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Burning tires. Lebanese protesters send a dark, angry message

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BEIRUT (AP) – It is an expression of anger, but also helplessness. In Lebanon, anti-government protesters set fire to tires to block major roads, releasing dense smoke chambers rising from the capital, Beirut, to other parts of the country.

The tactic has become a sign of a new outbreak of protests against the irreconcilable political class, which seems to be doing little when its country slips into a political-economic abyss. Lebanon is plunged into the worst economic crisis in its recent history, exacerbated by epidemic constraints and an overwhelmed health sector.

“It simply came to our notice then. “It calms our hearts,” said Munir Houjairi, a 23-year-old protester from Baalbek in northeastern Lebanon, who spends his time “complaining” about low-paying jobs.

The smoke and fumes from the tires make the protesters’ faces with anti-virus masks, which are located in the roadblocks, which stop the traffic in the “cities” of Beirut. The persistence of the tunnels and the daily burning of tires underscore the extent to which the country’s problems have been solved.

Anti-government protests first began to embrace Lebanon in late 2019. Since then, the local currency has collapsed after being tied to the dollar for nearly 30 years. Wages have remained the same as inflation has risen. People lost their jobs, and poverty affected almost 50% of the population.

Meanwhile, Lebanon’s sectarian political system is stuck. Politicians have refused to compromise on forming a government or making tough financial decisions for fear of losing their influence or support base.

Exhausted by the coronavirus, frightened and limited, the Lebanese watched as members of the ruling elite blamed each other for the crisis.

The currency hit a record low last week, trading in the market at $ 11,000, down from the official 1500 1,500, sparking a new wave of protests.

“The solution will come only through the streets,” said Hujairi, who has been protesting since October 2019. “Of course, those whose streets or the streets of their political parties are blocked will get angry.”

Roadblocks will be a desperate way to restore the anger felt across the country in 2019, when the government was forced to resign, sparking a brief period of euphoria in the hope that change is possible.

The national mood is more cowardly now. Officials have warned of chaos, with some claiming that the protests were manipulated by political groups to escalate violence or make concessions to rivals.

Many fear that social tensions have reached levels not seen since the start of the civil war in April 1975. Over the next 15 years of conflict, burning tires became a cheap way to create blockades between warring factions.

Tire fires are difficult to extinguish; they can last for hours, drawing attention away from competitors.

The tactic has been used in the Palestinian territories, Iraq and Sudan.

Palestinians burn tires during protests against the Israeli occupation, which began in 1987. Outraged by their first uprising. Three decades later, during protests against the blockade of the Israeli-Egyptian border in Gaza, young people set up “tires” to ride around on a motorcycle around a small coastal area. rickshaws to collect tires for burning. The dark black smoke served to obscure the identities of those who threw stones at Israeli forces.

Open tire fires, which were used to operate stoves in some countries, are illegal in most parts of the world due to high levels of pollutant emissions.

Amnesty International’s Lebanese researcher Sahar Mandour says the practice of burning tires as a form of protest was observed in many countries in the 1980s. But since then it has gone out of fashion due to its impact on the environment.

“The world is moving forward. “But Lebanon did not,” he said. “We have the same parties, the same leaders, so the tools are the same.”

Hujairi claims that he and his friends burn 100 to 150 tires a day. He said they were collecting used, punctured tires from the rubbish heaps, denying allegations that political parties were distributing them.

“A little black smoke will not hurt,” Hujairi said in response to the criticism. “There is no way to get to the house of politicians.”

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