Yesterday, hundreds of London’s Lebanese community and their supporters descended upon the streets outside of the Lebanese Embassy in Kensington, chanting their support for the current anti-governmental protests in Lebanon, over 2900 miles away.
Children and adults, wrapped in their nation’s flag, filled the streets, some beginning to spill into the road and causing police to close it off, redirecting traffic behind them. One protester expressed concerns over the People’s Vote march taking place at the same time and was heard saying “The Brexit Protest is coming. We don’t want to clash.”
Elissa Sebaaly, protester and President of KCL’s Lebanese Society, has made a statement regarding the uprisings. She expressed frustration towards the ways that mainstream media outlets have presented the them, stating that they “failed to portray the true reasons for the protests.”
She explained to Roar News that the uprisings were instigated by backlash against several damaging political exercises – the first being the Lebanese government’s failure to properly tackle wildfires that spread across the country “due to the lack of or unmaintained equipment.” The second was the introduction of harsh taxation policy on Lebanon’s telecommunications services shortly after. This was reflected in one key protester’s placard, which read: “You have been f**king us for ages with high taxes, but when I moved to London, I discovered that getting f**ked is TAX FREE”.
“As soon as the fires were out, a couple of days later, the Minister of Telecommunications decided to raise taxes on the already costly phone services, and tax all WhatsApp calls. This enraged the Lebanese people…”
She stressed, however, that this only scratches the surface. The protests are the eruption of a slow, intensifying growth of disillusionment in Lebanese people, fuelled by decades of insidious government corruption and disregard for human dignity.
“The Lebanese government does not even provide it’s people with their basic human rights. They don’t have access to 24-hour electricity, many don’t have access to decent healthcare, and water is becoming more and more scarce by the day.”
“They are fed up. Fed up from the lies, the bribes, the corruption… People want to fight the corruption, hold the political class accountable for their breaches.”
“For the first time history, they finally united as one people to stand up against the following issues that have been building up for almost 30 years. “
Elissa made clear that the the uprising has had significant impact on Lebanese students at King’s, many of whom “have left their families back in London to come study and start their careers here.” She explains that, because of the economic deterioration in Lebanon, “fresh university graduates in Lebanon also think of applying to jobs abroad before they think of applying in Lebanon itself.”
“There are no opportunities, neither to start, nor develop, a certain career. Thus, very few of those who come aboard think of going back, and this has caused the separation of many families.”
However, Elissa stressed that the protests have revived an overwhelming sense of national pride in many of the Lebanese students and expatriates in London.
“Sometimes when people leave their countries, they become detached from them as they adapt to their new lives. But, in the protest, people chanted from all their hearts, expressing how much they miss their families back home, and showing their patriotism and solidarity with the Lebanese people in Lebanon.”