The first article called “New Paradigms of Popular Sovereignty in the Wake of the Arab Uprisings” by Paul Amar explains all the different forms of sovereignty that were happening in the Arab world. They look at a variety of paradigms which focused on authority, imperialism, history, repression, etc. One of the articles mentions the feminist organization and how they continuously fought back against the state to change moralism regardless of consequences.
The second article explains the issues that arises due many places being regulated and privatized by the mayor. One of the cities largest park was even closed due to it being believed it would cause unwanted “political violence”. While reading the article I also learned how most of the state has regulation throughout the state by “privatization” of land. There are many places that have been closed to the general public and made private for example the Corniche which is a historical urban city is now commercialized and the marina called Zaytuna Bay as well. Putting so much restrictions on land that was public at one point puts a sense of sovereignty in the State and helps keep the citizens under control.
The third reading we had to look at was on the trash issue in Lebanon. Before looking into the #YouStink campaign I never had heard of the movement and uprising that occurred in Lebanon during August 2015. The images that were taken and shown in the article really put into perspective the crisis the country was facing and how the government controlled its people. It is awful learning how other countries allow things like this to get so out of hand. The images showed how the police was shooting water out of canons and beating people them because they were rebelling against the trash issue. They wanted it removed because it represented the government failure and was causing health illnesses. Imagine if you lived in a country that would deny you basic rights?
Making Spaces for Communal Sovereignty: The Story of Beirut’s Dalieh
by Abir Saksouk-Sasso
In Paul Amar’s article, specifically Abir Saksouk-Sasso’s “Making Spaces for Communal Sovereignty: The Story of Beirut’s Dalieh,” the question of “to whom does Dalieh belong?” was brought up. Its absurd to know that the largest city in Lebanon, Beirut, only has one square meter per person of open green areas, as opposed to the minimum recommendation of forty square meters per person. This has resulted from the massive form of private exploitations of public spaces in Beirut, which in turn has led to a limited number of open spaces for the public and “almost only privatized spaces.” So what does this look like? It looks like a war for the ownership of Beirut, ownership through either privatized spaces or spaces for the public.
Spaces for the public should be “marked by free interaction and the absence of coercion of public institutions.” In other words, these public spaces should be with no form of coerced privatization involved. Hamad, Beirut’s mayor, reflected this notion of “coercing public institutions” when he stated that public spaces should be used only by the modernly “appropriate public/proper public.” This idea of the “proper public” means that people need to be “well behaved” in order to be in these PUBLIC spaces, which is completely ridiculous because it is such a degrading view.
Dalieh, which is the last surviving seaside community in Beirut, illustrates a powerful example of a space for the public. Dalieh has demonstrated how the PUBLIC, not the “proper public” which Hamad has deemed to be “worthy” of these spaces, have successfully managed and maintained this space without the sovereign state.
The fight for Dalieh has started because “sovereign” state has intervened and wants to privatized one of the last spaces for the public, Dalieh. As Abir Saksouk-Sasso argued, “everyday practices, as opposed to the state, determine, produce, and sustain urban public space in the city.” So, to whom will Dalieh belong?
The YouStink campaign targets removing the garbage that the Lebanon government refuses to acknowledge. The movement has an active website that is published in two languages to accommodate both the locals facing the issue and those who are interested in learning more. Not only does it provide their mission and what they stand for as a group but also have direct links to social media accounts that provide even more opinions and information. What amazed me were the pictures in the article written by Taylor. It was powerful to see not only the amount of trash just there in the open, but how the protesters are dealt with. They are hosed down, beaten, shot at, and injured fighting for sanitation in their homes. You think that the government would take action to help the people. They are asking for a simple thing, which is to pick up the trash. Without following through the spread of disease as a problem arises. I put myself in their situation and it sounds horrible: the thought that trash would just pile up in the streets.
The social movement in Beirut, mobilizing behind the hashtag #YouStink, began in the Summer of 2015, and calls for reform of Lebanon’s state infrastructure and an ousting of their current political leaders whom protestors argue are more concerned with capitalist corruption than the well-being of their own people. Following the privatization of Lebanon’s garbage collection services and the shut down of the country’s largest waste landfill, trash quickly began to collect on the streets of Beirut, leading protestors to organize in a call for government reform and the rights to a cleaner living environment.
