Lebanon is no stranger to violence and upheaval – caused by political assassination attempts and other events. And yet many Lebanese people say that it has hardly ever been as bad as it is now.
Jouni agrees. He speaks haltingly, stopping repeatedly to cry. When his leg was amputated, he says, the head of the taxi company threw him out, telling him that he was of no use to him anymore. He has been unemployed ever since. He has sold a lot of furniture in order to buy food.
If he wants to get up, Samar lifts him into the wheelchair and pushes him down the corridor to the living room. If he has to go out – for a doctor's appointment, for instance – he either calls on friends to help or Samar offers strangers on the street money to carry Jouni down from the sixth floor. He hates seeing his wife suffer because of him, says Jouni. As far as he is concerned, the politicians are to blame for his predicament. "They are selling their own people to make money," he says.
You can hear the anger towards the elite all over the city: in taxis, in shops, on the streets. Slogans like "Tear down the system" or "The rulers are the real terrorists" are daubed on walls across the city. Many accuse the government of not only being responsible for the explosion, but also not of giving a damn about the victims.
The fact is that it is both international and local non-governmental organisations and individuals who are powering the reconstruction effort. Right after the explosion, it was volunteers, people from the neighbourhood, family members and friends who cleaned up the streets, cleared away the rubble and looked after the people who had lost everything. The army just stood by and watched.
Three months on, it is still organisations like Live Love Beirut that are replacing windows, delivering meals, supplying medicine and looking after people like Jouni. This Friday, two people from Live Love Beirut brought him a blood sugar monitor; Jouni has diabetes. In recent weeks, they got him insulin and collected money so that he could pay his rent for the next two years. Without the helpers from Live Love Beirut, says Jouni, he would be finished.