The first 13 days

Lebanon erupts

Photo by Greg Demarque | Executive
Reading Time: 11 minutes

Day 1: Thursday, October 17

Protests erupt across the country

Protests begin in Downtown Beirut around 6 p.m., triggered by media reports earlier Thursday that cabinet had agreed on new taxes for the 2020 budget, including a tax on Voice over Internet Protocols (VoIP) that would have cost up to $6 per month for those using WhatApp calls or other VoIP apps. 

Initially, a few hundred protesters march from Downtown to Hamra and back to Riad el-Solh. As the news spreads, their numbers swell into the thousands. Clashes between protesters and bodyguards of Minister of Education and Higher Education Akram Chehayeb break out in front of Bank Audi in Downtown, with the bodyguards firing shots into the air. The photo that becomes the first icon of the protests is taken as protester Malak Alaywe kicks one of Chehayeb’s armed bodyguards in the groin. 

Reports begin to come in of spontaneous protests breaking out across the country, from Tripoli in the north to Sour in the south. Protesters burn tires, create bonfires, and block roads. Two Syrian migrant workers are killed after the Downtown Beirut building they are in is set alight. The government reverses their decision on theVoIP tax, but this response does not quell the protests. Progressive Socialist Party head Walid Jumblatt tells local media he would prefer to quit the government with Prime Minister Saad Hariri. 

Protests continue until the early hours of Friday morning when security forces start firing tear gas and protesters move out of Riad el-Solh and Martyr’s Square.

Protests and roadblocks in: Beirut (BCD), Tripoli (Tripoli), Saida (Saida), Zahle (Zahle, Chtaura,Taalabaya), Jbeil (Jbeil), Keserwan (Zouk Mosbeh), Baalbek (Baalbek), Sour (Sour), Nabatieh (Nabatieh el-Faouqa)*

Day 2: Friday, October 18

Protests shut down Lebanon, Hariri announces 72-hour deadline for reforms

Just after midnight, the education minister orders all schools and universities to close Friday. Lebanese wake up to find roadblocks paralyzing movement across the country and all banks closed. The airport highway is blocked by protesters, and travelers hitch rides into the city on the back of scooters or in army trucks. Activists call for a general strike. 

Both Jumblatt and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea call on Hariri to resign. A cabinet meeting planned for the afternoon is canceled. Gebran Bassil, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and foreign minister, speaks in advance of Hariri, says that the choice is chaos or reforms. Hariri speaks around 6:40 p.m. amid rumors circulating social media that he might resign. Instead he sets a 72-hour deadline for his political partners to convince him, the Lebanese, and the international community of reforms. Hariri warns that if there are no agreed upon reforms by the deadline he will take a different approach. 

Protests continue to intensify across the country. In Tripoli, local media reports two dead and others are wounded after bodyguards of former MP Misbah al-Ahdab shot into the crowd. Ahdab had tried to join the protests but had been pelted by water bottles from the crowd. In the south, there are chants, unprecedented in the region, calling Speaker Nabih Berri a thief. 

Security forces clear Riad el-Solh much earlier than on the previous day, around 11 p.m. Copious amounts of tear gas are used in the square, with women, children, and peaceful protesters still there. Reports say that the Lebanese Army and Internal Security Forces (ISF) use force against protesters and arrest dozens. A concertina wire fence is put up blocking the Grand Serail from Riad el-Solh. It is announced that banks are to remain closed Saturday.

Protests and roadblocks in: Beirut (BCD),Tripoli (Tripoli), Metn (Daoura, Sin el-Fil), Zahle (Chtaura, Zahle), Jbeil (Jbeil), Keserwan (Aqaybe, Zouk Mosbeh),Saida (Saida), Baalbek (Baalbek, Britel, Rayak), Nabatieh (Nabatieh el-Faouqa), Aley (Bhamdoun el-Mhatta, Masnaa), Shouf (Jiyeh

Day 3 Saturday, October 19

Protests continue to grow, with violence in Sour; Nasrallah backs cabinet

n Beirut to clean up damage caused by rioting the evening before. Reports come in that armed Amal supporters are violently attacking protesters in Sour, in response to anti-Berri chants and protests at the office of two Amal MPs. Al-Jadeed TV receives direct threats. In Tripoli, protesters begin chanting in solidarity with protesters down south. 

Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nashrallah addresses his followers and those out protesting. He warns against the resignation of the government and says that reforms must be made by the current government as Lebanon cannot afford the time to form a new one. He also says if Hezbollah were to join the protests they would be forced to stay until all their demands are met. Responding to his speech, protesters in Riad el-Solh begin chanting, “All of them means all of them, and Nasrallah is one of them.”

