2019 Lebanese protests

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2019 Lebanese protests
Part of 2018–19 Arab protests
LebanonProtestsRingBridge Oct262019.jpg
Protests blocking the "Ring" bridge in Beirut. 26 October 2019.
Date17 October 2019 (2019-10-17)present
(1 month and 4 days)
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

Unaffiliated protesters:


Institutions:

Lead figures
Lebanon Michel Aoun
Lebanon Saad Hariri (17–29 Oct)
Lebanon Nabih Berri
Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah
Casualties and losses
At least 5 killed, hundreds injured as of November 13, 2019[3][4]

The 2019 Lebanese protests (Arabic: الاحتجاجات اللبنانية 2019‎), also referred to as the Lebanese revolt (Arabic: الثورة اللبنانية‎), is a series of country-wide, non-sectarian[6] protests. In the short term, the protests are motivated by the Lebanese government's failure to find solutions to an economic crisis that has been looming for the past year. In the long term, they constitute a reaction against sectarian rule, endemic corruption in the public sector, legislation (such as banking secrecy) that is perceived to shield the ruling class from accountability[7][8] and failures from the government to provide basic services such as electricity, water and sanitation.[9] It is suspected that the direct trigger to the protests were due to the planned taxes on gasoline, tobacco and online phone calls such as through WhatsApp,[10][11][12] as country-wide protests broke out right after Cabinet talks of the taxes, due to be ratified by 22 October.[13][14][15]

On 29 October, Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced the resignation of his government in response to the protests. Protests have since continued and are calling for the resignation of the entire political class, including Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri and President Michel Aoun.

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 political class, many of whom are Lebanese Civil War-era sectarian warlords who still occupy positions of power and enjoy amnesty against accountability.[16]

The outbreak of the protests was attributed to the accumulated crises within the preceding weeks in Lebanon, from a dollar crisis,[17] to gas stations striking,[18] to an imposed tax on gasoline,[19] wheat[20] and online phone calls.[21] 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.[22]

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.[23] 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.[24]

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.[25][26]

Protests started taking place in small numbers around Beirut towards the end of September.[27][28] 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"[29] in December 2018 and rock singer-songwriter IJK's song "Chedd Halak"[30] in June 2019.

Economic background[edit]

Since 1997, successive governments maintained a pegged exchange rate between the Lebanese pound and United States dollar.[31] 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%.[32][33] As a result, international credit rating agencies downgraded the rating of government bonds.[34] 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.[35] 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.[36][37] 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.[38][39][40] 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.[41]

On October 1, 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.[42]

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 2% by 2021 and an additional 2% 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.[43] The final session of the budget draft was to be held on the 19 October, but was canceled upon the agreement of Prime Minister Saad Hariri and President Michel Aoun.[44][45]

Protests[edit]

The beginning: 17–18 October 2019[edit]

Protests in Antelias, late night of 17 October

17 October: approximately one hundred civil activists were protesting against the new proposed taxes in and around downtown Beirut, blocking important streets.[46] 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.[47] 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".[48][49] 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.[50] 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.[51] The Minister of Telecommunications Mohamad Choucair announced that "WhatsApp tax" idea had been scrapped at around 11:00PM.[52] 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.

18 October: Protesters in Nabatiyeh and Tripoli 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.[53][54][55] 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.[56] protesters created roadblocks on the major roads of the country, using burning tires and trash cans to stop access.[57][58] 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".[59] A cabinet meeting was due to be held in the afternoon, but ministers of the Lebanese Forces announced that they would not attend.[60] 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".[61] After this announcement, the cabinet meeting was canceled by the Prime Minister.[62] 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.[63] However, Jumblatt was criticized by protesters as being himself part of the corrupt political class[citation needed]. 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.[64] 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".[65][66] He tweeted "72 hours..." right after the delivered speech.[67]

First week: 19–24 October 2019[edit]

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

19 October: Former MP Mosbah al-Ahdab's bodyguards fired on protesters, no one was killed, but four were injured.[68] 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.[69] 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.[70]

Protests were held around major European cities, as well as in North America and Australia, showing solidarity with the protesters in Lebanon.[71] 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.[72]

Protesters wave Lebanon's flag in Beirut. Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque 20 October 2019

