These last few weeks have seen a lot of unprecedented moments in Lebanon. We saw huge protests in the streets rejecting the ruling class, activists braving water cannons, tear gas and bullets and a historic sit-in at the ministry of environment this week. Activists held their ground for nine hours in the minister’s offices and were given support by thousands who showed in solidarity up downstairs, blocking all four entrances to the ministry building.
The video above is just one snippet from that long evening at one of those four entrances. You can’t see how many thousands of people were in the parking lot because the government shut down the lights, sending cheers and laughter through the crowd. Sadly, we later learned of psychological attacks and beatings from the police upstairs, as many have testified. Even journalists covering the sit-in were harassed and threatened to leave the premises. But the crowds below stood their ground too, braving sound grenades and occasional baton beatings from the police. Sometimes they scattered, but always returned triumphantly singing along.
Some believe this could be the start of a new Arab spring in Lebanon. Others (mainly those currently in power) believe this is a foreign conspiracy. I can say that I personally know many of those participating in these events and their motivation for change in this country is not new or fabricated. Many have actually been working and often volunteering to work on social empowerment projects for many years, but few had ever heard of them until now. Whether or not we will see significant change in the near future is hard to say. But there is definitely a new boldness out there, among activists, the media, and even average citizens who are making their own videos, participating in demonstrations and discussing politics openly for the first time.
There is also a new anxiety among the old ruling class, as bitter political enemies appear to be joining sides in their fantastical narratives of denial, if only to prevent new power from chipping away at their decades of domination. Will all this change them too?
I will have more to say as time allows. In the meantime, follow my twitter account @habib_b for regular updates, pictures and live videos as events unfold.