Skip to main content

Many young Lebanese protesters forced to hide activism from parents

Young protesters are still demonstrating despite the disapproval of their parents, who cling to Lebanon's sectarian-based political system.

BEIRUT, Lebanon – Nour, who preferred not to reveal her full name, packed her bag with a Lebanese flag, a notebook and her wallet before heading out to join her fellow protesters at Beirut’s Martyrs Square. The demonstrations in Lebanon have been ongoing for nearly four weeks now and she has gone almost every day. She and her friends rented an office to host workshops on battling misinformation in the news media. But she never told her parents.

With hundreds of thousands of people joining the country-wide protests that call for the resignation of the entire government among other reforms, Nour finds herself in constant arguments with her parents, who wholeheartedly oppose the protests and support the current government.

“My dad is a [President Michel] Aoun supporter and one of his biggest dreams is to secure a position in the parliament,” she told Al-Monitor. “There is this big ideological division between him and me, and he wouldn’t appreciate that I’m going to these protests.”

She hides her face whenever she sees cameras during protests because she doesn't want her parents to see her on TV. At home, arguments come up almost daily on dinner table. “Look at these protesters — what they are doing is ruining this country,” Nour’s father commented while watching a live stream of protests across the country.

“I’m doing my best to topple the corrupted government that my father so vehemently defends,” Nour said.

Her story is not uncommon in Lebanon, a country that remains deeply sectarian and where religion forms many people's core identity. Different religious beliefs almost always correlate with specific political stances.

However, since the beginning of this series of protests, this ideology has been challenged. The diverse protesters are fighting back against efforts to divide them along sectarian lines. They point out that people are taking to the streets out of economic desperation and are not religious sects attacking another.

This unity narrative has reached much of Lebanon, but the generational division that has been amplified by these protests still has the power to divide families.

Rayane Raidi, another protester who relationship with her parents became strained because of the ongoing protests, told Al-Monitor that she hadn’t seen her parents in person since the beginning of the movement.

“Every time we chat on WhatsApp, we just argue,” Rayane said. “Sometimes we’d have objective and civilized arguments, but more often than not, they get extremely offensive, so I see no reason to have these discussions in person.”

“They say that they regretted sending me to a school that adopted a secular curriculum,” Rayane said, describing one of their arguments. “Because they believe the courses that I took made me go against their political opinions and ruin the country.”

But the political connotations of religious beliefs among the younger generation in Lebanon are weakening and giving way to a focus on better livelihoods. The young people of Lebanon have become the backbone of the movement that pushes the protests forward.

“I get why religions mattered to my parents that much, but I can’t put myself in the same position when all of our livelihoods are at stake,” Najeeb, another protester who also did not disclose his full name, told Al-Monitor. “I couldn’t care less about religion when I can’t find a job or put food on the table.”

However, many people in the generation who endured the 15 years of bloody civil war find it impossible to completely separate their religious affiliations from their political opinions.

The Lebanese state as we know it today reached a political balance when Sunni Muslims, Shiite Muslims and Christian Maronites agreed to a power-sharing government through the Taif Agreement signed in 1989. Since then, the prevailing belief has been that peace can only be sustained by working within the political dynamics defined by religious sects.

“This kind of close attachment people have to their religious beliefs comes from the deep fear that once their sect separates their religion from politics, they will become political minority,” Gino Raidy, an activist and blogger well known among the protesters, told Al-Monitor.

However, this mentality doesn’t resonate with the protesters on the street. They are calling in a unified voice for ditching such religion-based division.

My parents’ generation “keeps scaring people and saying if we keep protesting, this is going to turn into a civil war,” security analyst Christel Ghandour told Al-Monitor. “But they are completely blinded by the trauma from the civil war because what we are doing is exactly the opposite of what triggered the war — sectarianism.”

However, most protesters seem uninterested in tackling this division at home. A number of them interviewed by Al-Monitor said they were simply trying to avoid arguments with their parents, even if the price is to not talk to them at all.

“Too much is at stake and there is no turning back,” said graffiti artist Samir Hacker. “We are not going to stop just because our parents do not agree with us.”

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Already a Member? Sign in


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial
What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

Already a Member? Sign in

The Middle East in your inbox Insights in your inbox.

Deepen your knowledge of the Middle East

Trend Reports

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (4th R) attends a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (3rd L) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on February 22, 2019. (Photo by HOW HWEE YOUNG / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read HOW HWEE YOUNG/AFP via Getty Images)

From roads to routers: The future of China-Middle East connectivity

A general view shows the solar plant in Uyayna, north of Riyadh, on March 29, 2018. - On March 27, Saudi announced a deal with Japan's SoftBank to build the world's biggest solar plant. (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images)

Regulations on Middle East renewable energy industry starting to take shape

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial