Prompt: Lebanon’s “October Revolution” has spanned several cities and has targeted state institutions. What concerns do the protestors have? Do you think that it will be possible for changes in the state to take place? What might those look like? Some questions to think about: (Note: These are guiding questions you could use to frame […]
Lebanon’s October revolution consists of a series of demonstrations that have spread all over the country in a bid to bring awareness to the country’s economic hardships, which have affected the country for the past year. The revolutions include sit-downs, demonstrations, civil resistance, barricades, and internet activism that are still currently ongoing in the nation as part of the new Arab spring. In retrospect, the 2019 revolution is a reaction to historical factors that impacted the Lebanese people, such as corruption, sectarian leadership, and repressive legislation in the nation that functioned to protect the elite ruling class from accountability. These factors have led to the systemic failure of the government as it failed to provide essential services to the Lebanese people, including electricity, water, and sanitation. The Lebanese revolution is a result of the confessional system of government that needs addressing if the country is to change the situation and create a non-sectarian state where leaders can be held accountable for their actions.
According to Parreira, the eminent factors leading to the Lebanese protests can be traced back to the 1989 Taif Agreement, which was drafted in response to conflicting sects in Lebanon to ensure leadership equity in the nation. The principle of coexistence in the agreement aimed to ensure power spread across the religious denominations in the country in response to the civil war in the years before its enactment (Parreira). However, the agreement grew to be exploited by the current leadership leading to the government’s inability to govern the country effectively. The protest that started on October 17th spread to other national localities, leading to the resignation of the nation’s Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, from Riyadh (Homsy). However, the prime minister retracted the resignation when he returned to Lebanon, exemplifying the influence that foreign nations held over the nation’s political landscape.
The myriad of leadership challenges that affect the Lebanese people root in the ruling class’s insulation from accountability through sectarian governance that allows them to maintain control over the institutions that provide for the people. The principle of coexistence distributed power among the Christians, Shiites, and Sunnis under a confessional system but also created a path for mismanagement of the public sector (Mroue). Furthermore, this distribution of power allowed the ruling parties to be predetermined religious sects and barred citizens that did not belong to the three major religious sects from holding top seats of power in Lebanon easily (Parreira). For example, since the President has to be Christian, there exists a form of political exclusivity among the leaders, causing unfair control of the powers associated with the political position (O’Connell). As a result, the confessional system of government maintains the authority of government institutions from the ruling elite to the most powerful religious sects in Lebanon. Ultimately, this form of governance undermines the democratic rule of the people and their ability to elect the leaders they desire.
Additionally, the confessional system of governance delegated authoritative power to leaders of the religious sects who represented their constituent members in mostly hereditary systems that allowed them to maintain control of public institutions. Leaders are often unaccountable and free to dispense patronage as they like among their religious sects (Homsy). For example, Taymor Jumblatt is one of the leaders of the Shii socialist party who inherited his position from his father, Walid Jumblatt, showing the hereditary system in the region’s political space (Mekki and Jamieson). Furthermore, these leaders in Lebanon’s religious sects hold power over government institutions, and citizens turn to them for jobs and financial help that the government fails to provide. As a result, the political system fails to meet the citizens’ needs effectively, leading to a concerted push from people of different religions to overthrow the political regime as a whole.
The protest initially broke out in Beirut after nearly one hundred protestors gathered in response to new government reforms, including a proposed tax that affected crucial daily goods and services such as gasoline and internet calls (Azhari). Essential streets in Beirut got affected by the protests leading to the bodyguards of the Higher education minister firing shots in the air to disperse the crowd as the minister drove through (Azhari). Later on, the demonstration spread to Tripoli and Nabitiyeh, where the offices of the Free Patriotic Movement and Hezbollah Amal Movement got vandalized in response to the extensive corruption in the government (Azhari). Civil servants joined the strikes due to the negative impact that the government reforms would have on their sector. By mid-October, the protest had spread all over the country, and the political leaders began to change their stance on the proposed taxes but were unwilling to resign from power. As the protests spread to international cities, the severity of the issues that had pledged the population got highlighted even more.
