Security forces fire tear gas at protesting crowds demonstrating in Beirut against deteriorating economic conditions.
Lebanese officers fired tear gas at hundreds of people, mostly retired members of the security forces, who had gathered outside government buildings in the capital to protest deteriorating economic conditions.
On Wednesday, crowds gathered in the streets of downtown Beirut with the Lebanese tricolor or flags bearing the logos of security forces. The protest was called by retired soldiers and savers who had limited access to their savings after local banks imposed informal capital controls during Lebanon’s financial crisis, the worst in the country’s modern history.
The demonstrators demanding better pay threw stones at the officers protecting the government headquarters and repeatedly tried to break through the fence.
Several people suffered breathing problems from the tear gas.
The demonstrators were angry about the deteriorating value of state pensions paid in local currency. The Lebanese pound has lost more than 98 percent of its value against the US dollar since 2019, and the situation has worsened in recent weeks.
The pound hit a new low on Tuesday, selling for more than £143,000 per dollar before posting some gains. The official exchange rate is 15,000 pounds per dollar.
— Zeina Khodr (@ZeinakhodrAljaz) March 22, 2023
Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr said Lebanon is in its fourth year of a deep economic crisis, which experts say stems from decades of corruption and mismanagement by a political class that has ruled the country since the late 1990s civil war.
“There is anger,” Khodr said.
“People believe that the political and business elite do not want to solve the crisis because it requires economic and structural reforms and fights against corruption. If the elite do that, they will lose control of the state and its resources that they have been exploiting for years,” she added.
The crisis has led to school closures and left families unable to afford food and fuel or other basic necessities, Khodr said. Government-subsidized electricity, meanwhile, is largely unavailable.
“Our children are hungry. We are hungry,” said Mohamad el-Khateeb, a 59-year-old who has served in the military for 32 years.
“We left the army with nothing. No health care, no social security, our children are out of school and prices are rising obscenely. What do you expect?” he added.