There are permanents that give away, and the one Munia is wearing is one of them. Hit the metal clasp with the back of your right hand so as not to damage the still fresh red enamel on the nails. “Yala, yala” (IM coming, in Arabic), answers a male voice on the other side. The metal squeaks and a hand opens a crack through which Munia emerges. More than a month ago, the Lebanese government ordered the closure of hairdressers and barbers, as well as restaurants or schools, to stop the spread of covid-19. Last Sunday he warned that the confinement will last at least until May 10.
Despair has gripped a handful of neighbors in Sodeco, the central Beirut neighborhood and capital of a country where body worship is a national sport. Not for nothing are his women considered the most conceited in the region. The pressure of the employees has finally convinced the owner to reopen the beauty salon. “We haven’t been paid for a month and we need the money,” argues one of the four workers who swarm around the room. Without the cases of deaths and infections having skyrocketed, with 677 infected and 21 deceased, the Lebanese begin to relax in the respect of the preventive measures and pushed by the pressing economic crisis.
“I couldn’t spend another day locked up, gaunt and with pinned hair,” Munia sputters as she smiles approvingly as she looks in the mirror. Despite having crossed her sixties, this woman does not seem to care about the risk of transmitting the virus. Before crown that simple It seems to be the maximum in a country that has become a mecca for cosmetic surgery.
A housewife and mother of four, Munia’s confinement has brought her anxiety back during the 15 years of civil war, still recent three decades after it ended. “I would not let my children go out on the street for fear of shootings and as adults we hardly ever did it once a day to buy what we could find for food.” “Even then the bars or the hairdressers did not close,” one of the salon employees intervenes. Unaware of the illegality of the situation, Munia drops the closing forcefully behind her, startling those present with the din.
“If the police catch us, it is a fine of 10 million pounds (6,100 euros),” he says, clicking with his tongue Dala, the fictitious name of the owner of the hairdresser. “But we only let two clients enter at the same time to avoid contact,” he defends.
Three of the four young women who work there come from the impoverished suburbs of the Lebanese capital. The fourth is from the Philippines and says that she has decided to re-paint her nails despite her dread of the virus because she needs to send $ 200 each month to her mother, who has been left in her native country by her two-year-old daughter. .
But the Lebanese pound is going through its lowest moments and this woman has to buy dollars at the exchange houses for 3,100 Lebanese pounds (LBP) for each greenback, double the parity set by the Central Bank of Lebanon . The World Bank has warned that half of the 4.5 million Lebanese will fall below the poverty line.
More than 220,000 people have lost their jobs since a wave of protests erupted across the country on October 17, demanding the bloc of the political economy. Most of the unemployed belong to the hospitality sector which, according to Maya Bakhazy, general secretary of the Union of Restaurant, Bar and Club Owners “fed more than 150,000 families”. The pandemic has surprised Lebanon in the worst economic crisis in its history, compounded by social unrest.
While waiting for a new client, the women kill time talking about the rise in prices and those imported products that have disappeared from the shelves. “There are no contraceptive pills left in pharmacies,” one of them blurted out, unleashing laughter from the rest. “They can’t ask us to stay in our houses if they don’t give us aid,” continues Nur, the youngest, 21 years old. The Government announced this week aid of 400,000 LBP (245 euros) for the neediest families, but has not disclosed the selection criteria or the number of beneficiaries. “In some lists made public, names of people who have been dead for two decades have appeared,” adds jocosa.
It has been precisely the chronic corruption of politicians that has sparked popular outrage, and it is the drastic economic deterioration that promises to beat the virus in the streets with new protests called for this week. Aware of the health risk, they urge social networks to form a convoy of cars and saturate the central roads of the country.
Like her Lebanese roommates, Nur’s salary home is no longer a supplementary income to that of men in the household who have progressively lost their jobs. Now it is a vital entrance for the subsistence of the family. Add nine people between siblings, parents and elders at home. As the curfew approaches, which begins at eight o’clock in the afternoon, the young women cover their hair with their veils and, after making sure that there are no police patrol in sight, they shoot out from under the closure to lose themselves between the alleys.