Hello and welcome to the Armenian News Network, Groong, In this Conversations on Groong episode, we’ll be talking about the state of affairs in Lebanon, its path and outlook for better days, and how the Lebanese-Armenian community is navigating through these tough times.
This episode was recorded on Saturday, November 6, 2021.
Since the catastrophic explosion in the port of Beirut on August 4, 2020, Lebanon has been on a slow descent into chaos. On that day thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate that were stored in a warehouse exploded and destroyed or damaged significant parts of the city. It was discovered that the Lebanese president, the prime minister and other top leaders were all aware of the unsafe explosives yet did nothing about it for months and years. Massive popular demonstrations led to the government resigning less than a week later.
Now it’s over a year later and Lebanon is essentially a failed state on the brink of collapse. How did this happen?
To help us make sense of this state of affairs, we are joined by:
Dr. Ohannes Geukjian who is the chair of the department of Political Science and Public Administration (PSPA) at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. He is also assistant professor of comparative politics and conflict resolution.
Vera Yacoubian, who is the executive director of the Armenian National committee of the Middle East. She’s a PhD candidate in political science and a lecturer in politics, at the American university of Beirut (AUB). Mrs. Yacoubian also teaches courses on The Armenian Genocide at Haigazian university.
Over a year after that terrible explosion, the government’s resignation, and promises made to investigate the criminal negligence that led to the explosion, what is the state of the investigations? Lebanese president Michel Aoun promised that nobody would have political cover if they’re found guilty by the court, but the Lebanese parliament has stonewalled the judicial system.
Have there been any prosecutions? Have any senior leaders in the country been held accountable?
Before the explosion happened, Lebanon was already heading towards a major economic downturn, the financial system was in trouble, the currency was in decline, and COVID infections were running rampant in the country.
● The Lebanese currency has imploded, I think it trades around 20,000 Liras to the US dollar in the black market. The official rate is 1500 to the dollar for official payments, transactions, documents; 3900 to the dollar to those who have dollar accounts but cannot withdraw in dollars.
● There was a complete 24-hour electricity blackout in October in Lebanon, when the government ran out of fuel to generate the electricity. There is at best limited refrigeration, light, internet, TV or anything else, unless you’re one of the lucky few who have your own backup generator, and you can get fuel to run it, or can afford to pay the exorbitant fees to neighborhood generators.
What happens to the fuel that the government imports? And how does a government stay in power if they can’t even provide for the people’s basic necessities?
Until recently, almost everything from flour, food, fuel, gas, petrol were subsidized by the government. How did/does the government afford anything? Are there taxes in Lebanon? Does anyone pay taxes?
What external forces meddle in Lebanese affairs? Constructively? Destructively?
Does Turkey have a role in Lebanese politics?
Since the end of the Lebanese civil war, in 1990, the country has been going from one crisis to another. What is the fundamental reason for this perennial state of instability in Lebanon?
What are the prospects of pulling out of this morass/chaos/muddle?
Let’s talk about the Armenian community in Lebanon. We know that since the start of the civil war the numbers have been dwindling. Can you tell us where we are with the demographics of the Armenians in Beirut, and all of Lebanon, and why?
What’s happening to community services, such as our schools, the political parties, and the politics inside the community? How is the Armenian church engaged in helping the community?
What is the state of the community on the Lebanese political scene? (e.g. how many government members, from which Armenian parties, are they productive, part of the problem, or part of the solution, etc.)
How is the standing of the community within Lebanon? How is it regarded? How do the Lebanese-Christians (Maronites, etc) view the Armenians? How about the Lebanese-Muslims (separately if necessary: Druze, Hezbollah, Sunnis, etc)
That concludes this Conversations On Groong episode, and we hope you found it helpful. As always we invite your feedback, you can find us on most social media and podcast platforms, or our website Groong.org.
Thanks to Laura Osborn for the music on our podcasts. Don’t forget to subscribe to our channel on Youtube, Like our pages and follow us on social media. On behalf of everyone in this episode, we wish you a good week, thanks for listening and we’ll talk to you soon.
Vera Yacoubian, Ohannes Geukjian, Lebanon, Beirut, Armenians, Beirut Explosion, August 4, Electricity, Shortage, Generator, Fuel, DIesel, Gasoline,