Low turnout as Lebanon marks two years since the start of its uprising

·2-min read

Lebanon marked the second anniversary of its defunct protest movement with a low-key demonstration in Beirut Sunday, while many stayed away amid grinding economic woes and deadly tensions over a port blast probe.

Two years on, Lebanon is mired in a ballooning financial crisis compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, and battered by a devastating explosion at Beirut's port on August 4 last year.

Draconian banking restrictions have prevented many Lebanese from accessing their savings, while the local currency has lost more than 90 percent of its value to the dollar on the black market.

Almost 80 percent of the population live in poverty, struggling to put food on the table amid endless price hikes, fuel shortages and power cuts.

The October 17 'revolution'

Mass protests bringing together Lebanese from all backgrounds erupted on October 17, 2019, denouncing deteriorating living conditions as well as alleged official graft and mismanagement, after the government announced a plan to tax phone calls made over messaging service WhatsApp.

The protests began in Beirut over the government's plan to tax WhatsApp calls amid a sharply deteriorating economic crisis. But the demonstrations quickly spread to the rest of the country, swelling into the biggest protest movement the country has seen in years.

Security forces on October 17, 2019 fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters trying to push through security barriers around the government headquarters.

For the first time in the history of the country, Lebanese people of all faiths joined together, against their leaders, calling for a change of regime.

The movement continued to grow, and in June 2020, it was further fuelled by the collapse of the economy.

Two months later, on August 4, 2020, the capital was rocked by a devastating explosion that killed an estimated 217 people, injuring more than 6,500 and destroying much of the city.

Two years after the popular uprising began, the country continues to grapple with medicine, food and fuel shortages, and nationwide power cuts.

On October 14, the deadliest sectarian clashes in years broke out on the streets of Beirut, killing seven and leaving dozens wounded.

Click on the video above to watch FRANCE 24’s report on the history of the protest movement.

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