Protesters in Lebanon vandalise banks, demand their money back

People demand the return of their savings and call for officials involved in corruption to be held accountable.

Protesters in Lebanon have attacked several bank buildings, set tyres alight and smashed windows to demand their money back.

The angry demonstrations took place on Thursday in a suburb outside the capital, Beirut, and targeted the branches of Bank Audi, Bank of Beirut and Byblos Bank in Sin el-Fil in Mount Lebanon Governorate.

The protesters were angry about financial controls which have destroyed many people’s life savings.

People demanded the return of their money, also calling for officials involved in corruption, including the central bank Governor Riad Salameh, to be held accountable.

“We are done with them. We’ve waited too long, it’s enough,” one protester told Al Jazeera.

Another said they were sending the banks a message.

“We will not lose our rights, not today and not after 100 years. This is a message they need to understand,” he said.

Lebanon has been hit with a crushing economic crisis since 2019, with the World Bank deeming it one of the worst in modern history.

The country’s currency, the Lebanese pound, has lost more than 98 percent of its value against the US dollar since the crisis began.

Experts say the country’s crisis is rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement by a political class that has ruled Lebanon since the end of the 1975-90 civil war.

Salameh is among officials from the political class to have been mired in corruption scandals, and has been blamed for instigating the crippling crisis.

An Interpol notice was issued against him last month after France put out an arrest warrant as part of its investigation into whether the governor embezzled hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds.

Salameh denies the allegations.

Thursday’s protests occurred after Lebanon’s parliament – for the 12th time – failed to elect a president and break a political deadlock that has gripped the country for months.