Our hearts are with the people of Lebanon. Brooke Atherton El-Amine is a longtime friend and ally of Catalyst Project. She has been living, working, and raising kids in Beirut with her Lebanese family-in-law for the past 12 years, and sends us this important update, along with information about ways to help the people of Beirut.
As many of you know a massive explosion ripped through Beirut, the capital city of Lebanon, on Tuesday evening. The nation’s main port is destroyed and over 300,000 homes have been damaged, some so severely that they are no longer inhabitable. More than 150 people’s lives have been taken; and there are at least 5,000 injured whom the hospital system is struggling to accommodate with two hospitals destroyed in the blast, electricity shortages, and increasing cases of coronavirus. This is the largest explosion ever experienced in Lebanon, despite its history of French colonization, U.S. interventions, Israeli attacks and occupations, and its 15-year civil war.
Donate now to these important grassroots organizations that work directly with people impacted by the devastation (you can find more detailed information about these organizations below):
The source of the explosion has been identified as 2700 tons of ammonium nitrate, a widely used fertilizer and explosive, stored negligently in a port warehouse. This dangerous cargo was abandoned in Beirut in 2014 by shipping industrialists when it was no longer profitable for them to continue to transport it, and the Lebanese government ignored the threat it posed despite numerous warnings over the last six years.
The country was already debilitated by its sectarian political system, a failed economy, and hyper-inflation. Although designated as an upper middle income country, Lebanon’s previously existing inequalities and poverty have been exacerbated by the Syrian crisis; the after-effects of thirty years of political infighting and related unsustainable economic policies; an uprising against the political class in fall 2019; and now the pandemic. Globally, Lebanon hosts the highest number of refugees in relation to its population with an estimated 1.5 million refugees from neighboring Syria joining the 475,000 Palestinian refugees who have been denied the right to return to their homeland for generations. Even prior to Lebanon’s currently accelerating financial disintegration, in 2019 youth unemployment was estimated at nearly 40%, while 73% of Syrian refugees, 65% of Palestinians, and 27% of Lebanese were living in poverty. In June 2020, it was estimated that nearly half of the country’s population has been pushed into poverty. Migrant domestic workers – of whom there are hundreds of thousands in the country living under a legal system that has been equated to modern day slavery – are suffering even more as their employers refuse to pay or even abandon them with no way to return to their home countries. The colossal damage wreaked by Tuesday’s explosion to homes, hospitals, organizations, and businesses – especially the port through which over 80% of Lebanon’s needed goods are imported – is pushing the country over the edge.
People living in Lebanon are grieving and enraged at the government that refuses to serve its people. They are also acting in solidarity with each other by offering shelter, food, medical aid, and helping hands to clear the rubble.
In times like these, international solidarity is crucial to let people know they are not alone and provide needed financial resources for community work. Supporting grassroots organizations that work with the most marginalized can keep these community supports going when crises hit and attention is drawn elsewhere. Here are a few homegrown organizations that you can contribute to online. We encourage you to also follow them on social media to deepen your understanding of the context in Lebanon and stay updated on future advocacy and support campaigns.
Today is also a day heavy with mourning as we mark the 75th anniversary of the unfathomable destruction done by the US dropping a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, and again days later on Nagasaki. We recognize the ways that US imperialism has contributed to the current devastation in Lebanon, and to so many peoples’ home countries over so many generations. As we support these vital grassroots efforts in Lebanon, we also recommit our hearts and hands to the work of ending all the plagues of empire and global capitalism.
Let’s make solidarity a verb, together, always.
Please offer support to any of these grassroots organizations in Beirut:
Anti-Racism Movement and the Migrant Community Center: ARM’s mission is to decrease racist discrimination and abuse in Lebanon on the social and institutional levels by advocating for changes in the systems that perpetuate racist exploitative practices, through sensitization, awareness raising, advocacy, and community building for more just social and institutional frameworks in Lebanon. The main focus of this work is on migrant domestic workers and to a lesser extent on all migrant workers. The MCCs’ mission is to make meaningful improvements in the quality of life of migrant workers in Lebanon and their capacity to self-advocate to advance their socio-economic rights, and to contribute to a strong and powerful migrant civil society, with a focus on women as leaders of change. Donate Now
Nour Center, a community school for Syrian and Palestinian youth in the Burj Al Barajneh refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon: “At the Nour Center we work on empowering children and youth (aged 5-24) to reclaim their education and their future. We believe that education has the power to transform lives. The aim and intention of this project is to give each child the care and education they need in their early years, and to provide students who have been out of school the opportunity to re-enter an educational setting that recognizes their unique experiences. At the Nour Center, we work each day to build a healthy and strong generation of young people, helping parents and children to realize their full potentials within a challenging environment.” Donate Now
Restart Center: Restart’s approach to rehabilitation is based on a holistic model tailored to respond to the special needs of survivors in a multidisciplinary manner; including medical and psychological care as well as legal and social services. Restart is one of the main providers of multidisciplinary mental health services in Lebanon, and the only service provider specifically for survivors of torture. Fill out their online form and they will contact you about how to donate.
Al Naqab Center: Our supporters believe in the centrality of Palestinian refugee communities as an integral component in the (re)-building of our liberation movement through community led, grassroots action and organizing. Donate Now
For more info about the explosion and Lebanon:
Democracy Now interview with Rami Khouri
Al Jazeera English live coverage
Lebanon articles in MERIP – Middle East Research and Information Project
Short video with information about how US Sanctions on Syria are impacting people in Lebanon