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August 14, 2020

How Beirut blasts have pushed Lebanon to breaking point

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Directions: Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions. To read the transcript, click here

Summary: On the afternoon of August 4, 2020, two explosions ripped through Beirut, Lebanon, killing at least 170 and injuring 6,000 more.

  • Since then, Lebanese citizens have experienced sadness, rage and recrimination, with many blaming the blast on decades of government corruption and incompetence.
  • The government has since resigned, and Lebanon’s military has gained sweeping powers.
  • To learn more about what has led up to the current situation in Lebanon and the political forces that have dominated since the country’s 1975–1990 civil war, read this Reuters explainer

A. Warm up questions:

  1. After watching the video, what did you learn about the country of Lebanon and the capital city of Beirut?
  2. What was the cause of the Beirut explosions?
  3. Protests broke out across Lebanon last year in response to government corruption, which is in part responsible for the country’s economic problems.
    • What do you think gives the individuals interviewed for this story hope?
    • Can you think of another example in which serious government corruption did not break the people’s spirits but led them to work together?

B. Focus questions:

  1. As a regular citizen just trying to live his life, what do you think Jean Obaji means when he says: “All of them. All of them. They have to be changed. It’s enough. We’ve had enough,” in response to Ferguson’s question about whom he blames for the blast?
  2. Why do you think Lebanon’s military received sweeping powers after the Beirut blast? Do you the think this was a good decision? What information do you need to answer this question?

C. Media literacy: Special correspondent Jane Ferguson returned to the city she lived in for many years to send this report. What difference might it make in Ferguson’s reporting that she knows the city of Beirut, Lebanon, well?


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