Protests In Lebanon Turn Violent As New Government Is Established

Violence has epitomized the Lebanese protests over the past weeks as a new government has been established in the capital of Beirut. There has been an increase in the use of excessive force by police forces which has seen a more frequent usage of tear gas, arbitrary detention and torture. This has been met with an increase of violence by protesters, mainly young males, as banks, ATMs, and public and private buildings have been targeted. Over 460 people from both sides of the protests were injured over the weekend of the 17th to the 19th of January before the government was announced on the 21st.

Protesters have been sceptical of the newly announced government, which has appointed technocrat Hassan Diab as Prime Minister. There have been complaints that the new ministers have been appointed by the entrenched political elite that they blame for Lebanon’s problems, as reported by BBC. Alongside this Al Jazeera has conveyed that many protesters have continued to chant the slogan, “All means All,” meaning any newly established government should be free from the influence of the political parties who have ruled Lebanon for several decades and whose leadership has led to a serious economic crisis. “They are not taking the Lebanese people seriously with this government,” Charbel Kahi, one of the protesters, told AFP news agency.

The Lebanese protesters must continue demonstrating in the peaceful fashion, which has characterised the protests for much of its time. As a small percentage protesters use violent tactics, the majority must avoid divulging into normalising violence as the way forward. This will not lead to any significant change in the government of Lebanon and will only fuel further violence and attacks by the Lebanese police force. Instead, more focus should be given to the further establishment of the demands given to the new government while continuing to protest peacefully.

The protests in Lebanon started on the 17th of October 2019 and have now stretched past 100 days. They were initiated from the government’s inability to deal with wildfires which spread through the country’s western mountains and a proposed tax to Whats-App that was introduced. However, the real reason for the protests was the staggering mismanagement of the Lebanese economy which had led to a debt of over 150% of the country’s GDP, youth unemployment of 37%, and 27% of the population living under the poverty line. Corruption has been blamed for many of these issues and is the reason behind the demands which aim to see a completely new system establish which holds no ties to any previous political groups or affiliations. Within the first week of the protest, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri stepped down, leading Lebanon to be without a leader until Prime Minister Diab was appointed on the 21st of January.

Even though there is a newly formed government, the situation in Lebanon is unlikely to slow down in the near future. If the government aims to hold onto to power, it must quickly counteract the continuing economic crisis. However, this will likely not be enough to stop the protests as there is still significant influence by major political parties, including former Prime Minister Hariri and Hezbollah, on the government. As one protester, Wael Hassaniyeh, told Reuters: “Just like we forced the previous government to step down because it did not meet the demands of the people, the same fate awaits this government, God willing.”