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How Lebanon’s #YouStink protests are rippling across the world

Lebanese abroad have not let distance stop them from participating in the #YouStink movement

Tarek Ali Ahmad

Published: Updated:

Lebanese expats living in the U.S. and Europe took to social media last week to organize protests in support of demonstrators in their home country rallying against the garbage crisis and calling for a change in government.

Lebanese abroad have not let distance stop them from participating in the #YouStink movement, which kicked off on August 23rd and have continued since then, filling Martyrs’ square with thousands of youthful protesters calling for a change in the government.

“I believe the rallies and protests being held abroad will have a significant impact on the Lebanese people,” Ghenwa Hakim, a lawyer and lead organizer of the Boston #YouStink rally, told Al Arabiya News.

“I want to show my compatriots that they are supported and that their voices are heard.”

Support overseas

The main objective for the global protests is to show support to the activists and citizens in Martyrs’ square.

Head organizer of the Los Angeles #YouStink rally Ibrahim el-Sayyed told Al Arabiya News that “we are here more to show the movement back home support, to know more about how grief the situation really is and what needs to happen.”

“I think we’re here to give more hope the people back home. I don’t think we should be involved in what should happen next, they’re on the ground there, they are making the decisions and we trust the decisions they make,” he added.

There are from 8 to 14 million Lebanese living outside of Lebanon; almost 4 times the amount currently residing in the country.

The #YouStink movement in Paris told Al Arabiya News that “even abroad, Lebanese are fed-up with the situation in Lebanon, and would like to see change, for the sake of their families still living there.”

“Lebanese abroad still carry a strong tie with their country, and the success of this gathering [of between 700 to 1,000 people showing up] is evidence of this tie,” they added.

A united front

Lebanese citizens from all corners of the world are demanding change to the government that has been ruling the country since the end of the civil war in 1990. Even though the majority of them live abroad, everyone is rejoicing under one flag.

“I know that one result of the protests, already evident, is the unity of the Lebanese people,” Hakim said.

“I am so proud to see Lebanese from all backgrounds, religions, and political parties, put aside the differences that so long divided them and separated them,” she added.

The movement has united expats from all across the globe under one reason and that is to find justice in Lebanon, from Paris to Montreal.

The organizing committee of the Montreal #YouStink protest told Al Arabiya News, “The main objective of our movement was to show our families and friends back in Lebanon that they are not alone.”

Although some are worried that their movement will soon fade, many believe that they will persist until reforms are made.

“I’m very afraid that they lose faith in the movement for whatever reason, we’ve seen this happen before,” Sayyed said.

“It could be through violence against them or through derailing this movement in a political way...we’re here just to tell them ‘don’t lose faith’, we’re abroad but we also, like you, believe in this movement,” he added.

A fresh start

The protest is seen as the biggest, politically independent, protest movement in Lebanon’s history to be organized. Lebanon has been plagued by a sectarian system since the new government was formed in the 90s.

“Sectarian rule is meant to be temporary, and cannot work on a long term basis. It eats away at national identity and makes politicians accountable only to those voting from their sect,” Hakim said.

Like many Lebanese living at home, many living abroad are tired with the government system that they see as doing more harm than good.

“We need to change all the politicians and political figures. We need to shuffle faces, introduce new blood, a technocratic government, people not associated with the old regime,” said Sayyed.

“I’m very much against the current system, and the way it surrounds sectarianism.”