office in October, urging that he is not leaving Lebanon, but mapping out a new future in politics with his party. [309] In response to Lebanon’s request for technical assistance from the IMF earlier in February, hundreds of protesters have gathered around Lebanon’s central bank and parliament on 15 February, in rejection of the request. [310]

The World Bank has warned Lebanon against the risk of implosion, if they fail to adopt a new system of governance that is more genuine and transparent compared to the old one. [311] Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab hosted the speaker of the Iranian Parliament Ali Larijani on 17 February, as Iran expresses readiness to assist Lebanon with its ongoing crisis. The Iranian speaker added that, considering Lebanon has made it all the way past the creation of a new government, Iran is now ready to assume their responsibility, which involves working with Lebanon, according to the Tasnim News Agency. [312][313]

Killing of Alaa Abou Fakhr[edit]

On the evening of 12 November, Alaa Abou Fakhr,[4] a Lebanese national, was shot and killed in Khalde at the ensuing protests. Abou Fakhr's death appeared to have been unprovoked, as he was unarmed and attending the protest with his wife and child. The Lebanese Army released a statement saying that his death occurred as an accident after a soldier fired shots purely with the intent to clear a path for an army convoy, and that the soldier had been referred to military court for a trial.[314][315] However, during Abou Fakhr's funeral ceremony the next day, his wife, who was present with Abou Fakhr during his shooting, claimed that he was killed by Lebanese military intelligence.[316] Abou Fakhr's death was the first to be caused by the Lebanese army.[317] A video circulating on social media appeared to show a plainclothes man who drove a civilian automobile shooting Abou Fakhr at close range.[318]

Abou Fakhr was a member of the Municipal Committee of Choueifat as a representative of the Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party. Walid Jumblatt, the party's leader, appeared among protesters to call for calm after mounting animosity towards the Lebanese army, urging that "the state is our only refuge or else we will descend into chaos".[319] Abou Fakhr's death triggered a substantial increase in protest activity, with reported clashes with army forces and additional roads being barricaded in protest. Tributes and candlelight vigils were held for Abou Fakhr across Lebanon and were attended by thousands of protesters, who came to perceive him as symbolizing a martyr for the revolutionary movement. Abou Fakhr's family received condolences from virtually every Lebanese political faction.[320]

On 13 November, the Lebanese Army announced that the suspected killer, First Adjutant Charbel Hjeil, had been referred to the military judiciary to await trial after the conclusion of the army's interrogation process.[321] A massive funeral procession was held in the evening with tens of thousands of attendees, with Abou Fakhr's coffin carried throughout Beirut.[322]

On 21 November, the Lebanese Army announced that First Adjutant Charbel Hjeil was charged with the murder of Alaa Abou Fakhr. The Colonel on the scene, Nidal Daou, also received unspecified charges. Sources claimed that Daou and Abou Fakhr were acquainted prior to the murder, implying a personal motive. The investigation was then slated to continue on 25 November.[323][324][325]

Analysis and reactions[edit]

Debate tent in Beirut's Martyr's Square discussing economic policy, hosted by Beirut Madinati.

In contrast to the 2005 Cedar Revolution, in which support for the main sides of the political conflict were aligned with political parties and the SunniShiite Muslim sociological and religious divide in Lebanon, the 2015–16 Lebanese protests started to include criticism of leaders within the anti-Hezbollah community. The 2019 protests bypassed this sociological divide further, as they were part of a genuine grassroots movement that has not been directed by any political party, cross-sectarian in a broader sense than those of 2015 and taking place across Lebanon, rather than only in Beirut. The protests are an existential threat to the Lebanese government and political elite and a revolution. The 2019 society-wide nature of the protests has its seed in the 2015–2016 protests.[326]

International reactions[edit]

Investigative journalist Mohammad Zbeeb gives a talk about his reporting about public sector corruption. Beirut, 28 November 2019.
  • U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren – "I support the Lebanese people protesting and demanding their government take care of all of its people, not just the rich and powerful."[327]
  • U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders – "The Arab Spring rose up to fight corruption, repression, inequality and austerity. The Lebanon and Iraq protests show this spirit is still very much alive."[328]
  • Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei – "The people have justifiable demands, but they should know their demands can only be fulfilled within the legal structure and framework of their country."[329]
  • Spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada Barbara Harvey – "Canada calls on all Lebanese parties and leaders to reject violence and encourage a peaceful and timely transition to a new government, which respects and responds to the will of the Lebanese people."[330]
  • French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian – "Prime Minister Hariri resigned a few moments ago, which in a way makes the crisis even more serious. [...] Lebanon’s stability depends on willingness to listen to people and their demands."[331]
  • U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – "The Iraqi and Lebanese people want their countries back. They are discovering that the Iranian regime’s top export is corruption, badly disguised as revolution. Iraq and Lebanon deserve to set their own courses free from Khamenei's meddling."[332]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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