20 October: Hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered in locations throughout the country, making it the largest demonstrations since 2005.[73] 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.[74] At 6:00PM, protesters across the country united to sing the national anthem together.[75]

Sign held during Lebanese Protest displays disapproval of Lebanese Government "Parliament of thieves". Beirut 20 October 2019

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.[76] 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 USD 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 USD 160 million in housing loans[73]. These reforms were rejected by protesters due to lack of faith in the political class[citation needed] and protests continued. 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.[77]

22 October: Hariri met the ambassadors of 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.[78]

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.[79] In the evening, Hariri also held a meeting with members of the Progressive Socialist Party to discuss the latest developments in the country.[80] Sheikh Akl of the Lebanese Druze community called for government dialogue to safeguard the rights of liberty, security and stability.[81]

24 October: President Michel Aoun addressed the population, 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.[82] Hariri supported this review through Lebanon's "constitutional mechanisms", but the protesters rejected any calls for dialogue until the government has resigned.[83]

Second week: 25–31 October 2019[edit]

25 October: Despite calls for dialogue from President Aoun, protests and road blocks continued. Small scuffles broke out in central Beirut between protesters and Hezbollah supporters. One protester was injured.[84] 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.[85][86] Hezbollah supporters again clashed with protesters in downtown Beirut, chanting in support of Hezbollah's General Secretary, Hassan Nasrallah.[87] Nasrallah held a speech in the evening, calling his supporters to leave the streets.[88][89] 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.[90] Nasrallah also strongly suggested that the protests are part of an Israeli and American plot.[91]

26 October: A security meeting was held in Yarzeh to discuss how the safety and free movement of protesters could be ensured.[92] Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea once more criticized the lack of response from the government towards the protesters' concerns.[93] Meanwhile, thousands of Lebanese gathered in over thirty cities around the world on the 26th and 27th of October including Sydney, Paris, Houston and London in a show of support[citation needed].

Human Chain on Martyr place in Beirut (27 October)

27 October: Tens of thousands of individuals took part in a "human chain" which was held on the coastlines from the Northern city of Tripoli to the southern city of Tyre - encompassing 171km - organized with the intention to show the unity of the Lebanese people.[94][95][96] The Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi during a Sunday sermon in Bkerké considered that the people are living their positive and reformist revolution.[97] 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.[98]

29 October: Black-clad[91] Hezbollah and Amal Movement supporters attacked protesters in Beirut, tearing down and setting fire to the tents set up by the protesters, throwing plastic chairs, and beating anti-government protesters.[99] 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.[91] 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.[100] Public squares across Beirut filled with protesters shortly after.[101] Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation in a televised address on the afternoon of the 29th of 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.[102]

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.[103][104] Later that evening a statement released from the Presidential Office said that Lebanese President Michel Aoun will address the nation the next day on 31 October.[105]

31 October: President Aoun delivered a speech[106] 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.[107] 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.[108][109]

Third week: 1–7 November 2019[edit]

1 November: Lebanon's banks reopened after two weeks of closure, the longest bank closure in the nation's history.[110] "Unofficial" capital controls were imposed by individual banks to prevent a bank run, with personal withdrawals being limited to USD 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.[111] 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.[112] Nasrallah asserted that "the resistance (Hezbollah) was stronger than ever before" and claimed a new Prime Minister would likely be appointed in the following days of 1 November.[113][114] 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.[115] 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.[116]

Protest in Tripoli, Lebanon, a city that was recognized as being a central source of energy for the protest movement.[117] November 2, 2019.

2 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.[118] 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.[119] In the afternoon, tens of thousands of anti-government protesters flooded the streets across Lebanon in a "Sunday of unity".[120] 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.[121][122] 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.[123] Acts of violence from party rivals consisted around Lebanon, such as the attacks on protesters in Beirut blocking public roads. These attacks were presumed to be affiliated with Hezbollah.[124]

4 November: A candle-light vigil was held in Baalbek in memorial of those who have perished in the Lebanese protest,[125] while physical tensions from road blocking persisted in Beirut.[126]

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.[127] 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.[128] Protesters were present outside electrical company buildings, frustrated with decades of inconsistent power and common outages.[129]

6 November: Thousands of students across Lebanon protested in front of universities and schools refusing to attend classes until their demands are met.[130] 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.[131] 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.[132]

Fourth week: 8–14 November 2019[edit]

9 November: It was reported 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.[133] During the weekend, news spread of a planned parliamentary legislative session on November 12 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.[134][135]

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

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.[136] 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.[137] 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".[138] 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.[139] Nasrallah also called for banking secrecy and any prior amnesty for public representatives to be lifted, "dating back to 1992".

