In Lebanon, the crisis makes confession of suicide possible, in a society where it remains largely taboo

By Laure Stephan

Posted today at 01:28

Accompanied by her cousin Ahmad, Ranim waters the irises around his father’s grave, in the cemetery of Ersal, a Lebanese town on the border with Syria. Each week, the seven-year-old girl comes to meditate there. His father, Ali Fliti, hanged himself in December 2019, at the back of the family home. “Ranim is strong. She is facing. But she constantly thinks of him. Every morning and every evening, she addresses him ”, says Tahani, his mother. The child does not lose a bit of the conversation, but remains silent.

A worker in ornamental stone, Ali was 42 when he committed suicide. He was buried according to the Islamic rite, although suicide is religiously condemned, among Muslims and Christians alike. “Usually in Islam, we do not pray over the body of a person who has committed suicide. But Ali is a martyr of poverty ”, explains his widow. His gesture, at the start of the 2019 financial collapse, sent shock waves across the country. Ali Fliti has passed on to posterity under the first name of Naji, the one he wore on his identity card. He had been seen as an incarnation of the despair of the Lebanese, as their benchmarks began to fade. It symbolized the refusal of humiliation on the part of this father who could no longer meet the needs of his family.

Ali Fliti's sister and daughter pray at her grave in Ersal, Lebanon on April 27, 2021.

Dark months have passed in Lebanon since the disappearance of Ali Fliti: financial and economic abyss, Covid-19 pandemic, explosion at the port of Beirut … The sinking of the company continues, without any plan to end the crisis be implemented by the political class – part of which was long supported by the West and the Gulf countries – and in a context of intense geopolitical negotiations in the region. The local currency continues to plunge, pairing with hyperinflation, and shortages of essential goods are worsening.

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War, debt and instability

The house of the Fliti family is hung, at the end of a sloping street, on the sides of the mountain which overlooks Ersal, a locality of more than 90,000 inhabitants (the majority of whom are Syrian refugees) known for its stone quarries. , cherries, apricots and border traffic. The living room is stripped down; the portrait of the deceased was barred with a black ribbon. Ali’s widow remembers a few carefree days, like their meeting and then their marriage in 2006, but they did not last long. Soon after, Tahani learns that she has cancer. Years of treatment and costly medical expenses followed.

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