Scottie Andrew and Paul P. Murphy, CNN
Published October 22, 2019 at 4:44 pm.
After days of tense protests in Lebanon over a crumbling economy, a few-minute suspension came in the form of a beloved children's song.
Eliane Jabbour was driving through Baabda district, south of Beirut, when a crowd of protesters cheered the car. Her 15-month-old son, Robin, was with her.
"I told them, 'I have a baby, don't be noisy,'" she told CNN about the Saturday night meeting.
It was when protesters began singing "Baby Shark", the song that became a hymn for children around the world.
"It was spontaneous," said Jabbour. "He likes this song. He often listens at home and laughs."
The video spread quickly across Lebanon – so quickly, Jabbour said, that her husband watched the video before she could tell him.
Protesters opposed new taxes, weakened economy
Jabbour's meeting with protesters marked a mild moment in a turbulent period for Lebanon, with hundreds of thousands of people demanding reforms.
Demonstrations began on Thursday after the Lebanese government announced new proposed taxes to residents, including a 20-cent voice-over-Internet protocol (VOIP) fee, a feature on WhatsApp that allows users to make calls with a Internet connection instead of a phone line. .
But the anger of protesters goes deeper than an app. Residents are challenging a sectarian government in which power is consolidated between political and business elites, usually one and the same. The paralyzed debt has stalled the country's economic growth and prevented many citizens from accessing basic services.
Growing pressure from protesters pressured the government on Monday to abandon measures, cut staff salaries and approve a 2020 budget that could allow billions of dollars in promised international donations. Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri has refused to resign despite protests.
Jabbour said the video of protesters singing to his son represents the reality of children in Lebanon.
"Children in Lebanon must have a better future," said Jabbour. "Robin will see the video when he grows up and will know that the Lebanese were fighting for it.