• HUMAN RIGHTS: ‘People have a great desire for positive stories’

    Saleem VaillancourtCIVICUS speaks with Saleem Vaillancourt, a journalist and media producer who works to promote the rights of Iran’s Bahá’í community and to encourage positive action to realise human rights. Saleem works with the street art for social justice project,Paint the Change.

    Can you tell us how your work began?

    I work closely with the Iranian-Canadian journalist and filmmaker, Maziar Bahari. Maziar’s story is well known. He was jailed in Iran and held in solitary confinement in 2009 after covering the Iran election crisis. He was released after an international campaign and the book he wrote about his ordeal, ‘Then They Came for Me’, was made into a film, ‘Rosewater’, by Jon Stewart. Maziar was no longer simply a journalist; he was also a human rights advocate. Once released, he could talk about all the things going on in Iran that he couldn’t when he was working in Iran.

    Chief among these is the situation of the Bahá’í community, which is the largest religious minority in Iran. They are persecuted by the Iranian government because their beliefs come up against the fundamentalist interpretation of Islam practised by the government. Bahá’ís are routinely arbitrarily detained, held either without charge or under false charges and jailed. They are denied the right to go to university. There is a lot of misinformation and propaganda against them from the state media.

    I’m a Bahá’í and I worked with the Bahá’í community, and also as a journalist and in public communications, and that’s how my path crossed with Maziar. In 2014 he made a documentary, ‘To Light a Candle’, about the story of the Bahá’ís and particularly about the denial of their right to education, and their response, which was to create an informal educational project – an underground university – in which they created opportunities to educate themselves. This is a programme that for 30 years has given thousands of people an education, many of whom have gone on to pursue graduate studies in western universities. It’s a huge success and a major example of constructive resilience, or what Maziar calls peaceful resistance: meeting injustice not with conflict but by building a positive alternative to overcome the situation.

    I joined him for what was meant to be a short time to help promote his film and things grew from there. We created a campaign, ‘Education is not a Crime’, which is a street art and human rights campaign in which we use murals to talk about the story of the Bahá’í in Iran and more broadly to try to address education inequity and uneven access to education in other contexts as well.

    What are the key methods by which you work?

    We create murals, and then the murals have a social media dimension, because we share them online as videos and create local conversations, explaining why we are doing these, and especially relating what we are doing to local stories. For example we painted 20 murals in Harlem in New York, and people in this neighbourhood really saw a parallel in our work between Bahá’ís in Iran and the African-American experience of discrimination and the attempt to overcome discrimination, including in the area of education. We made a documentary about that in 2017, ‘Changing the World One Wall at a Time,’ which has been screened around the world.

    This led to an initiative in Detroit, where we’ve partnered with the City of Detroit and local schools. The city government was already working to encourage school attendance, which is something we care about in terms of access to education. They created a bus route called the ‘GOAL Line’ – GOAL stands for ‘get on and learn’ – but we observed that the bus route had no shelters, so we offered to build some shelters and put artwork on them. The artwork was created in art workshops through a partnership with local students and local artists. The works represent the community in a direct way and create a visual cue in the community around the issue of education. In this activity, we moved from the area of pure awareness-raising to a kind of indirect social action.

    We’re also starting to do a locally orientated street art project in London, producing work with local communities that celebrates local heroes, people who contribute to their community, whether they are known by their community or not. We put them on the side of buildings so they become positive stories that can encourage local young people.

    Another thing we have been doing is producing an oral history video series in the USA, about the Bahá’í community, not only about Iran but also about the work of the community to promote race unity over the past several generations. Again, this is about telling a positive story and something that perhaps helps others in US society to look again at the issue of race – something that is obviously very charged and challenging – and find other ways of addressing it.

    So that’s what I do. It’s a chance for both Maziar and I to talk about issues we think are important, but that are not limited to a focus on the Bahá’í community. Our work is at the intersection of human rights, social action and media. Sometimes it is about raising awareness or fighting instances of violations of human rights, as with the rights of the Bahá’í in Iran, but more and more now it is about finding positive stories and celebrating them through street art or a film or through other media. We want to do this in a way that can help a community see a positive version of themselves and put that at the centre of their own narrative.

    What would you say you do that is different from the conventional work of a human rights organisation?

