The devastating blast at the city of Beirut, the capital of Lebanon was the most visceral blow yet for a society that has endured generations of trauma.
The blast originated in a warehouse in Beirut’s port, but it was felt more than 150 miles away across the Mediterranean on the island of Cyprus.
According to reports, over 200 people were killed, more than 6,000 people were critically injured, US$10–15 billion in property damage, and left an estimated 300,000 people homeless in the blast.
If the history of Lebanon can be traced out, then it will only mark the flawed policies of the country and sudden shocks, which has thrust Lebanon into its worst crisis in decades.
In such a gloomy situation, currency collapsing, businesses shutting, prices for basic goods skyrocketing and the threat of hunger looming for the poorest people in the country.
Let’s have a glance at the causes which made Lebanon distressed for many decades.
Religion has shaped Lebanon since it gained independence from France in 1943. In this multicultural country of Muslims, Christians, and Druze – a medieval faith derived from Islam – religion defines membership and belonging. It is woven into Lebanon’s economic, political and social fabric.
Even more, several aspects of the formal organizations of government officially reflect the religious structure of the society.
The communal religion, either through attendance at religious services or through the communal primes increases the salience of sectarian identity and therefore pushes respondents’ regime attitudes into closer alignment with the interests of their sect.
On October 29, 2019, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a Sunni, resigned, elating demonstrators. Protesters blame Hariri, along with Lebanon’s Christian president and Shiite parliament speaker, for rampant corruption, a wrecked economy, and a ravaged environment.
In repudiation of the idea that religious allegiance comes before national unity, they are demanding fair elections, a stronger judiciary, and more government accountability.
- Economical condition
Lebanese have long stood out in the Middle East for not letting political upheaval or civil violence get in the way of enjoying the finer things in life.
Lebanon’s economic problems have been building for years. A nation of 5.4 million on the Mediterranean with a variety of religious sects and large groups of Syrian and Palestinian refugees, Lebanon has long suffered from internal conflict and spillover from the wars afflicting its neighbors.
Charlotte Karam, a social scientist at the American University of Beirut says, “Lebanon was also already reeling from an economic crisis that triggered anti-government protests starting in October 2019, when the country’s currency began to lose its value against the dollar.”
- Impact of External forces
Lebanon has rarely experienced external intervention motivated by the restoration of democratic power-sharing.
More often than not external powers have seen intervention as an opportunity to further selfish strategic interests.
In times of crisis, Lebanon’s confessional leaders have eagerly harnessed their communities to competing for foreign powers.
Experts say that Lebanon is still heavily under the influence of both inside and outside forces. In the name of development, many Arab countries are trying to accelerate the progress of the country.
The Lebanese newspaper Assafir quoted that “A wind of change is blowing across Syria, and has resulted in huge human, material and political losses. Only a radical solution can compensate for such casualties, but neither the people nor the regime has defined it yet.”
- Unemployment and October revolution
Since 17 October 2019, Lebanon has been witnessing a massive wave of unprecedented nationwide protests, which are deemed to mark a new era in its history. These protests are motivated by the direct repercussions of the economic and monetary crisis on the Lebanese population but are indeed rooted in a structurally flawed economic system and wicked political practices and corruption embraced by the successive governments for decades.
Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese took to the streets calling for change. “I want to live, I want to breathe”, “I want to find a job in Lebanon”, “I want bread and happiness”, “I want my rights as a woman”, “I want electricity, water and infrastructure”, “I want a better country for my grandchildren”, “I want to tweet without being arrested”, “I want everything they stole from us” one could hear across Lebanon and among the Lebanese diaspora.
The protests are widespread across the country and remain non-sectarian, marking the biggest postwar civil movement, as the Lebanese people overcome their religious and political divergences and join forces in an attempt to achieve real change.
Why Beirut’s blast was so devastating and What’s the future
In Beirut, the disaster has had such tragic consequences for reasons unrelated to the explosion itself. As the blast linked to ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3), it is one of the largest accidental ammonium nitrate explosions ever recorded so powerful. The powerful explosion had sent a huge orange fireball into the sky, followed by a massive shock wave that overturned cars, damaged buildings, and shook the ground across the Lebanese capital.
Lebanon was also already reeling from an economic crisis and now, the destruction of Beirut’s port will be felt across the nation for a long time in the future.
Content Editor, ETV Bharat National, Hyderabad