Friday, March 11, 2011

Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series: Lebanon

The protests in Lebanon kicked off on January 12, 2011.
See the whole Middle East/Aftican Revolution/Protest Series.
The next country is Lebanon. Theirs is the second protest that started in the new year. This particular country didn't receive front page coverage in the newspapers that I read frequently, so I particularly enjoyed doing research into what happened here. This country was the first one several I'll cover that have only been mentioned in passing in most American journalism.

Basic History
Lebanon's official name is the Republic of Lebanon. Geographically, it is located in Western Asia, but it is considered a Middle East country. The capital is Beirut. The population is 4.2 million people. The main language is Arabic.

Lebanon's most recent leader is Michel Suleiman. He became president first as a compromise between the polarized sides of Parliament, but he was elected to office in an official election by Parliament in 2008. Lebanon has a unique governmental organization. The President has to be Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister has to be a Sunni Muslim, and the Speaker of the Parliament has to be a Shi'a Muslim. All the major political parties in Lebanon are setup according to religion.

In terms of Lebanese independence, they've been independent from the French since the 1940s. They declared independence in 1941; it was recognized in 1943, French troops actually left Lebanese soil in 1946. Beirut was considered a very stable country until the Hezbollah war with Israel in 2006. Now, it's rebuilding it's infrastructure. But Beirut was able to avoid the financial recession that rocked most of the globe because of tightly regulated banks.

The Protests
 The main causes cited as the reason for the protests include: lack of secular politics, corruption, and a desire for reform of Lebanese confessionalism.

There was supposed to be a Special Tribunal for Lebanon convened. The goal for that meeting was to indict Hezbollah members for the assassination of a previous Prime Minister. The current Prime Minister refused to call an emergency cabinet session to discuss cooperation with the Tribunal.

On January 12, 2011, the government collapsed after Energy Minister Gebran Bassil announced that all ten opposition ministers had resigned following months of warnings by Hezbollah that it would not remain inactive should there be indictments against the group. On January 17, 2011, the indictments were issued.

The government had lost more than one third of its members and so President Suleiman announced (after accepting the resignations) that according to the Lebanese constitution, he would be responsible for forming a new government and the cabinet would run the government until the new one is complete.

The actual protests didn't begin until Sunday, February 27, 2011 with a rally in Beirut against Confessionalism. There was another protest on Sunday March 6, 2011 that spread to other cities and grew in size and intensity. Where these protests will go is still unknown, but at least they have a uniform claim for secular reform of the sectarian government.

More information about the Lebanese protests can be found at ,,, and The Los Angeles Times.

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