The Lebanese revolution spread rapidly in the nations due to the common factors that affected the citizens in the nation’s history and the region at large. The protest constitutes part of the New Arab Spring that addresses common issues affecting Arab countries such as Tunisia, Jordan, Egypt, and Jordan and protesting oppressive and corrupt governments around the world (Bowen). For example, South Sudanese protestors managed to remove President Omar al-Bashir from power and take significant steps to transition their system of government (Bowen). As a result of the shared resistance to their governments, these protestors formed rapidly in Lebanon as other nations succeeded in ousting their leaders and inspired them to push for similar reforms. Protests in North America and Australia supporting the Lebanese revolution point to the shared sense of rebellion against the corrupt and oppressive leadership systems. Thus, the protest spread rapidly since the citizens felt affected by the issues that the anti-government movement raised.
The Lebanese revolution featured some cases of violence from the government and protestors as citizens used it to express their agitation while police used it to control the situation. However, the government is careful not to use aggressive force and anger the protestors even further, instead drawing international backlash from the foreign states. For example, the protestors aimed to enter Serail on October 18th and vandalize the parliament buildings, but they met with resistance from the police, who fired shots in the air to disperse the crowds (Azhari). Alaa Abou Fakhr also died after a Lebanese military officer shot him as he attended the protests (Azhari). Furthermore, the protestors in Tyre accused the Amal movement of harassing protesters on October 19th as the protests escalated throughout the day (Azhari). As the protests grew, interactions with police also became more aggressive, and some incidents of violence got cited. However, excessive force only acted to aggravate the protestors even more and increase their international support. Violence is a counterproductive measure to address protests that increases the losses incurred in terms of life and financial cost.
The political crisis in Lebanon consists of a significant influence from international politics that back different sectors of the government to maintain the political power structure in the country. The regional powers are undoubtedly in alliance with different nations that significantly influence the nation’s running (Mroue). For instance, the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant groups are associated with the Christian party and the nation’s president and were accused of instigating violence during the protests (Mroue). Additionally, Saudi Arabia cut off military support to the Lebanese force due to Hezbollah’s increasing influence in the nation (O’Connell). Resultantly, the nation is caught in a complex web of foreign influences over its political structure as these countries work to maintain their agendas in Lebanon.
The Lebanese revolution is a result of the confessional system of government that led to systemic failures in the government and needs addressing if the country is to change the situation and create a non-sectarian state. The government leadership can only resolve the long-running dispute with the citizens by facing the issue at hand by returning the power to the people. Corruption and oppression from the rulers made the local community feel disconnected from the running of their nation as political forces fell to the influence of international agendas. While the protest grew peacefully to the entire country and gathered international support, the few reported violent cases worsened the situation. The Lebanese revolution implies that governments must remain accountable to their citizens in the wake of new political systems that serve the interest of the political elite and international allies.
Azhari, Timour. “Lebanon Students Skip School as Protesters Eye State Institutions.” Aljazeera, 6 Nov. 2019, www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/11/lebanon-students-skip-school-protesters-eye-state-institutions-191106131406319.html.
Azhari, Timour. “Why Thousands Continue to Protest in Lebanon’s Tripoli.” Aljazeera, 3 Nov. 2019, www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/11/thousands-continue-protest-lebanon-tripoli-191103192341649.html.
Bowen, Jeremy. “Is A New Arab Spring Unfolding in the Middle East?.” BBC News, 29 Oct. 2019, www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-50219821.
Homsy, Tony. “I’m a Jesuit in Lebanon. Here’s Why I’m Protesting with My Brothers and Sisters.” America Magazine, 5 Nov. 2019, www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2019/11/05/im-Jesuit-Lebanon-here’s-why-im-protesting-my-brothers-and-sisters. Accessed 17 Nov. 2019.
Mekki, Samia, and Alastair Jamieson. “Lebanon Ex-Minister Urges Election to ‘Get Rid Of Government.” Euronews, 24 Oct. 2019, www.euronews.com/2019/10/24/lebanon-protests-ex-minister-Jumblatt-urges-election-to-get-rid-of-government.
Mroue, Bassem. “Competing Protests in Lebanon Bring Thousands on to the Streets.” Time, 4 Nov. 2019, time.com/5717235/lebanon-protests-Beirut/.
O’Connell, Gerard. “The Miracle of Lebanon: Despite Tensions, Muslims and Christians Live in Peace.” America Magazine, 5 May 2019, www.americamagazine.org/content/dispatches/lebanon-shows-Christians-and-Muslims-can-live-together-peace-middle-east. Accessed 17 Nov. 2019.
Parreira, Christiana. “The Art of Not Governing.” Synaps, 23 Oct. 2019, www.synaps.network/lebanon-protests-the-art-of-not-governing.
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Published On: 01-01-1970