    Because we are principally a media-driven group, we try to apply our media work to human rights issues and social issues, and we are looking to go beyond human rights awareness-raising to try to contribute to social processes in local communities. The Detroit project is an example of that. So that’s a kind of social action that’s distinct from awareness-raising as a conventional discipline.

    We are trying to do human rights work and social action work together. We see them as different sides of basically the same work. We want to reach audiences that perhaps haven’t been engaged in human rights discussions or social action before, through media and through education workshops. So our focus is not so much on informing policy-makers, but on trying to reach local communities through accessible media and artforms.

    What are the challenges faced when defending the rights of Bahá’í people in Iran?

    I am also involved in IranWire, an independent news website. I know through this that Iranian journalists are targeted. Our site was recently down for a few hours over the course of several days because of a sustained denial of service attack originating from Iran.

    Maziar is continually attacked on Twitter and by Iranian state media, as are other people we work with. Many people who have worked in the public space on the issue of the Bahá’ís are vilified by the Iranian media. When Maziar and others talk to United Nations institutions, they get criticised and there is a lot of disinformation spread about them. It’s clear that the Iranian authorities seek to discredit people through disinformation to try to limit their legitimacy in the international space when they talk about human rights issues happening inside Iran. The Iranian government attempts to control the narrative.

    Turning to your work outside Iran, what would you say the major successes and challenges have been?

    I think the big success we’ve had so far is the initiative to create the murals, especially in Harlem but also around the world: to create a story out of them, and for that story to be something that people respond to, and for us to find a way to relate that story to other situations around the world.

    In the early stage of developing these murals in New York, after we had produced one or two in Harlem, the questions of these parallels between the Bahá’ís and the African-American community started to sit up. It’s not a parallel in terms of scale or severity or even of type, but it’s a parallel in terms of individual experiences and the ideology that has created a situation. African-American people who learned about the project brought that parallel to the fore in our discussions. Here was one community that is struggling identifying with the struggle of another community, that was undergoing the kind of suffering that makes the community more empathetic and more aware of the struggles of another.

    We decided to tell that story as much as we could and in our work in Harlem to work with local artists and local community leaders as much as possible, and to hold educational workshops for young people around the creation of the murals. I think the fact that those murals became possible and were welcomed into the community, that there was the opportunity to see these parallels and to tell that story around the world, and that the story was broadcast inside Iran in Persian on satellite TV and seen by millions of people there, was probably the biggest success.

    I think there’s not so much one major challenge we have been unable to overcome, although there are things that are harder to do than others, but it’s more that nobody is particularly out there asking for anybody to do something positive. I think a lot of people have a great desire, appetite and thirst for encountering positive stories even if they address challenging issues, but it’s not something you see being asked for in market terms, and in terms of what audience there is, and what funding you can get to do projects.

    So it is a challenge to create the audience and explain our reasons for approaching our work as we do, and maintain these projects, because it’s not something that is being asked for in a commercial sense. I don’t necessarily mean commercial in terms of being driven by profit, but even non-profitable works need grants, and while there are grants that are tailored around work that tries to introduce positive narratives, it takes a lot of effort to identify them and to massage an idea into a format that would meet the requirements of a particular grant.

    What more needs to change, and what further support is needed, to enable your work to achieve even more?

    I think there are two levels. At the level of human attitudes, in general the world is in a very difficult place and much of what’s happening is turning people towards conflict. I think what needs to change – in order for the kind of stories we want to produce and tell to be more easily relatable and for people to be able to understand what we are getting at – is that people need to be orientated towards positive stories, towards sharing and finding them, and to seeing the world through the lens of positivity. This is not to deny there are negative things or pretend that everything is fine, but to say that we address a challenge or a difficulty not by more contention but by means of conciliation and friendliness. I think if people’s minds are orientated more that way they would be likelier to seek out or ask for the positive stories we try to tell. I’m not saying we’ve nailed that formula, but that’s our motivation and we’re trying to work in that direction.

    At the structural level I think the kinds of grants, and often the kinds of initiatives that organisations want to support or are asking for, need to change. Again, it is possible to do that in terms of some grants that exist, but there is a lack of a structure and approach that says: this organisation really wants to find positive stories because positive stories change the nature of a society’s view of how to deal with challenging issues.

    So much of what civil society does is about countering things that are negative. This is important work, but I also think that civil society should be going towards what it wants to see in the future. If there could be a harmonious sense across civil society about what the future ought to be, how human rights ought to be respected and what the nature of society should be in order to realise those ideals, then I think we could move towards shared civil society agendas that make it possible to work for these goals more easily.

    In the civil society space, the media space and the human rights space – and partly because we are all too busy but also because there is no clearing house or central organising system – I don’t know who in civil society would want to work in the same way. But I’d love to know more about who’s out there and what they’re doing, in order to more easily find the appropriate partners.

    Civic space in Iran is rated as ‘closed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with Paint the Change through itswebsite.


  • IRAN: Political humour as a tool against authoritarian regimes

    Ahead of the publication of the 2018 State of Civil Society Report on the theme of ‘Reimagining Democracy’, we are interviewing civil society activists and leaders about their work to promote democratic practices and principles, the challenges they encounter and the victories they score in doing so. CIVICUS speaks to the Iranian-born political cartoonist Nik Kowsar, who was jailed for his humorous criticism before eventually emigrating to Canada, where he became a citizen. A former recipient of the international Award for Courage for Editorial Cartooning, he currently resides in the United States.

    1. Would you tell us the story of that crocodile you drew, and how it changed your life?

    Iran CartoonI was born in Iran, and I had always lived in Iran until I had to get out of the country in 2003. I was a geologist by training and a cartoonist by trade. In 2000 I drew a cartoon and went to prison for it. My drawing apparently caused a national security issue: thousands of clergy students gathered and shouted for my death and they sat there for four nights, until I was arrested.

    All I had done was draw a crocodile that was shedding crocodile tears and strangling a journalist, while claiming that the journalist was killing him. The name that I gave the crocodile rhymed with the name of an ayatollah. Of course, I denied any resemblance between the two, but still, you know, there was a political message there. From that day on, I became a sponsor for Lacoste – they didn’t sponsor me, but I started buying the shirts with the crocodile logo for myself, and I always wear them as a symbol and a reminder.

    Long story short, I went to prison and underwent interrogation, and eventually I walked free. But I didn’t quit my job as a cartoonist and I started receiving death threats that eventually got serious, and in 2003 I had to escape. I had to leave my wife and daughter behind – they were only able to join me in Canada four years later, in 2007.

    2. Did you see cartoons as a safer means of expression, a way of saying some things without saying them, when speech is heavily censored?

    In Iran we used to say: ‘We have freedom of speech, what we don’t have is freedom afterspeech’. When you produce content that powerful people or organisations dislike, no matter how that content is packaged, they will try to shut you down by all means, including allegations and criminal charges like undermining national security, working with the enemy, indecency or attacking Islam. Anything can be used against you in Iran – and in other Islamic countries as well. I’ve been working with Tunisian and Palestinian cartoonists, and they all have problems with their governments.

    What is said with a cartoon is more difficult to erase than anything else: a good cartoon is even more valuable than a thousand words, because it stays in your mind for ages. A ‘joke’ is a serious matter: it goes directly to the point, it exposes the absurd. In a way, cartoonists can be the conscience, the moral compass of a society – it is not a matter of right and left, but a matter of right or wrong. So, cartoonists are very important, and it is not wonder that many governments – from Iran to Equatorial Guinea to Turkey – are trying to pressure them into silence.

    3. What have you done since leaving Iran?

    While in Canada, I studied journalism and worked with a news agency for three years. I joined IFEX in 2008, and starting in 2009 I ran a news website specifically for and about Iran. This became one of the top news websites on Iranian issues, although it was filtered and firewalled in Iran. At some point, however, we stopped getting funding; we understood that the Obama administration’s policies towards Iran, their efforts to connect with the regime, were a major reason why other organisations stopped funding us. We had to let it go.

    As a cartoonist with fibromyalgia, who has had to stop drawing as a professional, I now work with Cartoonist Rights Network International. I was once a client, now I am a board member. We are a human rights organisation, focused on the freedom of expression, and we support cartoonists in distress: cartoonists who are oppressed by the regimes in their countries, threatened, arrested or sent to prison.

    Cartoonists are vulnerable, and even more so after the Charlie Hebdo massacre. There is increasing solidarity among them, and they are better connected now, through our organisation and others – but still, they are in danger. What needs to be done is provide a means of sustenance for cartoonists who are in trouble. That’s very difficult, because non-profits are not rich, and also because a cartoonist cannot live off assistance funds forever – they need to be paid to do what they do best.

    Finally, as a geologist and an expert on Iran’s water problems, I am back to working on water issues. Iran has a big water problem, which is possibly going to create big chaos in the near future. There was an uprising in December 2017 and January 2018, and only in cities hit by water crisis and drought, where people were too desperate and felt they had nothing left to lose, were the protests not easily contained and people were killed. We will see more and more clashes in areas that are hit by drought.

    4. Do you think environmental issues, including water, should be treated as political issues?

    Most definitely. That is exactly what I am working on. Water may easily become a major political issue, in Iran and in the whole Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, an already unstable one. Iran has always been a dry country, with rainfall about a third of the median around the world. But for 3,500 years Iranians were able to manage their water resources through various technologies. Over the past 50 years, however, mega-dams and deep wells have ruined our environment and most aquifers have been depleted; as a result, 85 percent of our groundwater is now gone. Climate change has only made it worse: last year, we had 78 percent less snow storage in our mountains compared to the previous year.

    Now, Iranians may be oppressed because of their beliefs and ideas, but when there’s not enough water to drink and produce food, they have reached a tipping point. In Syria the drought worsened from 2006 to 2009, as a result of which a million people from the north-eastern provinces had to leave their lands and migrate to the margins of bigger cities. When the Arab Spring started, it sparked protests in Syria as well – but in this case, they led to civil war. We are talking about farmers and herdsmen, people who had lost their livelihoods, many of whom had joined militant groups. Factor in an intolerant, authoritarian government that could not manage the protests, and there you go. Something similar could happen in Iran.

    5. Are you saying civil war is a likely outcome for Iran? Isn’t there any way pro-democracy forces could turn the discontent in their favour?

    That’s what some of us are worrying about. Pressure for water could, maybe, lead to a democratic opening as well. We are educating the public about the water situation. Unfortunately, many political groups have no clue about environmental issues – they have never cared about them, don’t understand them and don’t see how they could connect to their political struggles. In trying to change this, I am currently working on a documentary about water, connecting the struggles with water shortages that we are seeing in places as diverse as Cape Town in South Africa, Seville in Spain and even the Vatican City and some parts of the US. Our contacts in Iran are collecting material for us and documenting the situation as well, and we are doing a collaborative bilingual project, in English and Persian, to educate the public, including academics and politicians. Because if we don’t do anything about it, rather than democracy what we will get is more uprisings, repression, and hundreds or thousands of people killed in places hit by drought.

    Civic space in Iran is rated as ‘closed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor,indicating overwhelming restrictions in the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression.

    Get in touch with Nik Kowsar through hisFacebook page, or follow@nikahang on Twitter.


  • LIBAN : « Cette crise doit être gérée avec une vision féministe »

    CIVICUS s'entretient avec Lina Abou Habib, une activiste féministe basée à Beyrouth, au Liban, sur la réponse de la société civile face à l'urgence provoquée par l’explosion du 4 août 2020. Lina enseigne les Féminismes Mondiaux à l'Université Américaine de Beyrouth, où elle est membre de l'Institut Asfari, et préside le Collectif pour la Recherche et la Formation sur l’Action pour le Développement, une organisation féministe régionale qui travaille au Moyen-Orient et en Afrique du Nord. Elle siège également au conseil d'administration de Gender at Work et en tant que conseillère stratégique du Fonds Mondial pour les Femmes au Moyen-Orient et en Afrique du Nord.

    Lina Abou Habib

    Pourriez-vous nous parler du moment où l’explosion s’est produite ?

