The What, Why and How of Saturday the 22nd’s Protest
We are gathering tomorrow, Saturday the 22nd at 6pm at Riad El Solh, so I decided to write this post to clear any confusion you might have concerning who ‘we’ are and what ‘we’ want. If you’re confused, this is for you. If you’re sure of yourself, read it anyway. Just in case. Needless to say, these words are my own and I’m the only one responsible for them.
First of all, who are we? We are a movement calling itself Tol3et Re7etkom, Lebanese Arabic for ‘You Stink’. We don’t have a leader, but several passionate individuals, women and men, of all walks of life. Anyone can join, anyone can leave. Ideologically? Let’s just say that we are secular, meaning that everyone is welcomed regardless of religion or lack-thereof, are deeply passionate about social justice and are seeking sustainable solutions to the waste crisis in Lebanon. Our methods consists of Non-Violent Direct Action (NVDA). We are against violence against anyone and are strictly peaceful.
How do we work? We are functioning as a grassroots movement. This means that we were formed spontaneously, each deciding to join one another for a common purpose. If it sounds simple, that’s because it is. Basically, if you want to help, reach out to us on Facebook and you’ll be considered on board. You don’t even have to contact us directly, just follow the page, join us at every protest and start implementing ecologically-friendly solutions at your household, your community, your neighborhood, your region etc. – and tell us when you do so that we can share your story with the rest of Lebanon.
You don’t recycle your waste? Please start with that. You want to do even more? We’ll be on the streets tomorrow (Saturday) at 6pm. Please learn about us and what you can do to help. We’re an open platform.
And what’s this ‘purpose’ we speak of? We want a sustainable solution to Lebanon’s waste disposal problem. Our current waste disposal mechanism is catastrophic and these past few weeks were a manifestation of this failure. Sustainable solutions are very simple to implement and extremely dangerous not to. The government is already in contact with environmental experts who reached out to us. But for them to get heard, we need to keep the pressure.
Right now, our accumulated waste is not being disposed properly, to say the least. This means that we are breathing filth, drinking filth, eating filth. When the rain comes, the waste will get to our sea. Our forests and reserves are already being polluted very severely. If we do not act, we will be facing a health crisis beyond anything we could’ve imagined. This is very serious.
We have exposed the government over and over again. When they claimed to have found a solution, we showed the world that they were lying. When they claimed to have listened to environmental experts’ demands, we proved that they were lying. They are dumping the waste under bridges, next to working class areas, in our forests and in our valleys. They’re destroying the very Green-ness that we have come to identify Lebanon with.
In other words, it is our moral duty to succeed.
What are our demands?
- The immediate resignation of Mohammad Machnouk, Minister of Environment. Even though he doesn’t carry all of the responsibility, he carries the primary responsibility as the Minister in charge of this issue, and in particular due to his deadly decision of hiding the waste.
- Transparent bids with environmentally-friendly, safe and sustainable terms and conditions that respect the citizen’s health and the environment rather than the pockets and interests of politicians. We refuse to have 6 Sukleens instead of one! [meaning that Sukleen is part of the problem, and having 6 ‘Mini-Sukleens’ only makes the situation worse.]
- Accountability for all those who played a role in the current crisis or wasted public money by pressuring the financial public prosecutor to publicize the results of the investigations. We are also calling for a protest this Saturday (the 22nd) in front of the parliament, an institution whose mandate it is to protect lives and rights of citizens.
Who supports us? Judging from the people who show up at the protests and those who follow us online, most seem to be in their late teens/early 20s to early 30s (around 65% of our Facebook followers) with significant percentages from older age groups, especially 35-44. The vast majority of viewers live in Lebanon with the minority living in Lebanese diaspora communities in Saudi Arabia, UAE, USA, France etc.
This tells us that there’s a lot of hope invested in this movement, which in turn puts a great responsibility on our shoulders. But we know that we can’t do everything on our own. We’re already overstretched as it is. There are many issues that need to be dealt with. How can we make our methods of communication more effective? How can we target everyone, and not just the Middle Class? How can we also include people from Tripoli, Tyre, Saida, Chouf, Bekaa and Nabatiyeh, and not just Beirut and Mount Lebanon?
We’re already trying to tackle these issues. We are, for example, helping organize buses from Tripoli, Akkar and Chouf for tomorrow. We are in touch with municipalities and local initiatives across Lebanon in order to help us reach more people from all walks of life.
What we have built isn’t perfect. It still needs work. But it’s here now and it’s here to stay. What can you do to make it better? What can you do to include your community in this movement to make Lebanon green again? Help us help everyone.
Why should you join us Saturday the 22nd at 6pm at Riad El Solh? We are well-organized, our demands are clear and we are fighting for everyone’s rights. Everyone’s, including yours.
This won’t be our first protest, but it will hopefully be our largest. We managed to reach 4,000-5,000 last week. Let’s reach 10,000 and 20,000 this time, and more.
Video Gallery from our Facebook Page.
Videos of the Waste:
Videos of Protests and Civil Disobedience: