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Relatives of Beirut Blast Victims to Asharq Al-Awsat: We Won’t Be Silenced

Relatives of Beirut Blast Victims to Asharq Al-Awsat: We Won’t Be Silenced

Wednesday, 4 August, 2021 - 06:00
Michel Merhej, the brother of Beirut blast victim Cesar. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

A year after the cataclysmic blast at Beirut Port, the relatives of the victims are still awaiting answers and demanding justice, all of which remain elusive as the corrupt ruling class continues to shirks responsibility.

Time stopped at the port at 6:08 pm on August 4, 2020.

It has been a year since the calamity. Visiting the scene is like rubbing salt in open wounds. No one can hide behind that moment in time forever.

The blast has become a dear friend to traumatized people. It accompanies them in their daily lives and keeps them up at night.

Even a year later, fears are still high that another explosion may happen given the ruling authority’s corruption and negligence that led to the blast in the first place.

People hang on to their phones in anticipation of the next explosion so that they can call for help. Ever since that fateful Tuesday afternoon, all we have left are our screams.

Under Beirut’s stifling heat and humidity, the damaged iconic silos loom over the devastation that is still very present at the port. Everything at the port is destroyed, desperate and lifeless. Even the weeds that have cropped up find no signs of life to grow.

Ibtisam, the wife of the victim Ghassan Hasrouty, stands with her back to the silos. Her white hair stands in sharp contrast to her black mourning clothes.

She told Asharq Al-Awsat that the wounds from the blast are still raw. “It was like yesterday”

Ghassan worked at the port for 38 years. He was a tireless employee, who learned hard work from his father, who too worked at hangars and silos.

“I feel as if he will come back. As if he will finish his shift and walk through the door,” said Ibtisam.

Coming to terms with loss is difficult.

It took 14 days for teams to locate her husband’s corpse.

“Everything changed after he died,” she added.

She still has faith that the relatives of the victims will emerge victorious against the political class’s lack of cooperation with the investigation.

“We will forge ahead with this case even though we don’t know which course the probe is taking,” she remarked.

“They are mocking us. It has been a year and no truth has been revealed. They are hiding behind each other. Exposing the corrupt system will signal its demise. That is what they fear,” she asserted.

“Who brought in the ammonium nitrate? Who unloaded them at the port? Who knew of its danger and did not act? They are all criminals,” she anguishly declared.

Her daughter Tatiana told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The blast will remain with us. We do not want to forget.”

“We are strong and we will not be silenced,” she vowed defiantly even as her state has let her down. “We will not surrender. I deserve a better life than this.”

Michel Merhej is the brother of Cesar Merhej, who died in the explosion. He was only 35 when he died. A father of two, he worked at the General Security.

His eldest child is 5 and has been receiving phycological treatment to cope with the loss.

“We are very angry,” Michel told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The relatives are pursuing justice even as officials hide behind their political immunities.

“We will achieve justice even if it comes at a great cost,” vowed Michel. “The blast was not a random occurrence, but a product of years of negligence and conspiring.”

Hiyam Qaadan is the mother of Ahmed, 30, who died from the blast when he was crushed by building rubble in the nearby Gemmayze district.

She rejects attempts to shut the case.

“You will be held accountable,” she vowed.

She refuses nothing less than setting up gallows at Hangar 12 where the ammonium nitrate was stored.

“I hope they bury their children the way we buried ours,” she told Asharq Al-Awsat.

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