“Political crisis in Lebanon: Walls to break”. An article giving voices to students from Montreal by Ms. Agnès Gruda from La Presse

A picture from Martin Chamberland, La Presse
From Left to right: Joe Abou Malhab, Lamia Charlebois, Aref Salem, Albert Mouawad et Hala Zeidan

What an interesting article by Ms. Agnès Gruda. Thank you. This article was published today, Saturday November 9, 2019:


Bambi will translate from French to English as follows:

“They are in their early twenties, studying political science, engineering or physiology, and have been living in Montreal for three or four years.

However, in recent weeks, Albert Mouawad, Hala Zeidan and Joe Abu Malhab have their hearts and their heads turned to their homeland: Lebanon.

A country that, they hope, is freeing itself from its denominational straightjackets.

As the world celebrates the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the three Montrealers are rolling their sleeves to destroy the walls that have divided the Lebanese for three decades. These are not physical walls made of concrete or brick, but well-established barriers in the political system inherited from the civil war that tore Lebanon from 1975 to 1990. Well established, too, in the minds.

When the Berlin Wall was shot down, it was the symbol of the union between the two Germanies. We, our generation, are tired of the walls and problems of the previous generation, the one that made the civil war in Lebanon and divided us, “said Albert Mouawad.

These young adults are also tired of a corrupt political caste that siphon Lebanon’s resources without worrying about driving the country out of business.

Ivory tower

We met these three students yesterday in a café in Old Montreal, along with Lamia Charlebois, a public relations consultant, and Aref Salem, councilor in Saint-Laurent, two Lebanese living in Quebec for decades. These three students are part of a nucleus of young Libano-Quebecers who, from a distance, try to lend a helping hand to the revolt of their compatriots.

By demonstrating, of course, but also by spreading information on the protest movement that has shaken Lebanon since October 17th.

The tax increase on the WhatsApp application decreed that day was only the last straw that has spilled over the anger of the Lebanese, they say. A symbolically heavy drop of water: telephone calls cost a fortune in Lebanon. WhatsApp is the only way to escape these fees. By raising this tariff, while the Lebanese are pulling their hair to be able pay the bills for the deficient infrastructure, the leaders showed how isolated they were in their ivory tower. How much they were cut off from people’s daily concerns.

And when all three students talk about their leaders, they have in mind all the political parties, which they also consider inadequate and corrupt.

Sharing the cake

“In appearance, political parties hate each other, but they get along well to share the cake,” denounces Hala Zeidan.

It should be noted that since the end of the civil war, Lebanese democracy has been following the lines of religious divides with ministerial seats and portfolios granted to each of the major denominations – Christians, Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims – who have been torn apart for 15 years. years.

As a result, there is no real political opposition in Lebanon, no counter-powers either, deplored Joe Abu Malhab.

Hala is a Shiite Muslim, Joe and Albert are Maronite Christians, but all three want to liberate their country from the straitjacket of religious cleavages.

“I have long believed that since I am Maronite, I could only vote for a Christian party, but why could I not vote for a Muslim?”, said Joe Abu Malhab.

Furthermore, he lamented that the political parties competing for Christian voters “all come from the civil war”.

All Lebanese political parties have “blood on their hands,” said Hala Zeidan and Albert Mouawad. “We have to take the denominational system out of people’s heads,” he pleaded. Before adding that those who now lead Lebanon “are the icons of civil war, or their sons, or their sons-in-law”.

“Political parties all have blood on their hands; I do not want any parties associated with the war, these parties do not represent me, “adds Hala Zeidan.

The specter of civil war still hangs over Lebanon, but the youngest, those born many years after the end of the civil conflict, escape fear.

“Politicians always remind us of the war to threaten us, but we have not known that time and, for the first time, the Lebanese are united, they are not afraid”.

And now what?

It took just 13 days of protests to force the country’s prime minister, Saad Hariri, to leave his post on October 30. This is just the beginning, say the protesters, who want the departure of all their political system.

But where to go from there? Is there not a danger of skidding out of control? Is this popular revolt movement without a leader at risk of being diverted from its momentum?

“What the people want is very clear,” says Albert Mouawad before listing the major demands of the protesters. The resignation of the entire government, the appointment of a government of experts, the adoption of a new electoral law that sets aside the confessional lines, new elections.

There are three walls to cut down, says Lamia Charlebois: the wall of confessions, the wall of political parties, and the wall of corruption.

Faced with this triple challenge, Lebanese students are not completely protected from their own fears. For instance, they are a bit afraid of the weapons of Hezbollah, the party and armed Shiite movement that militarily controls part of Lebanon.

However, first and foremost, they are filled with optimism. They also feel that the wind of history is blowing on their side. Furthermore, they feel that the walls that have marked all their life could disappear soon”.

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