2019: Year Of The Protest

A government so corrupt and dysfunctional that an entire nation is left without waste collection services, electricity and water. Anger boiled over in the form of protests attended by hundreds of thousands of people. A halt to typical daily life with the closure of banks and schools. And the resignation of the nation’s leader. This is the picture currently unfolding in Lebanon, where massive anti-government protests have engulfed this small Middle Eastern nation for the past two weeks. What began as a small protest against an unpopular tax on messaging apps turned into a nationwide movement calling out government corruption and incompetence. On Oct. 29, fmr. Prime Minister Saad Hariri decided it was too much to handle and resigned. 

Lebanon isn’t the only country to see this phenomenon; similar stories have made international headlines throughout this year. Other areas of Asia have seen their own widespread protests. In Iraq, anti-government protests, which started in October, have had similar characteristics to the movement in Lebanon: citizens are angry about ongoing government corruption and Baghdad’s inability to provide basic services. Iraqis also accuse their government of allowing heavy influence from neighboring Iran. But the protest better known by the international community is further east, where pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, China have continued to risk their lives to demand democratic reforms. Here, the introduction of a bill in the region’s Legislative Council allowing China to extradite anyone from Hong Kong placed under arrest sparked regionwide calls for the killing of the bill. While the bill has since been removed from the official docket, clashes between protesters and police continue and the sight of tear gas is common.

But again, these flashpoints aren’t limited to just Asia. Africa has seen the fall of powerful and longtime dictators this year as a result of unprecedented protests. In April, after months of demonstrations, fmr. Algerian Pres. Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced his resignation. He had been president of this North African nation for nearly 20 years. Bouteflika had announced in February of this year that he would run for a fifth term as president, resulting in nationwide protests against his regime. A similar story unfolded in Sudan, where fmr. Pres. Omar H.A. al Bashir, who had been in power since 1989, was forced to resign after the military stepped in amid protests against inflation. Human rights violations committed under al Bashir and Bouteflika didn’t help either of their cases. 

In South America, a near-civil war has erupted in Venezuela, where two presidents, each recognized by their own group of international governments, continue to vie for power. Nicolas Maduro, still recognized by Russia and other powers as head of Venezuela, is attempting to hold onto power as the United States and its allies have moved to recognize his rival, Juan Guaido, as acting president. In Ecuador, violent protests against an end to fuel subsidies forced the government to relocate from the nation’s capital, Quito, to the coastal city of Guayaquil. 

The West wasn’t spared from what seems to be a wave of international protests. As Spain continues to try and convict Catalonian separatist leaders, separatist sympathizers have taken to the streets to protest Madrid. In the United Kingdom, the Brexit issue has dragged on, and nationwide protests led to the resignation of fmr. PM Theresa M. May, who left office in July, and left the world with Boris Johnson. 

Nationwide movements have also erupted in Bolivia, Chile, France, Haiti, Indonesia, the Netherlands, Peru and even the United States with the recent strike by the United Auto Workers. And around the world, we have seen millions of people march against inaction on climate change, with specific groups like Extinction Rebellion in the United Kingdom persistently forcing the world’s eyes onto the issue. 

The year 2019 is almost over, but these last two months, when the only thing on people’s minds tends to be the holidays, will no doubt see the continuation of protest movements, of people’s fight for basic needs and services, and of people’s fight against injustices like authoritarian regimes or the dismissal of climate change.