Home | About LCPS | Contact | Careers
October 31, 2020
Why Did the October 17 Revolution Witness a Regression in Numbers?

 
Introduction
 
The October 17 revolution began with a huge momentum and a great desire for change. Protests and large-scale mobilizations led to the resignation of the government headed by Saad Hariri, which grouped most of the political parties that have ruled Lebanon for decades, something considered to be one of the successes of the October 17 revolution. A year later, Hariri is back in effect. This dramatic return follows the August 4 explosion in Beirut’s port that resulted in thousands of casualties and over 200 deaths. More than ever, It is important now, more than ever, to reflect critically on the October 17 revolution, understand how it is evolving, and what events led to the present moment.
 
On October 17, 2020, LCPS launched the first of a series of pieces asking social scientists with leading or active roles in the uprising to take stock of the October 17 revolution and the path ahead. We asked all contributors the same questions, which centered around the movement’s main accomplishments, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the August 4 explosion on mobilization, as well as the challenges and opportunities ahead. Their answers to each question are released in an article format.
 
After addressing the revolution’s top accomplishments (http://lcps-lebanon.org/agendaArticle.php?id=197) in our first piece, today we release the second piece, which focuses on why the October 17 revolution witnessed a regression in numbers even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Note that this question focuses in particular on the regression in numbers that preceded the pandemic and the August 4th explosion. The effects of the pandemic and the explosion will be addressed in future pieces. This project is co-organized with social psychologist and LCPS fellow Dr. Rim Saab, who offers a synthesis at the end of the piece.
 
Contributor list (in order of appearance)
Lyna Comaty, development studies specialist, and active member of the National Bloc
Ogarit Younan, sociologist, nonviolence strategist and trainer, and founder of the Academic University of Nonviolence and Human Rights
Carmen Geha, political studies and public administration scholar and activist
Mona Fawaz, urban studies and planning professor, previously active member of Beirut Madinati
Nizar Hassan, political researcher and commentator, co-host of the Lebanese Politics Podcast and member of LiHaqqi
Rania Masri, environmental scientist, activist, and elected representative of Mouwatinoun wa Mouwatinat fi Dawla
Sana Tannoury-Karam, Middle East history scholar and activist
 
Full biographies appear at the end of this piece.
 
Why Did the October 17 Revolution Witness a Regression in Numbers Even Before the Pandemic Began?
 
Lyna Comaty
This question assumes that the indicator of success of the revolution is in the number of people continuously mobilized on the streets, and I would like to challenge that. Contrary to party-led mobilizations, no one ordered a million people to take the streets in October, yet a majority of the population did. No one will be able to bring them back on the streets unless they collectively feel the need to.
 
In all social movements, taking to the street is one of the numerous forms of mobilization, and it has a specific momentum that can hardly be sustained over long periods of time. Indeed, mobilization strategies need to evolve into other forms, all the while keeping some kind of secondary pressure in the streets, and this is something we have not yet been able to achieve.
 
That being said, there has undeniably been a decrease in the scale of mobilizations for the past six to nine months, which is mainly caused by two factors: The economic crisis, and the repression exercised by the state. Regarding the latter, the state—and its parallel militia-like institutions such as the parliament police—has never been as violent in the use of force against peaceful protesters than in the past six months, in addition to the blunt violation of freedom of expression online and offline, and the judicial proceedings against activists. Another type of violence exercised by the confessional regime is the infiltration of party members and information services in the ranks of the street, which has a direct impact on the degree of violence witnessed in the mobilizations. Concerning the economic crisis as a reason for the decreasing mobilization, we cannot blame people for fearing for their income and choosing to work rather than taking the street in this current moment where mobilizations do not feel like an effective method of reaching an objective.
 
I firmly believe we need to think about alternative ways of voicing our demands.
 
Ogarit Younan
People anger and power building
Obviously, the number of people joining protests started decreasing before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, numbers do not always speak for themselves, and they do not carry positive or negative connotations in the absolute sense. They just relate to the type of actions we use to mobilize. Sometimes, a select few make a revolution possible, and other times larger numbers only manage to produce an illusory glimmer of a revolution.
 
We had hoped from the very beginning that a strategy could consolidate the uprising, which would pave the way for an organized revolution. In civil conflict methodologies, strategy is the channel that connects people’s anger with power-building”in the context of radical change. Reviving the feeling of anger amongst the oppressed is at the heart of a non-violent revolution, which is ultimately a revolution against the self, against oppression and against the oppressors. Those who revolt need strength rather than violence.
 
