insights from lebanon

thoughts from my two months abroad and other personal reflections

3 notes


lebanon is trying so hard to suppress the tensions and the war that is already bubbling below the surface. 

i’ve been here for two weeks, and have already had a completely different experience than when i visited two years ago around this same time. in 2011, i felt progress, hope and momentum. i felt that lebanon was withstanding the uprisings that had taken over the region and that its people were proud, sensing that the country could maybe be a place people looked to for some form of coexistence and positive development in the region.

two years later, things are different. near my dad’s village, people are shutting down roads and shooting members of the army to protest a kidnapping and murder that occurred in a completely different town. young, bored boys are throwing rocks at cars and burning tires in anger. everyone is mad at someone.

in downtown beirut, people aren’t necessarily having sectarian clashes, but shouts and chants could be heard outside my office against the lebanese parliament’s self-mandated term extension. to some it’s a necessary move to continue a policy of disassociation from regional events and external influence. to others, it’s an undemocratic decision that sets lebanon on a backward trend. everyone knows how to twist the move to their advantage.

so while people in the villages are working above the government and its seeming ineptitude, people in the city are fighting its overreach. it’s an incredible dynamic - between the spaghetti-strapped gucci women protesting in beirut, the young, poorer guys in the village streets, and the syrian license plates that crowd the streets - all want something.

it all comes back to syria - the violence in the villages, the fear of the army to cause a spark that could lead to war, and the parliament extension that prevented an election that could be tinged by the syrian crisis. years after assad and syria’s withdrawal from lebanon, you still find its impact on domestic politics.

even with small demonstrations outside my window and being the first car on a street facing men throwing rocks (it felt like a movie), i don’t feel unsafe. you feel - maybe more in beirut than in the villages - that there is a day-to-day ease, that people are indifferent to the violence raging across the border and bleeding into their towns. an intern in our office manages to come from tripoli, a town known for fighting and more than an hour from beirut, just to work (for little pay).

i think it is more suppressed emotions than real calm. people are pushing the boundaries but somehow know the limits.

after all, the lebanese may not agree on much right now, but no one wants a war. 

Filed under lebanon opinion war syria middle east arab world protest beirut