Two Months of Protests in Lebanon

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Lebanese demonstrators take part in a protest against dire economic conditions in Lebanon's southern city of Sidon (Saida) on October 21, 2019. - Thousands continued to rally despite calls for calm from politicians and dozens of arrests. The demonstrators are demanding a sweeping overhaul of Lebanon's political system, citing grievances ranging from austerity measures to poor infrastructure. (Photo by IBRAHIM AMRO / AFP)

by Naharnet Newsdesk

Lebanon has been paralysed by two months of protests demanding an overhaul of the entire political system.

Here is a recap:

– ‘WhatsApp tax’ anger –

On October 17, the government announces a tax on messaging applications, including WhatsApp. Coming amid a looming economic crisis, many see the plan as a step too far.

Thousands take to the streets in Beirut and other cities, some chanting “the people demand the fall of the regime”.

The government scraps the tax on messaging applications the same day, but protests continue.

– Demos grow –

On October 18, thousands of demonstrators representing different sects and political affiliations bring the capital to a standstill.

They demand an overhaul of the political system, citing grievances from austerity measures and state corruption to poor infrastructure and regular electricity cuts.

The army reopens some highways blocked by protesters and disperses a huge crowd in Beirut with water cannon and tear gas. Dozens are arrested.

Demonstrations swell over the following days, with major gatherings in Lebanon’s second city Tripoli and other centres.

– Reforms announced –

On October 21, Prime Minister Saad Hariri announces his government has approved a raft of economic reforms, including halving salaries for lawmakers and ministers.

But demonstrators dismiss the new measures as insufficient.

On October 25, the powerful Shiite movement Hizbullah — which with its allies holds a majority in parliament — tells supporters not to take part in protests.

The next day, Hizbullah mobilises counter-rallies, sparking scuffles with anti-government demonstrators.

– Government resigns –

On the evening of October 29, Hariri submits his resignation and that of his government, prompting celebrations in the streets.

President Michel Aoun asks the government to stay on until a new cabinet is formed.

Protesters regroup over the coming days, demanding a government of technocrats, independent of traditional political parties divided along sectarian lines.

In a television address on November 3, Aoun announces plans to tackle corruption, reform the economy and form a civil government.

But thousands of protesters stream back into Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square, chanting “Revolution!”

– Counter-attacks –

On November 24, supporters of Hizbullah and its ally Amal assault anti-government demonstrators in Beirut in their most serious attack on the protest movement to date.

Army reinforcements intervene. At least 10 people are injured.

The incident prompts the UN Security Council to call for “intensive national dialogue”.

Over three consecutive nights of violence, 16 people are detained and 51 troops are wounded, the army says on November 27.

– Violence intensifies –

On December 12, Hariri appeals for international funding for an emergency rescue package to resolve the crisis.

Clashes that erupt late December 14 are the most violent since protests began. Security forces use tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators, who demand a government of independent experts and that Hariri not return as premier.

Hizbullah and Amal supporters also clash with riot police, who fire tear gas to prevent them breaching barricades near parliament. Dozens are hurt.

Dozens more are wounded on December 17, in dawn clashes between security forces and supporters of Hizbullah and Amal.

– Hariri not candidate –

On December 18, Lebanon increases security around protest centres in central Beirut.

Hariri says he will not seek to remain prime minister, on the eve of much-delayed consultations on a new government.

SourceNaharnetAgence France Presse

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