BAABDA MEETING

A widening gap between the young protestors and the ruling class in Lebanon

Many activists believe that the Baabda meeting will not succeed in changing the situation and call for the continuation of the protests

A widening gap between the young protestors and the ruling class in Lebanon

Youth at the heart of the October 17 protest movement. Photo João Sousa

While preparations are underway at the Baabda Palace to host a meeting meant to gather all political leaders in the country at the invitation of President Michel Aoun, anger seems to be raging on the street.

Civil society unanimously consider that the meeting, which has so far failed to persuade many political leaders to attend, will lead to nothing.

The gap between the youth who have been protesting since October 17 and the ruling class seems to be widening. From the outset, activists have concluded that the meeting will not succeed in changing the situation and have instead called for the continuation of the protests.

Jamal Terro, a well-known 31-year-old activist from Barja in the Chouf region, described the meeting as "pointless." "We will continue to raise the slogan of ‘All Means All’ until we bring down this regime. We want a country that preserves the dignity of its people, regardless of their sectarian affiliations," he said. "The problem is that we have to fight against many corrupt officials, but we have nothing left to lose. They have stolen our dreams and our future, yet they dare to talk to us about dignity,” he added.

Firas Abdallah, a 36-year-old activist from Akkar which he said was "one of the few regions, alongside Barja, where the demonstrations persisted despite the Covid-19 situation,” considers the Baabda meeting as "an attempt by the authorities to reposition themselves in the face of the protest movement." "This is a failed attempt by Michel Aoun to take control of the situation," said the activist, who also criticized the protest movement for "losing steam." "The protesters took a step back when they realized that Bahaa Hariri was standing behind the call to disarm Hezbollah,” during the June 6 demonstrations in Beirut which led to clashes between anti-authorities demonstrators and supporters of the Shiite duo. The alternative should be a second intifada so that this movement can again gain momentum," Abdallah added.

The national conference, which was inspired by House Speaker Nabih Berri, is scheduled to convene Thursday at 11:00 AM at the Presidential Palace in Baabda on the initiative of President Michel Aoun. It is meant to "review and discuss the general political situation in order to protect stability and civil peace, and avoid instabilities whose consequences may be dire and destructive to the country, especially in light of the unprecedented economic, financial and social conditions,” noted the invitation letters sent last week by the Presidency. A demonstration is planned at 10:00 AM on the road leading to the presidential palace as to coincide with the meeting.

Should activists negotiate with the ruling class?

Lara Moukahal, a 19-year-old young woman from Beirut, is part of a group of female activists who have been participating in most of the demonstrations since October 17. Like most protesters, she is categorically opposed to the Baabda meeting. "It's the people who must make the decisions, but they [the authorities] are still acting like nothing has happened. They continue to consult with each other without even listening to us," lamented the young woman.

Since the President announced his intention to hold the meeting, many have called to also invite representatives of the civil society. For Lara Moukahal, dialogue with the political class is an option to be considered, in the absence of anything better. "We have no regard for the ruling class, but unfortunately there is no other way than to try to find solutions with its representatives," she explained. "If a solution is not found, they should leave because we have given them too many chances already," added the young woman.

Rouba, a woman activist in her thirties from Baalbeck, does not share the same opinion. "Civil society should not negotiate with the political class, this is a betrayal,” she said. "We can't expect much from this meeting. They are already fighting with each other and they do not even know where they are heading. They have destroyed the country and are unable to change anything. ”

Jamal Terro maintained that the protesters' demands are still the same since October 17. "We call for respecting the independence of the judiciary, the resignation of the government (of Hassane Diab), the formation of a cabinet of specialists, the resignation of the Parliament, the prosecution of corrupted officials, the recovery of stolen funds, the establishment of a new electoral law, the departure of the Head of State, and for supporting the industrial and agricultural sectors so that the country frees itself from the dollarized economy,” he said.

"This presidential mandate has led the country to bankruptcy. We are headed straight toward a social explosion. The day will come when people will drag those officials out of their homes and hold them accountable," warned the activist.


(This article was originally published in french in L'Orient-Le Jour on the 24th of June)


While preparations are underway at the Baabda Palace to host a meeting meant to gather all political leaders in the country at the invitation of President Michel Aoun, anger seems to be raging on the street.

Civil society unanimously consider that the meeting, which has so far failed to persuade many political leaders to attend, will lead to nothing.

The gap between the youth who have...

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