Lebanon has been a transit country for its people for many decades, with millions of nationals emigrating for a better living the instance they are granted a visa. It is estimated that well over 10 million first-generation Lebanese reside abroad, a number that exceeds the remaining 6 million in the country.
Going back to history, as one always should, Lebanon successfully paints itself as a doomed state ruled by oppression, persecution, and inequality. Whether we go back to the Ottoman rule or the 1920 French mandate, emigration shadowed us ever since the country's inception.
As Lebanon was never able to be the home its citizens needed, they had to leave. During the nation's 15-year civil war (1975-1990), around 990,000 people (40 percent of the population back then) were compelled to flee the country.
Endless political instability, corruption, and economic woes continued to destroy people's lives in post-war years, keeping the exodus cycle quite functional. This is possibly why the country's ruling class believes it's fine for them to mercilessly drive the Lebanese out of their homeland. After all, they've gotten away with doing just that for so long.
On Tuesday, the country's current president General Michel Aoun addressed the nation amid an ongoing four-week uprising, advising people who "aren't satisfied with any of the decent leaders of the protests" to emigrate. His argument was that any revolution should have a leader, and this leader should approach the president and government for a clear dialogue through which the people's demands are presented.
The people have said it thousands of times so far, but here it is again: This revolution has no leader. Each Lebanese demanding immediate reforms, the resignation and prosecution of each corrupt politician, and the return of all the stolen money from public funds is the leader.
Aoun's speech saw him berate protestors for blocking roads and accuse them of driving the country into the abyss. Yet, it included no promise of possible reforms in the near future and no solid response to people's demands.
What are people protesting against, exactly? Where to begin ... where can anyone begin? The country is deep in debt, $86-billion worth of debt, to be exact, there's a sectarian system in place that only serves to divide the people, and of course the never-ending, illegal, and immoral draining of public funds that are supposed to ameliorate the infrastructure, public services, and environment of Lebanon (and that's only to name a few sectors that urgently need improving). And yes, that's one long sentence to take your breath away, just like our dear leaders have been doing for decades.
It is also worth mentioning that aside from the nice invitation to the people to emigrate, the president pointed to his own "history," saying "Do I have a history or not? Revise my history. If they like it, the people can stick with me, if not, then I leave and the people can get a replacement."
Dear Mr. President, the people have been more than clear in the past month. Their trust in your ruling and the governments' has been shattered to dust, not pieces. And that speech was a poisonous cherry on top of a dismantled cake.
We won't emigrate, not because you suggested it and surely not because we lost hope in Lebanon
Lebanon's revolution partly stems from the fact that people are fed up with these toxic waves of emigration. The latter have emptied the nation of those who can lift it up and have separated people from their loved ones.
We won't emigrate because there are decent people who can lead the country, even though Aoun considers it impossible to find them.
We won't emigrate because it's our right to live a dignified life in our country, to find decent employment, and to stay among our friends and families.
We won't emigrate because corrupt leaders who've destroyed the nation refuse to leave their posts. No, we will make them leave.
We won't emigrate because our country is not a transit destination, it's a homeland. We're in the streets demanding the resignation of those in power because we want a chance to rebuild Lebanon.
No, this time we won't emigrate. Instead, we'll fight back until those clinging to their posts leave. They've had decades to make reforms but have failed at doing their job time and again, so it's them who should be exiled.
It's mind-boggling how these so-called "leaders" can find it extremely easy to detach from their own country, let alone tell the citizens to leave. For f*ck's sake, Lebanon is ours, it's our land, it's our home ... how dare you suggest this?
Lebanon is home to our favorite breakfasts (mana'ich, labneh, and foul ... the eternal love) and home to the most beautiful, natural scenery that when you travel around Europe you're not as impressed by their mountains because you have them back home. Lebanon is your psycho lover; you want to marry them but you're afraid of ruining your life ... but you adore them and can't get over this messy love they drown you in. The Lebanese are an endless source of witty jokes and wordplay on one hand, with a balanced kindness and generosity on another; where will you go to find such good-hearted people?
Hear it louder: WE ARE HERE TO STAY
Lebanon, despite its small size, is rich. Greedy leaders have been impoverishing it purposefully so they can rule the poor and have them as blind supporters. After all, where can manipulative thieves go with their overcompensation issues if not to governmental positions?
But that's it, we've had enough. Those who wish to remain fangirls of warlords, go ahead and enjoy your degrading life under their mercy. As for the fuel of this revolution, genuine Lebanese will fight for a better future.
For once, people want to be led by someone whose status is not given based on their level (very high level) of corruption. We will wipe this system clean and elect experts who care about our land and people more than their pockets. We will elect experts in their own field of expertise.
Enough with a civil engineer running the Ministry of Telecommunication, then the Ministry of Water and Energy, then the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants as if it's a puzzle. Or a man with a management degree and owner of a real estate company in charge of the Ministry of Environment. Or the Minister of Education and Higher Education to be a holder of a Biology and History degree. And so on and so forth.
No. We simply don't want to emigrate. Not that emigration is easy, cheap, and speedy to achieve anyway. We'd have to remain in Lebanon for at least a year before our papers are green-lighted. Oh, we might also need a good $15,000 in our bank accounts and another $5,000 to pay as lawyer fees.
Can the poor who are fed up with your empty promises, can't pay hospital bills, and are unemployed emigrate? Hmmm.
Putting that aside, if politicians actually cared about people's demands, they'd be familiar with detailed plans put forth that target different sectors responsible for the economy's growth. Let them pass by Riad El Solh and Sahat El Nour for an hour or two and they'll know how to fix Lebanon according to the people's standards.
We want clean water. The infrastructure needs a grand ménage and that can be done by replacing old, clogged pipes with new ones instead of building dams on sterile land and an active seismic fault point like they're doing with the Bisri Dam.
We want continuous electricity instead of having to pay two bills to keep our houses lit up.
We want to be able to vote for those in power regardless of the governorate you assigned our great grandfather. We also want to have employment opportunities that assess us based on merit, not on your wasta scheme.
We want to breathe clean air, walk the streets without fear of being harassed, and speak freely without being met with prosecution.
It would also be nice to drive without the fear of diving into a road bump so deep that our tires burst. Oh, and to have dedicated bicycle lanes to encourage exercise over pollution. But that's all a dream, right?
We will live and remain rooted in Lebanon to see that dream materialize into reality. Just wait for it.