Saturday, October 19, 2019

Lebanon protests: What is happening there ? It is something bigger than a WhatsApp tax revolt “Graphic and updated"

I began to write this post late Friday as the protests got intense in Lebanon with clashes between protesters and security forces as well as political powers and parties' militias.

The protesters have been demanding since Thursday evening the three main powers in Lebanon to resign: The President, Prime minister and the Cabinet and the parliament. They also can't take it anymore of any of the current political powers and parties in the country. They are all financially corrupted and puppets to regional powers, which actually is true.

Then I could not publish it at 2:25 AM because I have got huge material from photos and videos showing something huge taking place in that beautiful small yet troubled country to be constrained by the term "WhatsApp tax revolt" as some wire services and correspondents put it so simply. I could not choose from this huge material and I slept, unfortunately.

I updated this at 2:00 PM Cairo local time when armed supporters of Lebanese parliament speaker and Shiite political leader Nabih Berri had been attacking protesters in Tyre in an escalation for hours.

At least there are four people who have been killed including two so far.
This won’t scare the protesters but rather will make them angrier. This what we have learned as experienced Egyptian protesters and reporters since 2011.

In fact, protests and rallies against the political establishment and political powers including Amal Movement and its leader Berri got bigger and stronger in places like the movement stronghold Nabatieh.
A rally in Nabatieh where the protesters held the flags of Lebanon alone "Source: Ahmad Issawi"
This is unprecedented.
Lebanon is yet again in political and social upheaval, this is not a revolt against WhatsApp tax.

Videos went viral since afternoon on social media in Lebanon like these below show how allegedly Amal Movement members opened their fire against the protesters "Warning: Graphic content" 

In return, Lebanese protesters from the South showed their respect to the Amal movement and its big signs.
For the first time, the name of the long-time parliament speaker is attacked in his stronghold by people from his Shiite sect and the seaside house owned by his wife Randa Berri by the Mediterranean sea that was built illegally was torched down on Friday according to reports. 
That change in heart in the south came few hours after that speech on Friday by the leader of Hezbollah and the so-called Defacto ruler of Lebanon Hassan Nasrallah saying that he did not support the resignation of the cabinet as he held its members responsible for that crisis in Lebanon. 
The angry protesters continued to chant against all the political powers in the country including him in the main squares.
In Riyadh El-Salh public square in Beirut, thousands chanted "All means all of you {politicans}, Nasrallah from you}. In other words, Nasrallah is another politician and we do not want him !!

Israel, the United States, and Saudi Arabia spent millions of dollars to see that scene for decades and they failed but he and his party succeded in making that happen thanks to political arrogance. 

In early Saturday morning and the Lebanese protesters went back to the major squares across the country especially in Beirut hours after their protests and sits-in were dispersed violently by Lebanese security forces and the Lebanese army.
Downtown Beirut Saturday 19 October afternoon
Downtown Beirut Saturday 19 October afternoon

A big protest in Tripoli's Al-Nour Public space "Source: Omar El- Imady"
A big protest in Tripoli's Al-Nour Public space "Source: Omar El- Imady
The protesters returned back to the public squares and spaces since early morning following a bloody long night of clashes between the protesters and the security forces as well as army forces.

The Lebanese security forces and the army began to disperse the protesters and arresting them in the usual humiliating way late-night especially in Downtown Beirut following Lebanese Prime minister Saad el-Hariri's speech on Friday.

Not so surprising, the army units were not soft

In his speech, El-Hariri gave a 72-hours deadline to his partners in government “aka from other political powers above them Hezbollah and co.” to stop obstructing reforms which he supported but could not apply that time because of those partners.

He even launched a hashtag on social media in Arabic “#72hours”

But this ultimatum did not appease the Lebanese protesters nor met their demands nor it made them leave the public spaces and squares.

The angry protesters demand not only his resignation and his cabinet resignation but also the resignation of the president and resignation of the parliament members and its long-serving speaker.

Here is a video filmed in Downtown Beirut on Saturday where a protester read the names of the Lebanese parliament one by one and the protesters chant back what is equivalent in Arabic "Fuck him or her".

One thing for sure, this uprising in Lebanon is +18 

A group of Lebanese developers launched this online interactive map of protests across the country under the hashtag “#It_is_time_for_accountability”.
It is one of the various hashtags in Arabic that speaks loud about what is happening in that country like #Lebanon_revolts and #All_means_All which means all political powers should resign.

“Enough is enough” the Lebanese protesters from the Middle Class and Working Class repeatedly told the reporters and correspondents who covered their protests in Lebanon in the past 24 hours.

The Lebanese protesters want an end to the financial corruption of the political class, it also wants an end to the whole political class that failed to solve the small country’s big problems for decades now.
The Lebanese protesters are fed up with the empty promises by Saad El-Hariri and Co. and that why they do not care much for those 72 hours.

The Lebanese people had suffered enough from the corrupted political class and their economic policies. Their last straw was the decision of the Lebanese government to impose taxes on the VOIP calls using Whatsapp on Thursday 17 October 2019.

On that day, small protests began to form in the streets following the announcement of the new tax. The small protests in different areas of the country began to grow through calls on Facebook and Whatsapp. The small protests began in tens then in hundreds to thousands.

That Thursday night, thousands went to protests in major squares and public spaces as well highways till the early hours of Friday morning.

The calls of rallies and protests increased on Friday and Saturday it reached its climax as some observers say the number of protesters across the country reached more than one million in the street out of nearly four million and a half Lebanese in the country.

