Lebanon has long been a very strategic country despite its small size. Its borders with Syria and Israel and its unique communal set-up made it a special but fragile country open to foreign intervention. The unrest between the Muslim and Christian communities led to a long and painful civil war that began in 1975 and lasted for 25 years, claiming the lives of 100,000. Once known as the Paris of the East, beautiful Beirut is today changed beyond recognition both due to the civil war and the foreign intervention.
However, the country, despite its struggling economy and post-war situation, admirably hosts a very large number of Syrian refugees in addition to Palestinian refugees that sought shelter there after the Arab-Israeli conflict started.
During the Arab Spring, Lebanon managed to maintain its stability and despite the fact that its politics is largely dominated by certain families, it escaped unscathed from the destructive winds that left a trail of destruction throughout the Middle East.
At the moment, things are relatively calm, but political turmoil continues, as the country hasn't had a President since May 2014 due to political disputes.
Despite the election dilemma, the country held on to its stability for the most part, until recently, when a garbage landfill south of the capital was shut down. Since then the trash started piling up in the streets, causing the residents a good deal of distress and discomfort and very possibly, serious health concerns. Although the government has repeated on many occasions that they are working on a solution, the trash crisis led to a popular movement called ‘YouStink’, followed by a larger movement demanding accountability from the country's political leaders, which are seen by most as thoroughly corrupt.
Although more freedoms and better management of the country and seeing to it that it is free from corruption are natural demands, it is of paramount importance that both the people of Lebanon and political leaders act with great caution for the best interests of their country. We all have seen the destructive consequences of the Arab Spring, which also started with promises of more freedom, democracy and better living standards.
Neither Lebanon nor the region can afford to slip into a dangerous situation one more time. They need to carefully observe the situation and the consequences of similar movements in Syria, Libya, Egypt or Yemen. Furthermore, given its history of foreign intervention at its weakest, it would be incredibly risky to further weaken the country.
What the people of Lebanon should do is to embrace and spread a spirit of peace and solidarity from the bottom up. It is crucial that Muslims, especially the political parties abandon sectarian or ethnic divides and embrace each other on the basis of Muslim identity. They should see Christians and the Druze as people entrusted to them by God, and approach them with love and compassion. This beautiful spirit of love and common sense will give an important message to Lebanese politicians and encourage them to take more concrete steps in improving the country’s management.
Needless to say, the garbage issue and other problems the country faces needs to be resolved urgently. However, it is important that the beautiful people of Lebanon make their demands known with peaceful and democratic methods. Mass petitions, signature campaigns, rallies that are orderly, civilized and respectful to the authorities, appointments between the representatives of activist groups and relevant government agencies and TV interviews will help achieve quick and effective results. When people make their requests known through such peaceful, civilized and respectful methods, it is unlikely that any government would remain indifferent. It is crucial that the people of Lebanon do not resort to the aggression and rebellion, which can be considered a tradition in the Middle East now and continue to adhere by the principles of democracy.
In return, the government should take immediate action to solve the garbage problem urgently. After this step is taken, other reasonable requests of the people should be taken into account to create a more transparent, more efficient and more accountable system of governance that includes participation from all the groups in society. Following this, the political bottleneck regarding the presidential elections should be eliminated and a peaceful, all-embracing president who is respectful of freedoms and human rights must be elected to take the country off this dangerous journey down the path to self-destruction.
Both the good people of Lebanon and the suffering peoples of the Middle East need peace and stability. It would be a grave mistake for the people of Lebanon to embark on a risky adventure, especially given the recent examples around them.
We hope that this beautiful country, with its rich history and legacy, gets back on its feet very soon through peaceful and democratic means and that the good people of Lebanon can achieve the living standards they deserve.
Adnan Oktar's piece on Ekurd Daily: