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Lebanon: What Do You Mean There Is No State?

[Graphic by Jana Traboulsi] [Graphic by Jana Traboulsi]

[Introductory text by Ziad Abu-Rish. All graphics by Jana Traboulsi]

This past week, thousands of Lebanese citizens took to the streets under the banner of “You Stink” to protest political and economic corruption in the country. They did so in the face of a brutal attempt to disperse the protests and silence those partaking in them. The mobilizations have their origins in the July 2015 garbage crisis, but also the broader dismal condition of public services as well as the profit-seeking networks and political stalemate that underpin it.

Yet 19 August 2015 proved a turning point, when videos of demonstrations that day went viral showing Lebanese security forces attacking protesters. The numbers of people out to demonstrate swelled on 22 August, with some estimates placing the figure at 10,000 strong. Since then, the violence meted out by the government escalated, with new videos emerging showing the use of water cannons, sound grenades, tear gas, and rubber bullets. In addition to Internal Security forces, the Lebanese Army has also been deployed.

Those familiar with Lebanese politics have repeatedly heard the deployment of the phrase “wayn al-dawla?”, meaning “Where is the state?”. It is the reality of this question that artist and designer Jana Traboulsi draws attention to with the first set of graphics showing the state’s violence against protesters. In the second set of graphics, she plays on the “You Stink” motif of the protests to critique the corruption of the political class. In both sets, Traboulsi is firm in her condemnation of the violence of the status quo, whether in its structural form or in its episodic form.


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