Protesters Demand Accountability In The Aftermath Of Beirut Explosion
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
This week's devastating blast in Beirut has set off mass grief, personal loss and new calls for change. The blast has been traced to a massive supply of fertilizer that had been sitting abandoned for years. Protesters have taken to the streets even as the city grieves, demanding accountability and an end to government corruption they say contributed to the disaster.
Alia Ibrahim is the founder of Daraj media. They are an independent digital media organization. She joins us now from Beirut. Thank you so much for being with us.
ALIA IBRAHIM: Thank you, Scott, for having me.
SIMON: And we are grateful that you are safe. Can you tell us where you were during the blast?
IBRAHIM: I heard the first explosion, and then instinctively, I ran to my kids' rooms, and I was telling them to stay away from the windows. By the time we were out of the room, then the second really big explosion happened. And the - and, yes, I mean, we had - it's very minimum what we have. We have, like, shattered glass and minor damage. And it's mostly the fear and the helplessness during those very, very long seconds that I think will never go away.
SIMON: And, of course, you've been walking around the city and talking to people. What do you hear?
IBRAHIM: I've been a journalist for 20 years. I've covered all kinds of events in the city. I always had a sense that we can get out of it; we can rebuild. This time, the level of destruction is just beyond imagination. And I know very well that this happens at a moment where the country is already in the middle of an economic crisis. And it's - you really feel that Beirut is a city of glass. Like, the amount of shattered glass around the city is just stunning. And every single person has lost something.
SIMON: I was struck this week by news reports that when President Macron visited Beirut and walked around the streets, people said, no, don't send aid to Lebanon; the government would just steal.
IBRAHIM: Well, because they have a history of that. I was just there in Gemmayzeh this morning. I was there yesterday. I was there the day before. You know, this is a street that for a lot of Lebanese, it's our heritage. And this time, it's gone, and we don't have the means to rebuild it. And this is the street that President Macron decided to visit. And people actually welcomed him. And, yes, what they were saying - please don't give aid to the government because, you know, we're at odds with the government now. And if you send aid to this kind of government, you're actually letting it breathe again. You're giving it what it needs to survive. The amount of anger is like nothing I've seen in my life, actually.
IBRAHIM: It really reached the moment where coexistence is not possible anymore. We live - I belong to the generation of the Civil War. Having grown up there, I don't want the same for my kids. So we tried as much as possible to avoid the scenario of another civil war. And I think this kept us hostage to a political elite. But what happened is that we're going to die anyway. Our dreams are going to be shattered anyway. Our security - the fear I've seen in my daughter's eyes - I don't want to see this anymore. I - they deserve a better life. Everybody's kids deserve a better life.
SIMON: Alia Ibrahim is the founder of Daraj media, an independent Lebanese digital media group. Thank you so much for speaking with us.
IBRAHIM: Thank you.
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