Campaign “you stink” shakes the sectarian regime in Lebanon

Jeff meisner op
Do Sep 3 12:24:15 CEST 2015

The campaign “you stink” shakes the sectarian regime in Lebanon
Posted on August 31, 2015	

“Secularism, equality and social justice” Placard of the progressive 
coalition “The People Want”

Lebanon had experienced some major protests in early 2011 against the 
sectarian regime following the regional popular uprisings, but the movement 
unfortunately ended a few months later, especially after the sabotage of 
several religious and reactionary parties against the movement and with the 
complicity of leftist movements of Stalinist tradition.

A new popular dynamic started with the campaign “you stink” that was 
triggered after a waste management crisis. Piles of garbage were accumulated 
in the streets of Beirut since early July, after the closure of a major 
garbage dump’s site in the city of Naameh, a coastal town in the South, at 
that time. Opened in emergency in 1998, this landfill of waste had to close 
ten years later and never exceed 2 million tons of garbage. Last July 17 
2015, when the inhabitants of nearby villages blocked the road to the 
garbage trucks of the company Sukleen, the garbage dump had been enlarged 
four times and contained 18 million tons of waste. Since that day, the smell 
that was choking on a daily basis Naameh extended to the streets of Beirut. 
After ten days without garbage collection, it already accounted for 3000 
tons of daily waste.

Subsequently the Lebanese national unity government composed of the forces 
of March 8 and 14, [1] transported some amounts of garbage heap in the 
poorest areas to temporarily relieve tensions in the capital Beirut and 
spared the more gentrified neighbourhoods. Until today, no solution has been 
found to the crisis of the accumulation of waste, most of Lebanon’s streets 
are now filled with garbage.

The bourgeois and sectarian ruling class also attempts to split the profits 
from the privatization of garbage pickups depending on sectarian and 
geographical lines. Especially the links between Averda, the company 
managing Sukleen and the powerful Hariri family. Close to the former Prime 
Minister Rafik Hariri, assassinated in 2005 Maysarah Sukkar established 
Averda a few months before getting his first contract in Lebanon. With a 
turnover of 20000 dollars, he was then granted the multibillon waste market 
of Beirut and Mount Lebanon, without public bids. The contract was renewed 
several times in the general opacity. Averda contract finally expired on 
July 17 2015. Without any political agreement found on a new space where to 
bury the waste, Sukleen trucks began dumping them in rivers, open spaces or 
in the port of Beirut.

The campaign “You stink” initially demanded an ecological solution to the 
waste crisis, but later as we will explain it the movement was radicalized 
to condemn the Lebanese sectarian and bourgeois regime as a whole.

At the first mobilization in the framework of this campaign Saturday August 
22, more than 10,000 protesters demonstrated in the streets of Beirut. The 
demonstrators were challenging all the sectarian and bourgeois political 
parties of March 8 and 14 in the waste crisis and the corruption poisoning 
the country.

During these first protests, the repression of the army and the police was 
very violent. They tried to push the demonstrators off the roads leading to 
the city centre of Beirut, shooting live ammunition in the air and targeting 
protesters with tear gas and water cannons. The police also attacked the 
demonstrators with batons, wounding more than 75 persons.

Despite the fierce repression, new mobilisations were organised the next day 
as a challenge to the police, with about 20,000 people in the streets of 
Beirut. One could read on the walls of the luxurious downtown invested by 
the protesters, graphitis such as “Down with capitalism” and “Downtown 
Beirut belongs to the people”, “No to homophobia, racism, sexism and 
classism” and  “Revolution”.

The various Lebanese media, all at the service of the sectarian and 
bourgeois political parties, with the collaboration of security services and 
even some members of the campaign “you stink” that did not want a 
radicalization of the movement and the the challenging of the sectarian 
regime, tried to discredit the movement as a whole, by notably particularly 
characterizing young people from Beirut poor suburbs who had joined the 
movement as “infiltrators” “rioters” and “saboteurs” … A false propaganda, 
which by using similar terms, reminded for many protesters the propaganda of 
the Assad regime in Syria against the peaceful demonstrators at the 
beginning of the revolution in 2011.

Mobilizations and sit-ins were held throughout the week despite the 
continuation of the repression that resulted in the hospitalization of more 
than 400 people.