    L’explosion de Beyrouth s’est produite le 4 août 2020, vers 18 h 10, heure de Beyrouth. J'étais chez moi et je savais depuis une heure qu’il y avait eu un grand incendie dans le port de Beyrouth. Lorsque le feu a commencé à se propager, le ciel s’est assombri de fumée. Je regardais dehors, et la première chose que j’ai ressentie a été une sensation terrifiante, semblable à un tremblement de terre, et juste une fraction de seconde plus tard, une énorme explosion s’est produite. Les vitres autour de moi se sont brisées. Il m’a fallu quelques minutes pour comprendre ce qui venait de se passer. La première chose que nous avons tous faite a été de téléphoner à nos familles et à nos amis proches pour nous assurer qu’ils allaient bien. Tout le monde était dans un état d’incrédulité totale. L’explosion a été si puissante que chacun de nous a ressenti que cela se passait juste à côté de nous.

    Quelle a été la réponse immédiate de la société civile ?

    Il est important de souligner qu’en plus de la réponse de la société civile, il y a eu aussi une réponse individuelle. Les gens sont descendus dans la rue pour essayer d’aider les autres. Personne ne faisait confiance à l’État pour qu’il aide de quelque manière que ce soit ; en fait, l’État était responsable de ce qui s’était passé. Les gens ont pris la responsabilité de s’entraider, ce qui signifiait s’attaquer aux problèmes immédiats, comme nettoyer les rues des débris et parler à d’autres personnes pour savoir ce dont elles avaient besoin, comme de l’abri et de la nourriture. Environ 300 000 personnes se sont retrouvées sans abri et ont tout perdu en une fraction de seconde. Il y a eu une réaction extraordinaire de la part des gens ordinaires qui se sont mis à aider : des gens avec des balais et des pelles ont commencé à enlever les débris et d’autres ont distribué de la nourriture et de l’eau. L'indignation s'est transformée en solidarité.

    Ce fut un moment de grande autonomisation, qui continue toujours. En ce moment même, il y a des volontaires et des organisations de la société civile (OSC) qui prennent essentiellement en charge la situation et non seulement apportent de l’aide immédiate, mais offrent également toutes sortes de soutien aux personnes en difficulté.

    Cependant, ces actes de solidarité et de bienveillance ont aussi été critiqués. La principale critique a été de dire qu’ils sont contre-productifs car dispensent l’État de s’acquitter de ses obligations et de ses devoirs. Je comprends cette critique, mais je ne suis pas d’accord avec elle. Pour moi, les actes de solidarité menés par la société civile et les gens ordinaires ont été nos principales réussites, des histoires de pouvoir et de résistance dont il est bon de parler. Il faut souligner la réponse immédiate apportée individuellement par les mêmes personnes qui avaient subi des blessures ou avaient beaucoup perdu. Les communautés de travailleurs migrants elles-mêmes, vivant dans des conditions extrêmes d’exploitation, de racisme et d’abus, sont sorties pour nettoyer les décombres et aider les autres. Je ne pense pas qu’il faille ignorer le sens de ces actes de solidarité.

    Le Liban subissait déjà une crise économique profonde, qui a été encore exacerbée par la pandémie du COVID-19 et l’explosion. Quels ont été les groupes les plus touchés ?

    Les pires effets ont été ressentis par ceux qui se trouvaient déjà dans les situations les plus vulnérables. Un exemple clair de multiples formes de discrimination qui se chevauchent et se renforcent réciproquement est la situation des travailleuses migrantes au Liban. Ce n’est pas une situation nouvelle, cela fait déjà des décennies. Premièrement, les femmes migrantes travaillent dans la sphère privée, ce qui les rend encore plus invisibles et vulnérables. Deuxièmement, il n'y a absolument aucune règle à suivre pour les embaucher, alors elles sont essentiellement à la merci de leurs employeurs. Elles sont maintenues dans des conditions de quasi-esclavage sur la base des soi-disant « contrats de parrainage ». Même l’air qu’elles respirent dépend de la volonté de leurs employeurs, donc elles sont complètement liées à eux. En bref, c’est une population de femmes des pays pauvres du sud global qui sont employées comme travailleuses domestiques et soignantes, des postes qui les rendent incroyablement vulnérables aux abus. Il n’y a pas de lois que les protègent, et il en a toujours été ainsi. Par conséquent, ce sont elles qui sont laissées pour compte en cas de crise sécuritaire ou politique.

