Civil Unrest in Lebanon

Lebanon is a country many Houstonians call home. The local Arab community consists of many Lebanese people, living, working and going to school in a positive way. The culture is full of joy, great food, amazing dances and strong family ties. What you don’t see on the surface, is a home country facing tough times, and dealing with a corrupt government and sluggish economy.

Local Lebanese immigrants have had to watch the sad situation from a half a world away. The trigger for the national unrest lands in the economy. The government, lead by Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri who proposed a $6 monthly tax on WhatsApp to raise funds to combat the forest fires that have burned thousands of acres of land. WhatsApp is a cross media messaging service, owned by Facebook, and is mostly used throughout the Middle East. In its original state, the app was free of charge. The government’s imposition of a tax to pay for fires, which many believe were caused by a lack of care to the forests, was unreasonable and caused anger within the Lebanese community worldwide.  

“We shouldn’t be surprised — no one was prepared for this,” said George Mitri, a professor and director of the Land and Natural Resources Program at Lebanon’s University of Balamand and an expert in forest fires, in an interview with Vox. He estimated around 200 fires have broken out in total. The severity of the fires and how quickly they spread resulted from a lack of resources devoted to the maintenance of the forests overall. “Managing the forest essential – we have very dense Mediterranean biomass in our forests and it provides a lot of fuel. But they have been ignored, abandoned. It’s not a priority for the government”, he adds. 

Moving along, not only have these protests taken place in Lebanon, but across the globe and including our city. In October, protests have been taking place in Houston. Near the Galleria on Westheimer, you can spot the colors of the Lebanese flag, and you can hear the chants of people raising awareness of their country’s situation. This is what protester Celeste Ghoussoub had to say, “I feel strongly about my country and the protests. It’s upsetting to see that this is what my country has gotten to. I am with the protesters to bring down the government. My people have gone through so much to get what was taken from us years ago. The country suffers from long-running shortages in government-provided electricity and water. Four years ago, failure to resolve a waste collection crisis left mountains of trash in the streets of Beirut. Which have caused our people to go sick. It’s about time we get our country back and get rid of the politicians so that others have a future in our beautiful land we call home.”

Following worldwide protests, Hariri resigned as Prime Minister, but the people want more! According to valid sources, Hariri was not the only problem.  Now the Lebanese people are demanding to get back at all politicians that have stolen money from them, and to further remove the corrupt members in Parliament. Protests in the capital Beirut have turned violent, with authorities using tear gas and bullets. This is corrupted and the violence needs to come to an end.

Lebanon has been through many battles and I can see a better future for them as they have the power and strength to make anything happen. Having the Prime Minister resigned is one of the many achievements the country has accomplished throughout this journey, and hopefully a good result will form and success will be brought!