What happened unleashed anger, sometimes in non-violent ways and other times in unfortunately violent ways. However, it gave way for a revolution to emerge, with large numbers of protesters, and it started to shape the strategy, with powerful impetus, in order to achieve, affirm, and prove strength, what we call “an accomplishment of strength”.  
 
Since the necessary methodological process did not take place, in the absence of an organized strategy, matters unfolded in dispersed and chaotic ways and were sometimes done on a whim or an impulse. With time came an opportunity for analysis and assessment and for searching for a broader and more comprehensive political vision. This comes in contrast with the first moment of elation, joy, and spontaneous revolt. As a result, it was normal to see a disaggregation of the vast numbers into different types of groups, whose positions, strengths, or weaknesses need to be identified. Only at this stage can we assess the resulting numbers.
 
There are different reasons behind the decreasing numbers. Among those reasons was that spending too much time on forms of expression and protest can exhaust any social movement, leading to monotony and repetition with no specific and targeted “accomplishment of strength.” In this case for example, it was repeating the same style of marches, sit-ins, protests, taking to the squares, discussion sessions, festive events and evenings, use of social media, Saturday and Sunday activities, as well as repeating the same methods and forms of confrontation (peaceful or violent). All of these in the absence of an organized strategy that can strengthen the function of confrontation and build outcomes progressively lead to less people joining the movement. There is the urgent need for a concrete, achievable, and powerful achievement to enable perseverance in mobilization in stronger forms and in different ways. Another reason for the regressing numbers is violence, which can destroy everything, even the noblest of purposes and the beautiful image we have; it is the violence perpetrated by authorities and security forces that has exhausted, dispersed, terrified, and destroyed, but also violence by some protesters which has also exhausted, alienated, dispersed, and harmed. There is no comparison between the violence of an oppressor and that of the oppressed, but even if violence during the revolution was a mere reaction, violence remains violence, and it is never in our favor. Finally, he backgrounds and politicized interventions from both local and external actors also became clearer through time, and alarmed certain groups of protesters and impacted their presence in the squares.
 
All this caused the large and spontaneous numbers of protesters who were mobilized in the beginning of the uprising to retreat, question things, lose determination, and grow deeply frustrated. Others started choosing what suited them best in terms of how to participate in the revolution, or to retreat temporarily as some did to prepare for another phase in different ways, such as preparing individually or collectively for elections and power, preparing new organizations such as trade unions, committees and political parties, preparing new forms of coordination and coalition, among other things. Others proceeded instead to mobilize over more specific demands.
 
What happened in October 2019 was the result of cumulative struggles and a gradual build-up of active momentum within the society over the course of three decades. It is only normal for the movement to continue, but not with the same pattern. Yet, for me this is not a regressive phase, unless the protesters know something I don’t, and they don’t see themselves at their best, in which case of course we have a crisis.
 
I strongly believe that it is not possible to organize a revolution by continuing to adopt the same pattern of protest behavior, regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also not possible to retreat from the momentum that has been achieved in the course of this year. With these two things in mind, let us not forget that the potential for innovation is there.
 
Carmen Geha
I don't like this question although it is commonly repeated. The revolution uses the streets as one tool, a major tool, in putting pressure but it is not the only tool. In the context of financial bankruptcy, loss of jobs, depression, and a violent oppression from the state, numbers in the streets regress everywhere. In the anti-apartheid fight in South Africa, pressure on the regime did not come only from the streets, but they used strategic litigation and often small groups of candle light vigils to embarrass the government and open up the wounds of racial discrimination for the world to see. It was impossible after January of this year, in the middle of a winter storm, and as the Lira was devaluating to get ourselves to continue in the same direction. This affected the numbers of people protesting, of course, but it did not slow the momentum. Even after Hassan Diab’s government was formed, the closure of streets into parliament and the massive media campaign of “no trust” that different networks and groups endorsed is evidence that the street revolution had now turned into a strong opposition force, regardless if we still had no seat at the table.
 
