Thawra - The Protesters

Project Statement

On 17 October 2019, civil activists started protesting against new proposed taxes in and around downtown Beirut, blocking important streets and demanding basic services and accountability from the government, which had been marred by corruption for years. The protests (thawra) were initially triggered by the instatement of a tax on the free application WhatsApp that most Lebanese from all walks of life and economic backgrounds use as the prime means of communication. However they quickly expanded into a country-wide condemnation of a stagnant economy, unemployment, widespread corruption, sectarian rule, and numerous failures of the government to provide basic services such as electricity, water and sanitation. The movement was a cross- sectarian grassroots movement that has not been directed by any political party, and it quickly expanded to different cities and towns across Lebanon.

The protests were peaceful and led by a passionate young generation and women.  Art flourished across cities in form of graffiti, wall art, and sculpture.  The movement was young, pure, inspiring, and beautiful.

I was in Lebanon in November 2019, just a couple of weeks after the initial eruption of the protests.  I was in awe of what I saw: a peaceful movement led by a younger generation from all different religious, social, and economic backgrounds, and by women.  From a “Joelle” to a “Zahraa”, a “Kevin” to a “Mohammad”, the country was unified, and it was beautiful and inspiring to witness.

Many in my generation had emigrated for better opportunities when possible – those young people were staying and not giving up on Lebanon. They were fighting to save the country and make it a better place.  They were demanding it all and nothing less than a new political system free of corruption and sectarianism.

I started making portraits of the women and the young generation that so inspired me: the faces of the revolution.

The protests came to a halt with the onset of the Coronavirus and the country being put on lockdown.  Things will eventually change but will take time.  A movement was started.