On October 17th, 2019, large groups of Lebanese citizens began to gather in Downtown Beirut, chanting “Thieves! Thieves!” with the burning tire’s smell satiating the intense atmosphere as anger reaches a boiling point.
On that fateful evening, no one could have predicted that, one year later, Lebanon would still be struggling with almost daily fluctuation of the dollar rate, the continuation of the economic collapse, clashes between independent activists and sectarian members, and unending crises topped by a deadly explosion.
However, October 17 is historic proof of the will power of the Lebanese and their everlasting hope for a better Lebanon free of corruption.
Although the crises continue, and little is thought of what Lebanon’s revolution has achieved, it has earned due recognition, for it hasn’t only prevailed to date but it has marked achievements with long-term effects.
Here are some of them:
#1 The shattering of the “God-Like-Leaders” Image
No matter how many Lebanese citizens still support the corrupt political elite, no one can deny that the Lebanese revolution truly showcased the corruption at the base of our leader’s system.
The revolution stressed on the stand being taken to oppose the entirety of Lebanon’s political leadership, chanting, “All of them, means all of them.”
Even going as far as to mention the Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in the chant. Given Hezbollah’s fierce reputation, to hear this being chanted in a sea of protesters was unthinkable just a few years ago.
#2 The Formation of a New Political Consciousness
Lebanon has been embedded in a deep sectarian system ever since the so-called “distribution of power” among the sects; a power-sharing unwritten agreement based on the 1932 census: The 1943 National Pact.
Meant to fairly divide the political power, it divided the nation, pit the sects against each other, developed prioritization of sectarian interests above the country’s interests, and created internal conflicts.
The Lebanese revolution surged as a powerful turning point to change the status quo.
In Tripoli, the second-largest city and the heart of the country’s Sunni population, showcased protesters chanting for the bravery of their fellow Shia citizens in the Southern city of Tyre (Sour).
“Sour, Sour, Sour, we want to revolt for you,” they chanted as the people of Tyre protested despite multiple threats from the Amal Movement and Hezbollah, which alertly encompass that region.
The revolution transformed the narrow political beliefs of an enormous percentage of Lebanese people and gave a much-needed wake-up call to holding any corrupt politician accountable.
#3 TV Stations taking a stand against Lebanese Politicians
In a powerful move by The Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International (LBCI) and Murr Television (MTV), they announced that live coverage of statements, press conferences, and speeches of politicians will be stopped immediately.
The media system in Lebanon is widely known for its sectarian and political ownership and division. That move took a great deal of courage.
#4 The rise of independent candidates in syndicates and unions
There was a time, and for a long time, that only political party members were able to get elected to lead or head associations, unions, and syndicates. That has changed with the Revolution.
More and more independent candidates are stepping up and daring the elections and the political parties’ pressure and influence. Melhem Khalaf was the first victory for the Revolution in that area.
The Lebanese diaspora, estimated at three times the size of Lebanon’s population of almost five million, sparked with an energy of hope and resilience as they came together despite the distances, organizing multiple protests and rallies and lobbying to support the demands of the revolution.
New non-political, non-sectarian organizations were formed and developed solidly throughout the months, lending support to those in need back home as unemployment and poverty went rising.
When the disastrous explosion vacuumed Lebanon’s capital and destabilized an already dysfunctional government, these organizations and networks were already actively mobilized to be able to help out with disaster relief.
In-kind donations and funds raised by these organizations as well as personal initiatives in the Lebanese diaspora were rushed to Lebanon’s NGOs, and they are still actively helping.
#6 A Growth in Women Empowerment
There’s a good reason behind why the Lebanese revolution was labeled as “Al-Thawra Unthaw” or The Revolution is Female. Women from different walks of life joined hand in hand at the forefront of the uprising.
The same women who have been fighting to shatter the barrier denying them equal rights were standing against barbed wires facing soldiers.
They courageously protested and protected other civilians who were also faced with violence, such as assaults by party thugs, the firing of tear gas canisters, and the shooting of rubber bullets.
#7 International Political Intervention
The powerful voice of the revolution echoed and rippled across the world, strongly supported by the diaspora lobbying in their cities to pressure the international community to step up and help.
And they succeeded, as seen with international pressures on Lebanon to form a neutral government and implement urgent reforms.
“While the international community is not interfering directly in government formation, some are putting conditions to provide financial support for Lebanon,” Sami Nader, director of Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs in Lebanon, told Xinhua back in December, 2019.
#8 The revolution has destabilized the political ruling body
The revolution caused the shattering of politicians’ alliances and agreements and revealed to the world how dysfunctional their governance has been.
Ever since the revolution toppled the government with the resignation of prime minister Saad Hariri early in the uprising, they have been unable to form a steady government.
One that can earn the trust of the people and that of the international community.
#9 People leaving their political parties and disowning their leaders
The revolution has brought to light facts of corruption and opened the eyes and minds of numerous people to how their party leaders brought the country to multiple crises and lasting sufferings. Some journalists even left their work at stations belonging to political parties.
#10 The rise of independent media
The revolution gave birth to new media outlets by the people in order to counter the misleading and manipulative news of the politicians and their influence and/or pressure.
Aside from the people themselves reporting their own stories from the ground of the protests and exposing violations of human rights, we witnessed the launching of Thawra TV outlets and newspapers conveying the voices of the people and the truths politicians want to keep in the dark.
That being said, and contrary to the rumors and defamation by pro-regime people, the Lebanese Revolution is not over just because daily protests and road closure aren’t as continuous as they were, or because political leaders continue to resist reforms.
Changing decades of misgovernance and corruption doesn’t occur in a year. It is a long and difficult road, and the people of the revolution are fully conscious that it takes time and a lot of determination.
And they made it very clear on Saturday, as they marked their first anniversary, that they are not done yet nor are they backing off. Already, the impact of the Revolution is showing bluntly on various fronts. Denying it is to be in denial.
The journey continues despite, or mainly because of, the multiple crises weighing heavier and heavier on the people. Lebanon is collapsing while the ruling politicians’ priority remains focused on their own personal and political interests and conflicts, fighting their own battles while the people fight to survive.
Hence, the Lebanese people have no other choice but to continue their revolution in order to save their country.