Mona Fawaz
I don’t read the October 17 uprising as a single event. Rather, I see it as part of an ascending set of protests and mobilizations that have denounced the corrupt sectarian political system in Lebanon since 1990. There was a larger convergence of opposition currents in October 2019 that produced the powerful moments we witnessed then. These currents are however not well organized; there is no infrastructure to sustain their mobilization. Consequently, the uprising didn’t morph into a revolutionary moment that displaced the ruling powers. In fact, many of those who participated in the protests felt that while they may agree with the diagnosis (e.g., the corruption of the political class), they disagreed with the vision for change (e.g., the development model for the national economy, the national defensive strategy, Lebanon’s regional and global alignments, Lebanon’s moral responsibility vis-à-vis refugees). There was also a deliberate effort to protect a horizontal and leaderless mobilization among many organizers. Of course, one understands that impetus intellectually and to some extent tactically, and perhaps this is how ready organizers are. However, the continued insistence on maintaining a tactical position of opposition for months may well backfire since the possibility of a coherent movement on internal issues (such as social justice and anti-corruption) is increasingly displaced with the geopolitical dynamics that have visibly grown in importance in the past few months. It’s not that geopolitical forces were absent, but they were less in your face. And while the Lebanese agree on their internal diagnosis of widespread corruption, they are sharply divided on regional issues and what Lebanon’s position should be in relation to geopolitical considerations, including how it can/should defend its borders. In sum, I can quickly list five reasons for the movement to have lost steam:
 
  1. The calls for protests failed to coalesce into anything beyond an opposition. While many are willing to support an emerging movement, few are willing to put their faith into a mere opposition months later, when the country is in free fall.
 
  1. The regional/geopolitical dimension of the conflict has gained visibility and importance. This of course is disempowering because as citizens, we feel we have power and voice in relation to our internal leadership, but we feel way more disempowered vis-à-vis the US, Saudi Arabia, France, Turkey, or Iran. In addition, Lebanese citizens are divided in regional readings and allegiances, and this division is increasingly wedged as US sanctions are deployed, so the sense of unity turns into a dividing rhetoric and the fear of a war rises.
 
We should not forget that there has been a lot of labor put in forming these divided trenches, for at least a decade. On the one hand, supporters’ allegiance to Hezbollah has rested on a shared worldview about the critical role that the party has played in protecting national borders and consequently their livelihoods (my earlier work as well as that of Mona Harb and Lara Deeb examine the collective culture that was constructed to promote support for the party). Even if they recognize corruption within the ranks of the party, many supporters will still fold behind its ranks as long as they don’t see a convincing “defense” strategy. It is noteworthy that the “fear” and what one needs to be defended from has expanded and shifted over the years.
 
On the other hand, many “civil society” NGOs have received funding from US and European sources and signed pledges that they will not involve in activities with any individuals related to Hezbollah. These trends were documented, for example, by Caroline Nagel and Lynn Staeheli who wrote about the development of organizational experiences and collective identities which a-priori exclude the possibility of dialogue with groups affiliated to this party. As US sanctions deepen Lebanon’s economic and financial downfall, it comes as no surprise that how to deal with Hezbollah becomes a central division even among those who may have protested in October 2019, ultimately consolidating wedges in the ranks of the organized youth. While many are aware of the divide, they have been unable to bridge it. As a result of these divisions, many Lebanese people now read the “revolution” as a “camp” in the Lebanese divisions, one that may claim independence from the political class but in practice comes closer in its worldview to tolerating some pieces of the political class more than others. I am not endorsing these accusations of the revolution. I am only highlighting this important divide, because it has helped push away many protestors from the ranks of the visible opposition or prevented them from joining the mobilized groups.  
 
  1. The political class deployed its typical rallying strategies and ultimately, many of those who were reconsidering for a (short) while their sectarian allegiances have found that the sectarian protection remains the strongest card they can rely on, no matter how shaky it is. They may recognize their leaders as corrupt in private, but will maintain allegiance so long as no alternative protection for their livelihoods is secured. After all, the constructed allegiance is both ideological (e.g., need for protection) but also economic (with jobs and subsidies for instance).
 
  1. Many of the members of the middle-class that I know were involved in the protests are looking for alternatives outside the country for their families now. They no longer can invest in mobilization given the loss of income. Since the explosion, those who can consider the option are looking to leave the country altogether. They realize that the system is more entrenched and the tragedy more complicated than they first thought and they are looking for an out.
 
  1. The violence with which protests were met discouraged many people from participating. I think the violence around December 2019 and then this past summer, especially on August 8, was excessive and deliberate.
 
