BEIRUT: Five weeks ago, the closure of the Naameh landfill meant the abrupt suspension of garbage collection in Beirut and Mount Lebanon.

This led not only to thousands of tons of stinking trash piled around neighborhoods, but also the formation of a grassroots movement named “You Stink,” directed at the government and its inadequate efforts to address the waste management crisis.

While the trash has mostly been diverted from the streets now, thousands of people are rallying with You Stink to advocate not only for sustainable solutions, but the resignation of key officials.

Friday, July 17

The Environment Ministry closes the controversial Naameh landfill, which has taken in more than 15 million tons of trash since its 1998 opening, despite its 2-million-ton capacity. This leaves the governorates of Beirut and Mount Lebanon without a suitable place to dispose of their garbage.

Sunday, July 19

Waste management contractor Sukleen stops collecting trash in Beirut and Mount Lebanon without a place to dispose of it. Neighborhood dumpsters quickly spill over into mountains of trash amounting to an estimated 3,500 tons in one week. This sparks a nationwide conversation on waste management and state corruption.

Saturday, July 25

A grassroots movement named “Tol3et Re7etkom” (You Stink) arises in late July “as a response to the government’s inability to solve the crisis.” Its stated mission is to advocate “sustainable solutions provided by several environmental experts and centered around going back to a municipality-level system while implementing nationwide recycling.”

Made up of “mostly young men and women” across different religious and political affiliations, its core organizers include Joey Ayoub, Imad Bazzi, Lucien Bourjeily, Farah Shaer and Assaad Thebian, though it claims to not have a leader. You Stink promotes its campaign largely through its Facebook page.

You Stink holds a protest in Riad al-Solh Square, attracting around 1,000 people. The government also announces that temporary landfills have been identified and garbage collection has resumed.

Monday, July 27

Sukleen suspends garbage collection after Sibline residents protest against the trash being stored in their town. After emergency Cabinet sessions, the government announces at night that pickup will resume.

However, the problem of where to properly dispose of Beirut and Mount Lebanon’s garbage remains. You Stink regularly documents on Facebook incidents of trash improperly dumped in valleys and along shorelines throughout the country.

Tuesday, July 28

Hundreds rally in Riad al-Solh Square in a 10 a.m. protest intended to coincide with a Cabinet session that ends up postponed. A small group splits off and marches to Hamra, where they throw garbage at the car of Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas.

Thursday, July 30

Dozens of protesters march from the Social Affairs Ministry to the Justice Palace to demand the release of two activists, Tarek Mallah and Firas Bou Zeineddine, who were detained the previous day for the attack on the minister’s car, and charged with contempt and defamation. Two other activists, Ihab Yazbek and Bilal Allaw, were also detained, but released Thursday.

Saturday, Aug. 8

You Stink holds its first major protest at 6 p.m. in Martyrs’ Square, attracting several thousand people. In the week prior, it launches an online crowdfunding campaign to raise $2,000 to fund protest materials. It gets $7,606 by the time of the protest.

Wednesday, Aug. 19

A small group of protesters gather in Riad al-Solh Square to coincide with a 4:30 p.m. meeting of ministers discussing the waste management tender. Scuffles break out as activist Assaad Thebian is detained for sneaking past a police barrier, and protesters attempt to pull back the barbed wire blocking off the Grand Serail. Police use water cannons to disperse them, and later, in the first major instance of police violence, resort to beating back protesters with batons. You Stink calls for a protest the coming Saturday.

Saturday, Aug. 22

Several thousand people gather in Riad al-Solh Square for a 6 p.m. protest to march to Nijmeh Square. You Stink’s demands include the resignation of Environment Minister Mohammad Machnouk, transparent bidding for a sustainable solution, and accountability for those behind the trash crisis. In a marked escalation of violence, police and Army personnel resort to water cannons, batons, tear gas, and machine guns fired into the air to disperse protesters. At least 75 protesters and 35 police are reported wounded. You Stink’s Arabic hashtag becomes a top trend on Twitter, included in more than 70,000 tweets.

Sunday, Aug. 23

Protesters arrive at Riad Al-Solh Square for a 6 p.m. protest. You Stink demands the resignation of Prime Minister Tammam Salam. 

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