As news of the situation in Lebanon has been picked up by international media (thanks almost solely to the funny, and so typically Lebanese “Baby Shark” video), we are starting to get more and more messages from concerned friends… so I’ll start with this: we are fine!
We stayed close to home at first. Protests are nothing new in the city. Sometimes they are peaceful, but they can also turn violent quickly. So we took a wait and see approach, venturing out Friday afternoon to find our neighborhood roads blocked with protestors burning tires and trash.
The initial protests Thursday quickly turned violent, and Friday night saw more of the same.
But by Saturday, the atmosphere had changed. Volunteers filled the streets of downtown Beirut cleaning up the trash and broken glass from the night before. The protestors turned out by the literal millions. And not the normal angry men with their party’s flags. Lebanese. Men, women, children. Families. Students. Grandmas. Muslims. Christians. Atheists. Lebanese. In Beirut, in Tripoli, in Sidon and Tyre. In neighborhoods where in the past one wouldn’t dare question their political leaders, people were out on the streets, all asking for one thing: the resignation of the government. And not the part of the government on the other side of the aisle – all of them.
By Sunday the party atmosphere on the streets was strong, and yet the protestors remained determined. The protest signs were clever and fun, the music loud, the chants wobbling between catchy and dirty, and the Lebanese flags were waving proud as far as the eye could see. I’ve never seen the country so unified in purpose. They had one clear demand and they vowed to remain on the streets until every last member of the government resigned. “All of them means all of them” (not just the ones I don’t like.)
Some members of the government did in fact resign, others promised not to. But amazingly, all recognized that this was a purely Lebanese movement, that something had intrinsically changed in the people, and that they needed to respond. So they responded with economic reforms that were swiftly rejected by those on the streets. Evenso, the prime minister reiterated the right of the people to peacefully protest, and the army was deployed to protect the protestors from anyone who might try to disturb the peace.
Motorcycle gangs carrying their party flags tried to cause problems, but were swiftly beaten back by the army. And the protests continued. Peacefully…. well, as peaceful as you can be with a DJ and fireworks!
The minister announced that schools should open. The people said why should we listen to you. The minister announced that schools should decide for themselves. The people said we’ll protest at your door. The minister said schools should close. The people said bring your children to the protest, let’s teach them about revolution.
Today is Day 7 of the Revolution. Roads have been closed all over the country. Banks and schools still closed until further notice. It means things like bread and milk are hard to find, ATMs are empty, and if I hear “I’m bored” one more time from one of my children, some other child will be the lucky recipient of boxes and boxes of toys and games that my kids will be donating with not so happy hearts.
Today it seems the army has been sent to open the roads. There are also rumors that politicians have joined the protests. No one knows what is coming next, but we are sure that something is about to change.