Frustration fuels protests
March 30, 2020
The Lebanese government’s decision to tax internet-based WhatsApp calls was the tipping point for many Lebanese citizens, who have faced poor economic conditions for decades.
According to the Lebanese newspaper Annahar, Lebanon has nationwide unemployment and poverty, with youth unemployment at 37% and general unemployment at 25%, as of August 2019. Likewise, over the last several decades, it’s become common for citizens to be rationed to eight hours of power per day.
“The electricity is bad, and we have poor connection; we just want all of this to stop,” Moawad said.
According to the International Institute for Environment and Development, many people don’t have access to drinking water and must buy bottled water instead. The country also suffers from poor sanitation and sewage infrastructure. Four years ago, the streets of Beirut were lined with mountains of trash caused by poor waste management.
On top of that, Lebanon has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the world.
According to the Carnegie Middle East Center, the wealthiest 0.1% of the population earns the same as the bottom 50%. The country has one of the highest amounts of public debt in the world and is in a deep recession. Tensions have been rising as people believe Lebanon’s government policies are leading to an unfair distribution of wealth.
“This revolution is about the government’s rampant and uncontested corruption, which has been going on for decades. By people protesting, the government knows that they messed up the country,” Saddi said.
Moawad and Saddi feel that their experiences have been positive and peaceful, but the media has chosen a negative portrayal.
“[The media] is showing the world such a bad image of the protests. They’re saying that there’s violence and that the protests are only because of the taxes, but it’s more than that,” Moawad said.
Moawad and Saddi, along with many other Lebanese citizens, are not only fighting against tax increases but also to improve their basic standard of living, including functioning electricity and better waste management.
They are pushing for reforms such as investment in schools, an increase in wages, and access to better healthcare.