This Week in Lebanon

Monday, February 1, 2021
Heidi Ahmed
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JANUARY 31, 2021
Protests in Tripoli
Lebanese Turn to Hezbollah for Financial Assistance
Syria Faces Humanitarian Aid Crisis

Protests in Tripoli
This week Tripoli saw a surge of protests after Lebanon’s government imposed a 24-hour curfew to help slow the spread of COVID-19. On Wednesday, a funeral was held for a man that died by security forces’ live fire used to disperse demonstrators. The next day, protestors set Tripoli’s municipal government building on fire in response to police brutality. Caretaker Prime Minister Diab responded by saying they will work quickly to restore the municipality building and arrest those responsible. [Reuters] Today protestors from all over Lebanon joined the rally in Tripoli’s al-Nour Square in solidarity. [Naharnet]

ANALYSIS

“Tripoli, despite once being the industrial heartbeat of Lebanon, is in a dismal state. Despite the presence of wealthy residents and many civil society organizations, it has been unable to rekindle the economic renaissance so desperately needed to restore dignity and self-sufficiency to its people. While the burning of the municipal building is a tragedy, in the US we know all too well the consequences of not addressing the needs of the people beyond humanitarian assistance. If Tripoli can rebuild, Lebanon can do the same…one municipality succeeding will spark others.”
-ATFL Policy Director Jean AbiNader


Lebanese Turn to Hezbollah for Financial Assistance
In the middle of Lebanon’s economic crisis, some citizens are turning towards Hezbollah’s financial arm, al-Qard al-Hasan Association, for help. Accounts at the association do not earn interest, but users say when they want to withdraw money, they can. This is a big deal when Lebanon’s commercial banks have made it difficult if not impossible at times for citizens to withdraw from their accounts. The association also offers interest-free loans up to $5,000 in dollars. It has been active for more than three decades and is considered Lebanon’s largest non-banking financial institution that gives microloans. [Associated Press]

ANALYSIS

“Operating as a state within a state, it appears that Hezbollah is the only institution prepared to survive a total collapse of Lebanon’s government and its economy. One of their institutions, al-Qard al-Hasan Association, the financial arm of Hezbollah is just one way Hezbollah avoids the wrecking ball of Lebanon’s economic collapse and is able to ensure the dollar deposits of its members. It seems Hezbollah has the least to lose during this disastrous time for Lebanon. Meanwhile, Lebanon’s sectarian leaders continue to care more about their own positions of power than establishing an economic safety net for all its citizens.”
ATFL President Edward M. Gabriel


Syria Faces Humanitarian Aid Crisis
At a United Nations Security Council briefing on January 20, Russia’s ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya confirmed that he intends to veto any extension of cross-border aid access into Syria. In the same meeting UN aid chief Mark Lowcock declared that efforts to negotiate a cross-line aid mechanism from Damascus to Syria’s northwest had failed. The absence of these aid mechanisms could leave over 4.5 million civilians in Syria without assistance. [Middle East Institute]

ANALYSIS

“The cynicism of the interests of external powers is front and center in Russia’s actions at the UN Security Council to close off the last of the relief corridors for aid to the Syrian people. It is abetting its ally Assad by denying people in opposition-controlled area access to lifelines for food and medical support to force them to give up their struggle. But closing this last of the four corridors only alienates further the thousands of people who are simply trying to subsist in the anarchy that is today’s Syria.”
-ATFL Policy Director Jean AbiNader

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.