Lebanese veterans hit with tear gas in Beirut protest over pensions

Former soldiers angry after value of their pensions plunged following 2019 economic crash

Powered by automated translation

Lebanese military veterans were targeted with tear gas in central Beirut on Thursday during a protest over their pensions losing value.

A group of around 300 retired soldiers held a demonstration outside parliament and the Prime Minister's headquarters, where the Lebanese cabinet was meeting on Thursday afternoon.

The cabinet was meeting to discuss a number of issues, including the appointment of the deputy commander in the Lebanese Army. But the topic of military pensions was not formally on the agenda, despite it coming up in discussions.

Soon after the demonstrators clashed with security forces outside parliament, Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced that another cabinet session would be held on Saturday to discuss the issue.

Heavy security had been deployed in downtown Beirut amid the protests as the Internal Security Forces and the Lebanese Army faced off against their former comrades. Some of the main streets leading to parliament were locked down in response to the demonstrations.

At least two protesters required medical treatment after security forces fired tear gas at the protest. Some demonstrators had tried to remove barriers outside the Prime Minister's headquarters. Security personnel were also visibly affected by the tear gas, while nearby businesses closed their doors to stop the fumes entering.

The retired military personnel said in a statement that they “refused to be silent” in the face of their deteriorating living situations, particularly given that they had served their country. They are seeking an adjustment to their pension that takes into account the rapid depreciation in its value because of the economic crisis that has devastated Lebanon since 2019.

The value of individual pensions varies depending on the exchange rate and former rank, but before 2019 a typical pension would have been well over $1,000 a month. Now it is less than $100.

Lebanon's economy has almost completely collapsed after suffering one of the worst economic crises the world has ever seen.

The plummeting of the Lebanese pound has plunged much of the population into poverty.

The local currency's loss of value has meant salaries and pensions are worth a fraction of what they once were.

Serving soldiers have been affected too. While a typical salary would have been around $800 a month before 2019, now it hovers around $100.

Mr Mikati said he was “well aware” of the financial situation pensioners found themselves in but said the issue required further discussion so the government did not go over above its budget.

Updated: February 09, 2024, 7:15 AM