Other demonstrations took place in other parts of the country, but 
particularly in the Akkar region, which is located in the North of Lebanon 
and is the poorest and the least provided in public services [2]. People 
mobilized under the slogan “Akkar is not a dustbin” after the government’s 
proposal to transport the waste in this region. In return and to try to 
convince the people of the region of this measure, the government decided to 
allocate $ 100 million to the development of Akkar and 200 million already 
allocated were made available for road infrastructure and sewers. A group of 
municipalities in the Akkar valley has also launched a campaign called 
“Tamartouna bifadlikoum” (You have buried us by your largesse) who refuses 
the barter principle of disposing of Lebanon’s waste in Akkar and to 
guarantee in return the development of the region.

In the same region of Akkar, the residents of the village of Ersal to 
prevent the creation of a garbage dump area in the locality launched a 

The trade unions of the General Confederation of Lebanese Workers (known as 
the CGTL) called to join the movement following the events of August 22 and 
23 August, but because of their weaknesses and their submissions to 
sectarian and bourgeois Lebanese political parties, their calls are in many 
ways just rhetorical.

On Saturday August 29, a new massive demonstration was organised in the 
capital Beirut gathering between 60 000 and 100 000 people. The youth was 
very much present and the demonstrations were highly dynamics.

One could read and hear the following messages in the protests: “Revolution 
against the ruling class, against sectarianism, against racism, and against 
patriarcat”; “Secularism, equality and social justice”; “From Douma to 
Beirut the people is one and does not die”; “From Baghdad to Damscus and 
Beirut and Palestine, one revolution”, “the people want the fall of the 
sectarian regime”, etc…

Numerous protesters were condemning also the corruption of the political 
elites of March 8 and 14, as well as the neo liberal and privatization 
policies that impoverished the popular classes of the country and led to the 
destruction of public services.

In these mobilisations, a new front was established gathering various 
leftist and progressive movements, in which we can found at its heart the 
Socialist Forum, called “the people want” under the slogan “secularism, 
equality and social justice”. This progressive coalition demands notably: 
the liberation of all the protesters arrested during the demonstrations “you 
stink” and the end of the repressive campaigns of the State; the 
establishment of a Constituent Assembly on the basis of a non sectarian 
proportional election and with Lebanon as a single district; resignation of 
the Environment Minister and the sidelining of the Council of Development 
and Reconstruction on the waste issue; prosecution for all those involved in 
the business of privatization and waste management; an investigation on all 
those involved in the violence in recent protests, that is to say the 
political and security officials, headed by the Interior Minister, Nohad 
Machnouk; etc …

The multiple and various attempts of the sectarian and bourgeois political 
parties of March 8 and 14 to co-opt the movement for its own political 
benefit and opportunist interests are for now still a failure.

The mobilizations in Lebanon, such as the continuing ones in Iraq that also 
gathered hundreds of thousands of protesters on Friday August 28, show us 
that the shock wave of the revolutionary processes that began in the region 
in 2011 are very far from being finished, despite the various counter 
revolutionary offensives. We must give our support to these new uprisings in 
Lebanon and Iraq while continuing to support the revolutionaries in Syria, 
Bahrain, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Palestine, etc … fighting for the initial 
objectives (democracy, social justice and equality) of the revolutionary 
processes and against all forms of the counter revolution.

As we have said before and despite the significant and multiple 
difficulties, the revolutionary processes are not dead…

Joseph Daher


1) The March 8 coalition is linked to Syria and Iran, and includes 
Hezbollah, the other Shi’a party Amal and the Free Patriotic Movement 
(Christian) led by General Aoun. On the other side, March 14, supported by 
the US and Saudi Arabia, gathers the Future Movement led by Saad Hariri 
(Sunni), the Lebanese Forces and Kataeb (Christians).

[2] The north of Lebanon and its capital Tripoli represents 20.7% of the 
inhabitants of the country, but 46% of the extremely poor and 38% of the 
poor. The area is also the least equipped at the medical level, while 
dropout rates, unemployment and female illiteracy are among the highest. No 
large-scale development project has also occurred since the 1990s. The 
number of business establishments do not exceed 17 000, of which the vast 
majority are small family businesses with less than five employees, in the 
governorate of North Lebanon, while we found in Mount Lebanon and Beirut up 
to 73 000 and 72 000 business establishements.

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