For all post-Feb 2020 Coronavirus references see Contestavirus
Originally published as part of the “Social Revolt in Iraq and Lebanon” post, now named “Social revolt in Iraq”
“Mocking Lebanon’s political dynasties and handing-down of power from father to son, one protester held up a sign that read: “Electile dysfunction.” Others criticised the heavy-handed response of security forces on the first two days of protests, with one banner reading in English: “Don’t throw tear gas, we can cry by ourselves.” – here
“Unrest stirs as positive coronavirus cases were detected in Lebanon’s biggest and most overcrowded Roumieh Prison. As all of Lebanon experiences a surge in cases, local media reported that 13 Roumieh inmates and 9 guards tested positive for the Coronavirus disease. On Sunday evening, prisoners staged a riot to protest the neglect of inmates whose lives are threatened by the poor conditions at the prison. The head of the Beirut Bar Association, Melhem Khalaf, described the situation at Roumieh as a “time bomb.” Inmates and their families previously protested the lack of measures being taken to prevent the spread of the highly infectious coronavirus, before any cases were confirmed. Now that the disease is inside the prison, the situation is critical as it can lead to a complete health disaster”
“Riot police fought running battles with opposing groups of protesters near Beirut’s Presidential Palace on Saturday after rights activists clashed with rival demonstrators chanting their support for President Michel Aoun. Clashes erupted after activists marking the 40th day since the deadly Beirut port explosion on Aug. 4 were confronted by Free Patriotic Movement supporters who tried to break through a security blockade. Troops…formed a human barricade to keep the rival groups apart, but were pelted with stones and forced to fire into the air to keep protesters at bay. Chanting “Revolution” and “Aoun Out,” black-clad demonstrators set up mock gallows and called for Lebanon’s leadership to face justice over the blast.”
This happened during Macron’s visit (or re-visit). When he visited earlier – in August – he expressed solidarity with the anger on the streets. 2 days later demonstrators were badly wounded by weaponry…supplied to Lebanon by Macron’s government.
Google translate of some of this:
“According to analyst Maha Yehya, four of the five key pillars that have long supported Lebanon have collapsed in recent months.
First, the power sharing between the different Lebanese factions and communities no longer works. Second, the banking crisis and that of the tertiary sector mark the collapse of the Lebanese merchant republic. This economic crisis destroys the third pillar of the country, namely the middle class which is impoverished and no longer finds a future in Lebanon.
Human Rights Watch: 60 people arrested in Lebanon for speaking out on social media.
A fourth pillar, that of freedoms, is also in the process of crumbling. Since October 17, at least 60 people have been arrested for posting information on social media.
Finally, the fifth pillar – the army and internal security forces – still standing, is now feeling the effects of the crisis and is starting to crack.
The perception of the collapse of these pillars by the Lebanese population is obviously at the origin of its mobilization on October 17 and the explosion of nitrate in the port of Beirut.
At the start there is the cargo of the “Rhosus”, a Moldovan-flagged vessel belonging to a Russian entrepreneur carrying 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate bound for Mozambique which docks in November 2013 in Beirut.
For reasons that are not fully clarified, the company goes bankrupt, the cargo is seized and deposited in hangar 12 of the port of Beirut in August 2014.
Since that date, the port authorities, customs authorities, government authorities have been aware, but nothing has been done to secure the port. However, a stockpile of fireworks was adjacent to this highly explosive material when the fire broke out, presumably caused by the welding of a hangar door.
The negligence and carelessness of the state coupled with a neoliberal economy that manages maritime capital aimed at protecting companies at all costs are at the origin of the double explosion in Beirut.
Seven years of doing nothing, the storage of a veritable powder keg in the heart of the capital and, since the explosion, the refusal to assume any responsibility whatsoever, this is the symbol of the collapse of Lebanese institutions.
“The revolution is born from the bowels of sadness” wrote the Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani.
