“We Can’t Wait For Elections”: Lebanese Protesters Storm The Streets In Beirut

A car parked in front of the Ministry of Justice is covered by the pictures of some victims of the Beirut blast. (Dario Sabaghi) 

BEIRUT — Lebanese protesters are getting busy these days. Almost a year since the August 4, 2020, explosion at a Beirut port killed 210 people and injured more than 6,000 others, the families of the many victims as well as the survivors still have not found justice.

Families of the victims now take to the streets every other day to demand accountability after the explosion. However, the Lebanese Parliament has shown reluctance to strip away immunity from officials and former ministers implicated in the deadly mismanagement of ammonium nitrate that started the blast and forcibly displaced 300,000 people.

Protesters gathered in front of the Ministry of Justice on July 14 demanding justice for their dear ones. Relatives, parents, and friends, showed up with photo frames of the people who lost their lives during the explosions. The relatives spoke out about how their quest for justice has been hampered by a corrupted political system in Lebanon.

Families of the Beirut port explosion’s victims show the photo frames of their dear ones who lost their lives after the explosion. (Dario Sabaghi/Zenger)
Families of the Beirut port explosion’s victims show the photo frames of their dear ones amid the black smoke of burning tires. (Dario Sabaghi/Zenger)
A mother shows the picture of his son in front of the Ministry of Justice in Beirut. (Dario Sabaghi/Zenger)

For the protestors, the politicians are trying to avoid accountability for the blast.

“We are here to protest against politicians who don’t want to lift immunity. We are here to support the families of the Beirut port explosion’s victims. I came here to protest to say that we are all one family. Politicians don’t know what is humanity,” demonstrator Muhammad Roustum, 40, who led some of the chants during the protests, told Zenger.

Following speeches, protesters cut off roads near the ministry by setting fire to car tires, causing a temporary traffic jam. Some stopped the cars and forced them to back away.

Families of the Beirut port explosion’s victims show the photo frames of their dear ones amid the black smoke of burning tires. (Dario Sabaghi/Zenger)
A protester gives a speech while tires are burning in the middle of the main street near the Ministry of Justice. (Dario Sabaghi/Zenger)

Unlike the previous days, when Lebanese riot police clashed with families of Beirut port blast, police officers allowed them to protest in the middle of the street.

The protestors are not only demanding justice for the Beirut port victims, they have also been outspoken about the government’s handling of economic crisis that started in 2019. The collapse led the Lebanese currency to lose around 90 percent of its value.

It also left more than half of Lebanon’s population trapped in poverty.

Muhammad Roustum, 40, protests by beating the fence of a building close to the Ministry of Justice while Lebanese riot police stare at him from the other side. (Dario Sabaghi/Zenger)
Protesters carry car tires on the car to burn them on the street as a form of protest. (Dario Sabaghi/Zenger)
A father shows the picture of his son who died after the explosion on August 4, 2020. (Dario Sabaghi/Zenger)

“Everything changed after the economic crisis,” Roustum said.

“We have no fuel, no medicine, no milk for kids. Politicians don’t know what politics is. They know politics only for robbing people. We came here to demand a fair life. We don’t want a situation like a war. Our government doesn’t care about humans but themselves.”

When asked if this situation may change with the next election scheduled later this year, Roustum cried out that there was no longer any more time to wait for change.

“We cannot wait for elections. How can we live for one year in this situation? Kids are dying. Some days ago, a kid on oxygen support died in Tripoli after his machine stopped working and generators were turned off due to the shortage of diesel,” he said.

“We need to wake up together.”

Edited by Alex Willemyns and Claire Swift



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