Bag, Flag, Water, Phone

What is going to happen if the Lebanese Revolution fails?

Josie ElBiry
7 min readOct 20, 2019


Martyr’s Square October 20, 2019 (Photograph by Elie Nebhan)

News media race around the scene, handing the mic to crowds of people who won’t stand another second of not being heard. Men and women hold the mic and weep into the camera on national television. Some cannot speak because their voices are spent.

On Saturday at midnight, Lebanese television stations abruptly cut away from their live feeds — hours of exhaustive coverage of the uprising in Beirut, Tripoli, Tyre and Jbeil, a disgruntled protest-turned-bonafide revolution.

Between one and two million people have been marching in the streets since Thursday in response to the National Unity government’s announcement that a list of new taxes would be leveraged onto the public. The crowds are growing. They say they won’t stop until the government resigns.

Lebanon’s debt exceeds 151% of its GDP. It is common knowledge that government ministers openly steal from the treasury, spreading wealth to connections, friends and family with impunity.

Lebanese people are patient. They are aware that the government is run by corrupt plutocrats, yet each family, school, hospital and small business has forged ahead through thirty years of rolling blackouts and money disappearing from the treasury.

When political squabbling left the country without a president or a government for nearly thirty months, the people of this tiny Mediterranean country continued to invest time and money into a vision of peaceful existence and growth, ignoring the fractured ground they walked on every day.

In 2015, everyone kept the kids in school and went to work as mountainous piles of fetid, rotting garbage piled up along the city streets. The Naameh landfill was opened after the civil war in 1997, a temporary site which was slated to take in two million tons of waste. By 2014, it became clear that no plans had been made to proactively look out for Lebanon’s ecological health: The landfill was a…



Josie ElBiry

3x Top Writer “This Happened to Me”. Creative nonfiction, short fiction and poetry. Thank you for reading.