    Trois événements consécutifs ont affecté leur situation. Le premier a été la révolution commencée le 17 octobre 2019, un moment incroyablement important qui a été le point culminant d’années d’activisme, et auquel ont également participé des travailleuses migrantes, qui ont été appuyées, soutenues et guidées par de jeunes féministes libanaises. En conséquence, il y a eu des travailleuses migrantes au sein de la révolution, qui se sont rebellées contre le système de parrainage qui les prive de leur humanité et les expose à des conditions de travail équivalentes à l'esclavage, et ont exigé un travail décent et une vie digne.

    À cela s’ajoute l’effondrement économique et la pandémie du COVID-19, qui se sont produits alors que les manifestations se poursuivaient. En raison de la crise économique, certaines personnes ont choisi de ne pas payer les salaires des travailleuses domestiques et des travailleurs migrants, ou pire, ces personnes se sont simplement débarrassées d’eux en les laissant dans la rue pendant la pandémie.

    Et puis l’explosion du port de Beyrouth s’est produite, frappant à nouveau particulièrement durement les travailleurs migrants. Il a eu une succession de crises qui ont touché avant tout les travailleurs migrants, et les femmes en particulier, car ils se trouvaient déjà dans des conditions précaires dans lesquelles ils subissaient des abus, leur travail était tenu pour acquis et ils ont ensuite été jetés dans la rue, oubliés par leurs ambassades et ignorés par le gouvernement libanais.

    En tant qu’activiste et féministe, comment évaluez-vous la réponse du gouvernement à l'explosion ?

    Il n’y a pas eu de réponse responsable du gouvernement. Je n’appellerais même pas ce que nous avons « gouvernement », mais plutôt « régime ». C'est une dictature corrompue, un régime autoritaire qui continue de se faire passer pour démocratique et même progressiste. Le régime dit qu’il incarne les réformes, mais ne les met jamais en œuvre. Par exemple, dix jours après la révolution, en octobre 2019, le président s’est adressé à la nation et nous a promis une loi civile égalitaire sur la famille, ce que les activistes féministes réclament depuis des décennies. C’était assez surprenant, mais il s’est avéré que ce n’était pas vrai, car rien n’a été fait à ce sujet. Les autorités disent simplement ce qu’elles pensent que les gens veulent entendre et elles semblent convaincues que le public est trop ignorant pour le remarquer.

    Il faut donc replacer la réponse à l’explosion dans le contexte du récent soulèvement. La réponse du gouvernement à la révolution a été de ne pas reconnaître les problèmes que les gens signalaient : qu’il avait vidé les coffres publics, qu’il continuait à exercer le népotisme et la corruption et, pire que tout, qu’il démantelait les institutions publiques. La seule réponse du gouvernement a été de fermer l’espace de la société civile et d’attaquer les libertés d’association et d’expression et le droit de réunion. J’ai habité dans ce pays la plupart de ma vie, j’ai donc traversé une guerre civile et je crois que nous n’avons jamais connu une répression des libertés de l’ampleur que nous constatons actuellement sous ce régime. Nous n’avions jamais vu des personnes citées par la police ou les institutions de sécurité pour ce qu’elles ont dit ou publié sur les réseaux sociaux. C’est exactement ce que ce régime fait et continue de faire. Le président agit comme si nous avions une loi de lèse-majesté et n’accepte aucune critique ; ceux qui le critiquent le paient de leur liberté. C’est la première fois que nous voyons des activistes arrêtés pour cette cause.

    Bref, le régime n’a rien fait de significatif en réponse à l’explosion. Le fait qu’il ait envoyé l’armée pour distribuer des colis d’aide alimentaire n’a pas une grande importance. En fait, ils ont refusé de livrer des articles d’aide alimentaire aux personnes non libanaises qui étaient touchées. Cela met en évidence la manière dont les couches successives de corruption, d’intolérance et de mauvaise gestion interagissent dans ce processus.

    Après l'explosion, les gens sont descendus dans la rue à nouveau pour protester. Pensez-vous que les manifestations ont eu un impact ?

    Le samedi après l’explosion, des gens manifestaient dans les rues. J’étais là-bas et j’ai eu peur du déploiement de la violence par les forces de sécurité.