Lebanese Forces announces the resignation of its four ministers, marking the first tangible success of protesters’ demands. 

In Beirut, the atmosphere of protests shifts as families increasingly join in the crowd, tents and food stands are set up in Martyr’s Square, and DJs play techno sets.  

Protests and roadblocks in: Beirut (BCD), Tripoli (Tripoli, Mina), Metn (Daoura, Sin el-Fil, Jal el-Dib), Saida (Saida, Zahrani), Jbeil (Jbeil), Keserwan (Adonis Keserwan), Sour (Sour), Nabatieh (Nabatieh el-Faouqa, Nabatieh el-Tahta, Habbouch, Kfar Roummane), Aley (Khalde, Aramoun, Bchamoun, Qubbat Choueifat, Kahaleh), Shouf (Deir el-Qamar, Jiyeh, Ketermaya), Zahle (Chtaura), Batroun (Batroun, Chekka, Hamat), Akkar (Halba), Marjaayoun (Marjaayoun), Zgharta (Zgharta), Baabda (Ouzai, Chiyeh), Koura (Kousba, Anfeh, Dahr al-Ain, Kfar Hazir, Amioun), Hasbaya (Hasbaya), Hermel (Hermel

Day 4: Sunday, October 20

Huge turnout for protests as more families head to the streets

Hundreds of thousands of protesters across the country express their will and frustration on the streets and major squares in various cities; some media estimates put the overall number at close to 1 million. This is the largest day so far for these protests, which maintain a national, non-sectarian character—only Lebanese flags are waved. 

Some of the largest crowds, found in Martyr’s Square and Riad el-Solh, are compared to the March 2005 protests in which protesters called for the end of Syrian presence in Lebanon. In Tripoli, thousands flock to Nour Square, where Lebanese singer Marcel Khalife joins protesters in singing some of his songs. Buses transport protesters from the Bekaa to Beirut. In Jal el-Dib, hundreds of protesters begin to gather on the main highway and the overpass, with the crowd swelling throughout the day. 

Roadblocks are maintained across the country. 

Protests and roadblocks in: Beirut (BCD, Ashrafieh), Tripoli (Tripoli), Metn (Jal el-Dib), Saida (Maghdousheh, Saida, Zahrani), Zahle (Zahle, Rayak), Keserwan (Adonis Keserwan, Ghazir), Baalbek (Nabi Osamane), Sour (Sour, Abbassieh), Nabatieh (Kfar Roummane, Nabatieh el-Tahta), Shouf (Jiyeh, Deir el-Qamar, Baakline, Kfar Him), Batroun (Chekka), Akkar (Halba, Zouk el-Hosniye), Marjaayoun (Deir Mimas), Koura (Kousba, Kfar Hazir, Bsarma, Kfar Aaqqa), Minieh-Danieh (Beddawi

Day 5: Monday, October 21

Hariri announces reforms, protests and roadblocks continue

The first day of reckoning for the political establishment arrives, as Hariri’s 72-hour deadline draws to a close. Early in the morning, protesters once again return to Downtown Beirut to clean up from the night before. Protests throughout the weekend had drawn large crowds, but numbers in Beirut on Monday do not pick up until after 5 p.m., in spite of renewed calls for a general strike. Access to Beirut via main highways is severely restricted as roadblocks continue. 

Around 3 p.m., Hariri announces a list of 17 reforms approved by cabinet that propose to cut the deficit and expedite long overdue administrative reforms without increasing taxes on the people. Protesters, who had called for Hariri’s resignation, are unconvinced, and demonstrations swell in size across Lebanon following Hariri’s speech.

In the evening, a convoy of men on mopeds carrying Amal and Hezbollah flags make their way toward Downtown but are prevented from reaching the protests by the Lebanese Army. Both Amal and Hezbollah later deny having any involvement.

