Protests erupted again in Lebanon and in Lebanese communities around the world, more than a year after the explosion in Beirut, the country’s capital, on August 4, 2020.
The explosion killed 218 people and displaced more than 300,000 others. According to Forbes, the explosion was rated 3.3 on the seismic scale, making it one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history. It was so powerful that it was felt across neighboring Israel, Palestine and Syria, and was even heard in Cyprus, nearly 150 miles off the Lebanese coast.
The protests came in response to the Lebanese government’s lack of responsibility for the role they played in the explosion, which was reportedly triggered by the government allowing freighters to improperly store ammonium nitrate alongside the fires. fireworks in the port of Beirut for several years.
According to Al Jazeera, there have already been ongoing protests against the government since 2019. These protests called on the Lebanese people to protest against decades of corruption, a crippling economy, high taxes, high unemployment, rapid inflation, foreign interventions in the country and sectarian conflict between different political parties.
The majority of the problems are remnants of the Lebanese civil war, which lasted from 1975 to 1990. This war was characterized by widespread violence between religious and political groups and led to the occupation of parts of the country by Israel and Syria until the early 2000s.
Lebanon, being religiously diverse, is home to one of the largest Christian populations in the Middle East, as well as significant Sunni and Shia Muslim populations, as well as other religious minorities such as the Druze and Jews.
The Lebanese government is also divided according to religion. According to National pact drafted in 1943, the president must be a Maronite Catholic, the prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim, the speaker of the chamber must be a Shia Muslim, and the vice-president of the chamber must be a Greek Orthodox Christian.
In addition to religious cleavages, elected officials are often selected by nepotism, as there have been long lines of ruling political families such as the Gemayel, Chamoun, Frangieh, Hariri and Joumblatt families.
The explosion at the Port of Beirut was seen as the fatal blow to these growing problems and sparked protests and riots across the country and among Lebanese communities around the world, all directed against the government they accused of be responsible for the deaths of Lebanese civilians because of their corruption and greed.
On August 4, 2021, protests took place at the site of the blast with protesters holding the names of the victims who lost their lives in the blast. Lebanese flags were waved and banners were displayed indicating that the Lebanese government had “blood on its hands”, Microphone reported.
In Boston, protests against the Lebanese government were held in 2019 and a vigil was held in 2020 and 2021 at the Khalil Gibran Memorial across from the Boston Public Library. Suffolk University students Karine Kanj, Pamela Saad and Angela El Jazzar were among the protesters.
“The problems in Lebanon have been brewing for years,” said El Jazzar. âWhether it was economic turmoil, corruption or mistrust of our leaders, people have made their voices heard on the streets and demanded change. Yet a year after the August 4 explosion, people are still demanding answers.
When asked what the Suffolk University community and other Americans can do to improve the situation in Lebanon, El Jazzar explained that it could be as simple as raising awareness and collecting donations.
“Economic stability is something our people aspire to as they continue to face daily blackouts, lack of clean water, limited public health care, and some of the world’s worst internet connections.” , said El Jazzar. Through three different fundraisers, I was able to raise over $ 5,000 which was used to distribute food to 50 homes, as well as to pay for school programs and school supplies for over 150 children.
In September 2021, protests continue, despite the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri in the aftermath of the explosion. President Michel Aoun has been in office since 1988, making him one of the most enduring administrations still in power in the world.