The Lebanese Woman Who Stole Her Own Savings Speaks Out!
After forcing the bank to release his family savings at gunpoint to pay for the treatment of his cancer-stricken sister, 28-year-old Lebanese interior designer Sali Hafiz insists he is not a criminal.
We are in the country of mafia. If you are not a wolf, the wolves will eat you,” she told Reuters, standing on a dirt path somewhere in Lebanon’s rugged eastern Bekaa Valley, where she has been hiding ever since.
Hafiz held a Beirut branch of BLOM Bank last week saved nearly $13,000 in savings in his sister account, frozen by capital controls that were imposed overnight by commercial banks in 2019, But never became legal through law.
Dramatic footage of the incident, in which she later turns out to be a toy gun and stands on top of a desk surrounded by employees who hand her piles of cash, gives her a quick folk tour in a country that turned into a hero, where hundreds of thousands of people have run out of their savings.
A growing number are taking matters into their own hands, upset over the three-year financial implications that officials have left to dismantle it – leading the World Bank to refer to it as “orchestrated by the country’s elite”. has been described.
Hafiz was the first of at least seven savers who barged banks last week, prompting banks to close their doors citing security concerns and seeking security assistance from the government.
George Hajj of the Bank Employees’ Syndicate said the holdups were misguided anger that should be directed at the Lebanese state, which was most to blame for the crisis, and noted that some 6,000 bank workers had lost their jobs when It was started from
Officials condemned the holdup and said they were working out a security plan for the banks.
But depositors argue that bank owners and shareholders have enriched themselves by receiving higher interest payments to lend money to government depositors and are prioritizing banks over the people rather than creating an IMF rescue plan.
The government says it is working hard to implement IMF reforms and aims to achieve a $3 billion bailout this year.
‘They’re all in cahoots’
The series of raids has received widespread support, including crowds gathering outside banks when they hear holdups are happening to cheer them up.
“Maybe they saw me as a hero because I was the first to do so in a patriarchal society where a woman’s voice should not be heard,” Hafiz said. ,
“They all steal from us and leave us to starve and die slowly,” he said.
When her sister began to lose hope that she would be able to get expensive treatment to help with mobility and speech loss from brain cancer, and the bank refused to provide the savings, Hafiz said she decided to act. did.
BLOM Bank said in a statement that the branch was cooperating with its request for funds, but asked for documentation as they request human exceptions for informal controls for all customers.
Hafiz then returned two days later with a toy gun he had seen playing with his nephews, and a small amount of fuel which he mixed with water and spilled on a staff.
Before his raid, he watched the popular Egyptian black comedy Irhab w Kebab – or “Terrorist and the Kebab” – in which a man, frustrated by government corruption, maintains a state building and demands kebabs for hostages because of the high price of meat. does.
She managed to obtain $13,000 of the total $20,000—enough to cover her sister’s travel expenses and about a month’s treatment—and made sure to sign a receipt so she could not be charged with theft.
To help her escape, Hafiz posted on Facebook that she was already at the airport and was on her way to Istanbul. She ran home and disguised herself in a robe and dupatta and placed a bundle of clothes on her belly to make herself appear pregnant.
A police officer who knocked on her door said, “Scared that I would give birth in front of her. I went downstairs in front of all of them, like 60 or 70 people… They were wishing for my birth. It was… like the movies, She said, when they failed to recognize him.
‘law of the jungle’
Two of Hafiz’s close friends were detained along with him on bank hold after the incident on charges of threatening bank employees and keeping them against their will and ordered to be released on bail on Wednesday.
Lebanon’s internal security forces did not respond to a request for comment on the matter.
Hafiz said she will surrender after the judges end their striking strike that has slowed down the legal process and released the jailed prisoners.
Abdullah al-Say, an acquaintance of Hafiz, who in January organized a bank to receive some $50,000 of his savings, said more hold-ups were coming.
Taking drugs from cigarettes at his convenience store in Bekaa, Sai said, “Things have to get worse so they can get better.”
“When the state can’t do anything for you and can’t give even the slightest hope on what’s in store, we’re living by the law of the wilderness.”