Lebanese protesters successfully form human chain across country

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As the protests in Lebanon moved into their 11th day, tens of thousands of Lebanese protesters successfully formed a 171-kilometer-long human chain throughout the country from Tripoli in the north down to Tyre in the south.

Cars whooshed by honking with flags waving. Others handed out water to protesters forming the chain. Videos quickly emerged on social media of people filing in all over the country to participate.

Mostly peaceful protests have taken place across the country, with protesters uniting across sectarian and class lines in a country where sectarianism is rooted in its every fiber. The Taif Agreement, put in place at the end of the civil war in 1989, cemented a power sharing agreement that mandated that the president be Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of parliament a Shia Muslim.

Today, many in Lebanon have turned away from traditional sectarian lines and have banded together to call for the end of the regime. The revolution’s popular chant kullon yani kullon - all of them means all of them - refers to their call for the entire political ruling class to step down.

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“The significance of the human chain is honestly to show the sheer number of people who are actually against the regime and what the government has been doing for the last 30 years,” Wael Abifaker, a participant in the Beirut chain link, said. “It needs to be seen by the world, all of Lebanon, and especially by the corrupt government to show that we are all unified.”

Following a year of worsening economic conditions, including a dollar shortage and additional taxes imposed, the most recent of which was a WhatsApp tax that would cost users of the otherwise free app up to $6 a month, protesters took to the streets. The WhatsApp tax was quickly reversed, but those in the country pay some of the highest bills in the region for telecommunications. Additionally, citizens already pay dual bills for water and electricity where the state fails to provide potable water and round-the-clock electricity. Living costs are high compared to salaries, and many Lebanese fail to make ends meet.

The recent protests, the largest since the 2005 Cedar Revolution, are a marked departure from the old sectarian ways. Organizers estimated that it would take 171,000 people to complete the chain.The human chain, largely organized on social media and through WhatsApp groups, was yet another sign of Lebanese shedding their sectarian identities.

“We are not going to be divided the way the government wants us to be, and we’re standing together, and we won’t back down,” Abifaker said.