Five years ago, the former Moukhtar [local head, selected for simple administrative tasks] of the town of Qulaila in South Lebanon, Mahmoud Saleh, could not find anyone to pay for his treatment when he was diagnosed with kidney cancer. This forced him to incur the cost of removing one of his kidneys, which amounted to 18,000 US dollars at the time, although he could not afford it.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Saleh said: “We took to public squares because of the difficult economic situation. Our politicians are responsible for this situation, and we are still here because they refuse to meet a single one of our demands. Those in power have clung to it for many years without even considering giving us our basic rights. We do not even have healthcare or pensions; instead, they have drowned us with debt.”
Protesters in Tyre, a city in south Lebanon, have been a vital part of the protest movement since it first erupted in October. They were met with repression, and the most prominent of which was when they were assaulted by partisans and had their tents destroyed at the Al-Alam Square. However, the scene hasn’t changed in the past few days, save the erection of new tents to the square, and the addition of a large tent meant to protect protesters from the rain, allowing them to continue to hold their debates and lectures. The square is also equipped with plastic chairs, mobile mattresses, and stoves to make tea and coffee.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Hassan Darwish, one of the young people who maintain a constant presence in the square, says: “The uprising in Tyre has not changed, and people’s determination has not been shaken. The people of Tyre will not leave the squares just like that, and we will persist until our demands are met”.
He points to the fact that internal debates are still being held at the square daily and that civil society initiatives are also ongoing. He also says that a new tent will soon be installed near the square “to support anyone in need by providing them with clothes and food. The basic idea behind it is that it will be accessible to every household and person. We have launched this symbolic initiative because of the difficult living conditions some of us in Tyre arrived at, with the minimum wage standing around 600,000 Lebanese pounds (400$ at the official rate but effectively much less). This isn’t enough for people to secure their basic needs”.