The streets are filled with millions of protesters. Schools, banks, jobs, stores, the government itself: everything is shut down. This horrifying situation is the exact placement the country of Lebanon finds itself in. Due to extreme dissatisfaction with the government and already-high taxes on the rise, the people have called for the immediate and total removal of the government and all the officials within it. While this may seem a long way away, effects from and by the United States could mean the difference between life and death for hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the Lebanese army, the one thing holding the country together. For one student in particular, this holds a much more personal importance.
“I visit (Lebanon) almost every other summer because a lot of my family lives there, also my parents were born and raised there and I was born there,” senior Michelle Semaan said.
One tax in particular on What’sApp, a phone messaging app, was seemingly the last straw for the people of Lebanon and was the catalyst for many to take the the streets demanding reform.
“Lebanon has been known for being super expensive; housing costs a lot, education costs a lot, taxes are really high and the country of Lebanon is severely in debt,” Semaan said.
While all the taxes and revenue collected from the government could be used to help eliminate debt, pay the military better, or improve the extremely deteriorating infrastructure of the nation, many government officials often go home with a salary increase.
“The government isn’t doing anything to help (the people),” Semaan said, “the government constantly gets wage increases while people in the country are suffering because they don’t get paid enough and cannot support their families.”
These protests, while immense in size of demonstration, are mostly very peaceful. While any violent outbreaks are expected in civil disobedience protests of this magnitude, the army of Lebanon and the people have collaborated in order to put more pressure on the government while also protecting their own neighborhoods.
“The army is standing with the people of Lebanon, and it’s starting to go against some of the president’s orders,” Semaan said, “(the protests) are peaceful; everyone has come together and they sing, chant the national anthem, there’s DJ’s, restaurants cater… I want to go.”
These large demonstrations and protests have completely shut down major cities; blocking the entryways and forcing the government to come to a standstill and negotiate with some of the chief demonstrators. While negotiations have taken place, the protesters refuse anything but complete removal. Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri resigned on Oct. 29 after a failure to come to any sort of agreement with the people.
Lebanon leadership is split into three branches, consisting of a president, speaker of Parliament, and a prime minister. Unfortunately, the other two leaders have shown no signs of a future resignation; however, are struggling to remain in power.
“My parents are nervous because they fear there could be some sort of civil conflict or war that could break out, we’re not positive at all but it could happen,” Semaan said.
Ultimately, a new government aimed at truly doing what’s best for the people, rather then their own bank accounts, is necessary in order for Lebanon to get back on its feet, especially amidst all the other crises in the surrounding area such as the Syrian refugee crisis which Lebanon has footed a large portion of the bill for.
“I hope that they’re able to establish a good government that will help them grow and get them out of debt,” Semaan said, “(Lebanon) needs some serious development, but I hope everything balances out and it can flourish more than it ever has.”