At least eight banks were raided by desperate depositors in Lebanon on 16 September, in the latest repercussion of the manufactured economic crisis crippling the country.
Armed citizens — some with nothing but toy guns — launched their coordinated action early on Friday in Beirut, Ghazieh, Chiyah, Chehim, and Tarik al-Jdideh, demanding access to their own savings.
In Chehim, the depositor was a first lieutenant in the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), who opened fire inside the bank.
No injuries or casualties have been reported.
While some of the depositors obtained their funds before being arrested, others holed up inside the bank branches holding employees hostage.
“We have been impoverished and we want medicines. I’m standing idly by in the face of my children because I can’t get them what they want seeing as my money is trapped in the bank,” Ismail al-Moussawi, who recovered some of his savings on Friday, told reporters.
“Every time I go to get my money, I am humiliated. I am forced to beg because of corrupt politicians,” Al-Moussawi added.
The coordinated action was launched just two days after the ‘Association of Depositors in Lebanon’ warned of “daily raids” to recover depositors’ funds — locked away for three years by Lebanese banks.
“The real beginning of the revolution started yesterday, when Sally Hafez entered the bank, and there is no turning back,” Ibrahim Abdullah, a member of the ‘Depositors’ Outcry’ group said at a press conference this week. “This revolution is against all the banks.”
In response to the raids, the Association of Banks in Lebanon (ABL) announced all banks would close their doors for three days starting on Monday.
“The association insists on rejecting violence in all its forms because violence is not and will not be the solution,” it said in a statement.
However, activists from the depositors’ group warned: “on the fourth day hundreds of depositors [will be] waiting for you in the banks.”
حسن مغنية للجديد: اقفال المصارف ثلاث ايام وفي اليوم الرابع مئات المودعين في انتظاركم في المصارف.
— جمعية المودعين اللبنانيين (@Lebdepositors) September 16, 2022
Some Lebanese banks informed their clients that they could only access their branches by calling ahead and registering for a visit from now on.
Bassam Mawlawi, the caretaker minister of interior, called for an emergency meeting of the Central Security Council to discuss security measures that can be taken in light of the worsening situation.
Since 2019, Lebanon has been experiencing the worst economic collapse in modern history.
After initially locking citizens out of their bank accounts completely, Lebanese banks started to impose limits on withdrawals. If a client had a US dollar account, banks would only disburse their money in Lebanese currency, which has lost over 90 percent of its value.
The World Bank has described the man-made crisis as a “Ponzi scheme,” while the UN has accused the central bank and Lebanese officials of “human rights violations” for their role in setting the stage for this crisis.
Many banks in Lebanon are under investigation for their dealings with the Central Bank and its Governor, Riad Salameh, which involve the illicit transfer of billions of dollars abroad during the financial collapse of 2019.