In a display of frustration and anger, protesters in Lebanon have vandalized multiple bank buildings, set tires ablaze, and smashed windows as they demand the return of their savings. The demonstrations took place on Thursday in a suburb near Beirut, specifically targeting the branches of Bank Audi, Bank of Beirut, and Byblos Bank in Sin el-Fil, Mount Lebanon Governorate.
The primary grievance of the protesters is the stringent financial controls that have decimated the life savings of many individuals. They are vehemently demanding the immediate return of their money and calling for accountability of officials involved in corruption, including central bank Governor Riad Salameh.
Expressing their exasperation, one protester told Al Jazeera, “We are done with them. We’ve waited too long, it’s enough.” Another emphasized that this act was a message to the banks, stating, “We will not lose our rights, not today and not after 100 years. This is a message they need to understand.”
Lebanon has been grappling with a severe economic crisis since 2019, which the World Bank has described as one of the most severe in recent history. The Lebanese pound has experienced a staggering devaluation of over 98% against the US dollar since the onset of the crisis.
Experts attribute the country’s crisis to decades of corruption and mismanagement by the political class that has governed Lebanon since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war. Riad Salameh, among other officials from the political class, has faced allegations of corruption and has been held responsible for exacerbating the crippling crisis.
Last month, an Interpol notice was issued against Salameh following an arrest warrant issued by France as part of its investigation into allegations of embezzlement of hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds. Salameh firmly denies these allegations.
The protests on Thursday unfolded after Lebanon’s parliament failed, for the twelfth time, to elect a president, further perpetuating a political deadlock that has gripped the country for months.
The wave of protests reflects the deep discontent and frustration among the Lebanese population, who are grappling with a deteriorating economic situation and demanding accountability from their political leaders. The ongoing demonstrations underscore the urgent need for comprehensive reforms and measures to address corruption, rebuild trust, and alleviate the suffering of the Lebanese people.