The second anniversary of the Lebanese revolution passed almost unnoticed. About a hundred activists gathered in Beirut to celebrate it. There were about the same number of journalists and the military as the demonstrators. The Lebanese fear a new civil war, but do not give up hope for a change for the better. “A revolution is not made overnight,” they say, and they desperately believe that justice will prevail. If not now, then someday. Correspondent “b” Marianna Belenkaya walked with the demonstrators in the center of Beirut.
“Come on, let’s go out into the streets,” chanted the demonstrators gathered outside the Palace of Justice in Beirut to mark the second anniversary of yet another Lebanese revolution. However, there were few who wanted to join the march through the city center. About a hundred people gathered to protest the authorities and remember everything that happened in the country over these two years. Passers-by silently watched the demonstrators – some sympathetically, some with a grin, and only children, leaning out of the windows, expressed solidarity. The journalists and the military guarding the demonstrators nearly outnumbered the latter. The demonstrators are residents of Beirut, the intelligentsia, people between the ages of 20 and 70, students, pensioners, a lady with a dog. Almost everyone is clearly familiar with each other and meets regularly at rallies. In the hands of the posters: “Lebanon is a hostage of a criminal regime”, “Let’s return home and restore the state”, “The rights of the people are sacred”, “One for all and all for one.”
Recall that protests broke out in Beirut on October 17, 2019 after reports of the introduction of new taxes in the country to patch holes in the budget. The last straw for the Lebanese was a tax on the use of the WhatsApp app in the amount of $ 6 per month. True, the Lebanese argued that the matter was not in WhatsApp, but in the state to which the government had brought the country. Then the protests covered almost all major cities from north to south and eventually led to the resignation of the government headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri. The new government lasted only a year. The miracle did not happen – the situation in the country was getting worse and worse. The coronavirus pandemic is a blow to the already breathing Lebanese economy. No sooner had the Lebanese left the quarantine than the port of Beirut took off. An explosion in August last year killed more than 200 people and injured thousands. Was destroyed not only the port and the elevator, but also the adjacent area of the Lebanese capital.
In two years, the value of the Lebanese lira has fallen by more than 90%. The annual inflation rate has exceeded 100% this year. The country has no medicines, no electricity, and most importantly, no hope for the future. Everyone who can try to leave Lebanon. The once busy streets were plunged into darkness, hopelessness in the eyes of people. Once the emblem of Lebanon was the refugees who fled the country during the 1975-1990 civil war, and now history is repeating itself. The image of people with suitcases in their hands is a popular new graffiti in Beirut. “Almost all of my close friends have left,” says Mina, a translator for a news agency. And immediately adds: “I also thought about leaving, but I love Lebanon too much.”
After the explosion in Beirut, the country was again left without a government. It took Lebanese politicians more than a year to come to an agreement on the candidacy of the prime minister. It was only last month that the new government, headed by Najib Mikati, began work. His goal is to bring the country to the parliamentary elections scheduled for next spring and to somehow rectify the situation in the economy. But the closer to the elections, the more aggravated the situation in the country.
The families of those killed in the port of Beirut cannot achieve justice and find answers to questions related to the tragedy. Among them, the main ones: why for six years no one cared about the 2.7 thousand tons of ammonium nitrate that were stored in the port, and for whom the dangerous cargo was intended. In the eyes of most Lebanese, almost all the politicians who were in power between 2014 and 2020 are responsible for the explosion, but no one wants to answer. Attempts by the judges to summon parliamentary deputies, ex-ministers and representatives of the special services for questioning failed. Demands for the resignation of Judge Tarek Bitar, the second head of the commission of inquiry in a year, almost led to a new civil war last Thursday. The march of the Shiite parties Hezbollah, Amal and Christian Marada, whose representatives were summoned for interrogation, turned into a five-hour battle in the streets of Beirut. Until now, in Lebanon, they argue about who fired the first shot. Hezbollah blames the Lebanese Forces Christian movement, a version of the first shot by the military who was keeping order appeared on social networks, and some Lebanese believe that it was a “show” by the Shiite parties. “The situation in the country will intensify as the date of the parliamentary elections approaches. Parties need to declare themselves. This is nothing more than a performance ”- this was the assessment of the recent street fighting by the participants of the Sunday demonstration in a conversation with a Kommersant correspondent. “Spectacle” claimed the lives of seven people, more than 30 were injured. For older Lebanese, what happened was reminiscent of what happened in Beirut during the 1975-1990 civil war.
The organizers of the Sunday demonstration believe that many were afraid to take part in their action after what happened in the city the day before, but this does not mean that people have stopped believing in the revolution. But the truth is that many Lebanese have simply forgotten about the memorable date in two years. “I’m at a rally. How what? The anniversary of the revolution, ”one of the demonstrators replies to someone on the phone. Too much has hit Lebanon over the past two years, and it is no longer clear what the demonstrators are demanding – a change of political elites, an end to corruption, a fair investigation of the port explosion, or at least an end to the power outages. The words “electricity” and “freedom” sound like synonyms. “Yes, we are few. But we will continue to fight. We will not allow us to be drawn into political games and civil war, ”Samira, one of the organizers of the action, told Kommersant. She stands in front of the journalist with a poster depicting those killed in the port of Beirut, then takes a megaphone and gets into the car leading the procession. “We will not forget the October 17 revolution. One for all and all for one, ”she chants. “There is no civil war,” the protesters answer her.
“Beirut, you are created from the soul of the people,
Wine, blood and sweat, bread and jasmine.
Why has your scent become now
The scent of smoke and fire? ”
– the voice of the most famous Arab singer Feiruz sounds from the car. These words date back to the civil war, but in Lebanon they can be repeated endlessly. New names of the victims are constantly appearing on posters in the city: during protests, street clashes, an explosion in the port, as a result of political contract killings.
Yet in the midst of despair, the Lebanese still have hope. “Our house is destroyed – but we are not” – such inscriptions can be seen in the area of Beirut, which suffered from an explosion in the port. And the same credo of the protesters who gathered to celebrate the anniversary of the revolution. “If I didn’t believe in the best, I would not have come to the rally,” says one of the participants in the procession, Christina. She, like her associates, is ready to go out again and again. Many demonstrators say they hope for future elections, believing that even if civil society representatives get a few percent of the vote, it will already be a victory. Although many understand that it is practically impossible to break the political system that has existed for years, when representatives of ethno-confessional movements share power among themselves. Rallies organized by traditional parties attract thousands of people. Too sharp contrast with the action of those who took to the streets on Sunday.