Lebanese man who held up bank to get savings back goes on hunger strike

Lebanese man who held up bank to get savings back goes on hunger strike
The case of Abdullah al-Saei has sparked a national conversation in Lebanon over strict limits on withdrawing US dollars from banks, with some calling the depositor a 'national hero'.
2 min read
20 January, 2022
Protests have erupted against the banking sector in Lebanon, which many blame for the economic crisis [Anadolu Agency via Getty]

A Lebanese man arrested for holding up a bank in which his savings were held has started a hunger strike and asked to be released, local media reported on Wednesday.

Abdullah al-Saei was arrested on Tuesday after entering a bank in the city of Jeb Jannine in the Bekaa Valley, eastern Lebanon, armed with a gun, a grenade and bottles filled with fuel-oil.

He attempted to forcibly withdraw $50,000 of his own savings, which had been blocked since the start of the country's economic crisis, and threatened to blow up the bank if his request was denied.

Al-Saei eventually surrendered to the police, who have kept him in detention since.

He started a hunger strike on Wednesday to protest the seizure of his savings by Lebanese authorities.

Several organisations established to defend Lebanese depositors after the 2019 financial crisis staged protests in support of al-Saei on Wednesday.

They also launched a social media campaign using the Arabic hashtag "Jeb_Jannine", the city in which the incident took place.

"[We] support Abdullah Al-Saei as he faces banks robbing people of their lives," the Depositors Union tweeted.

People who deposited US dollars into Lebanese bank accounts have been unable to withdraw them for over two years.

Savers are limited to withdrawing small sums in US dollars each month, and can only take out larger sums in Lebanese lira, converted at an official rate that is highly unfavorable.

This situation has deprived many Lebanese citizens of their life savings and thrown them into poverty. 

Live Story

Organisations like the Association of Depositors in Lebanon and Lebanon's Depositors Union were created to pressure banks and Lebanese authorities into unlocking their savings, without success.

Tuesday's incident has sparked a wave of reactions on Lebanese social media, with many users calling Al-Saei a “national hero”.