By Sarah Adamo
On Saturday Jan. 18, the Beirut demonstrations led by hundreds of anti-government protesters faced tear gas and water cannons unleashed by the Lebanese police in what is being described as the finale to a “week of rage.” This is the culmination of many months of government adversaries petitioning officials for change, according to CNN.
Demonstrators around Martyrs’ Square near the center of the capital threw Molotov cocktails, rocks and fireworks at the police in a lengthy nighttime confrontation, CNN reports. This resulted in more than 80 individuals requiring hospitalization and 140 others receiving medical attention on-site, according to CNN.
An unprecedented economic crisis that has persisted within the country since mid-October is largely responsible for these rising tensions, CNN informs. Lebanon’s financial downfall precipitated the resignation of its former Prime Minister Saad Hariri amid widespread protests and the installation of the controversial new government under Hassan Diab after a contentious period of political deadlock, CNN revealed.
According to the BBC, protesters are pushing for an autonomous, non-sectarian cabinet that will rule without corruption. Many enraged citizens allege that the old political elite handpicked the ministers who they hold culpable for the nation’s tumultuous condition, the BBC further explained. In replacement of the current decision-makers, demonstrators suggest the appointment of individuals who can display expertise in scientific and technical areas to better suit the needs of their country based on BBC reports.
Some social media users have commented favorably upon the recent selection of leaders, however. The BBC reports that the first-ever female defense minister has received positive feedback, with some Arabs online expressing their hopes that the presence of more women in the government can lead to gender equity and progressiveness.
Still, the outcry of internal dissatisfaction with the nation’s changes is overwhelming. As NBC reports, citizens like Rezzan Barraj (47), who were present at the latest protests, find their concerns represented by her statement; “We have gone from being a country we used to call the Switzerland of the east to a country ranked at the bottom in everything.”
Others interviewed by NBC sympathize with the cause, as they lack avenues beyond violence to effectuate change within Lebanese policymaking. They are now expressing their political stance by vandalizing banks, which has led some to go so far as block access to savings, according to NBC. The welfare of Lebanon and its once-lucrative capital lies in the hard-to-reach balance between the government and its people.