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Crisis and Uprising in Lebanon: The Roots of the Explosion

The massive explosion that rocked Beirut on August 4 revealed the depths of the Lebanese ruling elite’s criminal mismanagement. The explosion and mass protests that followed come on the heels of a year-long economic crisis and popular revolt.

Since October 17, 2019 the people of Lebanon have been in the streets again and again struggling to transform the country’s sectarian-oligarchic political and economic system. Now in the wake of the COVID crisis, economic collapse, and devastation caused by elite incompetence which has driven 300,000 people from their homes, the people of Lebanon are rising up again. What can we learn from Lebanon’s long uprising and how can we show solidarity?


Rima Majed is a writer, activist, and Assistant Professor of Sociology at the American University of Beirut (AUB). Her research focuses on social movements, sectarianism, conflict and violence in the Middle East. She has written extensively on the political economy of sectarianism, protests and uprisings in Lebanon and Iraq, structural transformations and unemployment in postwar Lebanon, and the importance of labor organization. Her work has appeared in a range of academic journals and media outlets, including Social Forces, Mobilization, Global Dialogue, Idafat: The Arab Journal of Sociology, Al Jumhuriya, CNN, Middle East Eye, openDemocracy, and Al Jazeera English. She is currently working on a book that looks at sectarian capitalism and the shift in sectarian boundaries in Lebanon.

Lara Bitar is a journalist in Beirut and the founding editor of The Public Source, a Beirut-based independent media organization that covers socioeconomic and environmental crises afflicting Lebanon since the onset of neoliberal governance in the 1990s and provides political commentary on events unfolding since October 17, 2019. Her media practice is founded on a deep sense of place — a geographical imperative — which centers marginalized communities and connects their struggles to broader frameworks. She contributes reports on social movements and civil unrest to grassroots media projects in the US and Lebanon and writes for regional and feminist publications. Committed to labor struggles and radicalizing the local press, Bitar is organizer of a Beirut-based media collective for independent and freelance journalists.

Bassel Salloukh is Associate Professor of Political Science at the Lebanese American University (LAU) in Beirut. He is co-author of The Politics of Sectarianism in Postwar Lebanon (2015) and Beyond the Arab Spring: Authoritarianism and Democratization in the Arab World (2012) and co-editor of Persistent Permeability? Regionalism, Localism, and Globalization in the Middle East (2004). He is a senior fellow at the Lebanese Centre for Policy Studies (LCPS) and a member of the Arab Political Science Network’s Advisory Committee for 2019-2021. His current research interests include an intersectional critique of power-sharing arrangements in postwar states, the philosophy of reconciliation in divided societies, and Middle East International Relations after the popular uprisings.


Shireen Akram-Boshar is a socialist activist and alum of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). She has organized around the question of the Syrian uprising and the relationship between Syrian and Palestinian struggles for liberation, as well as on anti-imperialism and solidarity with the revolts of the Middle East/North Africa region. Her writing has covered the repression of Palestine solidarity activists in the US, revolution and counterrevolution in the Middle East, Trump’s war on immigrants, and the fight against the far right. Shireen is part of the Middle East and Africa working group of DSA's International Committee.


Sponsored by the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) International Committee and Haymarket Books.