On August 22 and 23, Beirut witnessed its largest protest in recent history, with 20,000 people gathering to tell the government: “You stink.”
In this episode of GV Face, Global Voices contributor Faten Bushehri talks to Global Voices contributor from Beirut Joey Ayoub, who has been working closely with the organizing committee of You Stink or طلعت ريحتكم.
Lebanon's trash crisis started on July 17, when residents shut down the country's largest landfill in Naameh city. That landfill catered to areas of Beirut and Mount Lebanon — almost half of the country's population.
The government's inability to resolve the trash crisis resulted in mountains of garbage piling up on the streets, forcing people to walk around wearing masks.
The You Stink movement kicked off calling for sustainable solutions to the waste problem, and got people on the streets, but the situation quickly escalated beyond trash towards addressing larger problems related to corruption within the current government.
Lebanon, which already suffers from poor infrastructure and daily electricity outages, 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.
Here's an excerpt from a piece Joey wrote two weeks before the protests kicked off titled, “Can Talking About Trash Drive Political Change in Lebanon?”:
I’ve been fortunate enough to experience a Lebanon that isn’t tainted by such helplessness. I’ve experienced political happiness, a term broadly defined by the anthropologist David Graeber as the experience of being able to make sense of a situation through a realization of common purpose—a sense that you trust the people around you because you’re all dedicated to solving the same problem.More recently, I experienced it my interactions with طلعت ريحتكم (‘tol3et re7etkom’, meaning ‘You Stink’), a grassroots movement created as a response to the government’s inability to solve the trash crisis.