Lebanese waste crisis – Did the #YouStink movement overcome sectarian borders?
by Nele Balgo, Miriam Siemon, Katharina Wischmeyer, Fatima Al-Mahmoud, Gasia Trtrian, September 2017
Summer 2015, where Lebanese people should cover themselves with sunscreen and enjoy the beach season, they cover their faces with mouthpieces. Streets and sidewalks have been filled with trash overnight as the Lebanese garbage crisis escalates with the closing of the garbage dump.
Due to the closing of Naame landfill, the rubbish wasn’t collected anymore. That time, Lebanon do not had a functional government for more than one year. Thus, political leaders had no plan to find a quick solution.
Protests spring up across Beirut. Initially gathering tens, hundreds, and finally 100.000 people demonstrated peacefully against the inactivity of political leaders. Instead of searching for solutions to end the crisis, leaders give out orders to beat the peaceful protesters with batons, gas and spray them with water cannons.
Interview with Wadih Al-Asmar (Organizer of the Protests, Lebanese Center for Human Rights)
“We were following the garbage trucks that were dumping the garbage in the rally, everywhere in the country and were following some key ministers and some of our colleagues threw some garbage on the house of the minister or on the cars of some ministers to explain to them that it’s not acceptable to make all Beirut and all Lebanon a big landfill.”
Lebanon is a multi-confessional republic and organized along sectarian lines. All official authorities are allocated by sectarian quota. These sectarian groups are also reflected in the media system.
Interview with Dr. Sarah El-Richani (Centre for Lebanese Studies Fellow, University of Oxford):
“The political link between media and political stakeholders is very strong, it remains so. It fluctuates sometimes, but because of the intense political battle , we see that in times of crisis even the most liberal and most commercialized media institutions sometimes have to give into political pressure and serve these political elite.”
When the protests started in 2015 all Lebanese media, regardless of their sectarian affiliation covered on the waste crisis in a critical way.
Dr. Sarah El-Richani (Centre for Lebanese Studies Fellow, University of Oxford):
“It got a lot of intention and a lot of support from across the broad, because that was a crisis that touched every Lebanese. And the media actually rallied around the course. But as the protest continued and grew larger and more powerful and then there was a fear also from government and also people realized that the garbage crisis is intrinsically connected to the political system and the corruption that exists on the political system and you cannot treat the garbage crisis without touching upon the corruption that exists on the level of the country. The rhetoric became more politicized and the media had to in the end even the media that were really supporting the two most commercialized stations, they were really supporting this movement and in the end had to take a step back and bow down to the political pressures, because in fact all the media are in a certain extent be holden to the political sectarian elite.”