Lebanese Sally Hafez (28), who fled the authorities after she forced a bank at gunpoint to return her family’s savings to treat her cancer-stricken sister, insists she is not to blame.
“We are in the land of mafias. If you are not a wolf, wolves will eat you,” she told Reuters as she stood on an unpaved road somewhere in the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon , where she has been since the day of the accident.
Last week, Hafez stormed a BLOM BANK branch in Beirut and forcefully retrieved about $13,000 worth of savings in her sister’s account, which had been frozen due to capital controls imposed by commercial banks overnight in 2019, but have never been through the implementation of ‘ not legalized by a law.
After the dramatic footage of the accident, in which she brandished what appeared to be a toy gun, and stood at a desk watching employees hand her wads of cash, Sally Hafez suddenly became a popular heroine. in a country where hundreds of thousands are deprived of their savings.
The number of those trying to turn their backs on their rights by force is rising due to the three-year internal financial collapse that has rocked the authorities, prompting the World Bank to describe the crisis as “country-made ‘s elite”.
Sally was the first of at least seven depositors to storm banks in Lebanon last week, prompting banks to close their doors due to security concerns, and requesting security support from the government.
George Al-Hajj, of the Federation of Banks Employees Syndicates, said that the raids were anger that had lost its purpose and should be directed at the Lebanese state, which bears the greatest responsibility for the crisis, noting that around six thousand bank employees have lost their jobs since the beginning of the crisis.
The authorities condemned the raids and said they were preparing a security plan for the banks.
But depositors say bank and share owners have made a fortune and are prioritizing banks over people, rather than implementing a plan to get an IMF bailout.
The government says it is working hard to implement the reforms required by the International Monetary Fund, and aims to secure a $3 billion bailout this year.
‘They are all accomplices’
The series of burglaries received widespread support, including from the crowds that gathered outside the banks when I heard that there had been burglaries to encourage it.
Hafez said: “Shafoni is a hero because I may be the first case of a girl to become. We are in a patriarchal society. The girl is forbidden to make her voice heard. She feels that everything is so is a big role. It’s only a role for men, so society can be shocked… I was shocked that a girl would take such a step.” She made it clear that she had no intention of harming anyone, but she is tired of the government’s lack of action.
“Do not think that senior officials in Lebanon do not have interests in Al-Masari, they are all complicit in stealing and financing us and starving us a little,” she said.
She added that when her sister began to lose hope that she would be able to afford the high cost of treatment to help her regain movement and speech lost by brain cancer patients, and the bank refused to return the savings, she decided to act.
Blom Bank said in a statement that the branch was cooperating with her request to withdraw funds, but requested documentation, as it does with all customers requesting humanitarian exceptions to informal controls.
Hafez returned two days later with a toy gun she had seen her nephews playing with, and mixed a small amount of fuel with water and poured it on one of the employees.
Before the storm, I watched the famous Egyptian black comedy film “Terror and Kebab”, which tells the story of a man frustrated with government corruption who storms a government building and demands kebab meals for the hostages due to the high prices of meat. .
She actually managed to get $13,000 out of a total of $20,000 in savings, enough to cover her sister’s travel expenses and about a month’s worth of treatment, and made sure to sign a receipt so she wouldn’t not be accused of theft.
To help escape, Hafez posted on Facebook that she was already at the airport and on her way to Istanbul. She ran home, disguised herself in a robe and headscarf, and put a bundle of clothes on her stomach to make it look like she was pregnant.
And she said, “I put tears in the heart of my stomach, they knocked on the door, so of course they could break in the door, and I opened the door. Here I certainly didn’t expect that I was the one who was wanted. Sally Hafez, who will open the door, because the form you see in the bank is different from the one you opened. I put my hands behind my back and said, ‘Don’t be afraid.’ ” He was afraid that I would sustain him, and I went down in front of them. They were sixty and seventy. The area was full of people and I went down the stairs and even when I walked to the end of the street until I was able to go down, it was as if I was going to the hospital, salvation, and everyone told me, God willing, get rid of it safely. It was like soap operas, I mean like movies. “.
“Law of the Jungle”
Two of Hafez’s close friends who were in the bank with her after the incident were arrested on charges of threatening and holding the bank’s employees against their will. An order was issued to release them on bail on Wednesday.
Lebanon’s internal security forces did not respond to a request for comment on the case.
She said she would surrender once the judges ended a strike that had delayed legal proceedings and kept weakened inmates in jail.
Abdullah Al-Saei, an acquaintance of Sally Hafez who broke into a bank in January to get about $50,000 of his savings, said more break-ins are on the way.
He described the situation as true to life in “the law of the jungle”.