Hezbollah backs Beirut protests, deepening crisis

The trash crisis has exacerbated the long-existing fault lines in Lebanon

Hezbollah backs Beirut protests, deepening crisis

World Bulletin / News Desk

The recent protests in Lebanon over piles of uncollected garbage in the streets of the capital Beirut have grown into a much deeper outrage now calling for government's resignation. The well-known Lebanese group Hezbollah happened to threw its weight behind the mass protests as well.

The explosion of anger targets the endemic corruption, hapless government and sectarian divisions and now struggling with a wave of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.

A youth movement called "You Stink" managed to mobilize thousands of people in two rallies over the weekend, and has called for another large protest on Saturday. The Hezbollah announcement of support for the protests is likely to fuel concerns the group will try to hijack a rare, non-political movement for its own political gain.

Prime Minister Tammam Salam called the emergency session after the weekend clashes between security forces and demonstrators protesting corruption and poor public services. Hezbollah ministers and their allies pulled out of the meeting because of the political "theater" surrounding the trash issue.

During the Cabinet session, ministers unanimously rejected the winning bidders to manage Beirut's trash collection, citing high costs and a bidding procedure some said was questionable. The Cabinet tasked a ministerial committee with restarting the bidding, meaning no imminent solution to the crisis was likely.

Salam suggested dumping the garbage in the remote, impoverished region of Akkar, which has been neglected for decades, in exchange for $100 million in development projects as an incentive.

That further riled the protesters. "Akkar is not a garbage dump!" read the slogan on one protester's T-shirt.

Recent trash crisis in Beirut  aggravated the long-lasting fault lines within the country, that is Iran-baked Hezbollah against country's Western-aligned, pro-Saudi camp. These internal divisions paralyzed the government apparatus for a long time. 

Governmental institutions have been immobile for a while; parliament has extended its term twice without elections, parliament speaker has been in the office for 23 years, MPs unable to elect a president for over a year. 

In a statement Tuesday, Hezbollah said the garbage crisis reflected the "endemic and accumulated corruption of the past two decades" and policies that only serve "personal and political interests at the expense of citizens." They referred to their protesting as a legitimate right.

A columnist in the daily An-Nahar newspaper accused Hezbollah of exploiting the "You Stink" movement for its own agenda.

Tarek Sarhan, a 17-year-old "You Stink" supporter, said there would always be groups that try to manipulate grass-roots movements for their own political gains in a country like Lebanon.

"We want... an end to sectarianism. We want to build a state," he added.

"This is a corrupt government, an immoral government that is starving us and conspiring against the people," said a protestor, Hassan Qatayesh.

"They raised the wall to protect themselves from the people, thinking that this wall will prevent our voices from reaching them. But our voices are louder than walls, tear gas and rubber bullets," he added.



Güncelleme Tarihi: 26 Ağustos 2015, 10:15