Her name is Cynthia Aboujaboude, she is 28 and works as an art director. She was the first person to understand the impact the face of Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker could have through the media and took it to the streets of Beirut in support of the protests against the government of premier Saad Hariri. In an exclusive interview with InsideOver, Cynthia describes what drove her to transform herself into the clown burdened with pain and suffering and, above all, to emulate the character in the streets: “We’ve had enough of corruption, I and the others are seeking more justice and a better country, a country without any more thieving. We’re seeking an independent and better future”.
But how did you come up with idea to paint your face like the Joker? “I decided to wear the make-up of the Joker during the protest because it seemed right to me. Wearing the mask of the Joker allowed me to express my feelings without having to speak to anyone. We are hurt and simply disappointed. I think that what is most obvious and what connects us most to the figure of the Joker is his outlook on life. Now life teaches you just to lie and cheat if you want to survive. You don’t have any other choice. And this is not the life that I and the others want”.
That’s how it is because the Lebanese protests were not mounted solely by one political or religious group but, initially at least, crossed divides. Many supporters of Hezbollah also took to the streets to protest against the Hariri government until the leader of the Party of God, Hassan Nasrallah, put the movement and the entire country on their guard, accusing the United States of fomenting the revolts: “it is easy to say that the United States is always behind everything and that other countries are involved”, Cynthia told us, however. “Our problem is only with our politicians and how they are treating our country”, she continued.
These protests have however had their effect but we are just at the beginning: “The next step will be fresh resignations, they must all fall from power. We’re seeking the right to vote for anyone we deem suitable to hold these offices”. Also in Syria, it all began with protests which then led to a bloody civil war that cost the lives of at least half a million people. But the case of Lebanon is different, Cynthia explains to us: “They are two different situations. People in Lebanon are realizing that this is not a war, and it truly is not. We’re protesting peacefully and will continue to do so until the politicians stop standing in the way of our future”.
But what is this future that Cynthia and the demonstrators are dreaming of? “I hope for peace and prosperity for my country. A better future for me. I hope that my friends, my family and all Lebanese can lead the lives they deserve”. But how that can be achieved is still difficult to say…
© Cover photo: Alain el Khoury
Translation by Dale Owens