Pin It
Ayla Hibri’s You Stink protests
Photography Ayla Hibri

Wading through the garbage crisis of Beirut

The Lebanese capital is overflowing with rubbish, its people stifled by government corruption. This photographer documents the community fighting back

In a country often divided by religious and political conflict, the garbage crisis in the Lebanese capital has brought together thousands of people in the form of the ‘You Stink’ movement. Along with the overflowing garbage comes a pulsating political unrest among the masses, one the system can no longer hold their nose, avert their eyes and ignore.

For months, the piles of trash have been growing in Beirut. Villagers around Lebanon’s biggest landfill blocked access to the site back in July, as they became weary of the issues a dump so close to two million inhabitants raised. In the same month, the government’s contract with a waste management company ceased, and since then nothing has been done by the people in power to fix it. There’s also a widespread lack of water, electricity and any employment opportunities. Now, the Lebanese community are fighting back with the ‘You Stink’ Movement.

“For the first time, probably in the history of Lebanon, people from all sects and backgrounds have come together to reject the entire elite and ask for change” – Ayla Hibri

“The situation is tense at the moment,” explains photographer Ayla Hibri. “The movement has managed to rally what was probably the largest protest not sponsored by a political party in the history of Lebanon. What was essentially Lebanon's fabled silent majority came out on Saturday and rattled the entire political establishment.”

In her photos, Hibri captures the reverberating unrest and thirst for change among the thousands protesting in the streets. And they have left the government quaking. “They vacillate between trying to hijack and support the movement, while also spreading salacious rumours about its organizers,” says Hibri. In the mean time, protestors in the capital are threatening even bigger demonstrations if their demands aren’t met.

Despite the horrific conditions, protestors have high hopes of success. People are finally unifying to challenge the oppressive government force and the squalid living conditions thousands have been forced to endure for a long time. “For the first time, probably in the history of Lebanon, people from all sects and backgrounds have come together to reject the entire elite and ask for change,” says Hibri. “The trash collection scandal has galvanized everyone to demand the basic services they have so long been deprived of.”

Check out more of Ayla Hibri's work here