As the Lebanese revolution enters a dark turning point, with its people now facing an unprecedented financial crisis, some citizens are trying to bring some light and hope to their compatriots with Muwatin Lebnene: a citizen's and solidarity initiative.
Every morning, as the sun barely rises and while the demonstrators are still asleep, a handful of people stand near the Martyrs’ Square, plastic gloves and rubbish bags in their hands. Their mission? Wandering the streets of Beirut to clean up the last rubbish left behind during the demonstrations. An initiative launched by a Lebanese man in the early days of the revolution.
This man is Peter Mouracade, director of the Beirut Marathon. “I was at home on October 17 and I was watching what was happening in the streets on the news: the people were hopeless by the inactivity of the political class and some young people were burning tires in the face of the rather violent police forces, which reminded me of yellow vests. It shook my stomach,” he says.
He decided to go down to the street, went to buy a box of gloves and a protective mask at the pharmacy, and left towards the city center “When I arrived there, there were a lot of damages and broken windows. About ten people were already picking up the rubbish, so I did the same and went through a kind of trance, picking up whatever I could find,” he explains.
Very quickly, he was joined by other citizens who came to help. Friends, but also onlookers.
A citizens’ initiative to recycle the waste of the revolution
After two months of protests, the small group of volunteers of the early days has now grown into a large organized community. Initially around a hundred, now 1300 have joined the movement. Among them, many Lebanese from the diaspora who participate in the material financing of the organization through online donations, such as the purchase of breakfasts, gloves or masks. “On the second day, a man who had worked with us the day before suggested me to open a WhatsApp group to organize us more easily and manage our logistical needs.”
Named Mutawatin lebnene (Lebanese citizens), the collective hopes to provide civic education by raising awareness around the respect of the environment, as its founder explains: “When there is no state as for now, it is the role of the citizen to support and repair the society. If we want to claim our rights and obtain a new regime, it is our duty to lead by example our own leaders.” A leitmotiv which inspired the slogan of its first operation “Let’s clean the road before we clean them” in reference to the will of the population to purge the political class.
In collaboration with local NGOs such as the Arcenciel association, it has gradually set up a sophisticated waste sorting system in a disused car park in order to send as much rubbish as possible to recycling centers. While on the first day of cleaning, only one truck was sent to the sorting center and nine to the landfill, on the 14th day the ratio had reversed in favor of recycled items. A collection since estimated at more than 10.3 tons of recyclable goods which even includes cigarette butts and plastic chicha tips that are reused in the manufacture of paddleboards.
Solidarity and support for the most disadvantaged
But the movement’s action is not only limited to the respect of the environment. After the first days of the strike, Muwatin Lebnene launched “Operation Respect” which aimed to clean the walls vandalized by demonstrators in some places of worship. “There was a lot of damage to the walls of the great cathedral and the mosque near Martyrs Square. Many of the demonstrators are believers and felt discriminated against by these insults so we decided to remove them in order to preserve the places of worship. Even though we respect the artworks of the revolution, which must be preserved and documented in the archives, the drawings that soiled those places were mostly insults against religious authorities, who are not even part of the political equation. ”
It also regularly organizes some already used clothing pick-up for people in need. A commitment that continues during the Christmas holidays with the special operation “Kais el aid” (Christmas boot) which aims to bring a little joy to the inhabitants of underprivileged areas in Tripoli, south of Beirut and Saïda through donations “With the revolution and the financial crisis, there is a lot of depression and suicides in Lebanon. We talk about 40 to 50% of unemployment. While Christmas is a time of hope, we decided to reach out to the more impoverished. In coordination with associations, we managed to find a small train that we will use to do a Christmas parade and distribute Christmas boots to the needy. For this, we are appealing for donations through the toter application. Clothes, food, and toys through a home pickup or a simple financial contribution.”