Make up, hair done, face uncovered … There’s no reason to guess that Sali Hafiz is going to rob a bank. La di lei, located in the Sodeco district of Beirut. The loot? Her money. On the street, passers-by are not surprised by the scene. “You are right,” one of them commented. The movie is making the rounds of social media. At the same time, Wednesday morning, another bank in the south-east of the capital was the victim of a similar robbery. How to explain that the Lebanese are reduced to robbing their banks? 20 minutes make the point.
What happened on Wednesday in Beirut?
It is 10:30 on Wednesday morning when Sali Hafiz, a 28-year-old interior designer, walks into his bank with a (plastic) gun in hand. Behind her, the accomplices block the main entrance, pour gasoline and film the scene. The young woman perches on a table and asks for money. Her money. “I asked to receive the 20,000 dollars that have been in my account since 2015” to pay for the medicines for her sister with cancer, “but the bank refuses”, she explains to Publication. He leaves less than thirty minutes later, $ 12,500 in his pocket, and runs away.
Around the same time, Rami Charafeddine committed the same type of robbery at BankMed in Aley, southeast of Beirut. He leaves with $ 30,000 before being arrested by the police. Security forces also arrested Abdel Rahman Zakaria in Sali Hafiz’s apartment. Both are well-known activists of the “revolution” movement, which is calling for regime change. According to Publicationthe two robberies were coordinated by activist lawyer Rami Ollaik and the association for the defense of depositors’ rights Mouttahidoun.
Why are the Lebanese reduced to stealing their own money?
Since 2019 the country has been in the throes of a serious economic crisis. Prices have soared, poverty is exploding, and the state has withdrawn from many areas, including health, allowing the black market and corruption to spread. In the case of Sali Hafiz, three factors meet. “We are a country where people have to pay for surgery, but the bank refuses to give money. And we are in a society where getting a weapon is easy ”, explains Alex Issa, professor of geopolitics and head of training at IRENE of ESSEC Business School.
With limited bank withdrawals from 2019, Lebanese can only withdraw $ 200 a month in cash. Too little for treatments worth thousands of dollars. Above all, “we lose by getting our money back”, because the exchange rate is manipulated. “The bank gives around 8,000 pounds for one dollar instead of 37,000,” explains the man who worked for UNDP in Lebanon. 20 minutes. Instead of spending hours waiting for some discounted tickets, “robbery is the easy solution,” she sums up.
Can the government get out of the crisis?
For three years the crisis has only worsened in Lebanon. Economic, political, religious… The situation seems inextricable, despite the requests of international organizations for a reform of governance. However, “the system in place has power” in a country plagued by corruption, explains Alex Issa. “There are suspicions that money no longer exists. The central bank would ask commercial banks to lend them people’s money. It would then fall into the hands of the political class and vanish, ”he says.
Worse still, international pressure does nothing to change the problem. “It is the people who pay when the IMF refuses to give money, the rich political class is spared,” denounces the researcher. The problem is that the Lebanese multi-faith society does not unite, “the majority follows its religious community, its party leader who says that it is the others who are corrupt”. However, “we are reaching a stage where people just want to eat and survive,” complains Alex Issa. Fatalist, he fears “more and more violence” and that “social conflict will become a religious conflict”.