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Major protests in Lebanon triggered by plan to tax WhatsApp calls

The proposed tax has resulted in protests against corruption and economic woes.


Mikael Thalen

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Posted on Oct 20, 2019   Updated on May 20, 2021, 1:01 am CDT

The streets of Lebanon were filled with protesters for a fourth consecutive day on Sunday after a proposed tax on WhatsApp calls proved to be the final straw for the country’s corruption-weary citizens.

Tens of thousands of people are marching in major cities such as Beirut in protest of financial hardships they say were brought on by the country’s rulers. Two people have so far died as a result of a fire that spread to a building near the Beirut protests.

Although the protests quickly led the government to pull the WhatsApp plan, which would have imposed a 20 cent a day tax for calls, the damage had already been done. The protesters are now revolting against government corruption and poverty.

The protests have seen a rare alliance between numerous religious groups, all of which are concerned about the country’s future.

“This country is moving towards total collapse,” 32-year-old Mohammad Awada told Reuters. “This regime has failed to lead Lebanon and it must be toppled and replaced.”

Streets were blocked off with burning tires and some banks’ windows have been smashed. Demonstrators have been seen donning everything, from flags to Joker-inspired face paint.


Lebanon’s finance minister has since announced a new budget plan that does not include any new taxes. But the promises may be too little, too late.

The country’s younger generation also expressed hopelessness over their economic future in Lebanon.

“We are protesting because we don’t want to emigrate,” 21-year-old student Fadi Dhaher told Reuters. “They are pushing us to leave our country.”

The demonstrations caused four members of a Christian political party to resign late Saturday, with one of the officials telling Al Jazeera that his group had “lost faith in the government’s ability to effect change and address the problem.”

Citizens are still demanding, however, that the government’s main political leaders step down.

WhatsApp is one of the most popular communication methods in Lebanon and has a global user base of roughly 1.5 billion people.


H/T BuzzFeed News

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*First Published: Oct 20, 2019, 1:38 pm CDT