When I wrote a post yesterday morning on how to gear up for today’s protest, I never thought for a second that we might actually need to protect ourselves from tear gas canisters, water cannons, rubber bullets and live ammunition. I never imagined that the ISF and the Lebanese Army would attack the protesters this way and would storm a group of peaceful protesters, beat them up and arrest them. I haven’t slept all night following up on the news and checking on my friends to make sure they are all safe. To be honest, I think we are very lucky that no one died in the protests yesterday because things were totally out of control.
Protesters were unarmed and harmless civilians.
So what really happened?
I got to Riad el Solh around 6:20pm and walked all the way to the statue where protesters were chanting slogans and waving banners against the government. Things were relatively calm until the riot police started firing water cannons. People stepped back a bit and then all of a sudden tear gas canisters were fired in the middle of the crowds and one of them fell few meters away from me. I’ve never been tear gassed before and I hope I never do again because it’s the worst feeling ever. Your eyes start burning and you feel as if you’re suffocating. One protester got the tear gas right in his face and fainted for a second, while parents who had come with their children were panicking and running away from the gas.
At that time, I wasn’t aware what was happening near Annahar building but then we heard gun shots that were being fired in the air by the Lebanese Army as shown in many videos. At the same time, the riot police kept throwing more tear gas and started attacking the crowds and trying to disperse them all the way from Riad el Solh to Beirut Souks. Rubber bullets were used at this point. The clashes continued till around midnight when things calmed down and the police was ordered by our Interior Minister to free all the detainees. The protesters were pushed back outside Riad el Solh square but they resisted and decided to set up tents and spend the night there. I will not bore you with more details because the pictures and videos speak for themselves but I still can’t figure out what triggered all this mess, and who gave the order to fire at protesters but it’s outrageous and shocking.
Tear gas, Rubber bullets and live ammunition
Thousands of Lebanese men, women and children went down to protest for their most basic rights and for a clear and transparent solution to the garbage crisis away from politics and were all suppressed in an unnecessarily violent and disproportional way. Even the press was caught off-guard and got its share of the beating. I have no idea what to expect next but hopefully things will be clearer by next week. Whatever happened yesterday should NEVER be repeated and those who assaulted and fired at harmless protesters need to be reprimanded and this garbage crisis needs to be resolved once and for all in a transparent and efficient way.
Let’s see what comes next.
All pictures above were taken by my friend Jimmy Ghazal who got hit by a tear gas in the head but is ok.
The garbage crisis is getting worse every day and is affecting all of us, yet when activists call for a demonstration against our corrupt politicians, barely anyone shows up. Even though most Lebanese are frustrated by the current situation and by the incompetence of our government, very few people are turning up to the protest. Yesterday during Kalamennas episode, Minister Mohammad Machnouk seemed very relaxed even though he still didn’t come up with any solution and hasn’t been supportive of recycling initiatives at all! His arguments made no sense at all and the worst part was when he suggested reopening the Naameh landfill but he couldn’t care less because he is not feeling threatened and probably won’t be by all these protests, even though #YouStink activists placed garbage in front of his house asking him to resign.
We need to hold our officials accountable for their actions and since elections are out of the question for now, we need to either take small actions or/and take the street. Unfortunately, the young generations, especially university students, don’t seem too concerned with what’s happening. They’d rather be attending a beach party and a color festival than going to a protest. I can understand people who don’t like to protest when the objectives are not clear, or because they don’t have time due to their family and work obligations, but that doesn’t apply to school and university students who should be more engaged than that. If their parents won’t let them demonstrate, they can start by recycling at home and forcing their municipalities and their neighbors to do the same. They can organize activities in their tows, raise awareness and volunteer to help recycle.
We will never be able to change anything in this country if we don’t start making small changes and taking drastic measures against our government and corruption. Trending a hashtag and sharing a post or a picture do help but they are not enough especially in Lebanon. If anything, officials here often brag on how corrupt and incompetent they are which is quite sad.
All in all, I think #YouStink activists are doing a great job and their movement is still going strong but it won’t be for long if politicians agree on a “solution” soon and if they get people confused. I heard yesterday that they are calling now for early elections which is not a smart move if you ask me. The only thing that might trigger a change is a large demonstration and a series of synchronized protests all around Lebanon. We need drastic measures and we need young and enthusiastic Lebanese to take the initiative and get things done. Moreover, we need the media and our celebrities to serve as role models for the younger generations and join the protests.
So should we attend the protest on Saturday? Of course we should and we need to encourage everyone to do the same. See you all there!
Five activists from the #YouStink (طلعت ريحتكم) movement were taken into police custody earlier today and one of them was severely injured after he was brutally beaten by the ISF. The activists (Lucien Bourjeily, Waref Sleiman, Hassan Chamas and Ihab Abu Mujahid ) were all released afterwards and a new demonstration is now scheduled for Saturday the 22nd of August at 6pm.
