Beirut, November 12th, 2019. Elie, 28-years old, who still lives in his hometown Sarba (Jounieh), works as a teacher for textile techniques and knitting at University. Since October 18th, 2019, the second day of the demonstrations in Lebanon, his classes have been suspended.
Why did you join the protests?
I’ve never participated in protests before – not even during the garbage crisis. I’m too critical, too self-conscious and whenever I’m faced with ambiguous intentions, I distance myself from them even if I’d generally support the cause. What I’ve learned from the garbage crisis is that the only thing we can do is to paralyze the whole country. And I’m not talking about roadblocks. Just stop going to work, all of us.
It felt like a dream came true when the revolution started but still, I spent the first six days at home watching the news and observing what was happening around me. Then I went down to the protest that was happening close to my house in Zouk Mosbeh, and I really didn’t like what I was seeing at first: Everyone was dancing in the streets even though we had no reason to celebrate yet. I went again four days later and started to really participate. I did, what everybody was doing, I sat with them on the side of the road talking, making new friends. I think, I understood what the demonstrations were really about: To take over the public space that we’ve never had before.
Not everyone in your family supports the protesters and their demands. What is your relationship like with members of your family who support the government?
I somehow managed to overcome my inhibitions and simply ask the question: Why do you think that this is a utopia? What we’re asking for are only basic services! Even if the politicians actually answered our demands, it still wouldn’t amount to an accomplishment - it’s the minimum of their responsibilities.
Those who are still opposing the Revolution are the ones who have been treated the most unfairly in their lives, in their workplace. Those who are now giving their full support to the protests, are the ones who've been managing just fine: We had nice jobs, salaries coming in regularly – But we aren't doing what we are doing just for us.
Who are you fighting for, then?
I can’t speak for my country as a whole. I’m doing fine, you know, in comparison. But doing okay doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m being treated with respect, me as an individual. My basic needs are not being provided for. And in the end, I believe that building a nation is about the common good, not about personal gain.
I’m sure that division and inequality will always exist in our lives, but our task is to nurture and strengthen the ways in which we resemble each other. There is no reason why the revolution would end any time soon.
Shutting down the Beirut and Mount Lebanon region solid-waste dump in July 2015 led to the suspension of trash collection by the contracted company Sukleen, resulting in the accumulation of rubbish on the streets of the capital. Throughout the summer, thousands took the streets to protest the government’s poor management of the crisis.
Zouk Mosbeh is a predominantly Maronite Catholic municipality in the Keserwan District, 12 km North of Beirut.