Explosions in Beirut: after the shock, the revolt rumbles

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Rifles and brooms: the weapons of the soldiers who took possession of downtown Beirut, bruised by the double explosion on Tuesday, August 4 in the port, and those of the volunteers who are struggling to give it some semblance of life. For the moment, these two objects, which have become symbolic of Lebanon, rub shoulders in relative indifference. But many bet that they will come face to face very quickly. For already, the time of mourning is supplanted by that of anger. “If we weren’t busy helping each other, we would be in front of Parliament, screaming,” says Nathalie.

Nine years ago, this Franco-Lebanese left Paris for Beirut “for the love of the country”. This Thursday, August 6 in the morning, she noted the damage in her district of Gemmayzeh where, luckily, she was not on Tuesday at the time of the tragedy. “If I had been there, I would have watched the fire from my balcony, and I would have been swept away by the blast that exploded my bay window,” she blurted out, her voice knotted with fear and sobs. And if Nathalie was “an hour’s drive from Beirut”, it is because, because of the economic crisis that has hit Lebanon for months, she no longer has either water or electricity, forced to wash herself outside. the city.

Beirut, Thursday August 6. “All we have left is knowing we’re alive,” says Nathalie. / LP / Arnaud Dumontier

Like her relatives, Nathalie notes that “all we have left is knowing we are alive. For the Lebanese, this explosion is the point of no return. The anger is there, who goes and who must come out. Words which are those of a whole population, already heated to white by deprivation even before the shock wave of the explosion. On Twitter, the hashtag “hang them” never ceases to circulate.

“We no longer have a place to call home,” denounces Johnny, a forty-something. So, let’s destroy those of those who, through their irresponsibility, did nothing to protect us. Hour after hour, the rumor of a big demonstration which could take place Saturday is more insistent.

“People are at their wit’s end”

“In any country, an investigation would have been opened to find out who left to rot for six years during these 2750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate,” criticizes a resident of the Mar Mikhaël district. Here, there is one, but it is led by the port manager, who should however be the first suspect interviewed. “” In the streets, the speech went from Clock yaaneh clock, is They are all corrupt, at They must be guillotined », Notes Noël. With her sister, Michelle, she has been composing for ten years a duo whose satirical songs are in everyone’s mind in Lebanon, and particularly in those of the protesters who took to the streets in October for peaceful demonstrations until then.

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“The day before yesterday, the police beat us up. Today, we have taken back the Place des Martyrs and we will not let go ”, warns Nancy, an early activist, busy distributing food under tents erected by volunteers. The place in question, cauldron of protest since October, is flanked by a huge raised fist crossed out with the words “Thawra”, “revolution” in Arabic. On its eastern side still stands “the dome”. A rolled concrete egg, symbol of the civil war of 1975-1990, which, beyond its heritage role, hitherto sounded like a reminder of the risk of balkanization of the country.

Beirut, August 6.  In this district near the port, a spectacle of ruins and desolation.  / LP / Arnaud Dumontier
Beirut, August 6. In this district near the port, a spectacle of ruins and desolation. / LP / Arnaud Dumontier

“The new generation has gone beyond these inter-ethnic divisions,” Noël analyzes. Even my mother who knew war is in a state of rage that I never knew her. “For the thirty-something, it is indeed” against the political class “that will be directed a protest movement announcing itself” necessarily very violent. “Look at the faces in the cars, people are at their wit’s end,” says Nancy.

A country where “everyone seems condemned to death”

At the Rosary Hospital, located 300 meters above the port, even Sister Clothilde seems on the verge of giving in to despair, describing a Lebanon “where everyone seems condemned to death. “

Opened in 2012, this brand-new 200-bed establishment is nothing more than an empty carcass. The gutted false ceilings hang at eye level. The lead door protecting the X-ray room, yet nearly 10 cm thick, was thrown to the back of the room by the blast. A nurse, a colleague of Sister Clothilde, was killed in the disaster.

At the Rosaire Hospital, not far from the port, Sister Clothilde watches over a devastated establishment. / LP / Arnaud Dumontier
At the Rosaire Hospital, not far from the port, Sister Clothilde watches over a devastated establishment. / LP / Arnaud Dumontier

If, fortunately, the emergency rooms were empty of patients at the time of the tragedy, the peak capacities of the hospital, in terms of breast cancer and ophthalmology in particular, will be severely reduced in the long term. “Tuesday evening, vital operations had to be carried out in the light of cell phones, recalls Noël. Every day, the Lebanese feel like they are waking up in a new country. “

“What we are experiencing is a form of war”

Soaring inflation drove prices six-fold, and the collapse of the Lebanese pound against the dollar drove a large part of the population into starvation, wiping out the middle class to leave only poverty on one side, and l ultra-wealth of one minority on the other. At almost every street corner, huge piles of crushed glass tell of the fragility of a Lebanon whose architecture has always valued this material, however subservient to the elements.

“Are people afraid of war? But what we are experiencing today is a form of war, ”continues Nathalie. Lately, many of his friends have reminded him of the chance to have French nationality, urging him to flee. “But this chance that I have, many do not have it, who no longer have any choice …”

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