    Face à tant de calamités, la seule raison pour laquelle les gens ne sont pas descendus en masse dans la rue est la pandémie de COVID-19. En ce sens, la pandémie a été une aubaine pour le régime. Il a imposé un couvre-feu, détruit les tentes que les révolutionnaires avaient installées sur la Place des Martyrs et procédé à des arrestations et des détentions, le tout sous prétexte de protéger les gens du virus. Mais, bien sûr, cela ne trompe personne. Les niveaux de contagion augmentent plutôt qu’ils ne diminuent. Le fait que le régime soit tellement corrompu que nous n’avons fondamentalement pas de service de santé vraiment fonctionnel n’aide pas.

    Les limites créées par la pandémie et les craintes des gens pour leur propre santé limitent sérieusement les actions contre le régime ; cependant, je ne pense pas que cela arrêtera la révolution. Les gens en ont assez. Beaucoup de gens ont tout perdu. Et quand ils vous mettent contre le mur, vous n’avez nulle part où aller d’autre que de l’avant. Le régime continuera à utiliser la force brutale, il continuera à mentir et à mal gérer les fonds et les ressources, mais cela devient totalement inacceptable pour une partie croissante de la population.

    Je pense que la mobilisation de rue a été un succès à plusieurs niveaux. On peut ne pas être d'accord et faire remarquer que le régime est toujours au pouvoir, et il est vrai qu’il faudra encore beaucoup de temps pour qu’il tombe. Mais le succès immédiat des manifestations a été de briser un tabou. Il y avait une sorte de halo ou de sainteté autour de certains dirigeants considérés comme intouchables. Maintenant, il est évident qu’ils ne bénéficient plus de cette protection. Bien que le régime ne soit pas disposé à céder, il ne fait que gagner du temps.

    À mon avis, une réalisation importante a été le rôle de leadership joué par les groupes féministes lorsqu’il s’agit de réfléchir au pays que nous voulons, aux droits et prérogatives que nous exigeons et à la forme de gouvernement que nous voulons. Avec 40 organisations féministes, nous avons lancé une liste de revendications. Nous avons réfléchi ensemble et établi à quoi devrait ressembler une reconstruction humanitaire dans une perspective féministe et nous l’utilisons comme un outil de plaidoyer devant la communauté internationale. La manière dont nous intervenons indique que cette crise doit être gérée avec une vision féministe.

    De plus, pour la première fois, la communauté LGBTQI+ a joué un rôle essentiel dans le façonnement du processus de réforme, du processus de transition et du façonnement du pays que nous voulons, à la fois en termes de forme de l'État et en termes de relations humaines. La voix de la communauté des migrants a également été amplifiée. Pour moi, ces réalisations sont irréversibles.

    De quel soutien de la part de la communauté internationale a besoin la société civile de Beyrouth et du Liban ?

    Il y a plusieurs choses à faire. Tout d'abord, nous avons besoin de formes tangibles de solidarité dans le domaine des communications, pour amplifier notre voix. Deuxièmement, nous devons faire pression sur la communauté internationale, au nom du mouvement féministe libanais, pour qu’elle tienne le régime libanais responsable de chaque centime qu’il reçoit. Pour donner un exemple : nous avons reçu environ 1,700 kilos de thé du Sri Lanka, mais le thé a disparu ; il semble que le président l’ait distribué aux gardes présidentiels. Nous avons besoin de l’influence et de la pression de la communauté internationale pour demander des comptes à ce régime. Troisièmement, il faut que les principaux médias internationaux amplifient ces voix.

    Je tiens à souligner le fait que l’aide internationale ne doit pas être sans conditions, car le régime en place n’opère pas avec transparence et responsabilité. Bien entendu, il n’appartient pas à la société civile de reconstruire ce qui a été endommagé ou de remettre l’infrastructure sur pied. Mais chaque centime qui va au régime pour ces tâches doit être livré dans des conditions de transparence, de responsabilité et de diligence raisonnable. La société civile doit être habilitée à exercer des fonctions de contrôle. Cela signifie que les OSC doivent avoir la voix et les outils pour surveiller. Sinon, rien ne changera. L’aide internationale s’évanouira ; cela ne fera qu’aider le régime à prolonger son règne tant que la ville reste en ruine.

    L’espace civique au Liban est classé comme « obstrué » par leCIVICUS Monitor.
    Entrez en contact avec le Collectif pour la Recherche et la Formation sur l’Action pour le Développement à travers sonsite Web et suivez@LinaAH1 sur Twitter.