Lebanon is swarming with protests that began over a proposed $0.20 WhatsApp tax but have since spiraled into chaos

Sam Tarling/Getty ImagesA protester waves a Lebanese flag at an anti-government demonstration on October 20, 2019 in Beirut, Lebanon.
  • Hundreds of thousands of people swarmed the streets of Lebanon over the weekend to protest governmental corruption in fiery demonstrations that swept the country’s largest cities.
  • People initially flooded the streets of cities like Beirut and Tripoli to protest a proposed tax of $US0.20 daily on calls via WhatsApp and other messaging apps on Thursday, but continued demonstrations over the next few days to push back on wider issues like corruption and poor infrastructure.
  • “We are not here over the WhatsApp, we are here over everything: over fuel, food, bread, over everything,” said Abdullah, a protester in Beirut told the BBC.
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Hundreds of thousands of people swarmed the streets of Lebanon over the weekend to protest governmental corruption after initially pushing back against a proposed daily tax on messaging apps like WhatsApp.

People flooded the country’s major cities, including Beirut and Tripoli, after the government announced a tax of $US0.20 on calls made via WhatsApp and other messaging apps on Thursday, the Times of Israel said.

Lebanon protestsAFP via Getty ImagesAn areal view taken on October 20, 2019, shows Lebanese protesters rallying in downtown Beirut, on the fourth day of demonstrations against tax increases and official corruption.

The government backtracked on the proposal within hours of the first protests, but activists pivoted to demonstrating against wider issues like government corruption and poor infrastructure.

“We are not here over the WhatsApp, we are here over everything: over fuel, food, bread, over everything,” said Abdullah, a protester in Beirut told the BBC.

Lebanon protestsSam Tarling/Getty ImagesProtesters dance at an anti-government demonstration on October 20, 2019 in Beirut, Lebanon.

The protests, which the BBC has called the country’s largest in five years, turned violent as police launched tear gas at the crowds, injuring dozens. According to the Times of Israel, crowds chanted “revolution” and “the people demand the fall of the regime,” a common protest phrase in parts of the Arab world.

On Friday, Prime Minister Saad Al Hariri said his country was going through an “unprecedented, difficult time” amid calls for him to step down over his handling of the country’s economic crisis, according to the BBC.

Tensions between the country’s working class and government officials have grown strained in recent years as approximately 1.5 million Syrian refugees have arrived in the country since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011.

According to the World Bank, the breakdown of Lebanese public resources has contributed to pushing approximately 200,000 additional Lebanese people into poverty and slowing the national GDP.

Citizens in the country often suffer electricity and water shortages, according to the Times of Israel.

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