By Jason Lemon |News Week |
Mass nationwide protests continued in Lebanon for a fourth day on Sunday, as local media reported more than a quarter of the Lebanese population had gone to the streets to join the movement, calling for the downfall of the government.
Journalist and human rights researcher Kareem Chehayeb told Newsweek from the Lebanese capital Beirut that the size of the movement has been “unprecedented” over the past few days. “Local media has said there was about a million people in Beirut alone today. Yesterday was about 1.2 million across the country,” Chehayeb said. “The diversity and the scale of the protests nationwide is unprecedented for sure,” he added.
Although Lebanon has not held an official census in decades, the official Lebanese population is estimated to be comprised of just over 4 million citizens. Additionally, the country is home to about 1.5 million Syria refugees and nearly half a million Palestinian refugees.
While smaller protests had been ongoing for weeks, the movement ballooned last week after the government announced a series of new taxes and austerity measures. As of 2018, Lebanon was ranked as the third-highest indebted country in the world in terms of the ratio of debt-to-GDP, with a total public debt of more than $75 billion. Meanwhile, corruption has been widespread for decades, as the leading political families have maintained a grip on power for generations.