Suicide over mounting debt strikes a chord in crisis-hit Lebanon

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Protesters chant slogans and strike a tabla during an anti-government demonstration in the southern Lebanese city of Sidon on Sunday. — AFP

BEIRUT — A suicide in Lebanon committed over mounting debt sparked a social media outcry in the protest-hit country, where weeks of political and economic turmoil have raised alarm.

Naji Fliti, a 40-year-old father of two, committed suicide outside his home in the border region of Arsal on Sunday because he could not pay outstanding medical bills for his cancer-stricken wife, his relative said on Monday.

The death resonated with many on social media, who blamed the country's under-fire political class for failing to address a months-long economic downturn that has resulted in inflation, swelling unemployment and fears of a currency devaluation.

"He is a victim of this regime, of this political class and their financial and monetary polices," Doumit Azzi Draiby, an activist, said on Twitter.

An unprecedented anti-government protest movement has gripped Lebanon since Oct. 17, fueled in part by deteriorating living conditions.

The World Bank has warned of an impending recession that may see the number of people living in poverty climb from a third to half of the population.

Unemployment, already above 30 percent for young people, would also go up, it said.

Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri's Cabinet resigned two weeks into the protest movement, bowing to popular pressure.

But the country's deeply divided political class has yet to form a new cabinet, frustrating demonstrators who have remained mobilized.

Public fury was fueled further following Fliti's death.

"Our anger is as strong as our determination to change this deadly and corrupt state," Ghassan Moukheiber, a former lawmaker, said on Twitter, attaching a picture of the deceased.

Fliti, a former stone quarry worker, had been unemployed for the past two months because of a crunch in demand for one of the region's main exports, his cousin Hussein said on Monday.

"He is a victim of the economic situation," Hussein said.

"The blame is squarely on the corrupt political class that brought us here." — AFP


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