On the Place des Martyrs in Beirut, the fist of the revolution still rises to the sky, even if the site is rather deserted. A few meters away, a large Lebanese flag with jagged edges that hangs along its pole, cradled by a light autumnal breeze, illustrates the state of despair into which the vast majority of Lebanese have sunk. Only the word “Hope” and its two white doves, tagged on barricades bring a note of optimism.
The excitement of October 17, 2019 and the weeks that followed, seeing hundreds of thousands of Lebanese converge on the heart of the cities to denounce the carelessness of a political class accused of corruption and incompetence, has subsided. To celebrate the first anniversary of their “revolution”, its actors have decided to give up all “Festivity”. “No light, no music because we have been in mourning since August 4th” and the explosion of the port of Beirut, recalls Hussein el-Achi, of the Menteshrin movement.
→ REPORT. Beirut: in devastated neighborhoods, life shyly resumes
Friday October 16 in the afternoon, decentralized gatherings are planned across the country, and Saturday October 17, “A citizen and peaceful parade” bringing together the different movements in the streets of Beirut.
A bankrupt country
In one year, the economic and social situation has only worsened. Lebanon is bankrupt, its currency continues to plunge into the abyss, the unemployment rate has exploded. More than half of the population, below the poverty line, is now struggling to (over) live. The double explosion of the port of Beirut, on August 4, increased the ambient stagnation, as did the expected return of Saad Hariri to power.
Nevertheless, behind the scenes, a multitude of groups born of the uprising continue the fight. “The revolution has been beyond its own possibilities. It multiplied the number of people involved in public action, freed the floor in all regions, showed that corruption was more of a flight from a financial bubble than the cause of the problem, and created the outline of a unitary discourse “, analyzes Paul Achcar, one of the leaders of the Drabzeen collective (parapet in Arabic).
This network wants to coexist “Old and new political actors, trades, sectors, unions, NGO causes and soon individuals”, explains the former journalist. The objective is to “Refertilize the country by regaining a foothold in the regions”, desertified for thirty years by what Paul Achcar calls “The archipelago of communities”, that is to say the “Regime of six or seven political leaders” who have “Devoured the entire political landscape”.
Victory of the independents
If the mobilization born a year ago has gradually faded in the field, it can be proud of having brought down two successive governments – first that of Saad Hariri, on October 29, 2019, then that of Hassan Diab. , August 10. She also recorded some electoral successes at the head of trade unions – with the victory of Melhem Khalaf, elected president of the lawyers of Beirut on November 17, 2019 – or in student circles with that, last week, of an independent list within from the Lebanese American University.
Julie Daccache, founder of the Rebels group, joined another collective, called Pyramide, under the banner of “Patriotism”. For her, “The priority is the complete disarmament of all factions”, even before social and economic demands. “October 17 has generated a national and trans-confessional popular consciousness and even if there are several visions in the revolution, we can collaborate on the subjects that unite us ”, she says. If she bets on a “Coming street explosion, because the Lebanese can’t take it anymore”, she believes that the legislative elections (scheduled for 2022) are “The key to change”.
A moribund system
” The future is not bright to see and emigration will take a dramatic turn. The next elections are not going to radically change the picture, but they can start to change it, shade Paul Achcar. New ideas must emerge, shift the lines of the dying system. Let’s get to work, we have no choice but to try ”.
His call does not convince Maya, a 23 year old student. She will not participate in the demonstrations organized this Saturday, October 17 to celebrate the first anniversary of the protest, tired “Through violence and empty words”. “I have decided to leave, there is nothing more to expect from this country”, she slices, shattered by the drama of August 4. She will build her future in Canada.