Lebanese flag
Source: Flickr

It was supposed to be Lebanon's first Independence Day overseen by a fully functioning government since 2013, after the selection of President Michel Aoun in October of last year. But Prime Minister Saad Hariri's shock decision to resign earlier this month from Riyadh threw the country back into political turmoil.

Although Hariri has now returned Beirut and agreed with Aoun to temporarily suspend his resignation, what happens next remains to be seen.

With constant claims from all sides of political interference from Saudi Arabia, Iran and numerous Western nations, many Lebanese feel less than enthusiastic to celebrate on Nov. 22.

It's been almost 75 years since the French mandate officially ended and Lebanon became a so-called independent country. 

Considering all the ongoing turmoil, we decided to ask ordinary Lebanese citizens what the day actually means for them. Most expressed a lot of frustrations and cynicism.

"I see things moving forward"

"I think Lebanon is yet to win its independence. However, I see things moving forward, and Independence Day for me is a celebration of becoming more and more independent year after year. 

It is a celebration of our country and national unity, through advertisements and festivities, which hopefully is a reminder for us to stand together as one people. Because our country and culture is worth the pride."

– Sarah Jane Njm, 22

Sunset over Lebanon Source: Jason Lemon

"It doesn't mean a thing"

"It doesn’t mean a thing. As long as we are dependent on others and our decisions are based on other countries’ calls and/or commands, how can we celebrate Independence Day?"

– Nader Jaffal, 30


"Istiklal ... istighlal (independence ... exploitation)"

(She laughs)

"It used to mean a lot before, now it doesn’t mean a thing ."

– Mona Zeinaty Sfeir, 55 

A view of Lebanon Source: Jason Lemon

"Better with the French occupation"

"For me it's just a normal day. I don't get excited over it, nor do I feel there's reason to celebrate. 

On that day we freed ourselves from the French. Honestly, I think this country would have been better with the French occupation. We would've had so many privileges, and would've had better living conditions.

So yeah, I don't celebrate during that day. It means nothing to me."

– Daniel, 26

" I want to cry"

"I feel like I want to cry because we used to feel very happy when we were kids. But now as we are old, the happiness we used to feel turned into sadness and sorrow as we don’t have real independence. I wish all the sacrifices that were made for Lebanon brought us real independence."

– Najwa Obeid, 63

Martyrs' Square statue in Beirut
Martyrs' Square statue in Beirut Source: WikiMedia

Reminder of "this great sectarian system"

"Independence Day in Lebanon is just a reminder of how the French gave us this this great sectarian system that has been the core of every problem an average Lebanese citizen faces in terms of finding a job, voting for political representation, resolving the trash crisis – there have been debates on whether the trash crisis in Lebanon has a sectarian aspect to it. 

Even simple things while growing up, such as joining the scouts, even scout associations are segregated according to sect/religion in Lebanon."

– Rand El Zein, 26

"We're just a playground for the world's powers"

"Oh boy, nah, got nothing to say on this one! Quite honestly it means nothing to me. It doesn't feel like we're independent at all. 

If anything we're more controlled by external forces than ever. We're just a playground for the world's powers to flex their muscles in; costing us social, economic and political reforms in the process. Write that if you like."

– Ehab Mouawad, 38 

The Mediterannean Sea
The Mediterannean Sea Source: Jason Lemon

"I respect the people who worked hard for the independence"

"Well independence did happen in 1943, but right now I feel it's just for show.

We're definitely not independent, and a lot of people are interfering in our politics, even though you cant see it. So for me, its just another bank holiday. 

Although, I respect the people who worked hard for the independence."

– Rita Abi Acar, 25  

"France used to exploit us"

"I have a good feeling related to the Independence Day. France used to exploit us and take advantage of our country. Even when they pretended to do good things for the Lebanese people, it was always with second intentions. They didn't know what's best for us. 

The Independence Day makes us believe that now we can decide how we rule our country, without being controlled by another powerful nation."

– Moufid Ajajel Chaar, 71

Lebanese Cedar
Lebanese Cedar tree Source: WikiMedia

"Some people say it's Independence Day, some people say we never got our independence. I say it doesn't really matter – it's Lebanon's official national day and it's worthy of a celebration. 

If anything, it's a reminder that the greatest thing about Lebanon is its people who, in the face of perpetual adversity keep standing tall, just like the nation's cedars. Happy November 22nd to Lebanon, which richly deserves the date." 

– Youmna Naufal, 33

Editor's note: This article was updated to reflect Hariri's decision to suspend his resignation after returning to Beirut. The original version stated that Hariri planned to officially resign after Lebanon's Independence Day festivities.