On Jan 25, 2021, anti-lockdown protests broke out in Tripoli of Lebanon as the government extended the ongoing nationwide lockdown due to an increase in the Covid-19 cases across the country. The protest has been an after effect of the ongoing economic crisis which has worsened during the lockdown as unemployment rates have skyrocketed. This protest led to clashes between the civilians and security forces leaving eight people wounded, three of which were members of the forces. The number of wounded people rose to 45 on the following day as the angry protestors threw rocks and broken glasses on the forces to which they responded by throwing tear gas and rubber bullets. The main square of Tripoli was shut down by the angry protestors by burning tyres and several military vehicles were set ablaze as well.
The protests in Lebanon against its worst hit economic crisis started on 7th October 2019, when the government imposed several taxes to improve its sinking economy and has been continuing since then. A pegged/constant currency exchange rate, increase in VAT, the debt-to-GDP ratio hitting a record of 151%, dollar shortage for the importers and the locals are some of the various causes that have triggered these violent protests. A box of pasta that cost 2000 Lebanese pounds and 800g of milk powder cost 7000-8000 Lebanese pounds as of November 2019. However, the pasta costs 19,000 and the milk powder costs 24,000 Lebanese pounds in March 2021. The minimum wage equivalent dropped from $450 to $75 per month. According to the August 2020 report by the UN, the number of people below the poverty line has increased from 28% to 55% in a year. Numerous people have resorted to begging on the streets or are scrounging for food in trash cans. More children are out of schools than ever. People are literally searching for hours in the supermarkets to find something that they can afford to feed their families. Major portions of the country are facing power cuts and have electricity for less than 12 hours a day.
Lebanon has a long history of protests and unrest across the nation for several years, majorly after the civil war. Census has not been conducted since 1930 in the country. Politically, it has not had a stable government for over a year now since the previous Prime Minister was made to resign and the fate of its citizens hangs by a loose thread in the biggest economical crisis it has ever had.
This article has been written by Ritu Katkar for The Paradigm
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