Magazine | How Corruption Ruined Lebanon
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The head of Lebanon’s Central Inspection Board, Judge Georges Attieh, stood in his mother’s fourth-floor apartment, his childhood home in Beirut, and pushed open a new, white window shutter. A sharp winter chill stole into the room, bare except for a neat stack of gray cinder blocks. A few steps away, a damaged piano covered in a floral sheet was surrounded by a jumble of objects: broken dining chairs, cardboard boxes, a clothes steamer, rolled-up rugs. Attieh looked out at the flat blue sea visible between the few buildings that separated his mother’s apartment from the Port of Beirut. “I haven’t been here in six months, even though I drive by here every day,” he said. “I can’t. I’m unable to come here. It isn’t easy.”
The last time he was there, on Aug. 4, 2020, he had just rushed from his office across town to rescue his mother and his younger brother Joseph. At 6:08 p.m. that day, a portion of some 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, recklessly stored at Beirut’s port since 2014, suddenly exploded. A fertilizer often used as a component in improvised explosive devices had been stockpiled within walking distance of residential neighborhoods.