When Malak Alawiyye joined protests on the first day of what came to be known as the October uprising, she did not predict that a video image of her kicking one of the armed bodyguards of Lebanese MP Akram Chehayeb would go viral. On October 17, people in Lebanon took to the streets shortly after the announcement of a new tax on Whatsapp, the most widely-used instant messaging application in Lebanon. With a national currency on the verge of collapse, an astronomical public debt, increasing austerity measures, and accumulating taxes on the already poor and dispossessed, the announcement of a Whatsapp tax was the straw that broke the camel’s back. In the weeks that followed, what started as outrage about deteriorating economic and living conditions turned into a national wave of cross-sectarian, cross-regional, and cross-class protests against political leaders and their cronies who have ruled the country and pillaged its resources since the end of the civil war in 1990. On that decisive first day, Alawiyye, along with hundreds of others, took to the streets in downtown Beirut to say that enough was enough. As protests turned violent when the bodyguards of Chehayyeb pushed through the converging crowds to make way for his car convoy, Alawiyye was captured in a mobile phone video of an eye-witness kicking a Kalashinkov-wielding man in the gut.
Author: Sara Mourad
Publication Date: 2020