Lebanese Initiative Against Racism and Discrimination
In 2019, after a few months of particularly xenophobic behavior and intolerant rhetoric in Lebanon, members of Lebanese society engaged with refugee issues decided it was time to unite efforts and take a principled stance against a climate of escalating hostility and provide a level of accountability to push back against what was transpiring. These impassioned and active members came together from various corners of civil society, academia, media, and law, agreeing to use their respective positions and networks to advocate for Lebanon’s refugee communities, particularly the Syrians and Palestinians, as well as other marginalized or targeted groups under the umbrella of the Lebanese Initiative Against Racism and Discrimination (LIADR).
On August 22, 2019 the "Lebanese Initiative Against Discrimination and Racism" was officially launched. Since then it has used its collective efforts to publicly push back against the rising tide of deleterious rhetoric and actions. On the same day as the Initiative’s founding, two lawyers from the LIADR filed a complaint with the Lebanese judiciary against a range of public figures due to their sharply discriminatory and racist statements, including then foreign minister Gebran Bassil. As the Initiative further developed in the months that followed, it also highlighted racist inter-Lebanese acts, such as comments by the bodyguards of MP Ziad Aswad in Jounieh towards a protestor from Tripoli on February 5, 2020. Despite the unfurling of the coronavirus shortly thereafter, racist remarks and actions continued, and so did the work of the LIADR. In addition to personal action taken by the Initiative’s members in their various fields and independent channels, periodic newsletters have been released, which succinctly highlight troublesome occurrences around Lebanon.
As Lebanon continues to bend under the weight of a myriad of issues, ranging from political to financial to economical, the barrage of overtly xenophobic actions and statements is unlikely to subside anytime soon. Politicians will continue to reference Syrian and Palestinian refugees in disparaging ways, news organizations will publish racist cartoons, and various members of society will look for scapegoats for the country’s problems. Thus, the LIADR will continue to file suits, publish newsletters, and urge others to join efforts in publicly pushing back against problematic behavior in all its shapes and variations across Lebanon.