It is critical to Accept Diversity in Protest Culture
Today, I want to discuss bottom-up movements from a protest culture and street’s perspective. Before I recently moved to Berlin a year ago, I was based in Cairo and Beirut within the last ten years during what is called the “Arab Spring”. And most recently, I have been very attached to the Uprising in Lebanon, both in Diaspora and partially on the ground.
The Uprising began about a year ago, on 17th October 2019, and similar to other movements in the Arab region, it sprung out of a severe collective anger. We wanted to say “NO!” to an oppression we have been subjected to for at least 30 years, which is a pattern that is observable in different parts of the Arab region.
In the case of Egypt, we could clearly see that the protest was born organically out of an immense collective anger and might have lacked a centralised collective strategy. While the need to strategise is crucial, it is also important to keep in mind that our anger is where we all meet and unquestionably agree, even though the sources and reasons of anger leading to protest could vary. This means accepting diversity within the core of protest culture.
There Must be Safe Spaces Within Protest Movements
Another important aspect is the need to create safe spaces within protests. We have to discuss topics like intersectionality and transformative justice, just like we have to question violence and the responses to it. We should discuss forms of how to process collective trauma and collective depression and transform that into collective healing.
In this regard, it is necessary to exchange care as currency in the face of the capitalist machine. During protests in Beirut protesters would offer vinegar and onions to other protesters to counter teargas canisters fired at them by security forces at distances so near that they were violating international human rights law.
We need to Acknowledge the Limitations of Bottom-Up Movements
We have to be aware that revolutions in many countries that are problematically referred to as the “Global South” come from rage against and disbelief in very corrupt systems. So, when we talk about possible reconciliation between top-down and bottom-up, we have to question whether going into the system is really the change we want; since we are rejecting the system from its core.
In the context of Lebanon this means: we need to uproot the infectious corrupt apparatus that has been ruling since the end of the civil war in the 1990s before we can conceive of any potential positive change. Most evidently, the explosion on 4th August 2020 completely destroyed any form of hope we had in changing the existing system from within.
Therefore, we have to think about making change possible, without giving the system legitimacy. At the same time, we have witnessed that with complete self-governance or anarchy, protests could become fragmented as well.
We Must Understand that Our Fights are Global!
In Berlin, my Diasporic condition allows me the privilege to build a solidarity network with transnational communities. Here, I am able to protest with people from countries such as Iran or Iraq, which would not necessarily be possible in Lebanon. Solidarity networks between Arab queer communities and queer communities from Latin America for example are made possible in the urban space of Berlin.
We thus have to be aware that our fights are not local, but global. And, that being in a privileged position in the “Global North” does not grant one the luxury of being apolitical. We are all responsible as a global structure to hold the oligarchy accountable and to question white supremacy and the pre-established global power structures that keep the “1 per cent” in power.