I do not know whether I was happy or unfortunate that I was in Lebanon when the protest started. In fact I never expected that it would continue and spread and pick up this momentum.
I went into the street in an area near the Bay of Zaytouneh in Beirut, and approached a gathering of protesters. I saw young, elegant and beautiful women and men. They expressed their anger through chanting and denouncing, and also with songs and dancing, some cheering and holding banners with unusual words. They expressed a great dissatisfaction with the situation, and some of their exhortations and phrases contained offensive words. I think that political corruption is the root of evil, which leads to all kinds of educational and moral decay.
I saw crosses hanging on the chests of some of the protesters, I saw women wearing hijab, and I saw slogans of all communities and regions of Lebanon in one place. This is Lebanon, a singer, a dancer, an economist and a poet, all of whom came together for one goal: Life and dignity.
I was amazed that the protesters were not only from amongst the poor and hungry. In fact, I saw someone who showed signs of grace, and asked him why he took part in the protest. He said, because the deteriorating situation in Lebanon has turned those who were rich into the middle class, the average income people have become poor, and the poor have become destitute. He continued: “I am protesting because I see darkness in my future, and an even greater darkness in the future of my children and grandchildren.”
I asked another Lebanese man why he was protesting. He said that he works three jobs a day just so he can eat, that he owes money to pay for his children’s education, and that he is very pessimistic about the future. Then I saw a young man who appeared to be from a non-existent class, and I asked him what he wanted. He said, “All I want is a job. I cannot complete my life like this. Today, I have two options: Either get a job or die on the street.”
I asked a young woman, why are you here? Why not leave this to men? She replied, “I will not leave the matter to my brother and father alone, and I am with them in one trench and one fate. I will not accept silence anymore, and the fate of my family, and Lebanon is all my family. I know that Lebanon from the oldest to the youngest suffers today, except corrupt politicians.” The girl added, “I am surprised that politicians do not realise their duties towards their people, towards Lebanon as a whole, not just their community or their supporters. The duty of a politician is not to play politics for the purpose of politics, but to be political to improve people’s lives. They asked us to sacrifice for Lebanon, but we cannot sacrifice any more, especially since we see that our sacrifices are in their pockets.”
I asked a friend who was with us while we were walking on the Raouche Corniche: “Aren’t you afraid that the militias will take to the street and crush these protesters?” referring to Iraq as a recent example. He replied, “The Lebanese have decided to revolt with such possibilities in mind, but I am sure that many of these demonstrators prefer to die over the status quo. They love life, have come out united to die for life – an honourable life.”
I wrote in a previous article about the need for the entire Arab world to learn from the lessons of the recent Sudan uprising, which painted a true and correct way, and co-operated with everyone, and led to the formation of a new government. Back then I said, “How long, rugged and bloody is the path to freedom.” I expressed my desire to shake hands with every Sudanese who struggled to build a better future for their country.
Despite the small number of protesters, the Sudanese have been able to fulfil their demands. I hope that the Lebanese will be able to do so as well. It is estimated that the number of protesters in Lebanon reached 1.7 million out of about 6m Lebanese inside Lebanon. Taking into account the segment of children and the elderly, it can be said that more than half of Lebanon is rising, and that most of the Lebanese took to the streets, and these protests brought us together as Lebanese and showed the unity that existed amongst many different stripes, different sects and affiliations.
When I went to the airport leaving for Bahrain, I was the last passenger to cross the gate before the airport was closed for a while due to the unstable situation. An airport employee asked me, “Where are you going?” I told him I am going out of Lebanon to support my family in Lebanon, because I have responsibilities and actions in Lebanon that I must provide support and money towards it.”
A thought was echoing in me: If the people want an honest living, then fate must respond.