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.[140] 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".[141][142][143][144] 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,[145] Ring Bridge,[146] Dahr el Baidar,[147] Jiyyeh,[148] Nahr el Kalb,[149] Neemeh,[150] Beddawi,[151] Abdeh, Mahmara, Braqil,[152] Madina Riyadiyya,[153] Verdun,[154] Jal el Dib,[155] Hasbaya,[156] the Palma highway,[157] Aley,[158] Cola,[159] Dawra,[160] Sayyfi,[161] Corniche al Mazraa,[162] and Sassine.[163] Alaa Abou Fakhr,[164] a Lebanese national, was shot and killed in Khalde at the ensuing protests.

13 November: Protesters began appearing in the early morning 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.[165]

14 November: Activist and protester Khaldoun Jaber was released by the Lebanese army after being detained 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.[166] 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.[167]

Fifth week: 15–21 November 2019[edit]

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

19 November: Parliament was set to hold two sessions in the morning, 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.[168] 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.[169] 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.[170] 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.[171] Lebanese banks reopened for the first time since 11 November after the Lebanese Federation of Syndicates of Bank Employees ended its strike.[172]

Killing of Alaa Abou Fakhr[edit]

Mural in Tripoli, Lebanon depicting Alaa Abou Fakhr. 13 November 2019.

On the evening of 12 November, Alaa Abou Fakhr,[173] 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.[174][175] 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.[176] Abou Fakhr's death was the first to be caused by the Lebanese army.[177] A video circulating on social media appeared to show a plainclothes man who drove a civilian automobile shooting Abou Fakhr at close range.[178]

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".[179] 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 for virtually every Lebanese political faction.[180]

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.[181] A massive funeral procession was held in the evening with tens of thousands of attendees, with Abou Fakhr's coffin carried throughout Beirut.[182]

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[citation needed], also received unspecified charges. The investigation was then slated to continue on 25 November.[183][184][185]

Analysis and reactions[edit]

Public teach-ins and debates, 25 October 2019

Lina Khatib in Al Jazeera English argued that 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. She said that the 2019 protests bypassed this sociological divide further, stating that 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." Khatib viewed the protests as an "existential threat" to the "Lebanese government and political elite" and a "revolution". She interpreted the 2019 society-wide nature of the protests as having their "seed" in the 2015–2016 protests.[6]

International reactions[edit]

  • 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."[186]
  • 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."[187]
  • 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."[188]
  • 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."[189]
  • US 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."[190]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ https://cruxnow.com/church-in-the-middle-east/2019/10/lebanons-catholic-patriarchs-support-protesters-seeking-economic-reforms/ Lebanon’s Catholic patriarchs support protesters seeking economic reforms
  2. ^ "Nasrallah: Lebanon is facing two major menaces; the first is the financial and economic collapse and the second is the Lebanese people's rage at the political elite". MTV Lebanon. 19 October 2019. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
  3. ^ "OHCHR | Press briefing note on Lebanon".
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  185. ^ "Military Prosecutor charges colonel at scene of Abou Fakher killing". The Daily Star. 21 November 2019. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
  186. ^ @ewarren (21 October 2019). "I support the Lebanese people protesting and demanding their government take care of all of its people, not just the rich and powerful. As we fight corruption in our home, we should support those fighting corruption in theirs" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  187. ^ @SenSanders (22 October 2019). "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. If we want a progressive future, we need to build up a global movement of and for working people" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  188. ^ Levon Sevunts (4 November 2019). "Canada urges 'timely and peaceful transition' amid Lebanon protests". RCI | Radio Canada International. Retrieved 4 November 2019.
  189. ^ Jean-Yves Le Drian (31 October 2019). "Lebanon's stability depends on willingness to listen to people and their demands". AmbaFrance. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  190. ^ @SecPompeo (5 November 2019). "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_ir's meddling" (Tweet) – via Twitter.