By Brittani Howell 

Impunity Watch Reporter, The Middle East

BEIRUT, Lebanon –  Protests over uncollected trash transform into anti-government protests in Lebanon this week. The “You Stink” movement expresses protestors’ discontent with the government.

Man rummages through pile of trash on Lebanon street. (Photo Curtesy of the New York Times)

The garbage crisis has been going on since July. Landfills became overfilled and the residents neighboring one particular landfill, blocked garbage trucks from entering because of potential environmental hazards. Since July, garbage has been collecting in the streets of Lebanon.

For many, the garbage filling the streets is the last straw. Mohammad Rizk, a sandwich shop owner, told the New York Times, “Enough. This is Enough. No electricity, we said O.K. No water, we said O.K. But the trash?”

The country cannot meet the power needs of its citizens and many have needed to purchase generators or merely go without power for hours at a time.

In addition, running water is only available for a few hours on certain days, even though Lebanon has water resources that neighboring countries would envy. When the water is running, it flows into the streets from the neglected, broken pipes. Citizens are thus forced to buy water to fill personal water tanks for daily use, or use salty water from wells.

Lebanon’s infrastructure is further strained as refugees from war torn areas seek shelter. As many as 1.3 million refugees from Syria have sought shelter in Lebanon, a country of 4 million people.

Lebanon’s Parliament has failed to elect a new President for 15 months. The sectarian nation is currently seeking a Christian to fill the Presidency, but the different religious sects have not reached an agreement on the person for the job.

The Parliament has been unable to even come to terms with a solution for cleaning up the garbage that lines the streets and adjourned from an emergency meeting held Tuesday with no solution.

Sunday’s protest turned violent. Sticks and stones were thrown at police officers and tear gas and hoses were turned onto protesters. Over 400 protesters and security forces were injured during the protest, according to the International Community of Red Cross. Subsequent planned protests have been delayed as 32 of the protesters were arrested.

Earlier this week Prime Minister Tammam Salam threatened to resign if the meeting on Tuesday was not productive regarding possible solutions to the garbage problem. If Salam did resign, Lebanon would be thrown into additional chaos, as it is the President who appoints the Prime Minister.

For further information, please see:

The Wall Street Journal – Anger Over Garbage in Lebanon Blossoms into Demand for Reform – 28 August 2015

The New York Times – As Trash Piles Up, So Does Contempt for Lebanon’s Government – 27 August 2015

CNN – Lebanon: How Piles of Trash Led to a Violent Uprising Against the Government – 24 August 2015

Reuters – Lebanon Protest Postponed as U.N. Urges Restraint – 24 August 2015

Author: Brittani Howell