Plunged into a deep economic crisis, the Lebanese are devastated by this disaster. Their testimonies relayed by the media, reflect the astonishment, the sadness, the despair, but especially the rage against their government responsible for this cataclysm.
In the aftermath of the disaster, the images of devastated streets and victims loop on national channels recalling the dark days of the civil war. But very quickly a tremendous outpouring of solidarity is created around the inhabitants affected by the explosion and the Lebanese from all corners of the country flocking to help clear the streets.
At the same time, the calls to protest emerge. The demonstration on Saturday August 8 is one of anger. In downtown Beirut, gallows are being erected and all political leaders from all parties are called out.
On Saturday night, demonstrators stormed the foreign ministry, but were evicted by the army. The following slogans could be read on the banners displayed on the building: “Beirut, capital of anger” and “Beirut an unarmed city”.
The government, but also the Shiite party of Hezbollah is accused of being behind this explosion by part of the opposition. Even though Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s general secretary, denies any involvement in the explosion, he is nonetheless scolded by the raging mob who demand the disarmament of the Party of God and the departure of the ruling warlords.
The government gave in, but the Lebanese are not fooled by the game of politicians who would negotiate a government in their favor behind the scenes. In the aftermath of Diab’s resignation, the leader of parliament Nabih Berri and the former foreign minister and Michel Aoun’s nephew Gibran Bassil are calling for the formation of a government of national unity. These two politicians have lost the confidence of the people and their proposal for a “unifying” government comes late and above all does not convince.
More than ever, the Lebanese are determined to overthrow the regime, but will they be able to get rid of the warlords who have been practicing the capture of power and its sharing for more than 30 years?
The road is long and arduous, but the anger, immense, is equal to the crime committed against the country.”
Lebanon, Beirut: protesters clash with cops as they try to storm Economy Ministry following weeks of power outages
This just hours before what has now become another example of a standard capital-induced “accident”-cum-mass-murder waiting to happen.
Beirut: 400 injured during riots and protests against new government (videos and links)
More here “Protesters reportedly hurled stones, eggs, and paint at riot police and lawmakers in an attempt to delay the meeting; one MP was wounded after being struck in the face by a projectile. A group of rioters later set fire to a bank in the downtown area. “
“On Saturday, several marches were held in Beirut under the slogan “No trust”, with protesters converging on the city centre chanting “Revolution, Revolution” under the watchful gaze of security forces, who were deployed in high numbers. At Riad al-Solh Square in central Beirut, the crowd gathered near the Serail — the seat of the government and residence of the new Prime Minister Hassan Diab. Protesters tore down metal fences and barbed wire as well as tried to move concrete blocks that had been erected by the authorities as barricades…The demonstrators also threw rocks and firecrackers at the anti-riot police on the other side, who responded with water cannon and tear gas. The Lebanese Red Cross said 20 people were wounded, including two who were rushed to hospital while the others were treated on site. The injured were from both sides, the organisation said. Newly appointed Justice Minister, Marie-Claude Najm, denounced the “violence” and “destruction” caused by the protesters. Bearing shields and in tight ranks, the security forces dispersed the crowd, but only after protesters had dismantled almost all the obstacles erected to block the way to the government building”
“Even before the Cabinet was announced, thousands of people poured into the streets, closing major roads in the capital of Beirut and other parts of the country in protest. The protesters complained that political groups still were involved in the naming of the new ministers, even if they are specialists and academics. Later, a group of protesters near Parliament threw stones, firecrackers and sticks at security forces, who responded with tear gas and pepper spray.”