The police was caught on tape beating up protesters, including women protesters. Water cannons and batons were used and Activist Bilal Allaw was taken to the emergencies at AUBMC following a severe beating by the police.
I don’t care what sparked the fight but the riot police has no right to beat up protesters and this is totally unacceptable! The garbage crisis is affecting all of us and these activists are the only ones defying corruption and asking for a change and their movement is picking up. If anything, the police should be arresting those who are hiding and burning trash in nature or trying to smuggle garbage out of their area to dump it illegally elsewhere!
Here’s another [video] showing the riot police assaulting protesters. You can check out more videos and pictures on [Tol3etRi7etkoun page].
The NY Times wrote about what happened yesterday, check it out [here].
I am not sure how accurate these reports are, but there are talks that the Baabda Forest, more specifically the Khandaq al-Rahban nature reserve, might be turned into a dump-site. Tens of locals and activists protested the decision yesterday and there’s a sit-in happening today at the forest’s entrance against this outrageous decision.
I was just talking last week about the ugly side of the garbage crisis and how municipalities are burning and dumping garbage in nature but officially turning a natural reserve into a dump-site is probably the worst possible idea I’ve ever heard so far! From what I understood, the land is a private one but that doesn’t entitle its owners to destroy it that way, whoever they are.
Maybe we are recycling in the wrong place – by Hayat Chaaban
On another note, Minister Bou Faour just realized “Lebanon is on the verge of an ecological disaster” due to the ongoing waste crisis, and highlighted the need to form a committee or in other terms waste more time while trash piles up. He also wants the cabinet to remove trash from the streets but he didn’t indicate where they should be sent, which is the real problem as we all know.
All in all, I am glad that locals are getting more and more fed up with their government but the situation is getting worse and becoming unbearable in certain areas, especially inside Beirut.
PS: You can follow updates on tonight’s protest and other protests regarding the garbage crisis [here].
I’m not sure where this fight took place but it’s very common in Lebanon to block roads when there’s a wedding. It’s one of those things that I was never able to understand but for some reason, many Lebanese enjoy closing down the whole neighborhood and dancing on the street when the bride is leaving her house. Also, a lot of wedding convoys enjoy driving in the middle of the road or on several lanes and causing traffic.
Of course most of the time the neighbors are aware there’s a wedding and join the bride in her celebration but obviously that wasn’t the case in this video where a van driver got pissed off and tried to cut his way through the crowds. Personally speaking, I would have waited for the zaffe to end but obviously the celebrations could have taken place without closing down the road.
By the way, what happened to the bride? Did she faint or something?
Enjoy the [video].
I was on my way to Beirut a week ago when a policeman stood in the middle of the road (next to the Canadian Embassy in Jal el Dib) and started asking few drivers to park on the side including myself. At first I thought they were checking “mecanique” papers and indeed the officer asked me for my driving license and “mecanique” papers which I gladly handed over. I still had no clue I was being fined for using my phone because I don’t recall taking any calls or texting anyone that morning. A few minutes later, I got bored from waiting so I asked the officer if I can go if my papers are good and that’s where he told me I’m getting a fine for using my phone. I told him but I wasn’t using my phone as far as I know but he was like “Yes you were there’s an officer standing on the side of the road a few hundred meters back who spotted you”. I was like “Spotting me doing what?” but all he said was that I was using the phone.
I was in a rush so I didn’t bother argue anymore and took the fine and drove away but I’m still not sure what “using my phone” meant to this officer and how random these fines are. In fact, ever since I got the fine I haven’t seen any officer standing on that road and I’ve spotted tens if not hundreds of drivers texting and answering their phones on the same road. I even wanted to go and file a complaint but to say what? I am sure I wasn’t using my phone to text or answer yet I could have been holding it to check the time (I don’t wear a watch and my car’s clock doesn’t work) or listen to music (plugged to the radio with an auxiliary cable) but again I didn’t have proof and neither the officer who fined me did. I ended up paying the fine but I wish the ISF would clarify what “using our phone” means and why they are still fining people randomly and during peak traffic hours?
What’s the point of fining drivers stuck in morning traffic for using their phones? How does that help promote road safety? How about those speeding on the highway while texting and driving? Can we take calls if we have a handset or on speaker? What if I’m holding my phone down and have the speaker mode on? Is that also a fine?
More importantly, why aren’t there regular checkpoints to fine drivers breaking the new traffic law? I spot hundreds of drivers breaking the law on a daily basis on the highway and main roads. This is where the real threat is, not on the Dbayyeh Jal el Dib maritime (jammed) road at 8:30am.
All in all, I gladly paid the fine because I may have been holding my phone but it’s quite frustrating to pay a 200,000 fine while everyone around you is clearly breaking the law (including police officers) and getting away with it, and while you’ve been promoting road safety for years on the blog.
