Lebanon: Balancing act in a turbulent region

August 29, 2015: tens of thousands of Lebanese gathered in Beirut to protest the country’s political paralysis; the protests were initiated by ‘You Stink’ movement that sprang out of rubbish removal problem in the capital (photo: dpa)
August 29, 2015: tens of thousands of Lebanese gathered in Beirut to protest the country’s political paralysis; the protests were initiated by ‘You Stink’ movement that sprang out of rubbish removal problem in the capital (photo: dpa)

This summer, the streets in many of Lebanon’s cities were not only scorching hot and humid, but also stank to high heaven. Rubbish collections stopped on July 17, when Beirut’s main landfill was closed, and the government has since been unable to decide on another disposal site. The paralysis is symptomatic of Lebanon’s political system, torn between two opposing factions and their foreign backers.

Fortunately, the response of ordinary people to the rubbish crisis was also typical, and says a lot about today’s Lebanon. Street protests were leavened by humour, as young Beirutis piled refuse in front of the home of Environment Minister Mohammed Machnouk. While marches on August 22-23 we...

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