Devastation in Lebanon: Corruption Leads to Protest

Chaos and disruption in Beirut broke out on October 14 after decades of conflict between the government and Shiite Muslim parties. This isn’t the first time people have expressed disdain for the government, as Lebanon is no stranger to economic crises. Years of corruption and bad policies made by the government have caused Lebanon’s currency to depreciate by over 90 percent since the fall of 2019.

On August 4, 2020, an explosion occurred in the port of Beirut resulting from the combustion of 2,750 tons of chemicals. Over 200 people were killed. For over a year, an investigation examining the cause for the explosion has been led by Judge Tarek Bitar, but no concrete findings have been reported. Prime Minister Najib Mikati of Lebanon announced that schools and government buildings would be closed on October 15, 2021 to honor the lives lost from the explosion. Many residents believed the government used the announcement to deflect from the corruption in the country.

Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim party and military group, has been outspoken in opposition against the current state of the Lebanese government. Along with the Amal Movement, another Shiite Muslim party, Hezbollah organized a protest to remove Bitar from his post. Protestors and Lebanese police gathered in Beirut around the Tayouneh area on October 14, 2021. There were snipers situated in high buildings, and Lebanese officials and protestors on the streets. A gunshot was fired, signaling the start of a fight between two sides, and witnesses claimed that the snipers set off the first shot. A civil war between the Christian and Shiite Muslim sects ended in 1990, but fights for political power still continue today. Many residents hid in buildings, fearing that the gunshots signaled another civil war for the country. The protest lasted approximately four hours, resulting in nine arrests and seven deaths from both sides of the conflicts. Over the course of two years, prices of consumer items have quadrupled and power blackouts are becoming more frequent occurrences. For low to middle class residents, food and fuel shortages have caused basic necessities to become luxury goods. Many have started relying on private sellers to receive such commodities instead of government owned businesses. A second civil war has not yet broken out, but increasing tension and conflicts between the government and Shiite Muslim has already had detrimental consequences.

By: Amber Chou