Lebanon Roiled by Wildfires & Protests

  • Posted on: 24 October 2019
recent protests

The world is an unpredictable quagmire of political turmoil; a country could easily descend into crisis within hours. Even locals don’t exactly know what to do in such circumstances, let alone foreigners visiting for a few days. With that said, you can easily be in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

This month alone, Lebanon has witnessed two unforeseen events sweep across the country: rampant wildfires and mass street protests against the government. More specifically, Lebanon struggled to tame the “worst fires in decades” and witnessed one of the largest country-wide protests in history. 

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More than 104 wildfires raged across Lebanon on October 14th for three consecutive days. The worst blaze in decades destroyed homes, shops, forests and crops. Cities affected include the Chouf region as well as Jbeil and Akkar. According to the Director of Civil Defense Operations George Abu Moussa, the reason for the fire breakouts was attributed to the speed of wind, that reached 50 kilometers per hour, which helped to increase the spreading of fire. 

Civil defense volunteers and security forces worked together to extinguish the flames. Cypriot, Greek and Jordanian firefighting planes assisted the Lebanese army in water-bombing over the fires, that reached 25 meters high, according to George Mitri, a director of land and natural resources at the University of Balamand. In addition, Palestinian Civil Defense from three Refugee Camps joined the Lebanese Civil Defense. 

list of protests

The fires breakout resulted in the injury of 4 in Qornet El Hamra northeast of Jdeideh. One death was reported in Btater; a volunteer by the name of Salim Moujahed (32), died of a heart attack while trying to help the civil defense forces extinguish the flames. 

Related: August 2019 Recap: Syria & Lebanon


With wildfires on the rise around the globe (most notably the West), it is important to know how to act if you are faced with uncontrollable flames. With that said, keep these pointers in mind if you are ever caught near a wildfire:

  1. Stay aware of the latest security news and updates. 

  2. If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Know your evacuation route ahead of time and prepare an evacuation checklist.

  3. Place your emergency kit in your vehicle or take it with you.

  4. Look for a body of water such as a pond or river to crouch in. If you can't find water nearby, find a flat, cleared area with little to no vegetation.

  5. Cover your body with wet clothing, a blanket, or soil. Stay low and covered until the fire passes.

  6. Protect your lungs by breathing air closest to the ground. If possible, wear a mask or place a moist cloth over your face to reduce smoke inhalation.

  7. Locate the nearest medical centers and facilities in case of emergency.


Anti-government protests began on October 17th and were initiated after the government’s announcement of new taxes, including taxes on WhatsApp calls. However, the WhatsApp decision was revoked mere hours later due to popular opposition. With that said, the protests continued and changed into expressions of anger against the entire political establishment, on whom they blame the country’s poor economic situation.

Related: Lebanese New Government & its Agenda

famous protests

Security forces in Lebanon used excessive force against protesters in downtown Beirut on October 18th according to Human Rights Watch. The Internal Security Force’s riot police fired tear gas at protesters and fired rubber bullets at demonstrators. The Human Rights Watch reported  protesters had trouble breathing and were seen vomiting and fainting from tear gas inhalation.

Similar protests took place across the country in Tripoli, Jbeil, Baalbek, Saida, Sour and Nabatieh. Although riot police were not directly attacked by protesters, they did loot construction sites and stores, smashed shopfronts and blocked roads with burning tires and trash. Moreover, they blocked access to the airport and the city. Others hurled fireworks at riot police guarding the Prime Minister’s headquarters. 

According to the Internal Security Forces, 70 people were arrested. However, activists claim that the number is closer to 300. In terms of casualties, 2 Syrian nationals who participated in protests, were shot dead when the bodyguards of ex-MP Mosbah al-Ahdab opened fire to disperse protesters in Tripoli on October 17th. According to the Islamic Medical Association, 64 people were injured in Sidon demonstrations over the course of just three days.  


Civil unrest could be anything from a simple protest to a full-scale riot or public uprising. Despite its importance, having to deal with such situations is not common knowledge. Here are some points to keep in mind and use if you are ever caught in a protest.

Related: What To Do If You Get Caught in a Protest

  1. Stay up to date with the news, be it through TV, radio, twitter or a security alerts app on your phone. 

  2. If you hear about a demonstration happening close to your location, it is preferable to not leave your place of accommodation until it is confirmed that the situation has been brought back to normal. 

  3. If you find yourself in the middle of a demonstration, you should remain calm. 

  4. If you feel that you need help, you should ask a single individual to guide you rather than a group of people: asking for help from a specific person puts more responsibility upon them to react. 

  5. Stay at the edge of the demonstration; If you find yourself caught in the middle, move diagonally with the crowd, but never against them; this way you will slowly slip out of the crowd. 

  6. If you are swept by the crowd and begin to feel crushed by them, grasp your wrists and brace your elbows away from your body, creating some breathing room for yourself.

  7. If you get pushed to the ground or get trampled, try to get near a wall and roll into a ball shape. More importantly, cover your head with your hands until the crowd leaves and remain clear of glass shop windows. If you see a nearby open building, alley or a doorway, you should first make sure that the building you are running into is unrelated to the demonstration (like a government building) then duck inside. 

  8. Once you get away, never run; walking away draws less attention to you.

  9. In case of shooting, the ground is your friend; drop down, cover your head and neck and lie as flat as possible. 

  10. If you happen to get arrested, try to identify yourself as someone not related to the entire situation, but don’t try to escape or resist arrest. If not released, peacefully go with them, and get in touch with your embassy.

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