Beirut rebuilds its pieces

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“They will never be able to leave Beirut.” Surrounded by young women Imane Nasreddine Assaf, NGO founder Ahla Fawda, jokes about the collection of traumas that her Lebanon native. With their hands, they are mending the pieces of homes, lives, futures that still accumulate scattered and destroyed in the streets from the Lebanese capital. The ravages of the explosion on August 4 that left 190 fatalities, 6,000 injured and 300,000 homeless families they continue to inhabit the neighborhoods adjacent to the port. Thus, the wounds of a people abandoned by an absent and corrupt government no they can heal.

Dozens of Beirutis, those who have been able to afford it, have begun preparations to leave your city. A month ago, the explosion of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in the port devastated half of the Lebanese capital, especially the areas of bars and restaurants near the sea. “Although the explosion has not affected us physically, our mental health and our future prospects have plummeted,” he explains. Joe Azzam, a young 26-year-old architect who decided to launch the Rebuild Lebanon initiative with his fellow professionals the day after the tragedy. “In my group of friends we are eight, and six of them have already left Lebanon or are preparing to leave the country, “he laments.

Those who are rebuilding Beirut are those who long for a future abroad. With a 40% of its population under the age of 24, Lebanon sees how after restoring the buildings and cleaning the broken glass that flooded the streets, its youth tremendously formed he resigns himself to abandon it. Immersed in the worst economic crisis in its history And after ten months of anti-corruption demonstrations, the youth just want to “live.” “We are not rebuilding our businesses for the good of Lebanon, we are doing it to survive,” says Azzam.

“We don’t rebuild our businesses for the sake of Lebanon, we do it to survive “, laments Azzam

“Young people who have not lived through the civil war [1975-1990] nor have we faced the violence and the destruction during our existence we did not believe what was happening in our city & rdquor ;, explains the co-founder of Rebuild Lebanon. “For this reason, we were the first to organize ourselves and begin to act,” he notes. In the offices of Ahla Fawda, the phones continue to ring relentlessly a month after the tragedy. “The lack of confidence in the government and its absence in the immediate response to the crisis have made them private initiatives of NGOs or individuals who lead the humanitarian aid that is still so much needed “, says its founder.

“We need everything”

As the days go by they arise new needs on the terrain. Imane Nasreddine Assaf sighs as she asks him what is needed now. And she sums it up in a word that comes from her soul: “everything“Everything is everything.” People need houses, they start to open schools and we need books and computers for the students, winter is coming, we are going to need clothes and blankets, “she confesses resignedly.” As long as the money continues to arrive, we will continue working; he Beiroshima it has united the whole world concerned about our city, “adds Assaf proudly.” That is why people send funds to local NGOs, not to the government. ”

The bustle of the neighborhoods with mediterranean aroma it has mutated into endless rebuilding tasks. After the explosion, the Institute of Global Health of the American University of Beirut made a database of missing persons available to the public. “It is a more active than passive base, since we have maintained contact with the families to find out how the search is going and we have consulted social networks to add more missing persons”, explains Zahi Abdul Sater, in charge of the initiative. Of the 169 cases investigated, 57 people were found alive, 60 dead and 50 still unaccounted for.

“There are still missing people for whom we have no information such as refugees or people who have not been registered in the official databases “, adds Sater,” it is vital that keep talking of it. “Local Oenegés have denounced the attitudes racist of the authorities or individuals who reject the solidarity of the Syrian refugee community in Lebanon, which represents one in four inhabitants of the country. Ethiopian, Filipino, Sri Lankan or Nepalese domestic workers have also been the first to face the abandonment of a society that, despite needing and enslaving them under the Kafala system, refuses to embrace them.

Exhausted and disbelieving

For a country so punished, the remnants of hope that feed their citizens seem like a miracle. Like the one expected by the dozens of people gathered around the rescue work of the Chilean team Tops. But the miracle did not come. “The Lebanese people feel many things at once: we are still dominated by disbelief because they have not given us official explanations about the reason for the explosion, “argues Sater. The dizzying pace of work that has required the complete destruction of certain neighborhoods has prevented people from stopping to process what they experienced.” There is a certain detachment towards what is happening around us because the work we are doing is consuming us, “he adds.

“We are all traumatized, depressed; we are all working just not to sit and think, we are paralyzed for now, “acknowledges the founder of Ahla Fawda.” Our only feeling is to keep going; in a couple of months, when we stop working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it will be the moment when we will fall, when it hits us. “The suffocation from facing daily the devastation of his city has worsened this week with the fire among the ruins of the port that stained the sky black again.

“We are all working simply not to sit and think “, Assaf acknowledges

Back to the streets

The solution? “Burn the entire government and her followers, “jokes Imane Nasreddine Assaf with her colleagues.” People should return to the streets en masse, many people have died or lost their homes for no reason, “she adds. If the October protests unified Lebanese from the In 18 different religious sects in the country, this tragedy has intensified the rejection of the sectarian system. Being Shiite, Sunni, Druze or Maroni has not prevented any Lebanese from being lost from their homes or even their loved ones. The difference lies in who can take refuge in their second home, who can finance the reconstruction tasks. “It is a theme of class; Do you really think our politicians care about their religion? They only act for him power“, denuncia Azzam.

“But I am positive, I make plans for myself inside and outside Lebanon, “confesses the 26-year-old. Recent visits by the French president Emmanuel Macron they have shaken the diminished confidence of the Lebanese people. “We greatly appreciate the support from the international community that is so needed right now, but we have to stand up. ourselves“, claims the founder of Ahla Fawda.

“We must be optimisticIt is the only way to survive. “With a permanent smile, Imane Nasreddine Assaf consoles herself with laughter:” coronavirus, revolution, economic failure, explosion; it can’t get worse, true?”.

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