Remember 18:07 and Light a Flame for Beirut

4 August, 2021
Beirut port blast image courtesy Abdulaziz Aldowaisan.
Beirut port blast image courtesy Abdulaziz Aldowaisan.

Jordan Elgrably

The clocks stopped at 18:07 a year ago today when Bahamut struck Beirut.

One year after the Beirut port explosion in which over 200 were killed, some 7,000 sustained injuries and 10,000 Beirutis lost their homes — to say nothing of the blast’s economic impact — very little has been done to address the calamity. Who was responsible? When will there be restitution? What lessons must Lebanon draw from this unimaginable disaster? The country was already in an economic crisis, marked by the October 2019 Revolution. Life was impossibly difficult before the blast: the question is, how is Lebanon moving forward?

It’s a small gesture of solidarity, but the Montpellier Bar Association in concert with its national affiliate, the CNB (Conférence nationale des barreaux) and the European Bars Federation, has flown in attorneys to show support with the lawyers of Lebanon by joining them in Beirut.

After a recent meeting with the young lawyers of Lebanon on the commitment of lawyers to the people and the rule of law — during which CNB president Jérôme Gavaudan said that lawyers are a “watchdog of the rule of law and democracy,” the French delegation, alongside the Lebanese lawyers, went in robes from the Auditorium of the Maison de l’Avocat to the Beirut Palace of Justice. This may have been purely a symbolic march, but in the presence of the President of the Bar Association of the Lebanese capital, Melhem Khalaf, French attorneys denounced Lebanese corruption and called for justice for victims of the explosion.

Families of the blast’s victims continue to fight for justice, but as France 24 reported on July 31st, “A year after the explosion, in which 218 people were killed and a further 7,000 injured, none of the victims’ families in Lebanon have been asked to give witness statements. Nor have they received any form of official apology or even been contacted by Lebanese authorities.”

Meanwhile, as Human Rights Watch reported recently, 25 members of Congress called on the Biden Administration to support a United Nations-led investigation into the causes for the catastrophic blast.

— • —

The bevy of lawyers walked to the headquarters of the fire department and the port of Beirut, where the devastation of August 4, 2020 is still plainly visible. Present on the march were Dominique Attias, President of the European Bars Federation; Jérôme Gavaudan, President of the CNB; Hélène Fontaine, President of the Conférence des Bâtonniers; Marie-Aimée Peyron, vice-president of the CNB; Nicolas Bedel de Buzareingues, President of the Montpellier Bar Association; Serge Deygas, President of the Lyon Bar Association; Vincent Maurel, representative of the President of the Hauts-de-Seine Bar Association; Martin Pradel, President of the Commission on the Practice of Law of the Conseil National des Barreaux; and Amine Faraj, member of the Montpellier Bar.

Committed to the victims of the disaster, the lawyers of Lebanon are appealing to all the bar leaders of the world to illuminate the courthouses with the colors of Lebanon for this first fateful anniversary of the event, and Montpellier’s Amine Faraj declared that indeed, today, “All the bar associations of France will light a flame before the flag of Lebanon at precisely 18:07, the local time of the explosion, along with a banner that reads ‘Justice and peace for Lebanon.’”

TMR’s debut issue, published on September 15, 2020, was devoted to Beirut.

Jordan Elgrably is an American, French and Moroccan writer and translator whose stories and creative nonfiction have appeared in many anthologies and reviews, including Apulée, Salmagundi, and the Paris Review. Editor-in-chief and founder of The Markaz Review, he is the cofounder and former director of the Levantine Cultural Center/The Markaz in Los Angeles (2001–2020). He is the editor of Stories From the Center of the World: New Middle East Fiction (City Lights, 2024). Based in Montpellier, France and California, he tweets @JordanElgrably.

August 4Beirut port explosionLebanonrule of lawUnited Nations

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