News Daily Spot: Something rotten in the state as Beirut’s protesters lose their cool at government

more news

Something rotten in the state as Beirut’s protesters lose their cool at government


The rubbish collectors are refusing to work and the garbage is piling up, but critics say the stench extends far beyond the streets

Hussein Yousef’s tanned face betrayed little emotion, but his eyes were pained as he leaned on the concrete barriers in central Beirut’s Riad al-Solh square.

The last time he saw his son, Mohammad, a Lebanese army soldier, was in a video 10 months ago in which an Islamic Statemilitant was threatening to kill him. “The last time I heard his voice he told me, ‘Father, they will kill us if the state does not negotiate seriously for us.’ He was shaken and frightened,” said Yousef, his voice catching. “When I see my son like this, kidnapped, his hands tied behind his back, his eyes open, a knife near his throat that could in any moment sever his neck; that was the last horrible time I saw my son.

Beside him was Marie Khoury, whose brother, George, is held by Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaida affiliate. Her eyes welled up as she told his story. “I took his [George’s] cap and I put it under my pillow,” she said. “Every night I go to sleep, he is there.”

The plight of the soldiers’ families, 25 of whom are still being held by the militants a year after they were captured during battles near the border, is just one particularly harrowing story that illustrates how the Lebanese government has repeatedly failed its own citizens.

Its inability to negotiate their release was just one milestone on the road that culminated in a crisis sparked by its failure to clear rubbish this summer and to negotiate a deal for a new landfill. Beirut residents are taking to the streets for the second time this month to rail against the incompetence of the government. As Khoury and Yousef spoke, nationalist songs blared from speakers in a square nearby. “Their cause,” said Khoury, “is my cause.”

For the Lebanese, the rubbish crisis – in which rubbish collectors stopped working, forcing residents to cover their faces to shield themselves from the stench – has been a profound indignity and a step too far for a government with a record of failure that would have been almost comical were it not so tragic. “It is an insult,” said one man. “I grew up without water and electricity. But trash?”

click here