That said, hope is not dead. We may well witness new forms of organization and mobilization in the months to come, and they may take the form of advocacy groups, electoral campaigns, but also a lot of anger outbursts.
 
Nizar Hassan
The regression in the number of protesters is only natural after an uprising of the kind of the October 17 movement, regardless of any pandemic or similar crisis. The uprising exploded pretty much all of a sudden, and was built on a rather weak foundation for mobilization; there were few to no grassroots political network ready to transform the revolutionary action into sustained organizing. Undoubtedly, spontaneous grassroots networks were born in almost every area and ensured the continuity of the protests for a while, but the majority of those who participated in the first few days of massive demonstrations did not get seriously organized in any groups or parties, and stopped protesting at some point.
 
We should also remember that people got exhausted, and they could not keep postponing going back to life as usual. It is not reasonable to expect massive daily or weekly protests, and I think it is only normal that protest dynamics follow certain cycles. Add to this exhaustion, the worry about the economy that had been building up, and struck at least 99% of the country’s population one or two weeks through the uprising. This financial anxiety kind of “privatizes” grievance, and makes people more focused on the survival of their family and immediate surrounding, and less able to imagine collective solutions. You still have a battle against corruption and social injustice, but right now your mission has become to be a smart business person and know how to protect your savings from vanishing due to the Lira’s depreciation, save your little shop or ensure you don’t lose your job, and figure out a way to pay your dues. In such a context, it is not surprising that many people would be less interested in escalatory street action, and more eager for a sense of stability, safety, or relative advantage.
 
This converges with the counter-revolutionary agenda of the country’s oligarchs, who did whatever they could to defeat the uprising and resurrect sectarian and political divisions that ensure their continuity. Part of the counter-revolution was advancing intelligent propaganda against the uprising, especially its tactics such as blocking roads, the inclusion of profanity, among other things. The anti-thawra rhetoric started perhaps among small groups of partisans, but soon many of its talking points went mainstream, and this affected the general excitement for the uprising.
 
This excitement was also affected by the absence of a clear vision for what mass participation in protests can actually achieve. With the lack of a common goal, it would be weird for a movement to continue as ‘one thing’, and it is only normal that groups and activists get filtered by stances and priorities, and that each advances their vision and their strategies. This problem started with the resignation of Saad Hariri’s government and continues until today. What is the demand? Is it realistic? Does it change things fundamentally? How do we achieve the transition to a secular, fair, and transparent system? No one can claim that they have a perfect answer to these questions, and confusion is not the best basis for mobilization.
 
Rania Masri
Referring to the protests that erupted on October 17 as a revolution is a misunderstanding that can harmfully result in an overestimation of their ability to lead to change. Those who participated in the October 17 protests, or Intifada, did not represent one political viewpoint, and did not have a united understanding of the political situation. The protests declared a strong rejection, but did not present an alternative. People protested in outrage of the economic situation and of a decreased political trust in some, if not all, of the political sectarian authority.
 
A month after the protests began, in the face of the ever-deteriorating situation, uncertainty, fear, and fatigue replaced anger. All the while, the protests lacked a clear direction. While the Internal Security Forces cordoned off areas of the ‘public spaces’ in downtown Beirut, and thus reduced the sense of a carnivaland increased the feel of policing, the sectarian political authority sought to either co-opt the streets or to accuse the protestors of being led by foreign agents. The regime also created and encouraged people to adapt to a situation for which there is no coexistence, by asking for more time and patience. And so, we were given the government of Hassan Diab, a government that has proven itself to be incapable of taking any decision worthy of mention, and shown itself to be merely a facade for the sectarian political chiefs, This government did succeed in placating the anger of the protestors to a certain degree. Add to all that, the impact of the cold and the rain in February, further decreasing people’s willingness to protest.
 
Conversely, many old and new groups did attempt to keep the demonstrations going. The difficulty here was in proposing a clear, credible political alternative, and having that proposal be heard by the protestors themselves and by those who have since moved back to watching the mobilization from their homes. If people themselves had reached a political clarity of the enormity of the economic bankruptcy, and its repercussions on the sectarian political system, and if they had sensed a real political alternative, then they wouldn’t have left the streets, even amidst the rain and the cold, and the attempts of co-optation and placation.
 
Meanwhile, it is important to recognize that the protests arose as a response to the economic crisis and as a response to the decreased trust in the political authority. Those reasons remain true.
 
