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  • Writer's pictureStudents for Global Health UCL

Global Health in the News: A Series (V) - Lebanon

Opinion Piece on the Beirut Explosion by a 2020 UCL Graduate and Firsthand Witness:

“Many volunteers in Gemmayze mirrored my infuriation, believing that the government didn’t act fast enough following the blast, let alone seven years prior, when the explosive ammonium nitrate docked in the port.

“What should be done in the aftermath of this tragedy? Aid and prayers are no longer enough for Lebanon, now it has plunged to the depths of despair. Firstly, due to endemic corruption and cronyism in government and civil society. Secondly, due to political posturing, inaction and oppression in the face a revolution calling for an end to sectarianism and clientelism. Lastly, the COVID-19 pandemic, which exacerbated social and economic turmoil to a sickening climax. The Lebanese Lira plummeted in value by 80% within 6 months, unemployment soared, and hundreds of thousands are now at risk of starvation.

“...didactic, panoptic Western perspective superimposed on the ‘orient’ which dehumanizes ‘orientals’ as backward, terroristic and intransigent peoples. That considered, the blast should not be considered either an inevitability or intrinsic to Middle Eastern states. Such patronage has only been enhanced since the end of the civil war in 1990, where regional powers and Western states treated Lebanon as a virtual chess board to secure their interests ... since characterised Western disregard for Lebanese sovereignty. The resulting lack of accountability is why a gargantuan amount of explosives was sitting in Beirut port for 7 years unperturbed. The crime against humanity of the 4th of August was therefore decades in the making.

“Western media furthers the narrative that the Christians, Sunnis, Shiites and Druze of Lebanon are diametrically opposed. Such orientalist “clash of civilisations” narratives are evidenced by pervasive clientelism and unending tribal wrangling throughout virtually every strand of Lebanese society.”

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