In solidarity with the traumatized citizens of Beirut, Austria’s Lebanese community will hold a Trauermarsch today, Sunday, August 9, from Morzinplatz to the Stephansdom at 14:00 (2:00 p.m.) in commemoration of the lives and livelihoods lost in this week’s explosion.
As vigils are held around the world, Beirut’s streets filled once again Saturday, August 8, as some 10,000 protestors filled Mayters’s Square, according to Reuters, more emboldened than ever, in a continuation of mass demonstrations that began in the fall of 2019, now coined the October Revolution – echoing the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917 which overthrew centuries of Tzarist rule. For days that became weeks, nearly half of the country took their amassed grievances to the streets protesting a highly corrupted and negligent political class responsible for the economic crises, infrastructural collapse and famine facing the country. After more than ten months of demonstrations and amidst a global pandemic, last week’s explosion was yet another devastating blow at the hands of the government.
Beirut, a capital that has long grown tired of proving its resilience, having weathered it’s fair share of storms in the last few decades, was shaken by the world’s third largest explosion. On August 4th, when 2,750 tons of high-grade ammonium nitrate erupted in the port of Beirut, displacing more than 300,000 people, injuring 6,000 and taking the lives of at least 158 people, according to the Red Cross. To add insult to injury, as several Beirut-based activists have reported, the ruling class has been almost entirely out of sight since, leaving civil society organizations(CSOs), NGOs and the people to clean the rubble.
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and leader of the Free Party Movement, Gebran Bassil has been a continuing presence in the media, however. In a recent interview with CNN, Bassil, referred to the explosion as a “drama” for which he bears no responsibility, instead pointing fingers at the political structure itself. It is this particular flavor of disregard that seems so emblematic of the Lebanese ruling class, say locals, which has plunged the country into a state of emergency. As CNN’s Becky Anderson made clear, Bassil and other leaders across the political spectrum, do neither represent nor act in the interests of the majority of the Lebanese people, who have long had to depend on each other over their government.
On Saturday evening, after days of cleaning up rubble and tending to the injured and displaced, the Lebanese returned to the streets of Beirut bearing placards offering the leadership two options: “Resign or Hang”. Protestors stormed the parliament and the ministries of economics, foregin affairs, environment and energy, only to be met with hours of rounds of live ammunition, rubber bullets, fire, and tear gas – leaving over one hundred and seventy-five people injured, according to the Lebanese Red Cross. Last night’s show of militarization by the army left a particularly bitter taste in the mouths of many Lebanese, who have criticized the army’s near complete absence during the clean up efforts in the days prior.
NGOs and CSOs join forces
However, NGOs and CSOs in Lebanon, with support of countless volunteers, have joined forces to shelter, feed and heal a city now in shambles. Organizations like Impact Lebanon strive to “build the Lebanon every one of us deserves”. In the wake of last week’s events, this has become an even greater task. At the core of the explosion was Beirut’s port, through which much of Lebanon’s supplies and food entered the country. This is particularly dangerous as that 70% of Lebanon’s food is imported and food prices had already doubled since 2019, pushing many to the brink of starvation. Members of the Lebanese diaspora and the international community encourage all who can to support these efforts: A list of dedicated organizations working to mitigate the crisis can be found below:
Lebanese Red Cross @lebaneseredcross
Impact Lebanon @impact.lebanon
Beit El Baraka @beitelbaraka
Lebanese Food Bank @lebfoodbank
Live Love Beirut @livelovebeirut
Embrace Lebanon @embrace_lebanon
Union of Relief and Development Associations @urda.ngo
Baytna Baytak @baytna_baytak