"We all took spontaneaously to the streets on October 17th. But after four or five days, we started to organize ourselves in groups, physically and on WhatsApp, in order to close the roads and organize the demonstrations", she told L'Orient-Le Jour. In the beginning, everyone used their own contacts within different regions to discover and follow what was happening in Tripoli, Jal el-Dib or Saida. "And then, we started meeting each other, we set up WhatsApp groups through which we send videos of sit-ins or road closures, and coordination became easier”, she adds.
This is how activists from outside the capital came to Beirut last week in the middle of the night to lend a helping hand to protesters who were blocking the streets leading to the Parliament in order to prevent MPs from coming to vote on the controversial general amnesty law. This is also how they put together the "civil parade" last Friday, on the occasion of Lebanon’s Independence Day, in order to offer a counterpoint to the military parade organized at the Ministry of Defense.
But activists have also moved on to another stage. Some of them are dealing with communications, forewarning media outlets when coverage is needed, or even contacting politicians, such as on the eve of the Tuesday’s Parliamentary meeting when they tried to get in touch with a large number of deputies on an individual basis in an attempt to convince them to boycott the session ... Maya acknowledges that -along with other colleagues-, she is less present on the ground than at the beginning of the uprising, instead she is spending more time working online. The young woman mainly handles issues related to fact-checking, trying to ensure the veracity of the information that circulates on social networks: "The power in place is trying to spread rumors that would weaken the revolution, and give it a denominational character. We are trying to prove that this is false information", she explains.
Others are involved in logistics, liaising with sponsors in Lebanon and abroad: for example, someone living in the United States can place an order of 50 pizzas online and send them via these activists to the demonstrators gathered in a given location.
Fady, a young activist, spends most of his time in downtown Beirut. Just like Maya, he stresses the importance of coordination between the regions, "but without leaders or a committee steering the revolution." "We must respect the spontaneous nature of this uprising. We coordinate with different regions on specific events, such as the "Sunday of Unity", but we want the revolution to remain decentralized", he says.
The activist indicates that several groups have formed during the uprising, both at a regional level and within Beirut. Some activists coordinate with another on logistical issues, others take care of the debates in Downtown Beirut ... Now there is even a WhatsApp group composed of women ready to stand in the front line of the demonstrations to deter confrontations with the security forces.
The sites of the revolution
To support their activism, protestors can rely on the valuable tools offered by the revolution’s various online sites. Like Daleel Thawra (the revolution’s online guide) which launched on October 20, and which puts a calendar of the demonstrations taking place across Lebanon on its website as well as on its Instagram account, also provides information regarding corruption as well as the needs and requests made by protestors in various locations. For example, Daleel Thawra called for people to "Free your day on the 22nd" (for the Independence Day events), and posted calls for action, such as "We urgently need tents in Nabatiyeh". "[In] the first days, there was some confusion, people needed to be informed", said one of the coordinators of the site, who requested anonymity. "We started from an idea: we just had to explain what we do. We also wanted to answer the questions of those who wished to contribute to the uprising from their homes but did not know how to do so. This is how the site -run by volunteers, mostly women-, began to publish a daily diary listing the events and debates planned on a national scale. "We are just a tool accessible to everyone. We are not a media platform", says the coordinator. In doing its part, the website Akhbar al-Saha transmits information regarding the uprising, in addition to many videos, and any urgent supplies and assistance needed by each protest location 24/7, on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. For example, on Tuesday night, it called for a sit-in in front of the Helou barracks in Beirut to demand the release of a number of protesters arrested by security forces following violent incidents in the Downtown area. In addition, it also requested blood donations to help one of the protesters who was injured and then hospitalized.
"Akhbar al-Saha is an alternative and independent media platform, which aims to provide a more realistic image of what is happening on the ground", its administrators, who refused to be identified, revealed to L’OLJ, via Messenger. They denounced the Lebanese media "that belong to political parties and are at the orders of the government", and stress the need to provide "honest information" to and from the streets.
Their Facebook page and Twitter account were launched in 2015 by a "group of independent feminist activists" during the protests about the waste crisis, but were put on the back burner before being reactivated with the October uprising. The team, of "about fifty people, is comprised of volunteers only, and collects data provided by correspondents in the field and from media sources”, they add.
(This article was originally published in English on the 21st of November)