Lebanon: Four Months of Protests


Lebanon has been paralysed by nearly four months of protests demanding an overhaul of the entire political system.

Here is a recap of the unrest after parliament on Tuesday backed the new government in a confidence vote despite protesters' attempts to block it.

- 'WhatsApp tax' anger -

On October 17, amid a looming economic crisis, the government announces a tax on messaging applications, including WhatsApp.

Thousands take to the streets in Beirut and other cities, some chanting "the people demand the fall of the regime". 

The government of Saad Hariri scraps the tax the same day, but protests continue.

- Demos grow -

On October 18, thousands of demonstrators representing different sects and political affiliations bring the capital to a standstill.

They demand an overhaul of the political system, citing grievances from austerity measures and state corruption to poor infrastructure and regular electricity cuts.

Demonstrations swell over the following days and dozens are arrested.

On October 25, the powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah -- which with its allies holds a majority in parliament -- tells supporters not to take part in protests.

The next day, Hezbollah mobilises counter-rallies, sparking scuffles with anti-government demonstrators.

- Government resigns -

On October 29, Hariri submits his resignation and that of his government, prompting celebrations in the streets.

In a television address on November 3, President Michel Aoun announces plans to tackle corruption, reform the economy and form a new government including technical experts.

But thousands of protesters stream back into Beirut's Martyrs' Square, chanting "Revolution!"

- Foreign aid appeal rebuffed -

On December 11 at a Paris conference, France, the United States, Russia and other countries rebuff Lebanon's urgent aid appeal, making assistance conditional on the formation of a new reform-minded government.

Hariri also asks the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank for support in drawing up a rescue plan.

- Violence intensifies -

On December 14 and 15 dozens of people are wounded and security forces use tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators.

Dozens more are wounded on December 17, in dawn clashes between security forces and supporters of Hezbollah and Amal.

- New prime minister -

On December 19, the president finally names a new prime minister: little-known academic Hassan Diab, who is backed by Hezbollah.

Protesters immediately regroup to condemn the appointment, which outrages members of the Sunni community. Protests continue the following day with roads blocked across the country.

- Escalation in Beirut -

On January 11, 2020, protests resume after a pause over the holidays. Days later clashes take place in Beirut and several banks are vandalised. 

On January 17 violence breaks out after dozens of protesters throw rocks and large plant pots at police guarding a road leading to parliament while others charge police lines. 

Over the next two days, at least 546 people, demonstrators, but also members of the security forces, are injured in clashes in central Beirut. 

Human Rights Watch accuses the police of firing rubber bullets at protesters' eyes.

Authorities accuse "infiltrators" of being among the demonstrators and clear the security forces of all responsibility.

- New government -

On the 21, a new government is unveiled, made up of a single political camp, the pro-Iranian Hezbollah and its allies, who have a parliamentary majority.

Demonstrators respond by torching tyres and blocking several roads in mainly Sunni towns across the country.

On February 11, parliament votes its confidence in the new government, despite attempts by hundreds of protesters to block the session. 

They are dispersed by security forces using tear gas and water cannon.

The clashes leave more than 370 injured, according to the Lebanese Red Cross.