Everyone means everyone. This has become the chant of the Lebanese protesters who demand the end of the current Lebanese government. Their mantra has come about following Friday’s televised address by Hassan Nasrallah, Lebanon’s leader of the Iranian-backed group of Hezbollah. He is close friends with Lebanon’s president, and one of the most influential figures in the country; Hezbollah is active in the government and has a well-armed militia. The predominant presence of Hezbollah has become a matter of great concern.
In the speech, he told the Lebanese people, “We do not accept the fall of the presidency nor do we accept the government’s resignation and we do not accept, amid these conditions, holding early parliamentary elections.” He also warned the Lebanese people that the government’s resignation would bring chaos and destruction. The leader of Hezbollah stands at an interesting position between presenting himself as in union with the people but also a voice box for the Lebanese government. The protesters seem to see right through him and consider him just as much a corrupted figure.
The Lebanese, in a rare show of unity across sectarian and political divides, have taken part in protests since October 17. They took to the streets and blocked major roads, calling for the end of the Lebanese government because of official corruption, a poor economy with insufficient social services, and a complete re-organization of the political system. Since the protests started, Prime Minister Saad Hariri has attempted to appease protesters through economic reforms, halving the salaries of politicians and removing unnecessary state institutions. His reform measures and offer of a dialogue, however, have not been enough to satisfy the protesters.
According to Al Jazeera, protesters believe that Hariri and Nasrallah are both implicated in Lebanon’s corrupted government and that both need to be removed from power. Everyone means everyone. Only the complete overhaul of the government will lead to the end of the protests. The protestors’ frustration with the government’s corruption is too large to be patched over.
“But Lebanon isn’t poor. The government robbed Lebanon. They stole the money from us and diverted it to Swiss banks,” a female protester told Al Jazeera. “We want to live in dignity in our country. We demand our minimum rights – education and medical. We want to bring back our looted money.”
The situation in Lebanon is an uneasy one. The same protester who spoke with Al Jazeera expressed fear of an eventual civil war breaking out if conditions do not improve. This anxiety was no less heightened by the violent outbreak that came out of a peaceful protest in the Lebanon capital of Beirut on Friday. Male Hezbollah supporters, dressed in black shirts and yellow armbands, a fashion reminiscent of Hitler’s brownshirts, confronted peaceful protesters, causing riot police to intervene. The Hezbollah supporters shouted, “we heed your call, Nasrallah.” These tensions are undeniably worrisome. Nasrallah, for this part, called for his supporters to stay off the streets.
There are serious humanitarian issues in Lebanon. The government should be criticized for ignoring the needs of its own people, especially on the grounds of corruption. An organization like Hezbollah has no place in government and should not be allowed to be active in Lebanon. It is, after all, labeled a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council. For these reasons, the Lebanese government should consider dissolution, or, in the very least, a massive overhaul. The Lebanese people will need to be a part of this process, allowed to vote and have input on what the new government’s framework will look like.
The protesters do not plan on leaving the streets anytime soon. They are resolute in their intention to keep protesting in the streets until their country is reclaimed and the government’s corruption ended.
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