Protests and roadblocks in: Beirut (BCD, Saifi), Tripoli (Tripoli), Metn (Sin el-Fil, Jal el-Dib), Saida (Ghaziyeh, Saida, Zahrani), Zahle (Rayak, Zahle el-Midan), Jbeil (Jbeil), Keserwan (Jeita, Achkout, Zouk Mosbeh, Bouar), Baalbek (Douris), Nabatieh (Kfar Roummane, Habbouch), Aley (Choueifat Qubbat, Bchamoun, Aramoun), Shouf (Jiyeh), Batroun (Chekka, Batroun), Akkar (Halba), Marjaayoun (Deir Mimas, Marjaayoun), Zgharta (Zgharta), Baabda (Bir Hassan), Koura (Kfar Hazir, Anfe), Hasbaiya (Hasbaiya), Rachaya (Rachaya el-Wadi, Deir el-Ahmar), Minieh-Dinieh (Minieh)

Day 6: Tuesday, October 22

Slow start but protests pick up, Tele Liban stormed, NNA head fired

Protests are slow to start, but pick up in the evening as people got off work and hit the streets. As the day goes on, hundreds block the street facing Banque du Liban (BDL), Lebanon’s central bank, chanting that Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh is a thief; similar protests are staged in front of Tripoli’s central bank branch. A group of actors and artists storm the Tele Liban building, saying the station had failed to cover the demonstrations. 

The National News Agency (NNA) Director Laure Sleiman, who headed the NNA for 11 years, is dismissed. Minister of Information Jamal Jarrah appoints Ziad Harfoush as the new director of the NNA. The Ministry of Information, which the NNA falls under, is set to be abolished per Hariri’s basket of reforms. 

Protests and roadblocks in: Beirut (BCD, Mazraa, Hamra),Tripoli (Tripoli), Metn (Jal el-Dib, Dbayeh), Saida (Saida), Zahle (Zahle el-Midan, Masnaa), Keserwan (Nahr el-Kalb, Jounieh Kaslik, Ghazir, Safra, Zouk Mkayel, Aachqout, Jeita), Nabatieh (Kfar Roummane), Aley (Aley, Bhamdoun el-Mhatta, Sofar, Bhamdoun), Shouf (Jiyeh, Barja, Naame, Aalma el-Shouf), Batroun (Batroun, Chekka), Akkar (Halba), Koura (Majdel Koura, Anfe, Kousba), Sour (Sour), Hermel (Hermel), Minieh-Dinieh (Beddawi, Minieh) 

Day 7: Wednesday, October 23

Protests in Nabatieh turn violent

As their first week draws to its close, protests do not abate, and in Nabatieh turn violent, leaving 15 injured; one is taken to the intensive care unit. Amal denies any involvement in the clashes. In Beirut, protests in front of the central bank continue. 

Separately, Mount Lebanon State Prosecutor Ghada Aoun files an “illegitimate enrichment through subsidized housing loans” lawsuit against Bank Audi and former Prime Minister Najib Mikati, his son Maher, and his nephew Azmi, saying that she had the file prepared beforehand and that this move was not politically motivated. Mikati and Bank Audi deny “illegitimate enrichment” allegations against them.

Meanwhile, Hariri meets with Salameh over the financial and economic situation. Hariri also chairs a meeting of the ministerial committee in charge of financial and economic reforms. The committee studies a draft law on the recovery of looted public money and decides to request suggestions on this matter from the Supreme Judicial Council within a period of 10 days, NNA reported. 

Protests and roadblocks in: Beirut (BCD, Hamra, Ashrafieh), Metn (Sin el-Fil, Dbayeh, Jal el-Dib), Saida (Saida), Zahle (Zahle), Jbeil (Jbeil), Keserwan (Jounieh Kaslik, Jeita, Nahr el-Kalb, Bouar, Safra, Aachqout, Zouk Mkayel), Baalbek (Baalbek), Sour (Sour), Nabatieh (Habbouch), Aley (Aley, Bhamdoun al-Dayaa, Bchamoun, Choueifat, Khalde), Shouf (Naame, Jiyeh, Bhamdoun), Batroun (Heri, Chekka), Akkar (Halba), Zgharta (Zgharta), Baabda (Furn el-Chebbak), Koura (Kousba, Anfe, Kfar Hazir), Hermel (Hermel), Minieh-Dinieh (Minieh, Kharroub

Day 8: Thursday, October 24

Aoun addresses the nation

Having been silent for the first week of protests, President Michel Aoun addresses the nation, announcing that he will hold everyone who embezzled public funds accountable and that economic reform will save Lebanon. He also says that he is ready for “constructive dialogue” with representatives from the protest movement, which remains leaderless. His speech, which was pre-recorded, falls on deaf ears as protesters continue to occupy the streets. Key thoroughfares in and outside of Beirut remain closed, despite some scuffles between the army and protesters as the former attempts to reopen them. Videos of soldiers crying in Jal el-Dib circulate on social media. 

In Riad el-Solh, six protesters are taken to the hospital following clashes between members of a pro-Hezbollah group and anti-government protesters, according to the Lebanese Red Cross. 

The Association of Lebanese Banks (ABL) announces that banks will reopen as soon as the situation stabilizes. Schools and universities remain closed; some professors teach classes in public spaces. 

