The tiny Middle Eastern nation is fighting the worst economic crisis in its history, political unrest, a health pandemic, famine and now, a deadly explosion.
When you are a writer, your task is to find the right words in the right order to effectively express your point to the reader. Right now, I do not know if I have the power to communicate the state of disaster Lebanon is engulfed in. But here goes.
Lebanon’s capital city, Beirut, has gone up in smoke, and this is no metaphor. In fact it is the showstopper in a maelstrom of tragedy and injustice the Lebanese people have suffered at the hands of a rotten establishment. For years the system has allowed its leaders to take billions of dollars from the state whilst failing to provide even basic electricity and water to its people. Since October 2019, a widespread protest movement began with demands for change and the removal of a government that fails to offer any kind of governance. This waged alongside a free falling economy, wrecking havoc as individuals scrambled to withdraw their life savings, only to find the banks restricting access to their own funds. The Lebanese lira, pegged to the US dollar, has lost 80% of its value causing hyperinflation. On the global stage, the country is no better off; landlocked by war-torn Syria to the east and old-enemy Israel to the south, it struggles for international friends.
And now one of its key entry and exit points, its port, has been decimated in a vast explosion. The major port handles 60% of the country’s imports in a country that imports 90% of its goods, so the effect is grave. Not forgetting the food and supplies already docked, now laid waste in the apocalyptic scene of ash and debris left behind. The videos that circulated on social media documented billows of smoke and a building on fire, and then seconds later, a huge blast catapulting into the sky, finishing off with a nuclear-like mushroom cloud. People filming have their phones knocked out of their hands and are flung back, throwing those even 2km away off their chairs, shattering their windows and caving in their ceilings.
Initial cause of the destruction is pointing to a warehouse storing 2,750 tonnes of confiscated ammonium nitrate. It is a substance more commonly used in fertiliser, and has been the cause of numerous industrial explosions over the decades. So why was such a highly explosive material stored in the city, so close to residential neighbourhoods you ponder? For six years someone knew it was stored there, so the people shout criminal negligence and once more raise their fists at the government.
They say that even throughout the 15-year civil war, basic necessities were not as critical as this. No bullet hole or shelling ever wounded a building as badly. The forever volatile electricity in Lebanon has now been reduced to a dribble. A photo on Twitter showed doctors treating a patient in a carpark in pitch black, with their phone lights for guidance. Like the rest of the world coronavirus came knocking, but the state shut down the country within eight days of the first case, cautious for the beleaguered health system. Little did they know that such precautions would be redundant. Right now, four hospitals are so damaged they cannot operate and have lost staff, according to the World Health Organisation. The latest virus statistics released since the explosion depict a huge spike.
Latest figures read 300,000 people have been made homeless. Thousands with life-changing injuries.This is a country sinking in debt, with the third highest debt to GDP ratio in the world, beating Venezuela by a hair. It is no win to be proud of. The prime minister, Hassan Diab, elected post-uprising in January 2020 has predictably declared “those responsible” will “pay the price”. Yet he is failing to see the problem: himself and his buddies in power.
As the Lebanese sweep up glass and set up soup kitchens, they feel cursed, and acrimony towards the system, knowing nothing happens in Lebanon without a reason. One friend wrote “F**k this shit, they destroyed our capital and its people”. Once the debris is cleared, anger will replace it. And it already has. Social media is trending with “Hang up the nooses”; people are chomping for revenge and accountability. No leader or government official is yet to resign.
It is easy to dismiss this as yet another Middle Eastern nation with a complex sectarian society, suffering at the hands of a crooked governance. But this is a good country with good people who received 1.5 million refugees from Syria and Palestine (Lebanon’s population is 5 million – if we did the same in the UK we would be indebted with 15 million refugees – just imagine that for a second). The Lebanese are one of the most intellectual countries in the region, with the most generous and good-willed people, born into a trilingual society of Arabic, French and English. They boast the freshest and tastiest food, a colourful, ancient culture, that sits wonderfully alongside beaches and ski slopes. They crack jokes and throw house parties, make sure your glass is never empty and don’t stop dancing until the sun comes up. They welcome you into their homes filling you with baba ganoush, tabbouleh and infectious laughing.
But just when they thought their world couldn’t become bleaker, a monumental disaster struck. So I write now to urge you please, if you can to donate using the link below. No amount is too small. You are buying essential medical equipment like generators for hospitals, food for families and beds for children. Half of the population live below the poverty line, with the extreme poor on the brink of starvation. So please do not forget those sleeping tonight in windowless houses, brushing the glass and bricks off their beds, hollow with pain at the never-ending tragedy of Lebanon.
I hope two things, as in times of darkness we have to look up. Firstly, that now the world’s eye has finally turned on Lebanon and the cracks are there for all to see, it will put pressure on the leaders to stand down. And secondly, that I succeeded in finding the right words in the right order to convey the cataclysmic fall of a great people.
LINK TO DONATION PAGE:
Please give this article a rating below!