The Unfinished Business of Lebanon's October Uprising

The Dartmouth by Tala Majzoub 10-19-21

On Oct. 14, the streets of Beirut witnessed deadly gun battles amid tensions over the probe into the 2020 Beirut port explosion. This fighting comes nearly two years after the October Uprising erupted in 2019, evoking memories of Lebanon's civil war and the sectarian strife of the 1970s. With a political system in deadlock and an economy in shambles, the salvation of Lebanon does not lie in foreign intervention or aid packages, but in steadfast rejection of the status quo and a thorough investment in community building away from identity politics. 

ast Thursday, hundreds of Hezbollah supporters and allies assembled at the Beirut Justice Palace to call for the removal of Judge Tarek Bitar — the judge leading the investigation into the Beirut Port explosion. Their protest quickly turned into a four-hour bloodbath when Hezbollah claimed that snipers from a right-wing Christian political party, the Lebanese Forces, fired at the crowd from rooftops, starting an armed exchange that killed seven civilians and injured dozens. The armed clashes between sectarian militias add a new element of volatility to Lebanon's downwards spiral. 

Yet Human Rights Watch researcher, Aya Majzoub, has warned people not to "buy into sectarian narratives propagated by the ruling political parties." She argues that the manufactured sectarian turmoil "is not a conflict between Shiites & others, but a war by the establishment against people demanding accountability & rule of law." Rampant corruption has seeped into the judiciary and granted unconditional immunity to the political elite, to the extent that no officials have been convicted for the Beirut port explosion. Such impunity dates back to the civil war when perpetrators of the gravest crimes in recent Lebanese history managed to evade accountability. The growing frustration, mistrust and desperation has led to an increased reliance on foreign salvation.

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Tala Majzoub is a Dartmouth Comparative Literature MA Graduate student who works with the Middle Eastern Studies Program.