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Thousands of demonstrators took the streets of Beirut to mark the one-year anniversary of the country’s anti-sectarian protest movement, on Saturday.
Protesters were seen marching through the streets with Lebanese flags and banners, chanting slogans.
“We achieved awareness through this anniversary. People are now more aware than before and we managed to abolish sectarianism and regionalism,” said a protester.
One of the demonstrators echoed this sentiment, saying “All the Lebanese people are united over one cause, and we have to fight for a civil state. All of us took the streets, so it was a revolution against ourselves at first and later a revolution of awareness.”
Protesters in Lebanon have long demanded that the government formulates a new electoral law that allows independent access into politics. This scheme of the law was way too much favoured in September when French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated these calls as part of a road map to unlock much needed international funds.
However, Lebanese people figure that this framework has become synonymous instead with guaranteeing political power to an established group of a sectarian elite which seeks to limit challenges to its communal domination.
On 17 October 2019, the Lebanese cabinet announced a raft of taxes, targeting among others gasoline, tobacco and VoIP calls on applications such as WhatsApp, designed to tackle the country’s high public debt. In response, the country was swept by cross-sectarian protests over economic stagnation and widespread corruption, which led to the resignation of then-Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
The COVID-19 pandemic added more pressure on the struggling economy and plummeting currency, prompting a new wave of rallies despite social distancing restrictions.
On August 4, the Beirut port was rocked by two explosions that killed at least 190 people, injured 6,500, and displaced over 300,000. The blasts triggered violent protests which forced the government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab to resign.
SOT, Protester (Arabic): “We achieved awareness through this anniversary. People are now more aware than before and we managed to abolish sectarianism and regionalism. A lot of things have been achieved, for example, the authorities are now taking the revolutionaries more seriously, and this also applies to the current uprising because they [authorities] know that they will be held accountable. It [government] is in a state of complete loss because they cannot elect a prime minister.”
SOT, Protester (Arabic): “All the Lebanese people are united over one cause and we have to fight for a civil state. All of us took the streets so it was a revolution against ourselves at first and later a revolution of awareness. For me, this revolution was characterised by awareness.”
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