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Lebanon's Prime Minister Resigns Following Weeks Of Protest

Oct 29, 2019
Originally published on October 29, 2019 7:04 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Lebanon's prime minister has resigned. This comes after nearly two weeks of mass protests. Hundreds of thousands of people throughout the country took to the streets. They rallied against the poor state of public services, against alleged corruption, also the religious identity politics that have shaped Lebanon for decades. NPR's Daniel Estrin was out today talking to protesters in the streets of Beirut.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

BETHANY KEHDY: He resigned!

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: There are hundreds of protesters in this square.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in foreign language).

ESTRIN: The prime minister of Lebanon has just resigned, and they're all screaming and chanting - revolution, revolution, revolution.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri said in an address that Lebanon had reached a dead end and that he's bowing to the will of the people and tendering his resignation.

Forty-year-old Mariana Wehbe is in the crowd of protesters.

MARIANA WEHBE: This is a start. This is a revolution. OK? This does not mean that we won. This is planting the seed for us to say that our voices now, as a country, are heard. We cannot accept politicians who are putting us in corruption, politicians who are putting us in debt, politicians who are segregating us by religion and have been doing so for 30 years.

ESTRIN: Lebanon has been paralyzed for nearly two weeks with banks closed and protesters blocking main roads. And sometimes they've been met with violence. Just before Hariri announced his resignation, groups of men beat protesters and tore up their tent camps. We saw people with bloody faces who said they were attacked by supporters of two Shia parties, Hezbollah and Amal, which have opposed the protests.

But now, after the prime minister announced his resignation, people are starting to flood back into the square. We thought they would be ecstatic. But actually, there's this kind of odd, eerie silence. We just spoke to Karim Nakad, this man over here, who says he's nervous.

KARIM NAKAD: I mean, we're in uncharted waters here. We've never been through that before. I mean, to see people from all walks of life, from all professions being here, expressing their opinion openly - it's something that we haven't seen before, so obviously we're nervous.

ESTRIN: Lebanon faced civil war in the past, and he's nervous a power vacuum could lead to more violence. What happens next and who will lead the country now is uncertain.

Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Beirut.

(SOUNDBITE OF VENETIAN SNARES' "HAJNAL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.