“On Tuesday evening, dozens of masked men broke banks’ security cameras, ATMs and windows in Hamra. Someone had scrawled in red “complicit in murder” on the front of the once respected central bank….bystanders were sympathetic to demonstrators.“People are forced to be aggressive”
“Clashes erupted Wednesday evening between security forces and protesters demanding the release of dozens of people who were arrested Tuesday during a demo that turned violent in Beirut’s Hamra area. Wednesday evening’s confrontation erupted outside the Helou barracks of the Internal Security Forces in Beirut’s Mar Elias area. Security forces fired tear gas to disperse protesters after some of them hurled firecrackers and empty bottles. The demonstrators later responded with stones after tear gas was fired at them and after several protesters were arrested or beaten up by riot police. TV networks reported that several protesters were injured in the violence…”
Beirut & Beddaoui: soldiers injured in riots and blockades against electricity outages…similar events in Tripoli
“Violent clashes erupted between a group of protesters and the police outside the Central Bank of Lebanon, officially known as the Bank of Lebanon, as the country is currently going through its worst economic and financial crisis for decades, which has sparked protests across the country.
The demonstrators protested Tuesday against economic and financial policies in Lebanon and demanded a major reform of the banking sector. They also distributed leaflets saying “We won’t pay” to passers-by, calling on all Lebanese to stop paying taxes and fees to the government and to refrain from repaying loans to banks until they can obtain all of their rights. The security forces intervened and started heavy confrontations with the demonstrators when they tried to block the road. In another part of the southern city of Tire, protesters stood outside the Banque du Liban branch, chanting slogans against Governor Riad Salameh and demanding the release of the people’s money in the banks.“
Beirut: heavy clashes – bins burnt, cops pelted with stones, shop windows smashed; lots of teargas & rubber bullets…Party offices of former PM and foreign minister torched
“In the town of Kharibet al-Jindi, an office of the party of the former prime minister Saad Hariri was torched and its windows were broken. In a separate attack in the town of Jedidat al-Juma, assailants stormed an office of the largest party in parliament, affiliated with President Michel Aoun and headed by the foreign minister, Gebran Bassil. The party said the contents of the office had been smashed and burned. Hours earlier in Beirut, security forces had carried out the most violent crackdown on protesters since nationwide demonstrations began two months ago. The security forces fired rubber bullets and teargas and used water cannon throughout the night to disperse protesters in the city centre and around parliament. The overnight confrontations left more than 130 people injured”
A combination of the return of manipulated sectarian clashes and genuine conflict as movement seems to break with pacifism
“Demonstrators want to see the entire ruling class gone from power…Supporters of Hezbollah and Amal waved the groups’ flags. Earlier, they had chanted: “Shia, Shia” and slogans in support of Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. On the other side, demonstrators chanted: “Revolution, revolution”… fighting apparently broke out when Hezbollah and Amal supporters blamed other demonstrators for making offensive comments about Nasrallah…The ground was strewn with rocks. A motorcycle was set on fire.”
” We hope that through the revolution, we will be able to get back this property and turn it into public space for discussions and gatherings without security constraints or physical appearance concerns or class-based distinctions.”
Sure, the limitations of this take are pretty obvious, but…See entry for 15/11/19 for more information and comments.
Right side: “Iran on our mind”
Left side: “From Baghdad to Beirut.. One revolution that won’t die”
Interesting Al Jazeera report about assemblies in private parking lots reserved normally for the rich
“These private parking lots lie in the heart of the upscale Beirut Central District run by a private corporation, Solidere, which has effectively transformed the heart of the Lebanese capital into an island for the rich. On any normal day, Solidere private security guards do not allow street vendors, let alone any sort of public political gathering or performance, in the manicured district. But now the security guards are nowhere to be seen as thousands flood the streets daily. It is not just the occupation of this “private” space by average citizens that is extraordinary, it is the unprecedented discussions and open public forums taking place under dozens of flimsy tarps. In one tent, a debate is raging over whether protesters should return to blocking highway traffic (as they had done in the first two weeks of the now month-old uprising), or whether children should be allowed to boycott schools and join the protests. “We are a war generation, we used to go to school under the bombs,” said one middle-aged woman, standing on the sidelines holding a microphone. “Our kids are learning the best civic education here, they are cleaning the streets, they are recycling, things they never learn in schools.” She then took aim at the minister of education, who called for schools to reopen after weeks of road closures. “We don’t have to listen to you minister, you have to listen to us now.” The crowd erupted in applause as one man shouted “Bravo, Bravo” clapping enthusiastically. …”We don’t need these Zuama [tribal chieftains],” she continued. “Not the Sunni, Shia, Druze or Christian ones, and I’m for blocking the road.”…New groups are organising in Lebanon, not around party ideology or sectarian dogma, but around everyday issues …”The people are the source of power today – not the ministers, not the members of parliament, not the zauma,” said another woman to applause…The calm discussions are suddenly drowned out by heated arguments in another tent. One man shouts, urging the protesters to retake the nearby downtown highway. “Is this a revolution or is it an activist movement?” a middle-aged man posed. “If this is a revolution, everything is allowed, there is no need for a discussion. We don’t have to ask for permission to occupy streets or attack ministries.” The moderator disagrees: “We are here to discuss tactics and all voices should be heard.”
