Lebanese mothers march against ruling class on eve of Mother's Day

Lebanese mothers march against ruling class on eve of Mother's Day
Dozens of women in Lebanon took to the streets on the eve of Mother's Day to protest against the country's ruling class.
3 min read
20 March, 2021
The protest took place on the eve of Mother's Day [Getty]
Around one hundred women demonstrated in crisis-hit Lebanon on Saturday on the eve of Mother's Day in the country, expressing outrage at the ruling class. 

The mothers, some with their children, marched from an area once on Beirut's dividing line during the 1975-1990 civil war, to the city's port, which saw a catastrophic explosion last year - blamed on official negligence - that killed more than 200 people and injured thousands. 

Chanting anti-government slogans, they held signs addressing the ruling class. 

"You have stolen our money and our children's futures," several placards read. 

"The best gift would be your leaving," read another. 

Lebanon is battling its worst economic crisis in decades. The national currency has lost almost 90 percent of its value against the dollar on the black market and consumer prices have soared. 

Some 55 percent of Lebanese now live below the poverty line, the United Nations says, and unemployment stood at 39.5 percent late last year. 

The government resigned after the port explosion, but endless haggling between the main ruling parties has delayed the process of forming a new cabinet. 

"They are all war criminals, warlords," protester Nada Agha told AFP, referring to the fact that several politicians were militia leaders during the civil war. 

"They have been dividing up the pie among themselves (for 30 years)... and have blown us up and stolen our money. We want them to leave!" she said. 

Another demonstrator, Petra Saliba, in her fifties, said "no solution is possible while they are in power". 

"We want to destroy them as they have destroyed us.”

The march came just days after scientists in Japan said last year's Port of Beirut blast was as powerful as a volcanic eruption, generating electron disturbances high into the earth's upper atmosphere

The speed of the high-velocity atmospheric wave caused by the 4 August explosion was even larger than the one generated by the eruption of Asama Volcano in central Japan in 2004.

It was also comparable to more recent eruptions on Japanese islands, the researchers concluded.

"We found that the blast generated a wave that travelled in the ionosphere in a southwards direction at a velocity of around 0.8 kilometres per second," Hokkaido University Earth and Planetary scientist Kosuke Heki said.

On 4 August, more than 2,750 tons worth of improperly stored ammonium nitrate exploded in the port area of the Lebanese capital, killing around 200 people and making more than 300,000 temporarily homeless.

The blast, which left a 140-metre-diameter crater in its wake, is believed to be one of the most powerful non-nuclear, man-made explosions in human history.

Read also: 'So bad for you': doctors flee crisis-hit Lebanon

More than six months after the explosion, the official investigation is struggling to break through Lebanon's political culture of corruption and obstruction.

This has meant that investigators and legal experts have been unable to hold high-ranking officials to account for the dangerous stockpile left in a heavily-populated area.

Documents reviewed by news outlets show that officials were well aware of the dangers posed by the large chemical store.

Responsibility for the ammonium nitrate is alleged to have been passed for years among different public and private entities, including the ministry of public works and transport, the judiciary, the army, and even a private explosives company. 

Agencies contributed to this report.

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