Pandemic, economic collapse, explosions... who wants to be Lebanese in 2020?

A wounded man is helped by a firefighter near the scene of an explosion in Beirut on August 4, 2020. (AFP / ANWAR AMRO)
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Updated 05 August 2020

Pandemic, economic collapse, explosions... who wants to be Lebanese in 2020?

  • Latest disaster caps a year of challenges for beleaguered country, and there are still five months to get through

LONDON: Until now, all Lebanon had to contend with this year had been a devastating pandemic, a crippling economic collapse and a government accused of corruption and incompetence.

Now this. And it’s only August.

“This has been the worst year for Lebanon by far,” Karim Nahouli, from Beirut’s Ras Al-Nabaa district, told Arab News. 

“We’ve had 15 years of civil war, then another war in 2006 with Israel, and assassinations throughout, but this is definitely Lebanon’s year from hell.”


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Lebanese have been living through an unprecedented financial and economic crisis in which the pound has lost more than 80 percent of its value in eight months, pushing up the price of imported goods by up to five times.

“The people are tired. We are all exhausted and drained from the never-ending bad news that continues to appear on our phones and social media,” said Samer Asmar, a Lebanese expatriate medical researcher in Arizona. 

“I haven’t been able to focus fully on anything since the protests began, and it’s been continuously downhill from there.”

Protesters denouncing the country’s political regime took to the streets on Oct. 17 last year, and they were there again on Tuesday demonstrating against constant power cuts. 

Electricity issues have plagued the country for years, with recent power cuts going on for up to 20 hours a day.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic this year accelerated the country’s economic collapse as scores of shops, restaurants and malls closed amid the lockdown.

“Lebanon is fighting a war on three levels: On the health level, on the political level, and now a war for their lives, wellbeing, and safety,” Nahouli said.

Iraqis gather in Baghdad to mark anti-government protests anniversary

Updated 15 min ago

Iraqis gather in Baghdad to mark anti-government protests anniversary

  • Protesters waved the Iraqi flag and chanted “free revolutionaries"

BAGHDAD: A few hundred Iraqis gathered in Baghdad’s central Tahrir square on Thursday to mark the anniversary of anti-government unrest that erupted last year and to put pressure on the authorities to meet their demands.
Protesters waved the Iraqi flag and chanted “free revolutionaries, we will continue the path.”
Some sang patriotic songs while clapping.
“We are here to start the revolution again...We haven’t forgotten about the blood of the martyrs,” said Abbas Younis, 25, wearing an Iraqi flag as a cape and a surgical mask.
More than 560 people, mostly unarmed demonstrators but also some members of the security forces, have been killed since a spate of popular unrest began on Oct. 1, 2019, with both security forces and unidentified gunmen shooting people dead.
London-based Amnesty International called on the Iraqi government on Thursday to do more to “deliver justice to the hundreds killed in the course of exercising their right to peaceful assembly.
“Find the missing, deliver justice for lives lost,” it said.
Protesters, most of them young, are demanding an overhaul of a political system they see as profoundly corrupt and keeping most Iraqis in poverty.
The protests have shaken the country out of two years of relative calm following the defeat of Islamic State insurgents.
Infighting between political parties clinging to power has fueled the crisis and threatens to kindle more unrest.
Last year’s protests caused the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, who was replaced in May by Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, who pledged to investigate the deaths and incarceration of hundreds of protesters.
Demonstrators on Thursday gave the government until Oct. 25 to meet their demands by Oct. 25 or face a general strike.
“Our demands are simple and legitimate...We demand the killers of the protesters be prosecuted,” said Mustafa Makki.
Dressed in combat trousers and wearing a shirt with an image of a slain protester and a necklace made out of an empty tear gas canister, the 24-year-old said he had four bullet wounds, and one of them had cost him his vision in his left eye.
Later on Thursday, dozens took to the streets in the southern cities of Diwaniyah and Najaf, waving the Iraqi flag and carrying photographs of demonstrators killed last year.
Kadhimi in July called an early general election for June 6, 2021, roughly a year ahead of when it would normally be held, a central demand of the protesters. But Iraqi’s parliament must still ratify the election date and amend the election law.
Kadhimi and President Barham Salih pledged to meet the demands of the protesters. “We affirm our loyalty to our people and to the roadmap imposed by the blood and scarifies of its youth,” Kadhimi said in a statement.