But it is not about a Whatsapp tax or cigarettes' taxes, it is about the Lebanese people who have had enough.

It is the last straw for the Lebanese people, they can’t take any more financial burdens when the political class and its big clans enjoy huge wealth.

That video of a Lebanese angry protester speaking to MTV Lebanon Correspondent filmed in Beirut on Thursday summarizes many things
In Arabic, the protester says that the government is one step away from putting a counter on the people's asses to tax the shit. This video was among top videos shared across the Arab world on Friday

Those protests come after a huge fire that swept the forests in a mount near Beirut where the government could not do anything except calling for other countries’ help because the airplanes used to put off forests’ fires are not maintained or upgraded because of the shortage of money !!

Those protests come after the scandal of PM Saad Hariri, the 1250th world billionaire who turned to have paid more than USD 16 million to some South African Bikini model after some relationship since 2013 according to a New York Times Investigation.

That scandal was revealed at the same time Future TV owned by Hariri closed its doors due to financial woes.

That scandal was echoed in the protest by the Lebanese public.
Here is a Lebanese man protesting telling the TV correspondent the following: "Saad El-Hariri told us to wait 72 hours, well he fixed up it with that model for USD 15 million, how will he fix it up with 4.5 million Lebanese?" 

Despite the official number of the unemployment rate is set officially at 6.20% in 2018 yet the Lebanese president Michel Oun said in March 2018 that the unemployment rate reached 46% !!

There is no exact number but one thing for judging from the protests, it is not 6.2%.

In fact, I found a report by the Lebanese Republic’s Economic and Social council stating different numbers of unemployment rates stating that officially the Youth unemployment reached in 2017 according to the minister of labor than 37%.

The public debt in Lebanon reached $86.2 billion in the first three months of 2019 and it is considered from the top indebted countries in the world with a 150% debt to GDP ratio according to the International Monetary Fund.

I know Egyptians will laugh at this debt but remember that Lebanon is smaller than Egypt with lesser resources and huge burdens results of a terrible Civil war to repeated Israeli aggressions and above that all a highly corrupted upper political class.

Back to Lebanon, that small protest on Friday in front of the house of former Prime Minister and leading member of Future Movement "El-Hariri's party" Fouad Siniora says a lot.
The protesters chant "From where did you get all that money ?" The former banker who helped late Rafik El-Hariri's fortune got reportedly millions of dollars and the Lebanese people are not convinced that it was from legal ways.

Famous Lebanese blogger Imad Bazzi, there was a fire that erupted suddenly in the Lebanese ministry of finance where he said the files and investigations on financial corruption in the country. Such news angered the Lebanese people more.

When you look closely at the protests, protesters, their demands and their chants, you will know that there are more common things that bring the people living in that region from the Atlantic ocean to the Persian/Arab Gulf whatever you call it than language, religion and culture.

They share the same simple demands in living in dignity enjoying social justice and freedom.
Here the protesters on Thursday chant "Bread, Freedom and social justice" in their Lebanese accent.

“The people want to topple the regime” that was first chanted in Tunis in late December 2010 and “Bread, Freedom and social justice” which echoed in Cairo throughout 2011 are repeated loudly in Beirut in October 2019.

Lebanon is the latest Arab country to join this wave of Arab spring 2019 edition that started with Sudan and Algeria with a very recent shortstop in Egypt and Jordan then in Iraq.

There is a new generation of Lebanese who have not lived or seen or were polluted by the sectarian Lebanese civil war and they have no respect for that old class of sectarian leaders like the old generations Just like their brothers and sisters in the other Arab countries.

From what I see, the other side of the world whether in Europe or the United States cares less now about those people protesting in Lebanon.

It is not surprising.

It is like “oh look those Arabs do not want settle down” or as I have read on Twitter by some smart ass so-called Middle East expert who used to work in the US Department of State “The Lebanese people are angry because of the WhatsApp and are not angry on how Iran is ruling their country”.
This man gives you an idea of why the US policies are always terrible in the Middle East.

Needless to say, I know that the US embassy in Beirut is happy how the tide is suddenly high against all the Iranian-backed political powers in the country. The Saudis and their media are more than happy and are transferring the protests and chants against Nasrallah and co. ignoring at the same time the protests against their allies and friends in the country.

Anyhow the World powers are either busy with their own trouble at home right now or the trouble created by none other the great wise Donald Trump.

Maybe it is for the best that the world and regional powers are not involved in Lebanon.
Since 1950s Lebanon was fucked up “excuse my French” by regional and world powers that used it as a war zone whether directly or indirectly.

Back to the protesters in Lebanon. Once again they hold control of the major public spaces and squares Saturday evening. It is unclear that if the security forces are going to disperse them or not but one thing for sure, they are not only living the moment but are rather enjoying it.

That was from Tripoli
From Martyrs Space in Downtown Beirut.

The latest news from Beirut is the announcement of the Christian Lebanese Forces party "headed by civil war criminal Pro-Israel Samir Geagea who is backed up by Saudi Arabia now" the resignation of its 4 ministers in the cabinet in support of the protests.

FYI, the Lebanese Forces party tried to hijack the protests that have been partisan free so far but its flags and members were kicked out of the protests.
Here are the protesters while kicking the members of his party from the protest in Riyadh El-Salh public square.

They are chanting "Zionist, Zionist, Geagea is a Zionist" 
All parties' flags and famous members and MPs were kicked from the protests. The only flag allowed in those protests is the Lebanese flag.

Now if three other ministers resign, then the cabinet fails automatically. 
There is a call for a nationwide strike on Monday in Lebanon.

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