Undoubtedly, 2019 was a year marked by widespread protests on a global scale. Driven by public responses to large-scale political corruption and harsh austerity measures, pushback against powerful regimes in countries such as China, Iran, and Chile has been one of the defining characteristics of the past twelve months.
In particular, Beirut, Lebanon has seen some of the most intense political infighting and harshest treatment of protestors by government authorities. In a country where political corruption has led to public crisis after public crisis in recent years, the population is said by many observers to be on the brink of absolute chaos.
Many blame Lebanon’s deeply bureaucratic political system for the recent uprisings. Political power within the country has long been allocated by religious sect, and many critics of the system note that the upper echelons of political parties within Lebanon are filled with former warlords who have effectively retained a vice-like grip on the country’s power centers.
Moreover, widespread unemployment and a lack of access to adequate food supplies within Lebanon have brought political tensions there to a boiling point over the last three months. A recent economic downturn in which the value of Lebanese currency plummeted only served to worsen such tensions. Since September, at least seven people have been killed and nearly 400 people have been wounded in protests.
So far, public pressure has only brought about surface changes to the Lebanese government’s policies: In October, Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned his position, but Hariri’s replacement Hassan Diab has fared little better in his new role as the country’s leader: Having only acted as head of state for several weeks, in fact, Diab has already been pressured to step down as acting prime minister. Indeed, Diab’s association with the Iranian-backed militant organization Hezbollah and his connection to the corrupt political class within Lebanon has earned him the ire of many protestors. (In October, Hezbollah fighters attacked protestors in Beirut, and political dissidents within Lebanon are unlikely to accept any leader who associates with Hezbollah leadership.)
How Lebanon will fare in the weeks and months to come is anyone’s guess, but many critics of the country’s political system assert that the government there has reached an unsustainable level of corruption. Whether the population will tolerate mere cosmetic changes to the autocratic political class remains to be seen, but if the recent protests within the country are any indication, the current fight for freedom will not end anytime soon.