Coinciding with Lebanon’s worst financial crisis in decades, popular protests in the country have been ongoing for more than four months. The protests were initially sparked by a government tax on the popular WhatsApp messaging service. They quickly evolved into Lebanon’s largest, sustained peaceful protest movement. The demonstrations were notable for being geographically diverse and starkly anti-sectarian. Women and youth have played outsized roles in the protests, which emphasized a focus on civic engagement. Recently, however, the protests have taken a troubling turn, with episodic clashes between protesters and security forces.
Mona Yacoubian, senior advisor for Syria, Middle East and North Africa, testified on November 19 at the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism's hearing on “What’s Next for Lebanon? Examining the Implications of Current Protests.” Her expert testimony as prepared is presented below.
Over the last week, mass protests broke out across Lebanon, signaling citizens' mounting discontent with their government and economy. Millions of Lebanese of all backgrounds, including Sunnis, Shiites, Christians and Druze from across the socio-economic spectrum hit the streets to express their exasperation with the country’s endemic corruption. The government announced on Monday emergency economic reforms in an effort to assuage protesters. Will it be enough? USIP’s Elie Abouaoun takes a closer look at what sparked the protests, the impact on Lebanon’s highly polarized politics, and possible scenarios for the next few weeks.