The ammonium nitrate blast in Beirut, Lebanon that occurred in early August resulted in an outburst of various forms of solidarity by many living outside of the country’s borders across the globe. This kind of charitable support is an effective way to directly help the Lebanese people, especially because of the country’s broken, inadequate government that continually fails to respond to the needs of local civilians. It is critical that financial support is directly placed into the hands of the Lebanese people themselves who are working on-the-ground to restore Beirut to its original state.
Currently, there is pressure on the Lebanese government to permit an international investigation into how the explosion occurred, as local civilians continue to distrust state officials and their incompetent behaviour in addressing the cause of the blast. United Nations Special Rapporteur Michael Fakhiri and his colleagues issued a statement a few days ago, calling for “an independent and transparent investigation into the explosion that underscores international human rights obligations, clarifies responsibilities related to the explosion, and leads to justice and accountability.” These efforts by the international community are positive steps in the right direction, but it is critical that small-scale approaches to the re-building of Beirut are also endorsed. International condemnation of the Lebanese government’s mishandling of the ammonium nitrate blast places the spotlight on state officials as decisions are made in the near the future. Yet, the city can’t entirely rely on international institutions, like the UN, to instill transformative change for local civilians.
Thus, various forms of solidarity across the globe that have emerged in support of the Lebanese people have ensured civil society and local companies continue to exist in Beirut. For instance, Laila Gohar is a well-known chef based in New York who alongside artist duo, Daniel and Loren from (LEV), organized a dinner in support of the Beirut restaurant, Tawlet. Tawlet is run by Lebanese woman chefs who each day serve food from their respective regions. There are currently four restaurants that facilitate fulfilling work and a platform for women living in Lebanon to socio-economically provide for themselves. However, the blast tragically impacted all restaurants, meaning that all proceeds from the dinner organized by the New York chefs will be spent on fixing and renovating the shop, kitchens, and offices of all Tawlet restaurants.
These transnational civil society efforts work towards raising awareness of the situation beyond Lebanon’s borders and ensure that economic support is being placed into the hands of Lebanese people themselves. This is all the more critical in the context of a country with a failed, broken government that has threatened the livelihoods of Lebanese civilians for decades. The simple act of cooking by Laila Gohar and her friends will have positive effects for women rebuilding their lives in Beirut. It is inspiring to see the ways food has the capacity to incite meaningful change and political solidarity in the face of crisis in Beirut.
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