Why did the protests stop in Lebanon

Protests in Lebanon : "Hunger is greater than fear"

The “Lebanese Revolution”, which began so hopefully and peacefully in October last year, seemed to have fallen into slumber. The corona pandemic and the associated strict exit restrictions made the protests, which lasted more than six months - which are primarily directed against corruption and mismanagement of their own elites - disappear almost as quickly as they had started.

However, the anger and hatred of the Lebanese people towards their own government can neither be stifled with nightly curfews nor with the corona vaccination ban longed for by all over the world.

The catastrophic financial situation of the small Mediterranean country has worsened again as a result of the nationwide lockdown. Lebanon is de facto bankrupt, and for months the local currency, the Lebanese lira, has been exposed to an inexorable decline in value. The past few days have repeatedly marked new records for the lira decline.

At the weekend, the picture of a cereal box made the rounds on social networks. According to the price tag, the foreign brand is said to cost just under 35,000 Lebanese lira in the supermarket - more than US $ 23.

Simple groceries are becoming luxury goods and the government has nothing to counter the economic depression. On Sunday evening there were nationwide blockades on roads and highways.

Later in the evening, several bank branches were set on fire as a symbol of the financial crisis. On Tuesday night, Lebanon's second largest city, Tripoli, lived up to its nickname as the “heart of the revolution”: in the poorest city in the entire Mediterranean region, thousands gathered late in the evening on the central Al-Nour Square.

The first fatality this year

There, too, people attacked several bank branches and pelted the security forces with stones. These reacted with rubber bullets and - according to eyewitness reports - for the first time with live ammunition.

Unlike usual, the major Lebanese television stations did not interrupt their programs to document the riots live.

Instead, classic Arabic Ramadan series ran on the television screen, which caused great misunderstanding in large parts of the population.

And so it was only very late that the news made the rounds that dozens of people had been seriously injured in the nightly riots. One of them, 26-year-old Fawaz Fouad al-Samman, died Tuesday morning from his injuries, making him the first to die in the 2020 protests.

The UN special coordinator for Lebanon Jan Kubis described the 26-year-old Fawaz Fouad al-Samman as a “martyr” and attacked the political leadership with unusually sharp words: “The tragic events in Tripoli send a warning signal to the country's political elite, that now is the time to provide material support to the desperate, impoverished and hungry majority of Lebanese people. "

The Lebanese army itself expressed its condolences for the death of the young man in a Twitter statement published on Tuesday and also called him a “martyr”.

The armed forces also announced that they would open an official investigation into the death of the 26-year-old. According to the army, 54 people were injured by the security forces.

The Lebanese military has been playing a special role since the beginning of the mass protests. The army is one of the few institutions in the country that is mixed denominationally and religiously. Sunni soldiers serve in the same units as Christian or Shiite soldiers. As a result, the army enjoys a certain trust in the population, also because many soldiers have already sympathized with the protest movement in the past.

As early as Tuesday afternoon, Fawaz Fouad al-Samman was buried by hundreds of mourners. Protests broke out again after the funeral procession. As in the past few days, several banks in Tripoli fell victim to Molotov cocktails and burned out completely.

The soldiers seem more hesitant

Security forces used tear gas against protesters in the afternoon. Unlike the previous evening, however, individual soldiers appeared much more hesitant.

On the live images of the television channel Al Jadeed, members of the armed forces could be observed, who only carefully pointed their rifles, then withdrew without pulling the trigger.

It is unlikely that people will leave the streets again quickly. Despite Covid-19 and the high risk of infection, one hears the sentence again and again on Tuesday afternoons: "Hunger is greater than fear."

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