Beirut: The feeling of being buried alive

Beirut: The feeling of being buried alive
Comment: Even before this disaster Lebanon's greedy and corrupt elite had made life unlivable, now they are burying us alive, writes Carmen Geha.
5 min read
12 Aug, 2020
The explosion last Tuesday is known to have killed 171, and injured thousands [Getty]
I don't feel like writing anymore, because there are no words, but I feel it is my duty to scream out like everyone else around me.

Just last week I wrote that we are a nation taken hostage, all our dreams and aspirations have vanished and all we have aspired to over the past week is a few hours of electricity. I re-share many of the snippets that I, like so many others, had written in the weeks and months and years before The Bombing of Beirut.

I call it The Bombing of Beirut and not in Beirut, because it was purposeful and deliberate. Whether it was an external or internal attack, whether it was negligence, whether it was detonated on purpose, it was a bombing of our city, of our people.

I go back to everything we've said and done for years before The Bombing. I, like all my friends and activists, have written reems on this, organised protests, created civil society organisations, published, shouted, been pushed, shot at, tear gassed, and lost loved ones, like so many others. I, like everyone around me, studied and persevered and built and tried to heal our scars from the war, tried to keep my family safe.

Before The Bombing, I had already tried all strategies. I, like all my friends, tried fighting the system, denying its existence, withdrawing to my own bubble, then fighting it again, we tried to oust them through elections, through our fists, our cries. Even before The Bombing, we were hostage to a group of warlords who granted themselves amnesty for war crimes and then divided the spoils of the state.

No, we do not want another government of 'national unity', governments of national unity were complacent and hid the crime of the explosive material

These are words that haunt me. No, we do not want another government of "national unity". Governments of national unity were complacent and hid the crime of the ignored explosive material. They covered for and were best buddies with each other for decades. We had said this to the world. Before The Bombing, we had collectively cried out that our economy had collapsed, our livelihoods were gone, our women were being killed and beaten up while locked up at home because of Covid-19.

Before The Bombing we called them warlords. The International Committee of the Red Cross had been helping people find their missing ones since the civil war broke out in 1975. There are at least 17,000 people still missing from the war, people whose families are still hoping and waiting to get any shred of confirmed news about the fate of their fathers, daughters, and kids.

Interactive photo slider: A before-and-after look at the scene of the explosion in Beirut on 4 August 2020 [AP]

We are still pulling out human bodies and their parts, we are still counting our dead. Live reporting gets interrupted frequently with funerals, coffins everywhere, wailing old people who swear they have seen it all before, but never expected to see something of this magnitude, or something this evil happen to their city.

We were a living breathing disaster even before this happened. Our killer regime was a threat to us but now we are a threat to the world and the entire Mediterranean.

What are 3,000 tons of explosives doing sitting in a city port? I'll tell you what our political class did; they used our bodies as human shields, and our homes and shops and schools and universities and favorite bars.

We have used every curse word, description, appeal, possible. This was our last breath, it feels like they literally buried our city alive, they buried our loved ones alive, and they buried our souls alive.

This was our last breath, it feels like they literally buried our city alive, they buried our loved ones alive, and they buried our souls alive

Those of us who physically survived The Bombing of our city are walking zombies, still expecting that the walls will fall in on us, and a week later still hearing that friends lost relatives, that people are still dying in make-shift hospitals. We are breathing broken glass and blood everywhere.

This time there are no words more than what we have been saying for decades. Right now there is only one appeal: if you want to help us, help us topple them and bring these assassins to justice. 

Carmen Geha is an activist, feminist and scholar, researching politics, crisis and mobilisation in MENA. She is Associate Professor of Public Administration at AUB. 

Follow her on Twitter: @CarmenGeha

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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.