Many Lebanese, their hopes in tatters, say they fear what 2021 will bring

A protester draped in the national flag faces off with the police during a demonstration outside the entrance of the American University of Beirut, in the Lebanese capital's Bliss street. (AFP)
A protester draped in the national flag faces off with the police during a demonstration outside the entrance of the American University of Beirut, in the Lebanese capital's Bliss street. (AFP)
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Updated 31 December 2020

Many Lebanese, their hopes in tatters, say they fear what 2021 will bring

 Many Lebanese, their hopes in tatters, say they fear what 2021 will bring
  • ‘What is left of Lebanon? The future is frightening’

BEIRUT: After a year of financial, political and social turmoil, few in Lebanon believe the crisis-wracked country’s situation will improve in the coming 12 months, while growing numbers fear their plight will worsen dramatically.  

“Our country is broken,” said Rima Al-Khatib, who works in the banking sector, describing a year in which her father died and the family was unable to pray for him in the mosque because of a nationwide lockdown at the time.

Al-Khatib told Arab News that she “is in a state of denial about everything that happened this year.”

“I don’t want to reflect on it because it is too painful,” she said.

With university and health studies in recent weeks showing alarming levels of depression and anxiety in young and old alike, it is clear few people have any expectations, let along dreams, for the new year.

One mental health survey concluded that up to 16 percent of people aged 18-24 suffer from severe depression, while 41 percent of women still suffer from post-traumatic stress in the wake of the Beirut port blast.

Meanwhile, lockdowns imposed to halt the spread of the coronavirus affected the mental health of 41 percent of the participants in another study, with a further survey claiming 9.5 percent of the population risk becoming depressed because of the country’s dire economic situation.

Al-Khatib said that she will never forget the day of the port explosion.

“I was in my car on the road and a balcony fell from a building in front of me,” she recalled. “I could not understand what happened. My friend narrowly escaped death and the explosion killed two of my work colleagues, leaving two children orphans.”

Al-Khatib said that many Lebanese believe the country “has been taken hostage by a terrorist organization.”

“Our salaries have lost their value. I no longer listen to the news and I do not want to after the government messed up everything by not paying the eurobonds. Now foodstuffs are priced according to the banks’ dollar exchange rate. If the central bank runs out of dollars, what will our life be like?” she said.

“Lebanon has lost its place in the region and I don’t know if it can regain it.”

Majed Baitmouni, a market trader, said that the past year “pulled me back 40 years, financially and morally.”

He said: “They government has brought us only calamities, and the coronavirus made things worse. I had to close my bag shop in Beirut because vendors want me to pay my rent in dollars, so I returned their goods and received the final blow. I have barely any money left and cannot do anything except sell vegetables and fruit in my local area. My wife and children helped me, but instead of making a profit, my debts increased.”

Baitmouni said he no longer trusts the politicians. “They are threatening our livelihoods. They have destroyed us.”

Abdullah Sultan, who owns an iron factory, said he believes the situation will worsen in the new year.

“My priority is for my children to leave this country. My grandmother used to tell us that things would get better soon. I do not want to say the same thing. The problem lies in the foundations of the country and the people — these cannot be changed,” he said.

Assima Ramadan, an office worker, said that 2020 had left her isolated, and she feared the new year would be worse.

“My husband and I lost our life savings in the banks when their value collapsed. We hoped to live with dignity when we grow old, but now we will have to fear illness and the future. Because of the pandemic I have become afraid to walk outside. It is a feeling of helplessness and frustration, and I do not know how to get rid of it.”

University professor Aref Al-Abd said the past year had dealt Lebanon “a fatal blow,” adding: “What can I do to have a dignified life with my family?“

Economic and political deterioration will lead to a deterioration in security, he said.

“What is left of Lebanon? They hit banks, hospitals, universities, and there is fear they will strike coexistence. What happened in the port of Beirut is frightening.”

Sarah Fakhry, a young lawyer specializing in corporate law, said that she had supported protests against the “corrupt ruling authority” in the country.

“But things became even worse. The explosion at the Beirut port added to my fears. The state did not take responsibility for the victims.”

Now the companies that hire Fakhry, including large corporations, are facing closure.

“People are filing lawsuits against the banks, but they do not trust the judiciary,” she said. “I am one of those who has prepared their immigration papers again. I used to live in France and returned to Lebanon five years ago because life abroad is difficult. Now I will not look back.

“The future in Lebanon is dark, and I do not want to be part of it.”

 
 


UAE, Cyprus FMs discuss Mediterranean tensions and strategic partnerships

UAE, Cyprus FMs discuss Mediterranean tensions and strategic partnerships
Updated 19 January 2021

UAE, Cyprus FMs discuss Mediterranean tensions and strategic partnerships

UAE, Cyprus FMs discuss Mediterranean tensions and strategic partnerships
  • The two ministers also discussed the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Both sides discussed ways of strengthening ties in multiple sectors, including in parliamentary areasboth sides discussed ways of strengthening ties in multiple sectors, including in parliamentary areas

DUBAI: The UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs discussed the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and ways of ensuring security and stability in the region with his Cypriot counterpart on Monday,.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan reviewed the prospects of advancing relations with Cyprus in a meeting in Abu Dhabi with Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides, UAE state news agency WAM reported.
The two ministers also discussed the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of enhancing international cooperation to ensure fair and equitable access to the vaccine for every country in the world.
Christodoulides praised the UAE’s significant overall efforts to counter the coronavirus pandemic and the efficiency of its adopted measures in mitigating the economic and social effects of the crisis.
During his visit to the UAE, the Cypriot minister also met with the Speaker of the Federal National Council (FNC), Saqr Ghobash, accompanied with the Ambassador of Cyprus to the UAE, Yannis Michaelides.
During the meeting, both sides discussed ways of strengthening ties in multiple sectors, including in parliamentary areas.
Ghobash said that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on their parliamentary cooperation is required, in addition to reinforcing the role of joint parliamentary friendship committees.
A parliamentary friendship committee between the two countries will hold a meeting in the first quarter of 2021, Ghobash said, and stressed the importance of improving their coordination during global parliamentary events.
Christodoulides said that the UAE was a leading regional and international stature, noting that it is a strategic partner of his country.
He also conveyed the invitation of the President of the House of Representatives of Cyprus to Ghobash to visit Cyprus as head of a parliamentary delegation, to discuss ways of reinforcing their parliamentary ties.