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Lebanon: hunger strikes take over the streets

Amid the challenging times the world is going through right now, Lebanese people are revolting to survive within their State.

Protesters in the northern city of Tripoli clashed with the army as they revolted in the street during a hunger strike. The enforcement of the lockdown has led to inflation in prices making it hard to survive during this period of mass unemployment.

A photo of the protests. Image credit WKRG

Lebanon’s currency, the “Lira” has already lost half its value, soaring food prices and rising unemployment. This situation has soon forced Lebanese people to get out and chant revolution, even during Ramadan. Tripoli, being the country’s poorest city, has become the epicenter of the hunger protest.

“I get paid 10,000 liras for five kilograms of this,” said a lady, as she peeled the stems of the spiny plant, that is worth over 2$. People search garbage dumps for food and beg passerby’s for bread. Immigrant workers were forced out of their homes compelling them to cramp up in shared spaces.

Before the pandemic outbreak, the World Bank reported Lebanon had a 45% poverty rate, but the most recent government statistics indicate that about three-quarters of the population requires aid to survive. There has been great income inequalities in the past which have created large amounts of criticism towards Tripoli.

Protests and chaos amid Lebanon’s hunger crisis and COVID-19. Image credit Asia News

The stark contrast in inequality becomes apparent when one simply observes the slums that stretch across the banks of the city’s Abu Ali River, minutes away from the extravagant wealthy pocket of the city.

“If your child is hungry, you will eat your rulers to feed your children,” said a desperate protester.

Many people beg and rely on food packages from charities. “I see that a revolution of the hungry is coming,” Hezbollah-backed MP and former intelligence Chief Jamil El-Sayyed tweeted in December. Still today, the government hasn’t offered any likely help.

During the day the city is quiet and vacant but during the nighttime there is constant confrontations between the Lebanese army and the demonstrators turning Tripoli into a hot bed of violence.

The demonstrations first began at the end of 2019 as anti-government corruption protests and now with the current Covid-19 conditions, inflation, unemployment, and hunger are feeding the protests are they represent major problems that the Government must face or succumb to. The protests began in a silent manner which later turned into violent turmoil after nearly two months of no response from officials. The protesters took a break when the government enforced the coronavirus lockdown but later resumed when the restrictions were lifted. Now they are requesting the army to join them in their quest to fight politicians.

Activist Waref Suleiman rests in his tent during the hunger strike. Image credit Mohamed Azakir

“What do I care about Coronavirus,” says another Tripolitan, Ahmad Abou Abdallah. “The politicians are worse than Coronavirus. They are dirtier than Coronavirus. They are making people hungry. Doesn’t that make them worse than the actual virus?”

“The problem is that you’re having a combined crisis, between the essential economic crisis and the Covid-19 crisis,” said Musharrafieh. “Unfortunately, with Covid-19, the situation has been compounded.”

When protesters are asked about the Coronavirus, they choose the lesser of two evils. Either they die from hunger or COVID-19, and hunger is a lot worse than COVID-19, they affirm.

Up to now, the Lebanese authorities report 902 confirmed coronavirus cases with 247 recoveries and 26 deaths.


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