More than 370 Lebanese suffered serious injuries as the country’s security forces used tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons to disperse the crowd gathering for the protest on Saturday, January 18, 2020. Saturday’s incident witnessed the ‘biggest casualty’ ever since the protest erupted against the country’s ruling government in October 2019. Several leaders have met the president of Lebanon on Sunday evening after the event to discuss the internal matter of the country.
Protestors Seeking for Removal of the Prime Minister
The public unrest started on October 17, 2019, shortly after the government under the leadership of the former Lebanese Prime Minister (PM), Saad al-Hariri announced a new tax-related to gasoline, tobacco, and using WhatsApp for online calls. The unrest escalated into a nation-wide protest and attacked the existing government against the larger political issues such as financial crisis, unemployment, endemic corruption, and lack of basic services of the people.
After Hariri offered his resignation from the office of PM, the country’s former Education Minister, Hassan Diab was chosen as the successor of Hariri on December 19, 2019. Calling for the installation of totally new ministers of the country, protestors continued their mass demonstrations by opposing the appointment of Diab as the PM of Lebanon.
After the worst violence which led to the injury of more than 370 Lebanese on Saturday, the second-day protest which was staged near parliament was crushed violently by the security personnel of the country. As Reuters described, Lebanese security forces resorted to crowd-controlling devices to scatter the protestors who pelted stones on Sunday in Beirut.
Reuters continued, a reporter witnessed the police firing rubber bullets to the crowd. As a result of the using bullets, the Lebanese Red Cross said that 52 people were injured and 38 had been taken to hospital. Several hundreds of protestors cried out ‘revolution’ during the demonstration. As Reuter reported, some protestors tried climbing over barbed wire that fenced the parliament compound and one protestor used a pole across the barrier against the police.
Use of Violence Not Acceptable
The prolonged protest in Beirut has sought the government authority to address the country’s multi-faceted financial crisis, shooting up prices of commodities, and banks exclusive controlling of the country’s capital. Since Hariri’s resignation, the leaders of the country failed to bring a proper plan on to formulate an exit policy for the economic crisis and protesters have also turned their anger on the banks that curbed the saving of the people.
Following the vicious events, Human Rights Watch on Saturday urged to end the security forces’ ‘culture of impunity for abuse’ against the protestors. Zeina Ibrahim, an office manager, described that protestors suffered at the hands of the violent means used by the police and claimed, “Violence only breeds violence,” Ibrahim further told, “After all this time, all these months…I don’t blame protesters at all if they move bit by bit towards violence.”
A protest for the Sunday night, Rezzan Barraj exclaimed, “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.” Criticizing the police’s actions on Sunday’s event, Barraj claimed, “It’s clear that the more they (security forces) step up their violence, the more people’s strength and determination grow.”
The country’s Internal Security Forces (ISF) urged protestors to refrain using stones and remain calm. Interior Minister Raya al-Hassan insisted that people have the right to protest but using stones and ‘blatantly assault’ security forces were not acceptable. According to Reuters, “Hassan Diab, who was designated prime minister with the backing of Islamist movement Hezbollah and its allies last month, met with President Aoun on Sunday.”
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