Downtown Beirut briefly became what it was before the war and what it ought to be again: a place where people from across the capital and country can come together. It became a public space. Even small vendors selling ice cold water settled in the area, watering the democratic grassroots that Lebanon hasnʹt had in years.
Chapter 6: Whatʹs left? Whatʹs next?
Almost two years later, the rubbish has disappeared from the streets. Most of the barriers have been taken down, though some of the graffiti is still present.
The protests have subsided but a meaningful resolution is nowhere in sight. Beirut still does not have a sustainable waste management plan. The government simply opened new dumps with little to no environmental studies or planning and is pretending that everything is OK.
Was Lebanonʹs largest independent protest movement in its history all in vain? That remains to be seen. This much is clear: people are more engaged with local issues, especially when it comes to Lebanonʹs diminishing public spaces.
The general public is looking forward and approaching political issues in a slightly different way than before. My parentsʹ generation is tired. But the younger generation is angry. It knows Lebanonʹs leaders have failed them. This generation has many years ahead of it and it does not want to mitigate existing problems that the older generation has accepted.
Why canʹt we have a waste management plan like other countries? Why canʹt we have reliable water and electricity like other countries? Lebanonʹs Internet is so sluggish that streaming this report in rural areas might be problematic. Are we supposed to accept this?
So, whatʹs next? I donʹt know. Anything can happen. Are yesterdayʹs protest movement leaders tomorrowʹs political officials? Are we going to elect dynamic, forward-thinking individuals in next yearʹs Parliamentary elections, or will we continue to sweep the problems under the rug?
Will there be another mass movement like the one during the summer of 2015? I know this much: Lebanon is witnessing the emergence of a generation that refuses to sit quietly and that gives me hope.
Kareem Chehayeb is a Lebanese journalist and political analyst, currently pursuing a Masters in Political Economy of the Middle East at Kingʹs College London. His work has been published on Middle East Eye, Al Jazeera, Refugees Deeply, among other platforms.