Lebanon: anniversary explosion divides people and institutions

On the afternoon of Wednesday 4 August, thousands of people poured into the Port of Beirut , where, on 4 August 2020 , the explosion of a consignment of ammonium nitrate left over 200 victims and thousands injured and destroyed the area. The Lebanese government then in office resigned: since then two other prime ministers designated to form a new government have renounced their position. On Monday 26 July, entrepreneur Hajib Mikati was appointed premier , who failed to complete the assignment by the anniversary.

The Lebanese people flocked to the port to ask an ignorant and corrupt political class to account for the investigation into the explosion, blocked by the immunity of the ministers then in office; the chronic shortage of electricity, business ,fuel, food and medicine; and the heavy devaluation of the Lebanese lira, which made salaries and pensions waste paper.

At the port the relatives of the victims and people disabled by the explosion paraded; the firefighters of the port barracks, who count ten dead in their ranks; entire families, movements, NGOs, Islamic and Christian religious congregations, trade associations, the entire civil society. The absence of the resigning government and of all political and governmental institutions is very heavy.

After the moment of silence and prayer, while a mass was being celebrated, a hundred people marched towards Parliament, shouting ‘Justice’ and ‘Thawra’, revolution, a reminder of the uprisings of October 2019, the beginning of the crisis in Lebanon.

Protesters try to attack Lebanese Parliament in Beirut, Lebanon. (Elisa Gestri/Sipa USA)

Demonstrators and roits broke into the security area and tried to break into the perimeter of the building, throwing stones and setting fires in the corners of the block; from inside, security forces responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. Result: about 55 injured, including many journalists and also the writer, taken in an ambulance and treated with an oxygen mask for breathing the gas (but without serious consequences), apart from widespread bruises and bruises. Several demonstrators were taken to the hospital.

Squads of men in riot gear surrounded Martyrs’ Square, adjacent to Parliament, but there was no clash with the protesters. As darkness fell and the wounded were rescued, the crowd dispersed and the protest died down by itself.

The Lebanese media have in fact ignored what happened, giving space to the celebration of the anniversary, but keeping silent about what happened after. With the events of Tuesday, the people of Lebanon and the political class have further distanced themselves, separated by an invisible wall far more solid than that of Parliament.