Riad El Solh, Oct. 17 protests, Lebanon
"If we wanted to leave, we wouldn't have been millions on the street demanding for a better Lebanon." Riad El Solh on Oct. 26, 2019. Photo Credit: Sarah Trad | StepFeed.

On Oct.17, people in Lebanon took to the streets to demand their fundamental rights and call out the government's failure to fulfill its most basic obligations. What started as a spontaneous demonstration developed into a nationwide uprising that has witnessed a number of historic milestones. 

The revolution achieved its first major victory on Tuesday - 13 days in - when Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation, citing a "dead-end" and the need for a "positive shock."

While opponents have claimed the movement lacks a unified list of demands, protesters have been vocal about the purpose of their movement from the very start. Activists keep on emphasizing their uprising aims to tackle issues such as poverty, high prices versus low minimum wage, unemployment, incompetent public education institutes, misappropriation of public funds, and fatally expensive healthcare services.

People from diverse social, political, and religious backgrounds stood side by side to voice their outrage at the ruling class; in that sense, the common phrase "kellon ya3ne kellon" (all of them means *all* of them) can also stand to mean "all of us" against "all Lebanese politicians."

"From my observations on the ground, it is really about the reclamation and creation of space for various groups to come, air their grievances, and lay out their demands," Lebanese journalist Nadine Mazloum told StepFeed. 

Despite consensus on the main economic demands, there's no denying that the uprising has shed light on some crucial issues beyond its main goals. 

"It's a push-back against the appalling political discourse we have heard as Lebanese and non-Lebanese living in the country. Every group is responding in its own way: You have the environmental groups cleaning up every day in response to the minister who attacked citizens who don't recycle. You have the feminist bloc who are calling for women's rights and intersectional demands, including the rights of refugees, human rights in general, as well as LGBTQI+ rights. We've also seen people with special needs going there and reclaiming their space," Mazloum added.

Female revolutionaries are calling out the patriarchy

Women have been at the forefront of the revolution since day one, blocking roads, leading parades, and organizing initiatives. It's no surprise that they have highlighted the ongoing struggles of women in Lebanon, chanted against the patriarchy, and called for legislative reform in matters pertaining to women's rights.  

Among the amendments they have demanded is granting Lebanese women married to non-Lebanese men the right to pass on their nationality to their husbands and children. 

Protesters have also condemned the injustice and discrimination plaguing Lebanon's personal status laws and the judicial bodies in charge of enforcing them. Over the past two weeks, several mothers have gone on camera to share their painful experiences with losing custody over their children due to the personal status provisions.

"Welcome, welcome refugees!"

The feminist bloc in the Beirut protests has made an effort to guarantee an all-inclusive movement that covers the struggles of various oppressed and underrepresented groups. Among those are refugees in Lebanon, who face racism and discrimination in terms of national policies as well as social prejudice. "You sought refuge with us, yet we failed to protect you; welcome, welcome refugees," protesters repeated in one chant.

This support comes in spite of the anti-refugee rhetoric adopted by foreign minister Gebran Bassil, who is considered resigned with the resignation of Hariri and his cabinet.

The LGBTIQ+ community is fearlessly reclaiming public spaces

Many members of the LGBTIQ+ community have been active in the manifestations and have been demanding the same human rights the entire revolution revolves around.

Such members, as well as their allies, have also touched upon the rights of the LGBTIQ+ community, which continues to be discriminated against and sometimes prosecuted in Lebanon. Not only do queer individuals face social and legal obstacles in the country, but they also struggle to access healthcare services.

"These struggles start from the minute they walk through the doors of a medical institution. They are mistreated and called names, in addition to being ridiculed. Then, when they see healthcare professionals, they are in many instances refused care or talked to in a demeaning manner as if they are a 'disease' themselves," Dr. Suha Ballout, a nursing faculty member at the University of Massachusetts Boston and a board member at the Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health (LebMASH), previously told StepFeed.

It's always the right time to combat the Kafala system

Among the issues that came to light during the manifestations is the problematic Kafala system enforced on migrant domestic workers in Lebanon.

The system - which is currently implemented in Lebanon and across the Arab world - has long been described as "modern-day slavery" and heavily criticized by human rights groups. Domestic workers in Lebanon are excluded from the Lebanese Labor Law, and are thus denied some basic human rights and subjected to emotional and physical abuse. 

According to Human Rights Watch, it's a "system that gives sponsoring employers substantial control over workers and leaves workers vulnerable to situations of trafficking and forced labor." Under the sponsorship arrangement, some employees aren't allowed to step out of the houses where they work and risk arrest and deportation if they leave without their employers' permission. 

And to champion the Palestinian cause

Revolutionaries regularly expressed solidarity with all Arab countries, and with Palestine in particular. "Palestine, we will support you until our death," they chanted.