The great Lebanese revolution
Don’t go to Lebanon! Why not?
The Trump assassination of Iranian general Qassim Soleimani?
WW3 trending on Twitter?
“Cos it’s next to Syria innit”?
Okay I get it’s probably a little more risky than a boozy weekend in Benidorm, but look, as we all know, shit happens everywhere. I’ve been in stickier situations half way up the Eiffel Tower, the backstreets of Hamburg’s Reeperbahn and in a Birmingham branch of Dominos. I only wanted a pepperoni passion for fuck sake.
The point is people have this totally inaccurate preconception of Lebanon and I don’t get it. (“It’s like bloody Beirut in here”, no Mum, no it is not). Throughout the 80’s sure it was a well acknowledged war zone but hey, the civil war ended 30 years ago.
This ending of the civil war in 1990 brought with it a new government, new hope, new aspirations and a well deserved peace to the region.
All good things must come to an end though, and so this thirty year old government, steeped in religion and corruption is being toppled, and it’s having catastrophic consequences. It appears that resources have ran out, the banks have no money left, and religion, frankly, has no relevance in today’s society. The lovely Lebanese hipsters want to drink, smoke and fuck, and who can blame them? (For the record I’m not talking about Salford uni students preaching about Labour down the gay village because they think it makes them seem intelligent and edgy, this is real. When these protests began close to 2 million people hit the streets for a month, fighting for their beliefs, as opposed to going back to halls for poached eggs and avocado after a long night of talking pure shite. You know who you are..)
These are the reasons for the current Revolution of Lebanon- which most interestingly I think, has no leader… nobody incited this nationwide event, and the whole thing was organised via WhatsApp, and importantly has been for the most part peaceful. I’ve had lots of replies to various Instagram stories along the lines of “what the fuck are you doing mate”, but this entire insurgence has been merely disruptive rather than violent. That being said, over the past couple of days tensions have risen, police and army have become forceful, with protestors injured and arrested, including a friend of mine who, in her own words “may or may not have vandalised a few things, but hey I was drunk and it’s a revolution” (THAWRA, THAWRA, THAWRA!)
So the banks have got no dollars left. This is a highly dollarised economy, without much manufacturing or exporting trade, everything is imported, with the dollar being the universal currency. So what’s happening is the Lebanese banks are running an unofficial capital control on the dollar, with people restricted to $200 dollars a week, there is no limit on withdrawals of the Lebanese pound HOWEVER, this uncertainty has led the Lebanese pound to half in value in just the past few weeks. The banks however have kept the exchange rate the same ($1=1500LEB when in reality it’s closer to 3000LEB) okay if like me you’re a tourist who’s brought a wallet full of dollar bills, not so much if you’re a shop owner with a $5000 order of produce coming in. Understandably, people are panicking.
The next issue is the government. A sectarian democracy, the two main religions of Lebanon are Islam and Christianity. 54% Muslim (27% Sunni and 27% Shiite) and 40% Christian. (According to a 2012 survey by statistics Lebanon) religion should have no place in politics, but unfortunately here it does, which consequently leads to the sectarianism and discrimination amongst themselves. A key thing with this government is a word I’m sure we’re all very used to “Austerity” (in fact I believe what started the protests were proposed tax hikes on fuel, tobacco and data) with austerity comes poverty, as we have seen in the UK over the past decade, and there are currently 1.5 million Lebanese living in poverty, almost half a million of these are children. (Lebanon is tiny and the population is 6 million not including refugees from Syria and Palestine, of which 80% are in poverty). Aside from this, much of the country is subject to frequent power cuts (I’ve spent little time in my hotel but have noticed up to 3 a night), and water cuts (also I suppose sanitation as water is not drinkable).
No fucking wonder it’s popping off is it? It’s very rare that in my little world I worry myself with other people’s problems, maybe I don’t care enough, maybe I don’t know enough, or maybe I’ve just got my own shit going on, but the feeling here on the ground is utterly inspiring, and I think we can learn a lot from it. Young/old/male/female/Christian/Muslim/atheist all united, when has that ever happened before?
It astounds me that this isn’t getting coverage in the UK, but I suppose Prince Harry is far more interesting to read about YAWN. The Lebanese people are beautiful, intelligent (trilingual in fact for the majority) people who really give a fuck, and I urge everybody who opposed me coming here to visit and see for yourselves, and I assure you, you won’t be disappointed.