Sana Tannoury-Karam*
First, we need to understand that social movements do not emerge, they are built, over time and possibly space as well. Second, we need to be able to face the fact that such moments, such as October 17, cannot be defined unless in hindsight, which of course is problematic. Revolutions only seem inevitable retroactively. In this sense, October 17 cannot yet be defined; is it a social movement, a revolution, an uprising? And since we cannot define and name it yet, it is hard to try and understand its ebbs and flows.
 
While we should avoid falling into the trope of exceptionalizing Lebanon in any way, however, when considering any movement for change in Lebanon, we do have to take into consideration some of the specificities of the situation. Primarily, we have to understand the foundations of the state of Lebanon, not only its sectarian foundations which happen to be the ones most referenced, but also the socio-economic capitalist foundations that of course are entangled with the sectarian. Any movement against the establishment in Lebanon needs to address these foundations jointly. The problem with past movements in Lebanon had been either their inability to imagine a Lebanese state beyond the sectarian composition, or the divisions within the Left regarding the means but also the end result of a revolutionary struggle against the Lebanese system. Another setback for change has been the mere strength of the Right and of the establishment, and the extent of the foreign support that the Right received in the past to crush and defeat the Left. All these obstacles are not mutually exclusive and often combined caused obstacles to social and political movements against the Lebanese ruling regime.
 
What we should also keep in mind is the uniqueness of this experience of October 17, where the method chosen to demand change was not reformist parliamentary channels, but through mass strikes and demonstrations in the street. In its nature, this type of activism rises and falls, but as we are reminded by Rosa Luxemburg in her 1906 work on the mass strike, that “the most precious, lasting thing in the rapid ebb and flow of the wave is its mental sediment.” This mental sediment is what could be built upon through an organized movement.
 
* Dr. Tannoury-Karam was asked to answer a variation of the original question asking for a historical perspective on how social movements that oppose the establishment emerge or die out, with a focus on Lebanon.
 
Synthesis
In the present analysis, I try to capture the different perceived causes of demobilization according to our contributors to explain the regression in numbers in the October 17 revolution even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim is to get a picture of all the different perceived causes, without necessarily seeking to draw the shared narrative across the contributions. As such, I discuss the causes here regardless of how many contributors mentioned them.
 
Overall, our contributors attributed demobilization to factors that are both external to the October 17 protest movement and internal to it. I begin with the external causes of demobilization, which, save for the cold weather, all seem to fit under one bigger demobilizing factor: The counter-revolution.
 
External causes of demobilization
 
Direct state repression, exercised through violence against protesters by security forces, arrests of protesters, in addition to the silencing of activists through judicial proceedings against them.
 
Delegitimization and vilification of protesters, which involves accusing them of being led by foreign agents and condemning protest tactics like roadblocks and the use of profanity.
 
Divide-and-rule strategy: Political leaders have used the same age-old tactic of heightening existing sectarian and political divisions and raising fears of war, while portraying themselves as the ultimate and indispensable protectors of the sect against aggression from “the other”. It is important to mention how this divide-and-rule strategy feeds on regional and international conflict and power dynamics. One contributor points here to how developments in the ongoing regional conflict(s) are reflected on the internal Lebanese political scene, where ruling parties differ in their regional and international allegiances and alliances. In the face of growing regional tensions, the question of what Lebanon’s position on regional politics should be gains prominence, and this is a divisive issue for the Lebanese public. Foreign actors also play an active and significant role in demobilization. One contributor takes the deployment of US sanctions as an example of policies that exacerbate divisions, while another contributor points to foreign support of the Lebanese political establishment more generally as one of the main challenges which have historically undermined social and political movements against the system. Regional and international power dynamics can thus have a detrimental effect on: a) The collective identity of the movement as one of the people against the entire regime; b) the perception of the ruling political class as one single body exploiting the people, a perception that is fundamental to the “killon yaane killon” (“All of them means all of them”) revolutionary narrative; and c) people’s sense of collective agency as they feel disempowered against regional and international actors.   
 
Cooptation: This took two main forms.
 
