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Offbeat In a Lebanon in crisis, demonstrators with opposite trajectories

11:50  15 october  2020
11:50  15 october  2020 Source:   liberation.fr

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The Lebanese government has resigned amid growing public anger following a devastating explosion in Beirut on 4 August that killed at least 200 However, the debacle unleashed a surge of discontent that had been simmering in Lebanon for years. Tens of thousands of Lebanese took to the streets

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Flawed policies and sudden shocks have thrust Lebanon into its worst economic crisis in decades, with its currency collapsing, businesses shutting, prices for basic goods skyrocketing and the threat of hunger looming for its poorest people.

Photo prise le 19 octobre 2019 montrant une manifestante à la place des martyrs, à Beyrouth © Patrick BAZ Photo taken on October 19, 2019 showing a demonstrator in the Place des Martyrs, in Beirut

When an unprecedented popular uprising broke out in Lebanon in October 2019, Jennyfer , Teymour and Dayna rallied the euphoric crowd, united in their determination to topple corrupt politicians who have been in power for decades.

But for a year now, the economy has continued to plunge, poverty has spread and the Lebanese capital has been devastated by a deadly explosion.

As for the protest movement, the monster gatherings at the start, with hundreds of thousands of people, have become more and more sporadic and have been violently dispersed by the police.

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Today, in this traumatized Lebanon, Jennyfer Harb the publicist has lost all hope of change. Teymour Jreissati the entrepreneur has left the country. Dayna Ayyache, poet and activist, remains determined to continue the fight.

Photo prise le 22 novembre 2019 montrant des manifestants et un poing énorme sur lequel est écrit © Patrick BAZ Photo taken on November 22, 2019 showing demonstrators and a huge fist with "revolution" written on it in Martyrs Square in Beirut

When the first demonstration took place on October 17 after a government decision to tax the use of WhatsApp, Jennyfer left the cinema.

“There was fire all around us,” recalls the 26-year-old, referring to the tires and dumpsters set on fire by the demonstrators.

"At the time, I didn't understand what was going on. But it felt good to feel the rage" of the protesters.

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Video caption: Lebanon protests: Demonstrators and security forces clash in BeirutLebanon protests Video caption: Lebanon crisis : 'The country needs our energy' Lebanon crisis : 'The Demonstrators return to the streets saying Lebanon 's new government does not meet their demands.

After a monthlong political crisis , Lebanon faces an economic one, too, as the effects of long-term policies crash into citizens’ lives. An antigovernment protester holding a Lebanese flag in front of a burning barricade near the Parliament in Beirut this week.Credit Bilal Hussein/Associated Press.

- "Consumed" -

The same day, the government removes its tax, but it is too late. It was the last straw that broke the camel's back. The protest swells against a sclerotic system, non-existent public services, a failing economy and a political class almost unchanged for decades.

Photo prise le 11 août 2020 montrant un manifestant jeter des pierres sur les forces de sécurité à Beyrouth © IBRAHIM AMRO Photo taken on August 11, 2020 shows a protester throwing stones at security forces in Beirut

For two months, Jennyfer does not go to work. She spends her days in the street. Her few hours of sleep gleaned here and there, she spends them with friends, even strangers.

"It was a magnificent dream, the dream of a new beginning," she confides.

But the crisis gets worse, Jennyfer is exhausted by her commitment and she has to go back to work. "I burned out," she blurted out. "I couldn't keep up with the pace."

After the explosion of August 4 at the port which left more than 200 dead, largely attributed to the negligence of the State, she wanted to return to the streets.

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The violence began as demonstrators , who had been attacked during a sit-in by masked counter-protesters, tried to move into a square near parliament. media captionThe BBC's Jeremy Bowen asks why people have been taking to the streets in Lebanon , Iran and Iraq. Demonstrators are angry at

image captionTripoli, Lebanon 's poorest city, into a hotbed of the demonstrations a year ago. Thousands of young protesters poured into Tripoli's al-Nour Square a year ago for what turned into a massive dance party. Music blasted round the square, glow-sticks lit up the night sky, and a sea of

How to accept a State which, for more than six years, allowed the storage of an enormous quantity of ammonium nitrate, near residential districts?

- Exodus -

The first demonstration after the tragedy, she says she was beaten by soldiers, while she was protecting a young person from blows of batons. It was then that she felt she couldn't cope anymore.

"They are so powerful they can silence you," she said, referring to leaders who cling to power.

"Why keep fighting?"

For 292 days, Teymour put his life on hold to immerse himself in the dispute. He leaves the management of their furniture company to his partner, he sees little of his two young children.

But, he says, warnings with veiled sentences are increasing, from the security services but also from supporters of certain political parties. Teymour, 33, even says he received death threats over the phone.

A phone call will get the better of his commitment: "We know where your son's school is located," says his interlocutor.

In June, he prepares his departure for France and settles in Nice (south) just one week before the tragedy of the port. That day, five of his friends died.

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"No human being should go through what the Lebanese go through".

- "Pure Rage" -

When the uprising broke, Dayna was one of the first in the streets.

"It was a fair and pure rage", confides the young woman of 31 years, founder of an NGO which supports artists by organizing exhibitions and offering accommodation.

It takes part in demonstrations and road blockages.

"It was a power that was given back to us," she recalls.

The causes she defends are multiple - rights of women, domestic workers, the LGBTQ community - because, for Dayna, everyone has their place in the revolution.

Asked about the lack of steam in the mobilization, she refuses any defeat, explaining that after August 4, the efforts of the militants were redirected towards aid to the affected neighborhoods.

The incessant crises have not weakened its determination, on the contrary.

"I don't know what might make us give up," she said. "What they inflicted on us is already a lot, and yet we continue".

ho / tgg / bek / vl

Lebanon: the press skeptical after the return of Saad Harriri as head of government .
© AP Photo / Hussein Malla Saad Hariri, newly appointed Prime Minister of Lebanon, here at the presidential palace to meet with President Michel Aoun on 22 October 2020 in Beirut. Saad Hariri is due to begin consultations this Friday, October 23 to form a government, after his appointment as Prime Minister the day before. He said he wanted to form a cabinet of "specialists" for a six-month mission, the objective of which is to stop the financial collapse in Lebanon.

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