IT IS dark in Beirut. Only a few of the illuminated windows give an impression of the city populated by two million people.
Despite the darkness, the streets are largely filled. It is warm, but economic measures prevent acclimatisation. Windows have to remain open.
The stench of the exhaust fumes permeates every corner. A glimpse of the city exposes tents
held together with plastic and car tyres, simple apartments connected by a multitude of
power cords and large villas and house complexes that tower above the cityscape.
The calendar works differently in Lebanon.
There is a time before and after the crisis.
Since 2019, the country has been in one of the most serious financial liquidity crises in the world.
The demand for essential goods is increasing: Fuel, electricity, clean water and food.
“Everyone is in survival mode’, says Weesam. The 24-years old graphic designer tries to
adapt to this vague setup. “I’m just doing simple things to survive this situation until | find a solution. I’m always thinking about back-ups.”
Electricity is a valuable commodity in Lebanon.
There are regular power cuts. With poor or no internet connection, it is common to be unable to work for half the day and the labour market is tough. Considering the high job demand, employees can easily be replaced.
But above all, the hyperinflation in Lebanon weighs heavily on the people. On paper, one dollar is equivalent to 1.500 Lebanese pounds.
Meanwhile, on the black market, one dollar buys 38.000 Lebanese pounds. For now.
According to Rebecca, another young Lebanese person, however, the real crisis did not start just three years ago.
The law student emphasises that since the civil war and its end in 1990, the country’s economy has been struggling.
The hatred against the government is great.
“In Lebanon, all politicians are corrupt,” most people confirm. This anger and the way of living in Beirut, as well as the declining value of the currency, brought thousands of Lebanese onto the streets in the so-called October revolution in 2019, which superseded the cedar revolution over a decade earlier.
The spirit triggered by the Arab spring and culminating in a series of demonstrations around North Africa and the Middle East, from three years ago is gone.
Nowadays, protests barely happen in Beirut. People just can’t afford to skip work.
Weesam said: “At some point everybody got excited, that was in 2019. But then things just got worse, because many places in Beirut were closed for a month or so.
“We need to get back to work, we need to buy food, and we need to live and therefore people went back to reality.”
Although the martyr’s square in Beirut is barely filled now, the traces of the cedar revolution are still visible.
On the historic square that served as the dividing line between Muslims and
Christians during the civil war, Muslims, Christians and Druze came together in 2019 to
stand up for a better quality of life.
The word “hope” is still covering one of the walls of the martyr’s square.
“In the first months of the revolution, people went to the street every day, and there was no leader because everyone was tired of leaders,” Rebecca said.
“But everyone wanted something. And everyone wanted to fight everything at the same time which created chaos and the collapse of the revolution. Therefore, no one went there again.
“And nothing happened. People elected the same parties, the same programs.”
“Fake revolution” is the term Omar uses to title the 2019 demonstrations.
For the Lebanese man from Habbariyeh, everything has become even more unaffordable since then. He says: “A normal injection of the medicine my mother needs normally costs 5 dollars, now it costs 400 dollars.”
In addition, the April 2022 elections were supposed to rid the Lebanese parliament of the long-established politicians, but only 13 seats out of 128 were filled by non-conventional parliamentarians.
Another individual told Redaction that there are four reasons explaining the outcome of
this election: Religion, inaccessibility, brainwashing and no trust.
The proportional representation system in Lebanon has ensured a fair distribution of religions in parliament since the end of the civil war. There are a certain number of seats for each religious group according to their share of the population.
The largest religions in Lebanon are the Muslims, divided into Shias and Sunnis, as well as the Maronites and Druzes.
There is a certain compulsion to vote for one’s religion and to respect and follow the decisions of one’s parents.
However, the possibility to participate in elections is also often a problem. For example, Rebecca herself is active in a change party and could not participate in the elections to vote for her own party.
The long journey she would have had to drive to her village and the long waiting time in the queue prevented her from voting.
These reasons lead to many people not seeing the point of voting, plus thinking they have no impact. They don’t even bother to vote.
Hope is another good that often seems to lack in Lebanon. There is hope in the Lebanese youth that will create with their visions a better future for Lebanon.
And there is a lack of hope that thrifts especially the younger people away. How to maintain hope while the young generation is gradually leaving the country is difficult to judge.
Nevertheless, the Lebanese love their country, their culture and their people. And everyone who leaves or wants to leave promises to come back at some point. When they can feasibly do so remains to be decided.
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