Can #Youstink Campaign Shake Up Lebanon?

By Randa Slim | Senior Fellow and Director of Conflict Resolution and Track II Dialogues Program - The Middle East Institute | Aug 31, 2015
Can #Youstink Campaign Shake Up Lebanon?

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Lebanese have long suffered through water shortages, regular electricity blackouts, a leaking sewage system and poor health and education services. But as trash has piled up on the streets in recent weeks, it looks like the people of Lebanon have had enough.

"You Stink" is the message they are sending. And the campaign might just succeed where others have failed.

The current crisis flared when the main landfill that used to take garbage from the capital, Beirut, closed on July 17 after exceeding its capacity. Since then, the Lebanese government has been unable to find a solution to the trash problem, prompting a group of young activists hailing from different regions and religious sects to launch a #YouStink campaign on Twitter.

On Saturday, heeding the call of campaign organizers, tens of thousands of protesters poured into the streets of Beirut demanding an environmentally-sound solution to the trash crisis, the resignation of the minister of environment, whose ministry is responsible for garbage collection and disposal, and an investigation of the internal security forces for past excessive use of force against protesters.

And, unlike previous civic campaigns that appealed to small segments of the Lebanese population, the #YouStink campaign struck a chord in a society which, despite having a culture of open political debate, had been wary of potential instability and so resisted jumping on the Arab Spring bandwagon.