Interview with Taha Naji in Tripoli
Hi Taha, nice to hear from you. I am excited to be here in Lebanon and witness this historic moment. How do you feel about the protests?
I feel the people were under pressure for a long time and now there is no way other than exploding in front of the political elite. For me this is like a scientific fact, it had to happen sometime. The people who started this revolution are the people who are really underprivileged and oppressed by the government. Those people feel they are against the system and people benefiting from the system.
I saw fires in the streets, and riots. But I had the impression the protests were mostly peaceful and very friendly. Is that correct?
The first day when the protests began, they started by attacking wealthy people’s property; banks and that sort of thing. The people starting these protests were really angry about all those other people who have been silent for a long time. The protesters see them as having benefited from the system.
Later on, what fundamentally changed the protests, was the massive solidarity people showed with the initial protestors. This was very important to reduce the violence and tension.
Yes, that was amazing! We saw messages from so many different people, from different places and countries. What do you expect to happen now?
In the end, this revolution belongs to a certain group of people. What I am worried about is that the political elite will not stay silent for long. They’ll defend their interests, one way or another. And we should realise that they have a lot to loose, and there is a lot of pressure on them to continue what they’ve been doing. For me, it’s clear that members of the political elite are trying to use the protests to get rid of opponents, and that the security forces are now directing the protests. We see this happening here in Tripoli, for instance.
“I feel so excited when I’m the square with my friends.
But when I analyse what’s happening, I worry about the future.”
What do you mean, directing the protests?
The people who started these protests are not the voice of the protests anymore. What we see now is not the real face of the initial revolution. My worry is that those political elites will in the end be able to use these protests for their benefit. Also, when things become violent, I expect that people won’t feel they have an alternative than to go to their own political leaders for protection. This is my worry.
I see. But despite the divisions, there is all this solidarity between regions and people, right?
There is real solidarity between regions. Everyone has mobilised around the same social demands and needs. The impact of the corruption became obvious and people share the need to get rid of that. All people want dependable electricity and water, and people cannot afford more taxes. The difference, in the end, is the political attitude. The slogan might be “Killon yani Killon”, which means “Everyone, everyone”. This might be the slogan now but if the protests turns more violent people may turn to their own political leaders to protect them.
So overall, would you say you are worried or excited?
I think the people who started this revolution did so out of real pain, and we all feel those frustrations. But there is a group of people who really struggle to survive and deeply worry about the future for their children. Those people will continue even after this initial phase of the revolution ends. This first phase is very beautiful and it is positive, but we should remember that this is not why the revolution started and that this is not the face of the real revolution.