In October 2019, as the country goes through an unprecedented economic and social crisis, Lebanese take to the streets to demand an uncorrupted rule of law and true social justice. In August 2020, the port of Beirut explodes and so does the anger of the citizens.
Mohamad Jaouhar

Mohamad Jaouhar

@commitmentwho

Why and when the movement began ? What are the major revendications ?

 
The movement began in October of 2019, in the immediate sense as a reaction to a proposed tax on WhatsApp calls, but equally, in the broader sense, as a reaction to the wider economic conditions within Lebanon and widespread corruption.
 
What’s political class’ reaction ? 
 
Little in the way of real change has been brought about- while the prime minister (and indeed what may be described as more or less the entire government) resigned, the one that came after it was equally inefficient. Whichever way you look at it, at worst, it was equally corrupt, at best, it was simply incapable of meeting the challenges it faced.  Either way, the new government accomplished essentially nothing. In the wake of the August 8 explosion, the new prime minister also resigned, leaving Lebanon in a state of political limbo in which it remains, though he is still in office until a new PM may be chosen. The new elected PM might be Saad Hariri- the man whose resignation we called for on the streets back during the October Revolution. In this sense, we have achieved nothing but idle concessions from the government, retracted at their pleasure. We have received neither economic nor political reform.
 
What are the means of action use by activists ? How and by what means the government try to choke the insurgence? 
 
The activists have mostly used mass protest, civil disobedience, rioting, and complete shutdown of Lebanese infrastructure via closing roads. This has been met by police violence, up to and including beatings, and the use of tear gas and live ammunition, against everything from riots to the protests of university students (for instance, during the student protests against dollarization of the tuition at the American University of Beirut during December 29, 2020). Following the August 4th explosion were particularly egregious acts of police brutality. Several people reported that the police lit the buildings they were in on fire. Live ammunition was fired, as well as tear gas, on adults as well as children, on people rioting as well as people attempting to clean the streets and help those in need. I was there, I witnessed all of this.
 
From beginning of the movemnent to now, how it has been evolved ? It grew or, in contrary, went down? What are, according to you, the explanations of this evolution? 
 
Regrettably, the movement has slowed- and has been slowing for quite some time, with no sign of stopping. This is due partially to COVID19, partially due to defeatism, a sense that nothing will change, and the protests are useless, and the worsening economic conditions, meaning people have to work more simply to survive, and less focused on protesting. Every now and again, we see a resurgence, such as after the August 4 explosion, a time when everyone believed the Revolution had died, the population of Lebanon streamed into Beirut, both setting up supply lines to deliver food, medication, and assistance to those impacted, and to protest against the government that knowingly allowed this atrocity to occur.
 
The movement in which you are taking part is part of a world-wide awareness, there is a connection between your movement and revolutionary movements in other countries, whether it is an ideological sharing, a convergence of demands or concrete collaboration in actions? 
 
As a naturally decentralized movement, it is quite impossible for any explicit collaboration to have been planned with any other of the many movements around the world, as there is neither a leader nor a centralized presence through which to plan- but to be certain, these movements are united in spirit and ideology against rampant authoritarianism, negligence, and corruption all around the world. In this sense, we are comrades and kin, and have great love and admiration for our compatriots fighting for accountability in the “Black Lives Matter” movement, in Colombia, in Haiti, in Brazil, and in the many other countries currently home to the bravest, most wonderful people and  revolutionaries that I have regrettably not heard of.
 
A revolt based on the desire for a better world, given the evolution of things today, has your vision of the “ideal world” changed? What do you hope for your country and, more broadly, for the world?
 
My worldview and perception of politics has certainly changed in the past 2 years. Where once I was right wing, now I find myself firmly in the left wing. To call me an anarchist is not inaccurate. I have, in all my time, seen no measure of progress, of efficiency, or of responsibility from the government- all I have seen is the people around me doing the state’s job for it. There was no great stirring in the government to address the catastrophe that overtook Lebanon following the explosion, if anything, they hindered activists and citizens in their attempts to pick up the pieces- from withholding the bodies of the deceased until debts were paid, to refusing to allow citizens to rebuild their shattered homes without licenses, to stopping foreign aid and search and rescue teams, to sending firefighters to their deaths when the fire at the port broke out, knowing good and well it would explode. Instead, what I have seen is doctors opening their clinics, the private citizen opening their home, their pantry, and their heart to those affects, supply lines emerging near instantaneously all across Lebanon to allow the distribution of food and medicine to those in need of it, and vast social networks springing up out of the air to direct activists to where they are most needed, and provide whatever services anyone affected by the explosion might need, from psychological counseling, to glass working for their shattered windows, to a place to stay for the night, to a doctor working for free. Today, I see no need for or use in the state, and I dream of a world unconstrained by the oppression of the state and of crude, regressive capitalism. It has been consistently and repeatedly proven to me that the state can accomplish nothing, and that only the community can pull itself back onto its feet- because it is only the community that cares.
 
What do you think of foreign interventions regarding the situation in Lebanon? (interference by French President Emmanuel Macron, arms sales…) 
 
Insofar as foreign intervention is concerned, it is, for the most part, hot air blown in the direction of Lebanon disguised as goodwill and concern. The visit of Macron amounted to nothing- the various powers which continue to wish for stability and democracy in Lebanon are little more than dogs ripping one another apart in the attempt to grab the bone that is Lebanon for themselves, and their goodwill is contingent upon a mimicry of their policy, their politics, and the same hot air they blow at us. The only effective foreign intervention within Lebanon was that of the search and rescue teams, and this is par for the course insofar as humanitarian aid is concerned, and nothing worth speaking upon in detail- though gratitude is certainly owed to the brave people who risked themselves sifting through the rubble that our government should have been knee-deep in instead. Otherwise, where major foreign actions are concerned, from France to the U.S. to whatever superpower of the day sets their sights upon Lebanon, it is an attempt to buy Lebanon and turn it into what may be called a colony, for lack of a better term, an emulation of them in every sense, devoid of culture, national identity, or independent political thought. Though, in such conditions, one can hardly blame the Lebanese people if they accept. Lofty ideals and political thought are worth very little when you’re too hungry to think.
 
What role do women have in the movement and what does a secular state mean for you, a great demand of the Lebanese women revolted? 
 
The contribution of women to this revolution, and all revolutions, is never overstated. This forgotten half of humanity has shouldered a burden far greater than their share. They have been the bravest of all the Lebanese people. There is no better encapsulation of the Lebanese revolution than of the unarmed woman beating an armed soldier into the ground- and this is the essence of the Lebanese Revolution. It has been the essence of every revolution, and they will continue to be the vanguards of every revolution to come, without fail. They have constantly and consistently upheld the ideals of the revolution and thought far and well into the future. I know no finer, more intelligent, more courageous people than the women who have given blood, sweat, and tears to this revolution, same as anyone else.The truly secular state to me, within Lebanon, must be no state at all. Lebanon has, I think, advanced as far as is possible within a parliamentary model, and we will go no further. The future of Lebanon and of secularism lies within the people of Lebanon, not in stuffy representatives inherently separated from the will of the people. There can be no better representative for the people than the people themselves- and the people have shown themselves both willing and able to carry out their own interests. Secularism in Lebanon lies not with the state, but with the people.