‘You Stink’ Protesters Call for the Resignation of the Lebanese Government

Thousands of Lebanese protestors chanting "You Stink" outside parliament. Photo credit: @joeyayoub

Thousands of Lebanese protesters chanting “You Stink” outside parliament. Photo credit: @joeyayoub

“You Stink”! This is the message thousands of Lebanese protesters carried to Parliament, in the capital Beirut, yesterday. It may have started as a movement to protest against piling rubbish. Now the stench is threatening the government and calling for its resignation, with protesters from yesterday's rally camped outside parliament until their demands are met.

What Happened?

Thousands of people gathered yesterday at Riad El Solh in Beirut to call for a “sustainable solution to Lebanon's waste disposal problem.”

This was followed by a clash with security forces and ended with a sit-in in front of parliament until the protesters demands are met. Lebanon, already suffering from a poor infrastructure and daily electricity cuts, has had no president for more than a year. In 2009, its parliament extended its term until 2017, with no elections, citing instability as a reason. Today, protesters are demanding a change in all that. It is no longer a trash problem.

A Sustainable Solution to the Waste Problem

At Hummus for Thought, Lebanese blogger Joey Ayoub, who is also a Global Voices Online author and an activist, explains:

We want a sustainable solution to Lebanon’s waste disposal problem. Our current waste disposal mechanism is catastrophic and these past few weeks were a manifestation of this failure. Sustainable solutions are very simple to implement and extremely dangerous not to. The government is already in contact with environmental experts who reached out to us. But for them to get heard, we need to keep the pressure.

Right now, our accumulated waste is not being disposed properly, to say the least. This means that we are breathing filth, drinking filth, eating filth. When the rain comes, the waste will get to our sea. Our forests and reserves are already being polluted very severely. If we do not act, we will be facing a health crisis beyond anything we could’ve imagined. This is very serious.

Yesterday's call for protest attracted a huge turn out, the largest in a series of protests that have continued to grow and escalate since Tol3et Re7atkom (You Stink), a secular movement, started demanding a solution for Lebanon's mounting rubbish problem. On July 17, the country's largest landfill was closed and rubbish started piling all over Beirut as officials continued to mishandle the refuse problem. Rubbish and summer did not go hand in hand, and as the waste bags continued to pile up along the streets of Beirut, the appalling stench poisoned the air, rubbing Lebanese people in the nose.

Also read our coverage on Global Voices Checkdesk

An estimated 10,000 people turned up for yesterday's protest, whose demands were:

1. The immediate resignation of Mohammad Machnouk, Minister of Environment. Even though he doesn’t carry all of the responsibility, he carries the primary responsibility as the Minister in charge of this issue, and in particular due to his deadly decision of hiding the waste.
2. Transparent bids with environmentally-friendly, safe and sustainable terms and conditions that respect the citizen’s health and the environment rather than the pockets and interests of politicians. We refuse to have 6 Sukleens [Lebanon's waste disposal company] instead of one! [meaning that Sukleen is part of the problem, and having 6 ‘Mini-Sukleens’ only makes the situation worse.]
3. Accountability for all those who played a role in the current crisis or wasted public money by pressuring the financial public prosecutor to publicize the results of the investigations. We are also calling for a protest this Saturday (the 22nd) in front of the parliament, an institution whose mandate it is to protect lives and rights of citizens

More Security Than Protesters

More security personnel than protesters turned up to “protect” the parliament building. The inevitable then followed as police clashed with protesters, attacking them with water cannons, teargas and live bullets. Ayoub was on the ground, sharing what happened. Here's a breakdown:


Soon enough, there was a face-off with police doing what they were made to do. Ayoub continues to report:

And then, they started shooting live bullets at protesters:

A Parliament Sit-In

Unable to absorb the people's anger and not willing to continue with the security crackdown, the security forces retreated leaving the area for protesters, who agreed to stage a parliament sit-in. Ayoub explains:

A Success

For Mohamed Najem, the protest was a success. He explains:

And he continues:

‘We Will Not Forgive or Forget’

And for some, what happened yesterday will never be forgotten — or forgiven.

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