On 14 January, the Lebanese government announced a round the clock curfew, trying to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, the non-essential workers have been forced to stay at home, without any real form of income. In addition, even grocery shopping is not allowed and instead, people have to opt for delivery services, which for many is too expensive. Half of the Lebanese population is considered poor and survive off their daily income. For them, no work means no food. Therefore, on Monday 25 January, the first protests occurred in Lebanon’s poorest city of Tripoli. Angry at the government for the lack of financial support during the pandemic, as well as the already existing corruption, inflation and political crisis, the protestors tried to storm the local governmental building. In response, the police reportedly fired live ammunition, causing the death of a young man. In addition, over 200 people were wounded.
Only 25% of Lebanese is financially stable
The government stated that they provide monthly allowances to 230 thousand families. The transfers consist of 400 thousand Lebanese pounds, which is approximately 50 U.S dollars. However, Lebanon has a population of almost 7 million, of which only 25% does not need financial assistance. Furthermore, due to the financial crisis, prices are skyrocketing. Therefore, the aid provided is far from enough.
The president’s alleged plot
The political unrest continues to deteriorate as well. Lebanon has seen a total of four (designated) prime ministers in one year and the formation of a new cabinet under Saad Hariri has been blocked now for several months. Meanwhile, a source from the Lebanese parliament has said that president Michel Aoun, together with his son in-law Jebran Bassil of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), is planning to use the ongoing crises to transform the Supreme Defence Council into a military cabinet. While the FPM would allegedly drag Hariri’s Future Movement and the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) into a more intense political dispute, Aoun would make his move. If this were to happen, Hariri is set aside. However, the same source also added that he thinks that the Future Movement and the PSP would see through this whole affair and therefore block it from happening.
Even if a military cabinet will be obstructed, Lebanon still needs political reform to combat the extreme poverty and financial crisis. While the curfew might combat an increase of COVID-19 infections, it does not stop the spread of hunger and desperation.
Image: Wikimedia (Protest Beirut 2019)