It is October 18th and I landed at Rafic Hariri Airport in Beirut / Lebanon. I highlighted the exact date because it is also the day when the protests against government got infuriated. I had been on the road for almost two months already. I had started in Batumi / Georgia and have come all the way down to Lebanon by passing through some numerous cities of Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkey’s southeastern region. My route was like a broad crescent shape including these countries. The whole trip was overland so the journey was extremely exhausting. Anyway, I was finally in Beirut safe and sound but it didn’t mean anything. I just couldn’t anticipate the real shitstorm (good & bad ways) that I was going to face.
Before getting into politics in Lebanon, you need to know that it will be much more complicated than you might guess. I have studied International Relations for 4 years, got a Master’s Degree in Conflict and Security Studies, wrote a thesis about terrorism and have worked in some relevant jobs. However, during my first few days, I couldn’t even get who is who when I was in Lebanon even if I already had a broad prior knowledge before I came. When you come down to the streets and talk to people, you start understanding that the dynamics and equations are countless and the interests of the sects and groups are so intertwined. There are many sects, groups and organisations in and out of the country and of its politics. This is why, even though I got my own opinion on the subject, here, I won’t go any deeper into the sectarian and organisational conflicts in Lebanon. I just want to reflect on what I have learnt, and seen.
The protests actually started even before the ‘Tax on Whatsapp’. Probably many of you never heard that the massive fire had broken out in Lebanon, which is estimated one of the worst in decades. The following events and the daily absurdities that people have to deal with made the people take to the streets not only in Beirut but also in all over the country from Tripoli to Sur. International mass media played its part and only showed the worst scenes of the protests such as burning tires, destroyed shops, chaotic atmosphere etc. Moreover, it was mostly portrayed as if the people are only angry because of the ‘Whatsapp taxation’. What is happening here could never be summarized worse. Whatsapp and other issues became smaller and smaller day by day because when they started seeing the big picture, all other things didn’t matter anymore. They just want to change the system and the people who are currenty occupying the powerful chairs. After some point, they started chanting ‘Kilna ya3ne kilna’ (‘All means all’), which simply means all 🙂 They are so sick of their life conditions that they were all united this time. I said ‘this time’ because Lebanon has always been like a ticking bomb with all those sectarian confrontations but not this time!
Hela hela hela hela Ho… Let me ask you something!!! What would you do if you had to pay more than 6 US Dollars for your simple filter coffee in a cafe? or more than 8 US Dollars for a simple local beer in an average bar? You wouldn’t go for it after a while, right? What if your job pays only as much as you can survive and pay your rent!? What can you do if your electricity cuts in an unknown moment for min. 3 hours? Would it be easy to go around if there is no proper public transport? and how easy would it be to consume bottled waters all the time because you cannot trust the infrastructure of your country? Would you pay a ridiculous amont of money to get a ‘good’ education if you had to? The questions go on and on… Finally you go crazy and spend huge amont of money to enjoy yourself with high heels in night clubs and to get a new flashy car and some brandy clothes to show off. You do that with a money that you don’t even physically have BUT the problem is actually not with the people. It is the broken and corrupt system that they have to put up with.
The Lebanese people are mostly nice and helpful. They can easily touch your heart and mind because they are geniune in their expressions. I have never felt threatened in the street. Even in such events happening in the country, I have never felt insecure walking around the narrowest and spooky path after midnight. I usually like putting myself in danger to get the most out of it but I wasn’t even be able to do so. Personally, I was upset seeing that they had to go through such a painful process in order to change their life. Nevertheless, they like enjoying their time no matter the circumstances:
The protesters never give up on their social life anway. Sometimes it turns out to be a ‘Rave-o-lution’ rather than a ‘revolution’. They enjoy their shisha, alcohol, food and techno music regardless of the place and time. The army and the police almost never engages in a close contact. Even if some reports say the otherwise in rare cases, I have never seen such a violence caused by the army or the police. I think this is what makes these protests peaceful. In terms of violence, It is not even comparable to what is happening in Hong Kong or in Iraq. Surely, in some areas, the protests are much more serious than the other areas in Lebanon. The women and children just enjoy the music and wave their flags in some spots while a group of unidentified angry mob are destroying the shops and creating some chaotic atmosphere around.
It is absolutely NOT only in Lebanon folks! It is simultaneously happening in so many other places such as Chile on the other edge of the world. Unfortunately, my home country – Turkey – is going towards the same direction along with many others… This is not a coincidence. The world has been governed by an unjust ECONOMICAL system, which is bound to be overthrown eventually. What people have to understand is that we do NOT need social kind of ‘revolutions’, which don’t take us anywhere better in the long run. What world needs is an ‘economical’ kind of revolution. When you look deeper into the core problems (social, political, judicial or any kind…) you always end up with the same result – ECONOMY – that leads corruption in different fields.
For our own sake, symptoms shouldn’t be confused with the reasons. The reasons shouldn’t be confused with the consequences! I hope the people stay as unified as they have been so far and the results always be in favor of the people. Enjoy your beautiful country folks 🙂