Lebanon protests back on the streets amid COVID-19 pandemic


AFP via Getty Images

Lebanese anti-government protesters, some wearing protective masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic, gesture during a demonstration against the growing economic hardship in downtown Beirut on May 1, 2020, marking International Workers' Day (Labour Day). (Photo by ANWAR AMRO / AFP) (Photo by ANWAR AMRO/AFP via Getty Images)

Yasmin Vizguerra, Editor

      Growing tensions in Lebanon from the recent COVID-19 outbreak has led to violent protests over hunger and poverty. 

      Though like many countries, Lebanon’s economy stopped by government-mandated lockdown, it only made the country’s long-running financial crisis worse. 

      Since protestors shut parliament in 2019, the country’s currency has dropped and after two months of being under lockdown, food prices are growing higher and higher.

       Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, the World Bank estimated that 45% of the people in Lebanon would be below the poverty line in 2020 but now over75% of people are in need of help. 

      Angry protestors took to the streets of Lebanon’s major cities on Monday, facing off with armed forces, saying “we are hungry.” 

       Across Lebanon, people are seen to be digging through garbage dumps for food and beg those passing by them for bread. Most of these people are refugees and migrant workers who are the most vulnerable in the country.

       According to the International Rescue Committee, 87% of refugees in the country lack food, and a majority face eviction in this time of crisis.

      The protests took place on Ramadan’s nightly Taraweeh prayers. One protestor, Fawaz Fouad al-Samman (26) died Tuesday from sustaining gunshot wounds from protesting in Tripoli, Lebanon’s poorest city. Other protestors called Samman “the martyr of hunger.” 

      The Lebanese army tweeted Monday, saying it was “deeply sorry for the falling of a martyr.” The protests come after just two months of lockdown with the country’s reported cases a day being less than 10. 

      Many protestors have their anger targeted toward banks, setting them alight along with stores and army vehicles. 

      While the country is in a pandemic, their on-going economic crisis stems from 2019 where the banking sector had imposed discretionary capital controls to avoid a rush on banks but led to long lines of people on workdays waiting for the chance to withdraw money. 

      Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced $5.7 billion was withdrawn from banks in January and February of 2020.