Sadness and anger. Two months after the explosions in Beirut, the families and relatives of the victims gathered on Sunday in front of the damaged port, to pay tribute to the deceased and to hold the authorities to account while the investigation supposed to appoint those responsible for the tragedy is still ongoing. .
Two months to the day after the double explosion that killed nearly 200 people in Beirut, a few hundred people gathered on Sunday, October 4, in front of the port of the Lebanese capital to pay tribute to the victims and demand that justice be done.
A stone’s throw from the epicenter of the tragedy that shook the Lebanon, two distinct groups met near the statue of the Lebanese Emigrant, which faces the sea and the stricken port, a few meters from Avenue Charles Hélou which connects downtown Beirut to its eastern suburbs.
The first was made up of families and relatives of some victims who came to demand accountability from the authorities for the loss of a father, brother or husband. Holding up portraits of the deceased and signs calling for justice, they shouted their anger, promising an escalation of their actions if they were not heard.
Their spokesperson Brahim Hotaï, who lost his brother on August 4 near the port, questioned the “three presidents” in front of the journalists present on the spot, namely the Head of State, Michel Aoun, the President of Parliament, Nabih Berri and the Resigned Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, by asking them to provide an update live on television on the investigation. “You have thirty minutes for one of you to call the media and tell us where this investigation is, otherwise we will block the avenue behind us,” he said with a cry of sadness and anger. .
The local investigation, led by the investigating judge and attorney general at the Court of Justice, Fadi Sawan, is still ongoing, despite the authorities having promised rapid results. So far 25 arrest warrants, in particular against employees and officials of the port, have been issued, but no information on the progress of the investigation, observed with skepticism by the population, only filtered through the media.
Last month, Amnesty International’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, Lynn Maalouf, lamented that “every step taken by high-ranking people in Lebanon clearly shows that the authorities have no intention of assuming their responsibilities for an effective, transparent and impartial investigation “.
“We want to know who killed our brothers and our sons”
Not having any illusions about the outcome of their “ultimatum” issued “to the three presidents”, Brahim and his comrades took action and symbolically blocked the road to for a few minutes, the time to broadcast the national anthem. Lebanese, under the sometimes benevolent eye of motorists and several members of the internal security forces, the local gendarmerie, deployed for the occasion.
“We are peaceful, but we will escalate if we are not listened to, we want to know who killed our brothers and our sons, and we want our martyrs to be treated like the martyrs of the army, so that, as in the case of the military, their salaries continue to be paid each month to their families, even if nothing will reimburse the blood that has been shed, “Brahim Hotaï told France 24, his eyes cloudy.
And to clarify: “We are 200 families of victims and 6500 families of wounded, and so if each of us decides to block a road, we can paralyze the country, because we refuse that they kill our martyrs a second time. by burying the investigation “.
Two months after the double explosion, he confides that the extent of his grief and sadness is immeasurable. “And again, I am a 60 year old man, I can take the pain, but I think of the children who are forever deprived of kissing one of their parents, and of the wives who will no longer be able to rest their heads. on the shoulders of their husbands “.
Next to him, Rima Zahed, sister of Amine Zahed, a 43-year-old victim of the explosion, nods, ranting in her deep voice against the authorities. “Our fathers, our brothers and our sons are dying one after the other in this country because of the corruption and the inertia of the political class, she thunders, clutching the photo of her stuck brother. against his heart. The whole world must know, and especially France and President Macron who are standing with our people, that our State is corrupt, and that there will be explosions like the one on August 4 every day, as long as these politicians stay in place. “
Tears rise to Rima’s eyes when she mentions this brother who had worked at the port of Beirut for twenty years, and whose portrait is displayed on the rear window of the family car. “Amine is a martyr, he was an honorable and adorable being, all his colleagues loved him, she whispered, before suddenly raising her voice. Those who killed him must be held to account, all those who committed this great crime against Beirut must pay. “
“I have the impression of living in a tomb”
Looking towards the crater where hangar number 12 was located – which housed the 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate which, according to the authorities, are at the origin of the tragedy -, Samia came to plead the cause of her late husband , Mohamed.
Dressed all in black and a white scarf around her neck, Samia displays a face marked by deep sadness. She accuses the blow and collapses, stroking the large format photo of her husband that she holds against her. “We lived in harmony and in total happiness with our twin 9-year-old daughters, she confides. Two months after the tragedy, I still cannot believe that he died, neither did my daughters. they only dream of one thing to see it again, while at their age children dream of beautiful toys. Our lives and dreams were shattered, we all lived together in a house that was considered an imaginary palace, today I have the impression of living in a tomb. “
Asked about her expectations for the investigation, Samia readjusts her protective mask and embarks on a diatribe against power. “We mustn’t hide anything from us, the truth must come out. Because they stole my husband from me. My daughters will be deprived of the word ‘dad’ all their lives. I want to. know who committed this crime against humanity. I want him to be tried, convicted and hanged. It doesn’t matter if he’s in high places. “
“It was anger that made me come today”
Further on, at the feet of the bronze statue of the Lebanese Emigrant, donated to the land of the Cedar by the Lebanese Club of Mexico in memory of the first immigrants who arrived in Mexico during the 19th century.e century, another group of relatives and families of victims gathered to commemorate the August 4 explosion.
A sober and moving tribute whose climax was the release of white balloons, on which were inscribed the names of the victims, at 6:07 p.m., the precise time of the cataclysmic explosion which disfigured several districts of Beirut. There were also some green balloons without inscription in memory of the nine people still missing since the explosions, and whose remains have not yet been found.
A moment of communion between the families accompanied by Muslim and Christian prayers broadcast by a sound system mounted on a van in the colors of the Lebanese flag, as well as local songs, including “Li Beirut” (for Beirut), performed by the national diva Fairouz.
“It was the anger that made me come today. It’s actually the first time that I have participated in a rally commemorating the explosion,” said Melvine, who wrote down her mother’s name, Magida, with a black pencil on a balloon. Her mother was struck by debris on August 4 while visiting her sick grandmother in hospital. Her bedridden grandmother is still alive, but Magida did not survive her injuries.
In addition to a painful mourning, the young woman explains that her family had to leave their home which was damaged by the explosion. His father’s store was also destroyed on August 4, directly threatening the family’s income as the country of the Cedar faces an acute economic crisis, coupled with a health crisis linked to Covid-19. But in Melvine’s eyes, the most important thing remains the need for a real investigation to be carried out in order to find and punish the culprits.
A thirst for justice and truth, to which the authorities have not responded for the moment.