Lebanon was in crisis before the explosion that ripped the heart out of Beirut in August...
Our last issue was Reality Bytes. It was tech-heavy, produced entirely sat on sofas at home via laptops and WiFi – it made sense. As the world opened up, we planned the polar opposite – The Artisanal Issue. Then the unimaginable happened – the massive explosion that ripped the heart out of a country already on its knees. Lebanon was in crisis before the explosion. Corruption and a stream of other government failures saw more than 50 percent of its people living below the poverty line. Protests were triggered in 2019 as tax hikes on gas, tobacco, and internet phone services such as WhatsApp were announced. Combined with anger over the ruling classes’ exploitation of the sectarian system of rule – many of whom were civil-war-era warlords who had maintained positions of power – protests erupted across the country, and have continued since. Then Covid-19 hit, and already overwhelmed hospitals reached capacity. Protests continued, albeit stymied, of course, by warnings against group gatherings. And then nearly 3,000 tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate stored recklessly in the city’s port ignited. Like other disasters of our lifetime, people will remember where they were when they saw that video of the explosion. Sorbet founder Ali Khadra and commercial director Lama Seif, both from Beirut, spent the night and following days calling loved ones – friends and family of each had sustained injuries or were missing walls or windows from their homes. And as we’ve seen Beirut rally before, again they rallied. Surrounded by unthinkable destruction they mobilized. People with building skills or contracting companies formed charitable groups to help people rebuild their homes. Men, women, and children rescued from the rubble were driven by civilians to hospitals, while protesters injured by armed forces were treated at makeshift medical camps set up by people with any relevant experience.
So the issue is now a celebration of Fantastic Humanity, not only of people on the front lines, but special humans with special skills, precious people helping humanity in their own ways, whether through social, political, or environmental means.
To highlight the ongoing struggle of the Lebanese people, a people we are a part of, we reached out to Beiruti journalist friends. Some were unreachable, each absence another aching testimonial to the destruction. But amid the agonizing catastrophe, Médéa Azouri, Marwan Narwaan, Carla Basile, and Nadia Michel took the time to talk to me. As each picked up the pieces of their shattered city, they took time so we could use our platform – Sorbet magazine – to share their stories, and continue to bring awareness of the plight to people around the world. We have fictional superheroes in the issue too – examples of the ideals we dream up – but this issue is dedicated to the real-life ones. Médéa, Marwan, Carla, and Nadia, thank you for your contributions.
And to you and all the people of Lebanon, we’re with you.
Ali Y. Khadra, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sorbet Magazine.
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