'I reached a point where I had nothing else to lose,' the woman said, adding that she had even considered selling her own kidney.
A woman in Lebanon held up a Beirut bank with what she said was a toy pistol on Wednesday to reportedly withdraw money from her own savings account. According to the Associated Press, Lebanon's banks have imposed strict limits on withdrawals of foreign currency since 2019 when a financial crisis took hold of the Mediterranean country. This has locked millions of customers out of their savings and left about three-quarters of the population unable to pay for basic needs. Now, it appears that some citizens are taking matters into their own hands out of desperation.
A video making the rounds of the internet shows a woman—who was identified as 28-year-old Sali Hafiz—leaping onto the counter and demanding her savings after storming the BLOM Bank branch with activists from a group called Depositors' Outcry.
Sali Hafiz donned a black T-shirt and trousers and a pair of lime green sneakers. Mask askew, she charged into a bank in Lebanon’s capital on Wednesday, cocked a gun in the air and demanded her money.— Sarah Dadouch | سارة دعدوش (@SarahDadouch) September 14, 2022
⁰She became an instant hero.https://t.co/YUsDJFlLW0
Speaking to the local Al-Jadeed TV, Hafiz reportedly said that she needed access to her savings to help fund her sister's cancer treatment. Although she had previously visited the bank on multiple occasions to ask for her money, she was told she could only receive the equivalent of $200 a month, the woman shared. "I had begged the branch manager before for my money, and I told him my sister was dying, didn't have much time left," Hafiz said in the interview. "I reached a point where I had nothing else to lose." The woman claimed she used her nephew's toy pistol during the break-in.
Before going into hiding, Sali Hafiz told local news channel Al Jadeed TV the gun was a toy and that she needed the money for her sister's cancer treatment.— Nadine Awadalla (@nadine_awadalla) September 15, 2022
"I got to a point where I was going to sell my kidney so that my sister could receive treatment."https://t.co/eL29Y7ZfPh
According to Hafiz, although she had a total of $20,000 in savings in that bank, she had to sell many of her personal belongings to care for her sister. She said she had even considered selling her own kidney to fund the 23-year-old's cancer treatment. Last week, Hafiz—and the activists who accompanied her—forced bank employees to hand over $12,000 and the equivalent of about $1,000 in Lebanese pounds. Nadine Nakhal, a bank customer who was present at the site during the incident, said that the intruders "doused gasoline everywhere inside, and took out a lighter and threatened to light it." She added the woman with the pistol also threatened to shoot the manager if she did not receive her money.
"We need to put a stop to everything that is happening to us in this country," Nakhal said. "Everyone's money is stuck in the banks, and in this case, it's someone who is sick. We need to find a solution." Meanwhile, in a live-streamed video she posted on her Facebook account, Hafez said she did not intend to do anyone any harm. "I did not break into the bank to kill anyone or set the place on fire," she said. "I am here to get my rights."
Alaa Khorchid who heads the Depositors' Outcry protest group, told reporters: "There is no government, no economic recovery plan, and little reserves left." He added that people have no choice but to "take matters into their own hands. These people worked for decades, but not for the rulers to build palaces while they can't afford a bottle of medicine." This incident comes about a month after a man held up another Beirut commercial bank to withdraw his own funds to treat his sick father.