On Oct. 13, 2019, over 100 wildfires broke out in Lebanon, setting the scene for the insufferable year ahead. Over the course of the last year, Lebanon has experienced an economic crisis, a global pandemic and an explosion at their largest port, all while citizens are revolting against their corrupt government. Though the wildfires have been contained, Lebanon has been up in flames for the past year, growing more disastrous by the day.
On Oct. 17, 2019, the Lebanese thawra (revolution) began. The unfolding of an economic crisis caused the corrupt, sectarian government to announce additional tax measures, triggering Lebanese citizens to protest for their social and economic rights. The goal of the protests extended beyond opposition to the additional tax measures; the Lebanese were protesting a fundamentally corrupt and flawed government, who for years have denied them basic aid and services. They were protesting government officials who failed to provide them with stable electricity and waste-management services, adequate public education and health services, food security and a functioning economy. In the midst of their failures, those government officials have made millions of dollars (some even billions) for themselves. To end the cycle of corruption, the people of Lebanon called for all government officials to resign. Prime minister Saad Hariri was the only government official to resign, causing no substantial change for the Lebanese. Equally guilty politicians, Nabih Berri and Michel Aoun, stayed in power.
As the revolution continued, Lebanon’s economic system continued to weaken. Lebanon, the third most indebted country, with a debt to GDP ratio of 152%, and with over 75% of its population living below the poverty line, inevitably was about to face their worst economic crisis. Lebanon’s broken economic system can be traced back to their heavy reliance on imports and the pegging of the Lebanese currency to the US dollar. Massive increase in prices of staples, the crashing of the Lebanese currency, high unemployment and limits on bank withdrawals characterize the effects of Lebanon’s economic crisis on their people. As a consequence of the economic crisis, the middle class disappeared and issues of food and home security were at an all-time high. Then COVID-19 hit, exacerbating Lebanon’s condition and further revealing the government’s unwillingness to aid their people.
On Aug. 4, a fire at the largest port in Beirut triggered an explosion, resulting in over 200 people dead, 6000 injured and at least 300,000 displaced. The explosion further weakened health resources and destroyed valuable infrastructure, leaving the Lebanese people to deal with a pandemic, an economic crisis and reconstruction efforts with little to no resources or government aid. Carelessness and disorganization of the Lebanese government directly caused the third largest explosion in history. Angry protests broke out, demanding the government would be held accountable for their actions. The outcome of the protests in August was similar to the outcome of the protests in October: Hassan Diab, prime minister, resigned, but it brought no change for the people suffering.
Almost one year after his resignation, Saad Hariri was reinstated as Lebanon’s prime minister. His reinstatement is a clear representation of the direction of Lebanon. The purpose of the thawra was to dismantle the system in place, completely controlled by the corruption and greediness of the Lebanese government and propelled by foreign interests. Saad Hariri represents everything the people revolted against. As long as people like him are the key players in Lebanese politics, Lebanon will remain stuck in a circle of corruption.