For centuries Lebanon has been a safe haven for people of the middle east to turn to. Whether it be a search for better medication, tuition or simply for tourism, Lebanon was always the ideal destination of the Arab world and other countries. The different cultures, religions, and traditions have made Lebanon a melting point that attracted many people’s attention all around the world.
However, as the decade draws its last breath and as protestors roam the streets of Lebanon; the topic of the countries safety became more and more questionable.
Lebanon’s Security Before the Protests
In a way, Lebanon’s more liberal views and different religions have played a huge hand in helping the country steer away from extremists and terrorist wars; unlike its neighboring countries.
The last real war the country ever faced was the Lebanese-Israel war over 14 years ago, back in 2006. Since then, Lebanon remained a somewhat safe country, albeit having some inner civil squabbles; and in 2017, the UL safety index gave Lebanon 59 on a scale of 1 to 100. in addition, Lebanon has ranked 94th Globally in Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI).
Nonetheless, this still places Lebanon as one of the safest countries in the Middle East. As a result of this, the country sees a high level of tourists from the region.
Truth be told, it is the same geographical placement that makes Lebanon so unique and special, makes it also a semi-dangerous country. Sharing the borders with both Syria and Palestine has placed Lebanon is a dire situation for the past decades. Thus, the unrest within the country’s borders is highly apparent.
A conflict with Israel could trigger with a little warning rapid rise in violence. An example of this would be the exchange of fire between the militant group Hezbollah and the Israeli Defense Force that took place across the Blue Line in the South of Lebanon, on 1 September 2019.
Also, the same could be said about Syria. It is not an unexpected turn of event that the long war in Syria has affected Lebanon badly. Legal and illegal refugees have overcrowded the country and exhausted the already worn-out infrastructure.
Add to that the thieves and thugs who can be found near the borders, in spite of the government’s effort of keeping them at bay. But despite the other country’s’ conflicts pouring into Lebanon; the country remained safe most of the time.
Thus ranking, with regard to the top destination cities within the Middle East and African region, the 8th in the top 10 destination cities. It should be, also, mentioned that tourism in 2019 was increasing during the first half of the year.
The country was on its right track in restoring the flourishing tourism to what it once was before the civil war.
Lebanese Revolution 2019
However, in light of the events of the last months, things are surely not so clear on the topic of the country’s safety and security. Nationwide Protests, which began on 17 October 2019, are still ongoing. Even though the protest against the corrupt government began peacefully, things soon turned violent and aggressive.
There have been periodic hostility including clashes between protesters, security forces and supporters of political groups ever since the start of the protesting all around the nation. In addition, Security forces have used violent measures to abolish protests such as tear gas, water cannon, and rubber bullets; causing by that serious injury for the protesting citizens.
In return, the protestors pelted them with rocks and firecrackers. Dozens on both sides were injured. Then again, the most serious causality of those clashes was the loss of a civilian’s, Alaa Abu Fakher, life. The protestor was shot in the middle of the street, right infront of his wife and children.
The country’s safety status isn’t exactly consistent. The main roads of Beirut, Tripoli and other cities are being closed and blocked by the anti-government marchers. Yet, they are again being reopened by the security, police or military. These roads include the roads to and from Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport. thus making it hard to travel to and out of the country.
As for fuel stations, there have been occurrences of closures at short notice. Granted, they continue to supply petrol when they’re open. On the other hand, banks are being closed for long periods of time during the protests. ATMs, credit and debit cards have proven to be reliable most of the time; but only when using the Lebanese pound.
Access to US Dollars became extremely limited due to the economic issues the country is currently facing. Schools, universities and institutes are in an inconsistent cycle of closing in the case of danger; Then opening their doors when their safety is being insured.
The same can be said about stores, markets and malls. Unfortunately, 265 restaurants and cafes closed their doors in the last two months; increasing by that the unemployment level in the country. Conversely, it should be noted that tourism fell by 80% because of the protest movements.
Lebanon Present Situation
Yet, since the start of the festive season, the violent occurrence seemed to subside. Protestors still roam the streets but with fewer numbers. Citizens of all the regions are trying their best to enjoy the holidays as ‘Loulou’ storm arrives at Lebanon. Motion is regained to the streets of Lebanon as the final days of the year come to an end.
In brief, Lebanon currently is considered somewhat safe for the citizens to live in despite the constant unrest. Banks, malls and restaurants are reopening their doors for the festive season and the streets are not being blocked by the protests. However, the days to come are going to be the judge of the country’s security status. While everyone hopes for the best, it is wise not to travel to the country at the moment; since any sudden event could trigger a chain of more violent ones.
- Lebanon’s leaders move to quell huge protests. (2019). Retrieved 27 December 2019, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-50118300
- Safety Index — UL. (2019). Retrieved 27 December 2019, from https://ulsafetyindex.org/app/#compare/Lebanon
- Lebanon: Excessive Force Against Protesters. (2019). Retrieved 27 December 2019, from https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/12/20/lebanon-excessive-force-against-protesters
- Sarah El Sirgany, C. (2019). Lebanon protests sees violence erupt on Beirut streets. Retrieved 27 December 2019, from https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/15/middleeast/beirut-protest-intl/index.html
- Lebanon Ranked 94th Globally in Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI) – BLOMINVEST. (2019). Retrieved 27 December 2019, from https://blog.blominvestbank.com/7639/lebanon-ranked-94th-globally-in-travel-and-tourism-competitiveness-index-ttci/
- MUST READ! Is Lebanon Safe? [December 2019 • Tips and Advice!]. (2019). Retrieved 27 December 2019, from https://www.thebrokebackpacker.com/is-lebanon-safe/
- Mata, m. (2019). الحركة السياحية تراجعت 80% وإلغاء الحجوزات مستمر… كيدانيان لـ”النهار”: مبادرة تتضمّن أسعاراً ”إغرائية” للسياح. Retrieved 27 December 2019, from https://newspaper.annahar.com/article/1091656-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D8%B1%D9%83%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%AD%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%AA%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AC%D8%B9%D8%AA-80-%D9%88%D8%A5%D9%84%D8%BA%D8%A7%D8%A1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D8%AC%D9%88%D8%B2%D8%A7%D9%88%D8%B2%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D9%85%D8%B3%D8%AA%D9%85%D8%B1-%D9%83%D9%8A%D8%AF%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%8A%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%86%D9%87%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D9%85%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%AF%D8%B1%D8%A9-%D8%AA%D8%AA%D8%B6%D9%85%D9%86