Following the Wednesday clashes between protesters and Nabatieh municipal police, five members of the Nabatieh Municipal Council announce their resignation. One member, Abbas Wehbi, says in a statement that he is against the “inhumane treatment of protesters.”

Protests and roadblocks in: Beirut (BCD, Ashrafieh, Mazraa, Ras el-Nabaa, Hamra, Ain el-Tineh), Tripoli (Tripoli), Saida (Saida), Metn (Jal el-Dib, Mkalles, Dbayeh), Zahle (Bar Elias, Saadneyel, Jdita), Keserwan (Zouk Mosbeh, Ghazir, Safra, Aqaybeh, Bouar), Sour (Sour), Nabatieh (Nabatieh el-Faouqa, Habboush), Aley (Sofar, Mansourieh, Khalde), Shouf (Barja, Jiye, Kfar Him, Beittdine, Naame), Batroun (Batroun), Baabda (Furn el-Chebbak, Aabadiyeh, Dahr el-Baidar), Minieh-Dinieh (Beddawi, Minieh)

Day 9: Friday, October 25

Nasrallah speaks for a second time, questions protesters’ motives

As protests continue across the country, Nasrallah speaks again, saying he refuses to accept the resignation of the government. In his speech, Nasrallah warns the country of a civil war and claims his intelligence services found evidence that the protests were being orchestrated and funded by certain embassies with hidden agendas. 

Hariri meets with Aoun and tweets: “I called the president of the republic and welcomed his call for the need to reconsider the current government situation through the constitutional mechanisms.”

Nasrallah calls for roads to be unblocked, but protesters are not swayed and remain in the streets despite aggression from Hezbollah supporters in areas including Sour, Nabatieh, and Riad el-Solh prior to Nasrallah’s speech. Chants in Hermel in the north demonstrate solidarity with their fellow Lebanese in the south. Meanwhile, supporters of FPM chief Bassil and President Aoun gather in Batroun amid army and security forces’ deployment and call for restoration of looted public funds. In Al-Fakiha in Lebanon’s east, protesters square off with Hezbollah supporters before riot police intervene.

Boxes are set up by civil society groups and some media outlets at protest sights for people to write down their demands. The Standard & Poor’s ratings agency puts Lebanon on “CreditWatch negative” warning that decline in foreign currency inflows “could exacerbate fiscal and monetary pressures.”

Protests and roadblocks in: Beirut (Ashrafieh, BCD, Hamra, Saifi), Metn (Jal el-Dib), Mazraat Yachouh), Saida (Saida, Zahrani), Zahle (Zahle, Bar Elias, Saadnayel, Jdita), Keserwan (Zouk Mkayel, Safra, Bouar), Baalbek (Douris), Sour (Sour), Akkar (Halba), Nabatieh (Habbouch, Kfar Roummane, Nabatieh el-Faouqa), Aley (Choueifat, Aley, Khalde, Aramoun),Shouf (Jiyeh, Naame, Barja, Sibline), Batroun (Batroun, Chekka), Zgharta (Zgharta), Baabda (Furn el-Chebbak, Dahr el-Baidar, Aabadiyeh), Minieh-Dinieh (Minieh, Beddawi)

Day 11: Sunday, October 27

Lebanese form a human chain across the country

A 171-kilometer “Lebanese Human Chain” is formed across the country, from north to south, by tens of thousands of Lebanese in an expressed manifestation of national unity. By around 3 p.m., the chain is complete, and despite some gaps, pictures of a manoushe that made it from north to south circulate on social media. Protesters move toward the public squares in Beirut, Tripoli, Saida, Sour, Nabatieh, Jal el-Dib, and Zouk Mosbeh, as well as in the Bekaa Valley and other areas across the country. Hundreds of Lebanese diaspora gather in cities like Sydney, London, and Montreal to show solidarity with the uprisings in their home areas. 

Sunday evening sees the closure of the ring again, this time with protesters bringing in couches, rugs, a refrigerator, and a desk to set up camp.

Lebanon’s Public Prosecutor Judge Ghassan Ouiedat issues an order banning traders and money exchangers from transporting significant amounts of dollars across borders out of Lebanon.

