With so much international news covering the events taking place in Lebanon after last week’s explosion, we interviewed a Lebanese citizen living outside of Beirut to better understand the current situation happening on the ground.
Joey is a Lebanese Civil Engineer that has worked in the Bay Area for the past four years. He previously lived in Lebanon for 22 years and has been working remotely outside Beirut since July 1, 2020.
People are still grappling with the situation regarding the explosion and many people, including myself, have gone downtown to help clean up the damage. There are families that have experienced symptoms such as stomach issues and vomiting from the nitrate gases that existed in the air. But from my perspective, it has not been dangerous to go downtown since I, nor other volunteers experienced any symptoms. After the explosion, the immediate reaction of the people was to help one another, but now anger has led many to protest against the government.
There have been spontaneous, unorganized protests happening in the past two days. Most of the protesters are non-Hezbollah supporters and support other political movements. There are currently people being treated in hospitals after being shot by police with rubber bullets during the protests that were aimed towards the torso and face. Unfortunately, this is not the first protest that this has happened. This is a dirty way of dealing with the protestors which only escalates violence.
Lebanese citizens are participating in these large protests to show that many people are unsatisfied with the current situation and are demanding early elections from their government in order to elect a new Prime Minister and parliament. However, even if early elections were to take place, I believe there would not be drastic changes within the government for years since many people will not change their ideologies, allowing politicians to feel as though they are not to blame for the explosion and rather place blame on other political parties.
There are always contradicting political views in Lebanon causing groups to fully support their party’s beliefs, leaving no room for differing opinions. Hezbollah is claiming they had no involvement in the explosion and that their only concern is defending Lebanon from Israel.
But a significant portion of non-supporters of Hezbollah believes this material was placed at the port for strategic purposes. Then there is the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), who support the current Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, and are not placing blame on a certain person or group until there is a thorough investigation. However, they do not want an international investigation to take place.
It is important to note that the Hariri investigation has taken 15 years just to announce a final verdict for the involved Hezbollah members, which has now been postponed due to the explosion. If the Hariri assassination took 15 years to receive a verdict (which was far less severe than the recent port explosion) then it is unforeseeable when we will receive answers regarding this explosion. Yet, on the other hand, there is a lot of international pressure, with President Trump meeting with the Lebanese President to provide financial aid and French President Macron giving a deadline of September 1st to review the financial aid progress; whereas in the Hariri case, there was not nearly as much international pressure.
In my personal opinion, this is a strategic point to be in since whoever helps Lebanon right now is the side the Lebanese people will politically shift towards. There is a constant conflict on whether Lebanon should side with the Iranians/Communists/Chinese or side with the Americans/French/Western part of the world. It seems as though the West is losing this battle since Iranian-backed Hezbollah is gaining more and more power. Hezbollah has the highest percentage of political supporters within the Lebanese population and their supporters rarely divert from their political party opinions. Lebanon has borrowed money from the West and does not look like it will receive money from Eastern powers, such as China or Iran.
In comparison with the Syrian conflict, Lebanon has stronger allies with the West than Syria ever did, which currently continues to ally with Iran. Therefore, I think the situation in Lebanon will have a different outcome to the economic and political issues rather than a full out war, as it did in Syria. However, with the recent discovery of oil and freshwater in the country, this could make things more complicated.
With the tragedy being so recent, Lebanese people are still in despair and are fearful that no change will occur. Many people are angry and want to make the changes as soon as possible, but many others still haven’t fully processed what has happened after the explosion.
Most likely, there will be a few new additions to the parliament that will not support any of the pre-existing political sides and, hopefully, these officials will be able to make real change by slowly shifting people’s ideologies.
Lastly, I hope the Lebanese people will not accept excuses pertaining to the explosion from governmental leaders, which is bound to happen in the near future. I hope political leaders and investigators will not end this by only blaming two or three people for the incident. I wish for there to be real change in Lebanese people’s ideologies and for a more independent Lebanon.
Photo Credit: Joey Ragheb