Lebanese security forces fired tear gas during clashes with retired soldiers at a protest in Beirut on Wednesday who were trying to storm the government headquarters in downtown Beirut. The incident was the latest manifestation of public anger as the Lebanese economic crisis continues unabated.
The incident occurred outside the headquarters, known as the Grand Serail. The protesters were mainly retired soldiers and were demonstrating against their low pensions and the poor economic conditions in the country.
“My monthly salary is $40. How can I survive?” one protester shouted, according to the Lebanese news outlet Naharnet.
Some of the protesters tried to break through the fence leading to the building. Security forces then used tear gas on the crowd, Lebanon’s official National News Agency reported.
#Lebanon pic.twitter.com/GS9LMXhyjt— Zeina Khodr (@ZeinakhodrAljaz) March 22, 2023
Background: The Lebanese crisis began in 2019 and has been marked by rampant inflation, the collapse of the national currency, food and medicine shortages and political paralysis. The international community is reluctant to provide substantial aid to Lebanon without major corruption and governance reforms.
President Michel Aoun’s term ended in October and parliament has been unable to agree on a successor since. International and domestic inquiries into Central Bank chief Riad Salameh, who has been accused of massive embezzlement, have yet to yield results.
Why it matters: Protests have occurred throughout the Lebanese crisis. In February, angry mobs burned several banks in Beirut in response to the currency devaluing. Protesters also regularly block roads.
Wednesday was not the first time members of the security forces have joined the protests. Late last month, police stormed a bank in southern Lebanon demanding payment of their salaries.
The Lebanese military is suffering from desertions due to the soldiers’ salaries being devalued by the currency collapse.
Know more: The Lebanese pound traded at 114,000 to the dollar on Wednesday, according to the Lira Rate website. The currency hit the then all-time low of more than 100,000 to the dollar last week and has fallen even further since then.