Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A unity call to the Hirak

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To every activist, group and NGO involved in the Lebanese citizens movement, commonly known today as the Hirak.

The Hirak was effectively born on August 22 when thousands of Lebanese took to the streets to denounce the corrupt political establishment and demand an environmental solution to the garbage crisis.

Despite some differences of opinions about slogans, priorities and means to reach our demands, the movement remained united and grew stronger.

It culminated on August 29, when tens of thousands gathered in Martyrs Square.

Everything went astray after that, divisions appeared then deepened, popular support – even if it remained strong in principle – grew weaker in its effective participation in the different actions led by the different groups.

I personally voiced many times my criticism of some actions I believed were erratic and hurtful to the cause, and even doubted the intentions of several activists and groups, especially when demands started to move away from the increasingly dangerous garbage issue.

And I know that many of the activists and groups I criticized were not very pleased with me either.

Furthermore, different groups appeared to have different priorities and we’ve witnessed them overbidding each other to steal the media limelight.

All this must stop. All this must be put behind us. All our differences must be put aside, and we must all unite. Immediately.

This is not an emotional call, but rather a pragmatic one. If we don’t unite we will have no chance whatsoever to succeed. Lebanon needs us to succeed, we have no other choice, failure is not an option.


Today, two facts are indisputable:

1- The current political establishment has proven its complete incapacity to run the country and answer the basic needs of Lebanese citizens.

2- The garbage crisis has reached a very dangerous point. The immediate removal of garbage is a matter of life and death. Anything else will be a call for mass suicide and the slow destruction of Lebanon.

Obviously we can’t just suddenly love one another and agree on everything. This is not what is required of us.

We will all need to meet in a convention of sorts, activists, groups and NGOs alike, discuss all issues in depth, and agree on a clear road map.

A roadmap that will start with a long-term eco-friendly resolution of the garbage crisis and will end with the next parliamentary elections.

These elections will trigger the process of replacing the current political establishment with less corrupt, more competent personalities and civil servants.

Different activists and groups of the Hirak have different field of expertise. Some have a long experience in protest organization, some have built a good and efficient relationship with the media, some are communication professionals, while others have a good knowledge of mobilizing citizens, etc.

All this should be put to good use by dividing duties and responsibilities according to expertise, so the implementation of the agreed roadmap will be as efficient as possible.

This convention will obviously take some time to organize, to meet and to reach a united roadmap we will all abide by.

The pressing urgency of garbage removal cannot wait that long.

While we start to organize this convention, we need to show our unity and our determination in our demand for the garbage to be immediately removed before the situation worsens.

To do that, I propose the following:

1- All activists, groups and NGO to join and support (even symbolically) the white march organized by Tol3et Re7etkom on Thursday October 29.

2- To call for a very large silent sit-in on Sunday November 1st in Martyrs Square.

Why silent? Because the time to talk, shout and argue is over. Now it’s time to act. And as the popular wisdom says: silence speaks louder than words.

We should aim and work towards a massive popular participation to this silent sit-in. In order to do that, people need to be assured that the sit-in will be peaceful, non-political and very well organized, with zero tolerance towards anyone who would want to start trouble.

It therefore should be limited to one location only: Martyrs Square, and it should avoid any individual or mass movement towards the Grand Serail or the Parliament, and any clash with the security forces.

We should call all citizens to join in, partisans and no-partisans alike, all under the sole Lebanese flag and one unique demand: the immediate removal of garbage.

The question today is not which plan is better, but what do we prefer: for our streets and forests to be still full of garbage as the rain increases, or not?

The answer to that is very clear. Who would dare to say I prefer the garbage to remain everywhere until an ideal solution is found? No one in his or her right mind would.

For this sit-in to be more than just an expression of anger and frustration, and to lead to concrete results, we will need to make it very clear that this is the last chance both government and political parties have to take their responsibilities, do their job and remove the garbage, before we move to a properly organized and lasting general strike.

I will start making all necessary contacts with all relevant parties to advocate for a “Hirak Convention” to take place, and to mobilize for next Sunday's sit-in to happen.

I urge everyone involved in any way in the Hirak to do the same.

Lebanon needs us, failing it will mean failing every single one of us, every single man, woman and child, every single Lebanese citizen.

And failing is not and cannot be an option.

© Claude El Khal, 2015

Read the Arabic version

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