The main source of government corruption in relation to #YouStink is the relationship between the Lebanese government and the waste management company Sukleen. Sukleen has been dumping garbage in public spaces, and the Lebanese government’s completely apathetic response to this crisis has left the citizens of Beirut open to the exposure of disease caused by the multitude of waste being left to decompose in the open. It has been suggested that Sukleen has been allocated state funds in order to act as the country’s leading waste management system, yet they have been apathetic and willing to exploit the garbage crisis in order to obtain a contract extension with the government.
Although the protests in support of #YouStink have aimed to be peaceful, violence has broken out as the government has sent out riot police with water cannons and rubber bullets as a response. Although #YouStink seems to resemble the activism and beginnings that we saw with the rise of the Arab Spring, its supporters seem adamant to distance themselves from being called revolutionaries.
Uprising in the Middle East has generated high controversies. They created models to fight against the social polarization of the political-economic contexts. Basically what they wanted was the down of the regime and in a way I can understand this because being young, trying to go into the “real world” working and becoming independent and at the same time facing what they see as absolutism and oligarchy. The only option they have is to go out on the streets and join each other as a group based on the trends and beliefs they share, to try and change their countries.
To this you can add the “#YouStink” campaign which activists participated complaining to the Lebanese government and accusing them of infecting the country with too much garbage. Activism happens everywhere and in Spain a year ago a crisis like this also happened and the garbage men stopped collecting all the garbage on the streets and these accumulated all over the cities of Spain. Activists ran out to the streets to complain however it never got as degrading as it did in Beirut in 2015. This is very shocking as people are not allowed to complain and speak their minds. It’s a two way thing but if the population would manifest in a peaceful way and the authorities would allow this then everyone will at least be free to say what they wish and at least feel like someone hears them. The way that it’s done in these countries just infuriates the citizens even more. Getting shot sprayed with a powerful water jet or even being beaten up by the police is not acceptable in any way what so ever. Reaching an agreement with the population where they don’t start a fire with anything and the police act more peacefully then maybe some solutions will be taken into consideration.
I have to admit that I hadn’t heard about the trash crisis in Lebanon before taking this class. Since most of the information on the youstink-website was in Arabic, I did a Google search to find out a bit more about the background of the movement. The garbage crisis seemed to be the proverbial straw to break the camel’s back as the country has been struggling with other issues such as intermittent power and water supply, sectarian conflict and the inability to elect a president. The latter two seem to be part of the cause for the trash crisis and therefore make targets for protest. Some might even go so far as to say that the trash is only the cover for the other ongoing conflicts.
Until now, Lebanon’s sectarianism had never sunk so low as to include waste. One is left to wonder whether the current crisis is actually about waste or if it is a sectarian conflict fueled by other factors. – Sami Nader for Al Monitor
In his article Sami Nader poses the question whether religiously divided landfills might solve the garbage crisis, a thought that might seem absurd to people living in Europe or the USA, but apparently religion even plays a role when it comes to trash. As a person that is not religious, but respectful of others’ beliefs, I am sad to read about this. Instead of everybody working together to solve a crisis, this seems like only helping the in- and rejecting the out-group. Even if that finally leads to the removal of garbage, the way of getting there cannot be celebrated as a victory.
Another interesting paragraph that I found was in a New York Times article about the Syrian refugees in Lebanon and the question on where life was worse. It is a strange question to consider which human rights violations and social issues one would rather be willing to accept.
Now, even Syrians fleeing war pronounce themselves shocked at the lack of infrastructure in Lebanon. Some of them, however, express a hint of jealousy that Lebanon’s weak state allows freedoms unavailable in Syria, where protests were crushed with deadly force. (Some Lebanese — especially those who support the government of President Bashar al-Assad — wonder why the Syrians revolted when they had free health care and college education, unimaginable in Lebanon.) – Anne Barnard for The New York Times
I furthermore found a satirical article as a form of digital activism. It appeared on a website that appears to be the Middle Eastern equivalent to the onion. The article was published a couple of days ago, which shows that the crisis is still ongoing.