Damascus: The Lebanese youth, which have been at the forefront of protests since October 17, are increasingly deploying civil disobedience tactics to voice their frustration.
Since protests began seemingly no progress has been made with Prime Minister designate-Hassan Diab—who is unpopular with protesters—failing to form a government.
As protests have been largely peaceful—starkly different than anti-government protests in Iraq where more than 500 protesters have been killed—Lebanese are growing increasingly frustrated that they have nothing to show for themselves.
This week marked the most violent yet with protesters attacking banks which have imposed draconian cash withdrawal limits on the people.
More than 100 have been detained in what Amnesty International has called “arbitrary arrests”.
Now, Lebanese youth say that they have been humiliated enough and it is time to humiliate the corrupt politicians who are standing in the way of change.
These politicians have “humiliated the Lebanese beyond anger or indignation” said Nora Boustany, a former correspondent for The Washington Post who now teaches journalism at the American University of Beirut (AUB). Speaking to Gulf News, she added that what’s happening now in Lebanon is “more than a revolution; it has been a period of rude awakening.”
Protesters have been increasingly forcing Lebanese politicians out of public places.
The first of these instances took place in-mid December 2019, when ex-Prime Minister Fouad Siniora was booed out of the American University of Beirut (AUB), his own Alma Mater.
Students rose in defiance as Siniora entered Assembly Hall chanting: “Out! Out! Out! Siniora Out!”
Siniora, 77, was at AUB to attend a Christmas concert by Lebanese pianist Guy Manoukian.
A former student and teacher at AUB, Siniora served as prime minister between 2005-2008 and currently heads the Future Movement’s parliamentary bloc of 20 MPs.
Siniora walked silently out of the chamber, without saying a word.
On January 5, 2020, the scene was repeated, only this time with Deputy Speaker of Parliament Elie Ferzli, 71, who was kicked out of a restaurant in the Gemmayzeh neighborhood of Beirut.
Ferzli was having dinner with his wife, whom he is currently nominating to hold cabinet office under Diab.
An Eastern Orthodox politician from the town of Zahle, Ferzli has served as information minister and deputy speaker of parliament in the early 2000s.
In 2018, he was re-elected to parliament and as deputy to speaker Nabih Berri.
Unlike Siniora, who refused to comment on the public embarassment, Ferzli snapped back through his Twitter account describing those who chanted within the restaurant and at its gates as “baltajiyeh wa zou’ran” (bullies and thugs).
Elias Bou Saab
Six days later, angry demonstrators united against outgoing Defense Minister Elias Bou Saab (53) at the Paname Faqra restaurant, also asking him to leave the premises.
Bou Saab, a former education minister and current adviser to President Michel Aoun, has been in office since early 2019.
He is the husband of prominent Lebanese singer Julia Boutros.
Then came the January 12 expulsion of outgoing Public Works Minister Yusuf Finianos of the Marada Movement from a restaurant at the posh Aishti outlet in Jal Al Deeb in Mount Lebanon.
A group of angry women shouted at him, asking him to get out, citing the floods that had emerged from poor sewage throughout Lebanon.
He tried to calm her, inviting her for coffee, but she refused.
Finianos is very close the Marada Movement leader Suleiman Frangieh, who in turn is close to the Syrians and Hezbollah. He has served as cabinet minister since 2016.
On the very same day, online reports said that a similar occurrence took place at the La Parilla restaurant in Beirut, this time with Future Movement MP Sami Fatfat.
The youngest parliamentarian in Lebanon (aged 31), Fatfat is a newcomer to politics but his father Ahmad served as minister of youth and sports affairs back in 2005.
Both father and son are proteges of outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
Online reports said that Fatfat’s bodyguards assaulted the demonstrators and injured one in the face.
Fatfat came out with a statement, denying that he was at the restaurant, saying: “We condemn violence, whatever its source and reasons.”
He claimed that it was not his security who had assaulted the protestors.
Interestingly, the expulsions were cross sectarian and cross-political, targeting three Christians and two Sunni Muslims (if the Fatfat incident is eventually confirmed).
Three of the five were affiliated with the ruling alliance between the Free Patriotic Movement and Hezbollah, and two targeting the coalition that is headed by Prime Minister Saad Al Hariri.
“If the end of the civil war 30 years ago allowed war lords to seize power with impunity behind the guise of “national reconciliation”, the post-war recovery period anchored their brazen disregard for accountability in the trappings of public office,” added Boustany.
Wrapping up, she concluded: “The truth is out, civil society feels empowered and its voice will not be silenced.”