- Cooptation of the street by ruling political parties, through their supporters joining the streets to settle scores between the different ruling political camps. This included infiltrators joining protests, resulting in the amplified use of violence. Cooptation served to undermine the identity and integrity of the movement as one that is against the entire ruling elite, leading to its portrayal at different points in time as a movement with factional political interests mobilized by parties from either the March 8 or March 14 camp, although the anti-Hezbollah label was most frequent. This reduced trust in the mobilizations that were taking place and influenced their appeal.
 
- Cooptation of the revolutionary discourse and agenda by ruling political parties. An important illustration of this is the decision to bring to power a “technocratic” government in January 2020, headed by Hassan Diab. One revolutionary demand was to have a government of politically independent experts. Diab’s government was intended to create an illusion of political change and placate some sectors of the population, who were asked to give this new government a chance. It was, of course, a false illusion since Diab’s government was neither politically independent of the ruling parties, nor was it in fact truly technocratic. Recognizing this, large protests tried, unsuccessfully, to prevent a vote of confidence by the parliament for Diab’s government.
 
The economic crisis: Increasingly difficult economic conditions had three consequences on mobilization. First, citizens had to now spend more time and energy finding ways to sustain themselves and their families financially (e.g. working more). Second, certain types of mobilizations that are financially costly (e.g. road blocking and strikes) became more difficult to sustain. Third, some citizens felt compelled to (re)turn to sectarian clientelism to secure their livelihoods in the absence of alternatives. Ultimately, the economic crisis can be considered yet another facet of the counter-revolution since this impoverishment is by no means accidental but the result of corruption and an economic system put in place by the oligarchy with the support of foreign actors, leading to the disempowerment of citizens by stripping them of resources that are vital for the initiation and sustainment of collective dissent.
 
The cold and rainy winter weather: While this is (hopefully!) not one of the counter-revolutionary methods deployed to demobilize, it constituted an important practical concern because it made it harder for people to continue using their main protest tactics, which involved mobilizing in the streets and the protest squares.
 
I now turn to the causes of demobilization that have to do with the protest movement itself, which I believe are all related and fall under one bigger factor, that of political organization
 
Internal causes of demobilization:
 
The lack of political organization: Many contributors mentioned that the uprising was spontaneous and suffered from a lack of political organization. One contributor points out that few political grassroots movements existed when the uprising started, and for many protesters, mobilizing during the uprising did not lead to large numbers joining existing or newly formed political groups or parties, thus negatively impacting the potential for sustained mobilization.
 
The absence of a shared political vision: Several contributors remarked that protesters and protest groups in the October 17 revolution were united in their rejection of the economic-political reality and the need for political change in the system, but they had no shared and well-developed political vision and alternative. Some of the main dividing lines, according to one contributor, include differences around national strategies relating to the economy, defense strategy, foreign policy (regional and global alignments), and refugees.
 
The prolonged leaderless-ness of the movement: This is as a double-edged sword, being advantageous at first as an oppositional tactic but disadvantageous in the longer run when there is a desire and expectation to take power.
 
The absence of a mobilization strategy: The absence of a strategy manifested itself in the over-reliance on mobilization tactics that were exhausting and unsustainable and which became routine (e.g. continuous street mobilization and roadblocks), and therefore lost steam. One contributor added to this the use of violence by some protesters, cautioning that though understandable, violence reduces the likelihood of protesters joining and is counter-productive to the movement itself.  
 
Taken together, the perceived causes of demobilization prior to the pandemic can be summed up into two main ones: Counter-revolutionary forces, and the lack of political organization. Accordingly, developing the strength of the October 17 movement would hinge on developing effective strategies to deal with counter-revolutionary factors such as direct state repression, divide-and-rule strategies, cooptation, and the effects of the economic crisis on the potential for mobilization. This requires, as several contributors stressed, the need for greater political organization, for a clearer and more elaborate political vision, and for rethinking mobilization strategy. Naturally, the external and internal causes of demobilization are not independent of one another. For example, repression makes it harder to organize. Importantly, however, it can also spur greater mobilization and provoke a backlash effect. Similarly, further economic deterioration can fuel more protests, and the growing number of unemployed citizens will eventually constitute an important resource for organization and mobilization.
 