Judging from some of my own experiences in France, this hints at aspects of the problem of ideologies of horizontalism and direct democracy. Whilst a certain horizontal form is necessary in certain respects it can also just become a brake on putting ideas into action – endless discussions without consequence. Fetishised, horizontalism is a critique of dominant forms of organising without a critique of the content and aims of organising. But effective struggle needs to unite form and content – you can’t fight alienation by alienated means but you also can’t fight alienation with petrified content. The guy at the end of the above quote – “We don’t have to ask for permission to occupy streets or attack ministries.” is essentially right – and if I was in his situation I’d have gone off and organised with those people who were in agreement with what I wanted to do rather than hang around to interminably try to convince others so as to get a majority. Descriptions of other discussions later on in this article show that there are lots of specialised activists, aiming to change the nature and image of the state without seriously confronting it (some of whom will become part of the future ruling class), very present in these discussions. But the moderator is also partly right – discussion is necessary to develop both the reasons for such actions and the tactics needed to carry them out, though given the fact that state spies may well be in the crowd a certain discretion would clearly be necessary.
“ President Michel Aoun told the nation in a televised address Nov. 12 that Lebanon will descend into a “catastrophe” if protesters do not return home and allow Lebanon to work normally again. Protesters, however, took to the country’s streets soon afterward, blocking roads with burning tires in various parts of Lebanon and marched toward the president’s Baabda Palace on Nov. 13. Security forces blocked demonstrators from reaching their destination, and closed the highway leading to the president’s residence….Amid gasoline shortages, limits on cash withdrawals at banks and threats to salaries and many critical imported goods, workers from a variety of industries in Lebanon had gone on strike prior to Aoun’s speech to protest a wide swath of issues related to the continuing economic crisis….Earlier in the day [Nov.11th], strikes took place as employees from Alfa and Touch, Lebanon’s two state-owned mobile network providers, demanded salary guarantees, and bank employees left work to protest after some workers were exposed to violent threats after bank branches limited the amounts of money consumers could withdraw. A general strike called for Nov. 12 also included roadblocks across the country, and marches by students to state institutions after schools had been closed.”
“On Wednesday, protesters blocked major highways with burning tires and other debris, saying they will remain in the streets despite the president’s appeal for them to leave. Schools and universities were closed and banks remained shuttered…Highways linking Beirut with southern and northern Lebanon as well as other roads in major cities and towns were also closed on Wednesday. In Nahr al-Kalb north of Beirut, protesters closed a tunnel by parking their cars inside it while a nearby highway was filled with debris. In Khaldeh, on Beirut’s southern entrance, tires were set on fire and sand barriers closed a vital highway. Black smoke billowed from several locations in and around the city on Wednesday. Near the country’s only international airport, travelers were seen dragging suitcases as they continued on foot to the airport, after protesters blocked the highway. The place where the first fatality in the protests, Alaa Abou Fakher, was shot in the Khaldeh area was decorated with roses and a Lebanese flag was placed nearby. He was the first to be killed in direct shooting related to the protests, though there have been four other deaths since the demonstrations began.”
