Music videos filmed at Beirut blast site spark outrage: 'A crime scene not a stage'

‘Insensitive’ tributes have been criticised on social media as the country marks one year since the deadly explosion

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A tribute music video that was filmed at the site of the Beirut port explosion has sparked outrage among residents and social media users.

Titled I Am Beirut, the song was released by Palestinian-Lebanese singer Fadee Andrawos to commemorate the anniversary of the blast and honour the victims.

On August 4 last year, Beirut was rocked by the detonation of ammonium nitrate, with the explosion claiming at least 190 lives and injuring thousands of residents.

The music video, which shows Andrawos performing on a stage at the port, was slammed by social media users and deemed insensitive.

Beirut port is the scene of an unsolved crime ... where people died a horrific death,” Rayan Khatoun, a human resources manager who lives in Beirut, tells The National.

“It is not the scene for music videos and stage set-ups. It is very tasteless to be using the space for music videos and absolutely offensive."

The mother of two experienced the explosion first-hand, in Gemmayze, a neighbourhood severely damaged by the blast, and sustained injuries to her head, face, arms and back.

Like the rest of the Lebanese public, she was oblivious to the thousands of tonnes of ammonium nitrate that had been recklessly stored at the heart of the city since 2013.

A group of firefighters, who responded to a call about a fire at the port, were killed in the explosion, but were not informed about the lethal chemicals stored there.

Their deaths form the basis of another music video by Lebanese singer Amir Yazbeck, which takes viewers back to that day and retraces the group’s steps.

The clip has also been met with anger on social media.

“We don't need a song or a hideous piece of construction to remind us of what happened, we need accountability,” Sandra, an account manager who requested her last name be kept anonymous, tells The National.

“Making videos at the port is an insult to both the victims and survivors of the blast. This isn't a joke or an event people can piggyback on."

An investigation into the deadly explosion has been obstructed by political immunity, and families of the victims haven’t received any answers to their many questions.

Fred Bteich, a Lebanese neurosurgery fellow in Dijon, France, says: “It’s like stamping over bodies and tombs in a cemetery and blasting some loud music, totally disrespecting the souls.”

Yazbeck has not yet responded to the criticism.

The singer shared the video on his social media pages on Tuesday, with the caption: "We will not forget this injustice that happened ... every day is August 4."

Andrawos, on the other hand, clarified that his music video was filmed in a public area near the port, and not at the explosion site.

"Just to clear my conscience and out of respect to the people who lost someone in this explosion, I wish we would stop lecturing each other and do something that helps," he said, in a video posted to his Instagram.

"This is not the investigation area, and we're not filming on people's dead bodies, this is a public area outside the port."

Updated: August 4th 2021, 10:31 AM