What started by several civil society affiliated groups within Lebanon, grew into millions of Lebanese, and descendants of Lebanon, joining together in Beirut and across cities around the world to express their anger over the deep economic crisis and rampant state corruption plaguing Lebanon. A decision to impose a tax on all WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger calls appeared to be the trigger for many Lebanese citizens, who felt that the government’s proposed solutions to the crisis were inefficient. Lebanon already has some of the highest mobile network prices in the world. Ongoing problems in Lebanon include a longstanding environmental crises, water and electricity shortages, crumbling infrastructure and lack of state services, and extremely unequal distribution of riches and economic depletion. Generally, the mass protest has been peaceful and at times even amusing. Two weeks following the beginning of the protests, Saad Hariri resigns as Prime Minister.
Anti-government protests continued after Hariri’s resignation, while political parties negotiated for weeks before nominating Hassan Diab, a professor and former education minister, to replace him on December 19. Echoing protester demands, Diab promised to form a government of independent experts within six weeks.
The protests and political deadlock have brought Lebanon to its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
The international community has urged a new cabinet to be formed swiftly to implement economic reforms and unlock international aid.
Hassan Diab’s new government failed to appease protesters who have continued to demonstrate in major cities, saying the government didn’t have a popular mandate. The new government has the support of both of Lebanon’s political parties, but protesters argue that it is a continuation of the political establishment. Despite the protests being overwhelmingly peaceful since they began, the demonstrations turned violent toward the end of January when over 540 people were injured during a fresh wave of rallies against the government.
Anti-government protests in Lebanon temporarily stopped due to the outbreak of COVID-19, but when the government began lifting lockdown protocols, people returned to the streets. The lockdown seriously impacted Lebanon’s already fragile economy, and the country is now on the brink of a full economic collapse. Protestors set fire to banks, shut down major highways, and clashed with security forces to condemn years of economic mismanagement. In early June, Lebanon’s currency fell in value again, and the World Bank projected that Lebanon’s poverty rate will stand at 50% in 2020. The government of Hassan Diab has drawn protestors’ fury, despite only being in power for just over 100 days. During the most recent wave of demonstrations, protestors attempted to scale the wall of the Prime Minister’s residence in Beirut before being chased away by security forces.
The situation in Lebanon remains fluid as the protests continue in the face of economic crisis and government inaction.