“The Lebanese people started their protests against the entire ruling class. These include militia leaders Walid Jumblat, leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, formerly a client of the Syrian regime and since 2005 a client of Saudi Arabia and the U.S.; and Samir Ja`ja`, leader of the Lebanese Forces party, which started as an Israeli surrogate militia responsible for the worst war crimes of the civil war and is now aligned with the Saudi regime. Others include the financial moguls of the militias: Najib Miqati, a billionaire from Tripoli who made his fortune in Syria and Lebanon from telecommunication monopolies and Muhammad Safadi, a billionaire member of parliament from Tripoli with Saudi connections. Displays of lavish lifestyle by members of the ruling class — who celebrate million-dollar weddings in the south of France and flaunt their private jets, yachts and mansions (in Lebanon and abroad) — have recently deepened the anger of people living paycheck-to-paycheck. The resentment of the populace was so wide that for a while it suppressed the sectarian divisions that has long plagued the Lebanese people (and the rulers often stoked those tensions in order to suppress class resentment and mobilization across sects)…The infiltration by the mass base of traditional political bosses loyal to the Saudi regime into the demonstrations (especially the bases of Jumblat and Ja`ja`) may have been intended as a way to divert the protests in a direction favorable to the U.S.-Israel-Saudi alliance. It is up to the protesters to stay vigilant and exclude from their ranks those whose only wish is to protect the ruling class and its interests.”
“Today there is no economic activity in the country,” said Salame. “Imports are getting difficult to channel because the banks are closed, and opening letter of credits is more difficult than it was before.” The governor, who has held office since 1993, also warned that the country risks defaulting on its ballooning debt. Lebanon has one of the highest debt-to-GDP ratios in the world.” In a world dominated by money, particularly in the currrent form of neoliberal capitalism dominated by finance and fictive capital, it’s invariably those at the bottom of the hierarchy that pay for an economic collapse. Without a movement that goes further by seizing the total social product in order to redistribute what’s useful and necessary whilst destroying what’s useless oamongst the products of this “wealth”, the masses of individuals are trapped by an abstraction that’s materialised in the form of the need for money. Until they go further and block not only the roads but seize all of social space and try to connect directly to international movements, it’s like smashing Dr.Frankenstein’s science lab without attacking the monster itself. Without such an aim, an aim which was at least understood by a significant section of the working class over 100 years ago, movements will almost always try to find a “good government” which turns out to be just as bad as the last.
“Lebanese demonstrators set up barricades and parked cars across key roads on Monday to protest corruption and press their demands for a radical overhaul of the political system. The protesters defied pleas from top leaders and sought to keep Lebanon on lockdown for the 12th consecutive day by cutting off some of the main thoroughfares, including the main north-south highway”
Protests resume in all cities and villages; banks & schools close…Hezbollah tries to intervene against protesters (more on this here)
“Euphoric crowds partied deep into the night Sunday, leaving political and sectarian paraphernalia at home to gather under the cedar-stamped national flag, dance to impromptu concerts and chant often hilarious anti-establishment slogans.They were back in front of the houses of government and on the main Martyrs’ Square on Monday to listen to Hariri’s announcement, which was broadcast on loudspeakers. The crowd erupted into shouts of “revolution, revolution” when Hariri finished his address. “We want the fall of the regime,” they went on. “This is all just smoke and mirrors… How do we know these reforms will be implemented?” asked Chantal, a 40-year-old who joined the protest with her little daughter and a Lebanese flag painted on her cheek…Hariri detailed some of the measures taken by his fractious cabinet, including a programme of privatisations, a decision to scrap new tax hikes and halving the generous salaries of ministers and lawmakers….Schools, banks, universities and many private businesses closed their doors Monday, both for security reasons and in an apparent bid to encourage people to join the demonstrations.”