Over 5000 people protested yesterday to call on Environment Minister Machnouk to resign and demand a sustainable solution to Lebanon’s garbage crisis. I honestly don’t know why our Environment Minister didn’t resign yet. He didn’t come up with any solution during the past months, he didn’t set up a contingency plan in case a solution isn’t reached and he didn’t try to promote recycling to reduce waste. If he’s incapable of resolving the garbage crisis because of politics, then let him resign and blame it on others. It’s as simple as that!
#طلعت_ريحتكم bi 2ouwwe!
via Ralph Aoun
via Imad Bazzi
via Nadine Mazloum
Five years ago, we were promised 24/7 electricity in Lebanon. Instead we got this year 24/7 Zbeleh all over Lebanon and the electricity is getting worse by the day. We were all skeptical of the Energy Ministry’s plan back then but I bet no one expected things to get even worse than they were back then. At this point it’s useless to blame one party over the party because they are all to blame, but we are to blame as well for not holding them accountable especially during elections. If you are expecting our dear ministers to resign on their own, keep on dreaming.
Take for example the Zouk power-plant and the pollution it’s causing. All municipalities (and the parties behind them) in the area are against it and want to close down the power plant yet none of them are raising awareness on this matter and investing in renewable energies. Instead, they are polluting our streets with posters and approving (and probably investing in) the constructions of summer resorts and residential and commercial areas around the power-plant, which doesn’t make any sense and goes against their demands. That’s why drastic solutions won’t work in Lebanon and why we need initiatives like the Zahle one.
The next time any party in Lebanon proposes a major solution to the electricity issue, keep this quote (taken from the DailyStar) in mind:
“Doing anything of this scale in Lebanon would require a political investment of mammoth proportions. To this point, we have not even heard that [X] parliamentary bloc will carry this plan into the future – or even beyond this term of office. We question whether [X] bloc will even acknowledge its parental relationship to this proposal, once this Cabinet and Parliament have become history. However, the real reason why this plan will not come to fruition is the system of the Lebanese state. The real flaws in infrastructure and design are in the system. The system lies. It does not have any institutions or practices to guarantee the implementation of the proposal. Our experience is that the system amounts to little more than a charade. [X]’s plan, for all its beauty, does not fit the country for which it is intended. This is not a plan for a country that ranks 34th on the Foreign Policy index of failed states.”
I don’t see what’s funny about this prank call. I think the guy who did it should be forced to deliver food from McDonald’s and BK for one month for free.
Check out the [video] if you missed it.
When I first read that an army officer called Rabih Kahil was rushed to a hospital and urgently needed blood, I thought at first that an army convoy somewhere got attacked or that the officer got injured in battle while fighting terrorists. It never crossed my mind that a Lebanese Army Lieutenant Colonel and a member of the Lebanese Commando Regiment would get killed by a bunch of people who didn’t like the fact that he was yelling on the phone and passing by “their area”. Who in their right mind would fire at an army officer and who gave these guys the authority to carry guns and protect their so-called area? To make things even worse, Rabih wasn’t killed instantly and was left to bleed to death for over an hour, and the prime suspect (Hisham Daou) may have fled the country already.
Rabih Kahil has dedicated his life to protecting Lebanon, all of Lebanon, and took part in the Nahr el Bared and Arsal battles to keep us safe and it’s both tragic and sad that he had to die this way. He put his life at risk every day to keep terrorists away and ended up getting shot in a personal dispute. I honestly expected Lebanese to be more outraged by this incident than Georges Al-Rif’s murder but that wasn’t the case probably because we are all too busy making garbage jokes and mourning some lion who got killed in Africa. There’s nothing that could possibly justify Kahil’s murder except the fact that we’re officially living in total chaos where people shoot others for fun or for the silliest of reasons. I refuse to live in such a society and there’s always something we can do as individuals and as a community. Quoting HMA Fletcher in his farewell blog post, “the real dividing line is not between Christianity and Islam, Sunni and Shia, East and West. It is between people who believe in coexistence, and those who don’t. If Lebanon doesn’t work, build a new Lebanon. It is time to thrive, not just survive”. If your town’s mayor is corrupt and his kids go around carrying guns and threatening people, report him and/or stand against him. If a local MP is abusing his powers, speak out against him. If a family member is breaking the law, don’t let him and the list goes on. Needless to say, the worst possible way to react to such incidents is by encouraging more death (asking for the death penalty) or even worse asking for the army to rule the country. For some reason, and despite everything that’s happening in Lebanon, some people don’t seem to appreciate the little freedom of expression we have and that a lot of groups have been trying to eliminate for years.
The Lebanese Army is celebrating its 70th anniversary today and Rabih Kahil is being celebrated as a martyr instead of enjoying the day with his brothers at arms. Kahil wanted to die defending his country in Arsal and Nahr el Bared and he will always be remembered and hailed as a hero for protecting us and keeping terrorists on the other side of the border.
May he R.I.P.