In concluding, it is important to note that several contributors reject the reliance on protester numbers on the street for inferring the success or failure of the October 17 movement, pointing to three main reasons. First, the ebb and flow of street mobilization is normal and natural. Second, numbers on the street do not in and of themselves determine the success of a revolutionary movement, because radical change can sometimes be initiated by small groups on the street, but also, street mobilization is ultimately one protest tactic among several others. Mobilization has indeed taken various other forms over the last few months, such as litigation, labor union organization, and political party and political coalition formation. Third, the October 17 protests must be viewed as part of a history of civil resistance and opposition against the sectarian and corrupt political establishment, which has existed since the end of the civil war in 1990. As such, as long as the system that spurred this movement is still in place, the movement may witness ebbs and flows, but ultimately, rain or shine, it can only go on.
 
Biographies
 
Rim Saab
Rim Saab is an Assistant Professor in Social Psychology at the American University of Beirut. Her research expertise is in intergroup relations and political attitudes, with a particular focus on the social psychological factors that push people to engage in collective political action. Over the course of the revolution, she was a protester, an active member of the Association of Independent University Professors and a co-founder of a public teach-in initiative called Bedna Nthour Bedna Na3ref.
 
Lyna Comaty
Lyna Comaty is an active member of the National Bloc. During the first six months of the revolution, she was in charge of launching and implementing a citizen engagement platform for the party. She holds a PhD from the Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies in Geneva, and is author of “Post-Conflict Transition in Lebanon: The Disappeared of the Civil War” published with Routledge in 2019. Lyna lectures at the university level and regularly consults with local and international organizations. She is a founding member of the NGO Act for the Disappeared.
 
Mona Fawaz
I am a professor of Urban Studies and Planning and a Lead Researcher at the Beirut Urban Lab, both at the American University of Beirut. Between October and December 2019, I participated daily in the Uprising by giving/hosting teach-ins, learning by listening and exchanging with many people, organizing and participating in protests, conceiving/messaging informational content, and trying to coordinate and bring together movements to align positions and help build a coalition. I did so as a Member of Beirut Madinati (I resigned since then) as well as a researcher investigating the incestuous intersections between real-estate and finance and their negative impacts on people's lives.
 
Ogarit Younan
A pioneer intellectual and advocate of the Non-Violence education and action in Lebanon and the Arab world; Founder of AUNOHR University; www.aunohr.edu.lb. Younan is a sociologist, researcher and writer in human rights; Initiator of the interactive modern training in Lebanon, she created a specific method and concepts in social, educational and political training.
 
Rania Masri
As an elected representative of the political movement (Citizens in a State), I was organizing our presence and open political discussions in our tent in Al-Azarieh from the start of the Intifada. Since the closure of the tents, I have been meeting and coordinating various activities with other organized political groups in the Intifada, as well as writing articles, and building our own internal capacity.
 
Nizar Hassan
Nizar Hassan is a Lebanese researcher, political organizer, and commentator. He co-hosts The Lebanese Politics Podcast, and has published articles and opinion pieces on Lebanon with several Arab news outlets. He is a member of the progressive grassroots political organization LiHaqqi, where he has served on the Public Affairs Committee. Nizar conducts socio-economic research with the Arab NGO Network for Development, and has previously worked as a Policy Researcher at LCPS. He holds a B.A. in Political Studies and a Diploma in Media Communications from the American University of Beirut, and a Master's degree in Labour, Social Movements and Development from SOAS in London; where he wrote his dissertation on the 2015 protest movement in Lebanon.
 
Sana Tannoury-Karam
Sana Tannoury-Karam is a writer and a historian of the modern Middle East, working on a book on the cultural and intellectual history of the Lebanese left during the Mandate period. She is currently a EUME fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin. Her work has appeared in a range of publications including the Journal of World History, Jadaliyya, Megaphone, and Trafo Blog. Tannoury-Karam was active among university professors and professionals during and following the Lebanese October Revolution.
 
Carmen Geha
Dr. Carmen Geha is an Associate Professor of Public Administration, Leadership, and Organizational Development at AUB. Her research expertise is in political institutions, power-sharing, women’s representation, civil society and protest movements. She is also a Co-Founder and Research Associate at the Center for Inclusive Business & Leadership (CIBL) for Women, a trans-disciplinary regional force for advancing inclusive employer policies across the Arab MENA. Carmen was Founding Director for “Education for Leadership in Crisis” scholarship program for Afghan women at AUB. Carmen is an activist working towards gender-equality, refugee protection, and freedom of expression. During the revolution, she was a protestor and took part in mobilizing, analyzing, and strategizing with several movements and political groups.







Copyright © 2021 by the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, Inc. All rights reserved. Design and developed by Polypod.