Lebanon: second day of demonstrations in Tripoli

On the evening of Thursday, October 17, spontaneous demonstrations broke out all over Lebanon following the announcement of new taxes, including those on the use of VOIP software (including WhatsApp). The government reversed the announcement that very evening, without appeasing the anger of the Lebanese.

In Tripoli, on the el-Nour Square (“of light”), a large roundabout in the city centre with the name of Allah in its centre, it was not necessary to go and talk to people today. It is the Tripolitans who come to you to explain why they are here.

Like this woman, who lists the “millions of problems in Lebanon”: the lack of electricity, the disastrous management of waste, poverty, the unemployment rate at more than forty percent, the fears linked to the devaluation of the Lebanese pound. Like this young man who has finished his studies and can’t find a job. Like this family man, who came with his little boy, who has lost an eye and has wounds on his feet and cannot afford to be treated in hospital. Or this other man, a taxi driver, who is planning a hunger strike and who is showing pictures of himself to prove that, as a protest, he had already sewn his lips together last February.

From their speeches, two points in common: a very clear rejection of the ruling political class, whose members are openly called thieves. And the willingness to reject any community division by insisting that in Lebanon, they are Sunni, Maronite, Shiite, Orthodox, Alawite, Catholic,… but that above all, they are Lebanese and that they must come out together.

The crowd grows during the day, especially after the midday prayer, which some will do on El Nour Square. Among the slogans that keep coming back to this square, “ثورة” (“revolution”) and “الشعب يريد يريد اسقاط النظام” (“The people want the fall of the regime”). The atmosphere is joyful and offensive, the demonstrators dance and sing and will repeatedly express their anger at the entrance of the Tripoli serail. Some young people set tires on fire, others try to dissuade them. It remains festive, at least until the arrival of the former deputy of Tripoli Misbah Ahdab who thought he could come and speak at the microphone. The clamour rises, a few plastic bottles fly and the former MP’s bodyguards retaliate with live ammunition. I saw a wounded leg, but we are talking about three wounded, one of them in critical condition.

Despite a moment of panic, the demonstrators did not leave the el-Nour square, which they still occupied at nightfall.

(Click on the pictures to view them)