The main objective of the IRHAL research project was to analyze the participation of the youth component (and specifically student within it) in the 2019 protests and riots in Lebanon.
The specific objectives of the project were the following:
• To analyze and understand if and how an alternative power pole to the confessional system through student / youth participation was actually being created in Lebanon
• To define the frustrations and aspirations of the Lebanese student youth, tracing a profile of the Lebanese internal political dynamics
The Lebanese system is based on a confessional division of society, consequently influencing the architecture of the state and the division of powers. It is widely recognized by literature that the Lebanese confessions represent over-functional groups that all act to develop their influence within the state structure and that religion actually plays a completely secondary role compared to a decidedly more secular sense of belonging. This sense of belonging is based on access to services, education, health, job placement, which strengthens a patronage and corruption system that was at the basis of the protests of October 2019.
The 2019 protests did not represent a unicum within a country that was certainly crossed by constant tensions before, during and after the painful civil war of 1975-1990. Anyway, the protests of 2019 showed a large-scale mobilization that has, although not entirely, overcome those rigid confessional mobilization schemes that had always characterized the demonstrations in the nation (see for example the deployments of 14 and 8 March).
The protests of 2019 were an interesting multi and inter-confessional laboratory that had a particularly marked “destructive” moment (from which, moreover, the title of this project is a clear mirror) while it was instead missing in its “constructive” part of proposal for an alternative system (political, social and economic) to the current one.
Demonstrations against the government went on from 17 October 2019 to 11 February 2020, only to be stopped due to the imposition of the lockdown due to the global pandemic of COVID-19.
This interruption provided an unrepeatable opportunity to study this protest movement and evaluate its proactive and constructive value. In particular, the proposal intended to analyze the youth component that has actively participated and influenced the progress of the protests.
What is the role of young people and students? What is the possibility of creating a new inter-and supraconfessional leadership? What is the economic condition of the young people who pushed them towards such protests? What is the reaction of the ancien regime? Why have other young people chosen to stay and defend the confessional scheme by siding with the government and the various parties? What was the role played by the teachers and some rectors? What is the role of university institutions and therefore in particular of the youth and student component?
These questions helped us to understand if and how an alternative power pole to the confessional system was actually being created in Lebanon or if, in line with all the so-called Arab springs, these protests represented another ephemeral attempt to bring about a change, through a spontaneous, headless and uncoordinated movement. This research was led also to define both the frustrations and aspirations of the Lebanese students and youth by tracing a profile of their present and their future. And it allowed us to draw a profile of the political dynamics of the country, which represented a core-focus for the actions of Italian foreign policy.
IRHAL – For an analysis of the Lebanese protests and the role of the youth beyond the paradigm of confessionalism