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Lebanon: Protesters launch the ‘National Civil Front’ in efforts to continue revolution

July 16, 2020 at 1:30 pm

Lebanese protesters in the northern port city of Tripoli on 28 April 2020 [IBRAHIM CHALHOUB/AFP/Getty Images]

A coalition of Lebanese protesters, including activists, academics and lawyers, have joined forces to create the “National Civil Front” in hopes of pushing forward the aspirations of the 17 October uprising.

The group, which met last night under the title “The Revolution is Ongoing”, according to local media reports, was launched as a “comprehensive national framework to coordinate efforts in order to achieve the revolution’s demand”.

During the meeting, which took place behind closed doors, participants drew up a list of demands based on reforms protesters called for in October.

The list of requests were quoted by Arab News as, “to form a government of independents, hold early parliamentary elections, ensure the independence of the judiciary, implement structural and sectoral reforms, ensure Lebanese sovereignty and regional and international legitimacy, set the path for the establishment of a civil state, and build a productive and sustainable national economy.”

The new organisation reportedly listed the establishment of an independent judiciary and the implementation of a social safety net as the most pressing of the demands.

The formation of the new group comes nearly seven months after the current cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Hassan Diab, was created.

READ: Hezbollah files official complaint against US envoy

In January, Diab promised the new and ostensibly technocratic government would implement meaningful reforms to meet protesters’ demands and unlock $11 billion in conditional CEDRE aid pledged in 2018.

However, following Lebanon’s first sovereign default on a $1.2 billion Eurobond debt repayment in March, the situation in the country has gone from bad to worse.

The government has struggled to make meaningful headway in bailout talks with the IMF or stem the currency collapse. Though officially pegged to the US dollar at 1,507.5, the Lebanese lira has been trading at 9,000 to $1 in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, food prices have risen exponentially, garbage has piled up on streets and electricity outages have become increasingly frequent and long.

The ‘National Civil Front’, however, is not the only civil society organisation aiming to tackle the problem. On Monday, a group of press freedom watchdogs and human rights organisations announced the formation of a “coalition to defend freedom of expression in Lebanon”.

Participants said they had “documented an alarming increase in attacks on peaceful speech and expression” which had “further escalated” after the outbreak of protests late last year.

The group has called on the government to reform freedom of expression laws, prevent security forces, including the army and police, from levying defamation lawsuits and stop the practice of trying civilians and children in military courts.

READ: Freedom of expression is under threat in Lebanon