Protests and roadblocks in: Beirut (Ashrafieh, BCD, Hamra, Corniche el-Nahr), Tripoli (Tripoli), Metn (Jal el-Dib, Dbayeh, Sin el-Fil), Saida (Saida), Zahle (Jdita), Jbeil (Jbeil, Nahr Ibrahim), Keserwan (Safra, Ghazir, Aaqaybe, Zouq Mkayel, Nahr el-Kalb, Jounieh Kaslik), Nabatieh (Kfar Roummane), Aley (Aley), Shouf (Barja, Naame), Batroun (Batroun, Chekka, Kfar Aabida), Akkar (Halba, Abde), Baabda (Tahouita, Aabadiyeh), Koura (Kfar Hazir, Kfar Aaqqa), Hasbaiya (Hasbaiya), Minieh-Dinieh (Beddawi), Jezzine (Aarqoub), Bint Jbeil (Bint Jbeil)

Day 12: Monday, October 28

Rain does not quell protests, Jal el-Dib highway blocked by cars

With storms across Lebanon, protest turnouts are smaller than they had been previously when weather conditions had been mostly sunny, however, significant numbers are still out braving the storm. In Riad el-Solh, a group of protesters in ponchos dance the dabke in the downpour. A small group of protesters crosses the barrier of barbed wire that separates Riad el-Solh from the Grand Serail; they quickly return to the main square. 

Riot police are more heavily deployed to the area, and more protesters show up in the square later in the day. 

Roads throughout the country remain blocked with cars, tires, and protesters holding intersections. An image circulated on social media and in WhatsApp groups encouraging people to use their cars to block roads after increased efforts from security forces to keep them open. The furniture blockade on the ring continues, with protesters diverting traffic toward Ashrafieh off the bridge. Police presence remains heavy in Downtown.

The lift on banking secrecy of FPM ministers and MPs is implemented.

Protests and roadblocks in: Beirut (Hamra, BCD, Saifi, Ashrafieh), Tripoli (Tripoli), Metn (Jal el-Dib, Dbayeh) , Saida (Saida), Zahle (Saadnayel, Zahle), Keserwan (Zouk Mosbeh, Ghazir), Baalbek (Baalbek), Nabatieh (Nabatieh), Aley (Khalde), Shouf (Jiyeh, Naameh, Deir el-Qamar), Batroun (Chekka, Batroun), Akkar (Halba), Baabda (Furn el-Chebbak), Koura (Kfar Hazir), Minieh-Dennieh (Minieh)

Day 13: Tuesday, October 29

Hariri resigns “in response to the will and demand of the thousands of Lebanese demanding change;” violence on the ring and in Downtown

The prime minister’s office of announces that Hariri will deliver a statement at 4 pm. An hour ahead of the address, Hezbollah and Amal affiliates incite unprovoked violent clashes against protesters. Their aggressions target foreign and local journalists and camera crews. Journalists and photographers covering the events say that riot police and army intervened only with delay to separate the attackers and protesters. The group of attackers, shouting slogans that identify them as Hezbollah and Amal supporters, moves on to Riad el-Solh and Martyr’s Square, attacking people with sticks and pipes and destroying the tents and infrastructure that protesters had set up, while security forces watch but do not intervene. When police and military later establish commanding presence and disperse the anti-protest group under use of tear gas, protesters return to clean up tents, and one group sets up a table to hand out food to those working to rebuild the protest camp. 

Just after 4 p.m., nearly two weeks into protests that have gripped the entire nation, Hariri announces his resignation in a live address; under the Lebanese constitution this means the resignation of the entire cabinet. He quotes his father, the late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri by saying, “No one is above his nation.” Afterwards he heads to Baabda Place and hands his written resignation to President Aoun, who accepts and the next day issues a decree to keep the government on in a caretaker capacity until a new government is formed. Under the constitution, parliamentary consultations are to be held to nominate a new prime minister, who will then be responsible for forming a new cabinet. Protesters have called in the past two weeks for a cabinet of technocrats and are seeking early elections under a new, nonsectarian electoral law that they say should be held within six months. 

Protests and roadblocks in: Beirut (BCD, Ashrafieh,Hamra), Tripoli (Tripoli, Bahsas), Saida (Saida), Zahle (Zahle, Qab Elias, Jdita, Saadnayel), Jbeil (Jbeil), Keserwan (Ghazir, Bouar, Aaqaybe Keserwan, Safra, Zouk Mkayel), Sour (Sour), Aley (Sofar, Aley, Khalde, Mansourieh), Shouf (Barja, Sirjbal, Naame), Batroun (Batroun), Baabda (Tahwita, Aabadiyeh, Chouit, Cite Sportive), Koura (Kfar Hazir), Minieh-Dinieh (Minieh, Beddawi)

*Protests and roadblocks list is structured by caza, and the locations in caza are shown in brackets. Locations in bold indicate first protest in a city from day two. Source of data: Lebanon Support.

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