“There are a few key ways in which these latest protests differ from those in 2005 and 2015. As in 2015, but unlike in 2005, they are part of a genuine grassroots movement that has not been directed by any political party. They are cross-sectarian in a broader sense than those of 2015. They are taking place across Lebanon, rather than only in Beirut. And they are demanding the fall of the government from the outset, while criticising political leaders from every sect. Although the number of people on the streets was much higher in 2005, the current protests are much larger than those of 2015. They are also taking place in regions where such public action used to be considered impossible, particularly in southern Lebanon where people from the Shia community have been publicly denouncing traditional Shia leaders, including Nasrallah. The government’s response to the current protests has been its usual carrot-and-stick approach: walking back on proposals to increase taxes while cracking down on the protests through violence. Neither has deterred the protesters, who have vowed to stay on the streets until the government falls. For the first time, people are demanding accountability from the leaders of their own sects as well as from the government at large, and protesters in Sunni strongholds like Tripoli are expressing solidarity with protesters in Shia strongholds like Tyr. Civil society groups involved in the protests are also devising tactics to counter the violence and facilitate mobilisation (one group offered free scooter rides to protest sites) and creating a reform roadmap for the Lebanese state. For the first time, the protests are a condemnation of the political status quo that has, since even before Lebanon’s 15-year civil war, been largely recycling the same faces (or their relatives and descendants) in parliament, the cabinet and high-level positions in the civil service and military… The protests have only been taking place for a few days but the protesters already show a growing awareness not only of the governmental tactics typically used to try to diffuse popular movements but of their own needs as citizens, regardless of class or sect. This alone is a revolution in a country where the political system is, for the most part, a modern version of feudalism. “
“The people want the fall of power!”, “Revolution! Revolution!” There were tens of thousands of Lebanese in the streets across the country Saturday, for a third day of mobilization against the political class accused of corruption, an unprecedented movement since a long time in Lebanon. Despite … heavy intervention by the police on Friday night and dozens of arrests, the ranks of protesters have continued to grow, especially in… Beirut and Tripoli, the second largest city in the country. Saturday, during the day and even in the evening, unlike the two previous nights of clashes between rioters and police, the Lebanese were gathered in a good-natured atmosphere. Only a small clash between protesters in front of the mosque al-Amine was reported late evening…gatherings also took place in Akkar, where clashes with the security forces left three wounded, and in Zghorta in North Lebanon, Baalbeck in the Bekaa, Jal el-Dib in the Metn but also in Zouk in Kesrouan. Several roads were blocked by barricades of burning tires and dumpsters erected by protesters . In the morning, the army reopened highways, while volunteers cleared the city center which yesterday had been turned into a battlefield. Many shop fronts were destroyed, some were burned, dumpsters and burnt tires littered the ground….”They must leave, all of them” In front of the mosque al-Amine, young people were gathered during the day, they brandished a banner. “My message is our banner, they must leave, we want our children to have a future, we do not believe in their promises, we will stay until they leave,” says Roula…Some politicians were enormously insulted, and in the crudest terms, by the protesters. Essentially Gebran Bassil, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Head of the CPL, as well as Speaker of Parliament and Chief Amal, Nabih Berry. The wife of Berry was also the recipient of unflattering slogans … Though Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, was also targeted, the slogans were not so massively taken up“
Massive clashes in Beirut (videos and links)
“Protesters in the capital blocked the road to the airport with burning tyres, prompting a heavy deployment by security forces. Near government headquarters in central Beirut, violent confrontations broke out between protesters and security forces as demonstrators tried to storm the building. Security forces fired tear gas to disperse protesters, after the Internal Security Forces (ISF) said clashes wounded 40 of its members. Protesters also sparked a large blaze near the Mohammad al-Amin mosque in Downtown Beirut…Besides the capital Beirut, protests erupted in the southern city of Sidon, the northern city of Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley, before spreading to other areas..Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Choucair said that the government had reversed its decision to tax calls on messaging apps following the unrest.”