The Politics of Protest in Lebanon
Political parties are nowadays suffering from weakness and disaffection, thus social movements are becoming the alternative to political parties. Social movements adapt the interests of the societies far more than political parties.What is a protest? A protest is a complaint about a specific situation that shows disagreement that has to be shown to others in society. A protest is a public tool to object to a certain situation that has to be changed. When a group in the society decides to protest, this group must have demands and a goal to achieve by pressuring decision makers directly or indirectly. Usually people protest under a certain situation that most of the time is repression. People wait the right opportunity to be able to protest, usually people protest when opportunities are found.
The professor Sidney Tarrow was one of the most famous researchers who explained social movements and collective actions. To protest there are specific tools that need to be used, tools are usually culturally oriented and people never use tools that they are not familiar with. The main tools for a protest according to Tarrow are demonstrations, petitions, symbolism, and strikes and sit-ins. As Tarrow explains a social movement is a result of dense social networks, and actions symbols and contentions politics that lead to a sustained interaction, which is defined as a social movement.
The main elements for a social movement to take place and be successful are first collective challenge that is defined as an agreement among people who protest, and the aim of the collective agreement is to interrupt or obstruct uncertain the activities of others in order to be able to pressure authorities and elites or other groups. Collective challenge can be symbolized by slogans, words or specific behaviors. The second element is common purpose which is what the protest works on clearly. Third element is solidarity and collective identity, which depends on creating a common identity in order to be able to create unity. Unity lets the protest to be able to stay for a longer time. Finally, sustaining contentious politics, the most important element in a social movement is contentions politics. The repertoire of contentious is a set of various protest related tools that are common in every country.
Every community has its own acceptable and known methods that are inherited and familiar to the society. That what makes the repertoire important because it doesn’t need time to be taught and it is familiar to others.In 2011, the Arab region witnessed a historical shifting point contributed to the lunch of a political movement that was characterized by the emergence of new protests. Jordan was one of the Arab countries that witnessed the emergence of the largest number of those movements in that time due to the imbalances in that period. Are social movements a force of pressure within the Jordanian universities? A question posed by activists and answered by the coordinator of the campaign Dr. Fakher Daas. “A good example of this campaign that has had a positive impact by stopping the administrations of public universities on the trend of raising university fees by student action organized by the campaign. In this essay I will be talking about the social movement “ Dabahtouna” and I will analyze it according to the above elements discussed by Sidney Tarrow.
The student rights movement at the Jordanian universities has been able to stop the series of high premiums and make the students’ voices heard. The “Dabahtuna” campaign is still the only movement active in the Jordanian universities. This movement depends on the students themselves and it is still present in all public and private universities in Jordan. Since the establishment of the campaign in 2007 the interaction of the students is always increasing. This movement in Jordan found it’s place on the interactive site Facebook where it emerged between Jordanian youth groups demanding different rights of freedom of oppression within universities. As Tarrow mentioned about the print factory that was in that period one of the elements used for a social movement to be known, “ Dabahtuna” campaign used social media (Facebook) that is considered as the modern print factory element nowadays. Dabahtuna is not just a desperate word that shows disagreement of the citizen.
Thus, it is the title of the campaign that started to spread in the society and be grouped with social movements. As mentioned by Tarrow social movements are collective actions for a group of individuals and institutions of civil society having a goal of objection to cause a change in a specific situation that the society disagreed on. For a campaign to be a successful social movement it has to take the appeal of popularity symbolized by the slogan “ Yes to decent life” or “No to oppression”. Dabahtuna was very successful and sustained hence it spread quickly and widely in the society. Political parties see that this movement is not able to influence people and convince them to join the movement. Such campaigns will increase and become more active as prices rise and the impact of globalization increases in society and become more influential.
This social movement is a new phenomenon that focuses on one specific issue, focusing on specific demands. This shows the element of Tarrow that is common purpose and here the common purpose was focusing on specific demand that is the tuition fees in the university. And in this case what made people protest here was the failure of political parties to defend people’s concerns that led to the contribution and the emergence of those movements. This movement used technological means to encourage people to engage in public work and defend their rights. “Dabahtuna” was one of the prominent movements that influenced many decision makers in the field of education and the movement was able to achieve gains for the students and reduce the tuition fees after using the tool of protest the sit-ins. Unlike student movements in universities In Lebanon where they can never reach their goal because they were never able to form a unity.
Students in public and private universities in Lebanon are either divided as sects or as political parties or as classes, which is the main reason that impedes their ability to achieve their demands, because instead of being one united group, they are divided into different movements because of their sec or political party difference which is the reason that weakens them against the university administration.“Dabahtuna’ has joined popular and student offices in a number of parties. The diversity of membership in the components of the campaign contributed as a unity of general student interest instead of party interest and the aim of the campaign was not to raise the prices.
What made the movement succeed is the common purpose that was aimed at fighting high prices and against the weak economic policies pursued by successive governments, which are unable to stop the series of rising prices and the depletion of pockets, and the solidarity and collective identity where all members united on one goal despite their different backgrounds. But many obstacles and challenges confront this movement such as proving their legitimacy. It has devoted itself as a figure in the equation of higher education that the ministry, the government and the universities cannot overcome, and it was able to motivate students to stand up and defend freedom and work seriously to establish a general union for university students.
The main challenge that the movement faced was being able to extend to more students and the excitement of its members to follow up with the objectives of their movement.The main opportunity that pushed university students to take the decision to do the sit-ins and protest against the university raise of fees was dues to the economic and the social factors in the society, where this movement had the ability to draw the attention to the groups against this rise in prices. The social movements are one of the most important results of freedom of expression and the spread of education and economic freedom, which has made the West the real home of such movements, and has developed sociology and political science theories, most notably a link between the famous social movements and the establishment of new political parties. Inaddition to giving movements the opportunity to play a role in the order of political priorities within the state.