Over the last months, the Amman Center for Human Rights Studies has tracked the political and economic events that are dramatically reshaping the future of Lebanon. On October 17, 2019, demonstrators took to the streets after the Lebanese government proposed a new tax. Frustration erupted over decades of high unemployment, government corruption, and lack of access to medical care, education, trash services and electricity. ACHRS stood in solidarity with the protestors in Lebanon as they pushed the government to meet their demands for basic goods and services.
To show support, on December 2019, a representative from the Amman Center for Human Rights Studies visited Beirut to monitor the progression of the human rights situation. Our representative indicated that tensions between the government and demonstrators were becoming more hostile, as the army began using violent means against civilians. Understanding that the situation could explode at any moment, citizens became increasingly cautious about moving around the city at night.
Lebanon’s already dire economic state was exacerbated by the COVID-19 outbreak, leaving it on the brink of collapse. Even nations with thriving economies are struggling to stay afloat amid the pandemic, as stay at home orders have taken a toll on almost every industry. Government curfews and lockdowns are shattering what remains of Lebanon’s economy. However, if such restrictions are not put in place and the virus spreads rapidly, it is unlikely that Lebanon’s crippled medical infrastructure will be able to handle the demands of COVID.
The World Bank estimated that just under half of the Lebanese population would fall below the poverty line in 2020. With the onset of COVID, these numbers are predicted to be much higher, with over three quarters of the population needing government assistance. Desperate protestors are taking violent actions such as setting military vehicles on fire and throwing Molotov cocktails through bank windows. Tensions between the army and civilians are running especially high in Tripoli, Lebanon’s poorest city.
Hizbollah is using the crisis as an opportunity to further establish its legitimacy in Lebanon by stepping up in the battle against COVID. Hizbollah has established COVID testing facilities, mobilized medics and doctors, bought a fleet of ambulances, distributed food to the poor, and provided street cleaning and trash collection services in municipalities where the Lebanese government has failed to do so.
Iran understands that by funding Hizbollah it is filling a void that the Lebanese government cannot, and it will be able to indirectly take control of the divided country in the post-COVID era. This will reshape the political atmosphere in Lebanon and the Middle East for years to come.