A Lebanese man who robbed a bank and held its employees hostage to recover his own money has been hailed as a national hero. Bassam al-Sheikh Hussein entered the Federal Bank of Lebanon in Beirut on Thursday with a shotgun and a can of petrol and threatened to set himself on fire if he wasn’t given his money. While he’s since been arrested, no one in his country sees him as a criminal at all.
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- Al-Sheikh Hussein needed the cash for a good reason. The 43-year-old had roughly $210,000 in his account and needed to access it in order to pay his father’s medical bills. Due to an ongoing economic crisis, the country has had limits on cash withdraws since 2019 in order to avoid a collapse of Lebanon’s financial system.
- There have been protests against the system for years. Nationwide protests calling for accountability and an end to the blatant corruption happening in Lebanon have been happening for years. However, despite an ever-weakening currency and roughly half of its population struggling to get enough to eat, no meaningful changes have happened.
- Al-Sheikh Hussein wanted to access his own money. At the moment, people are limited to withdrawing a maximum of $400 per month, which was nowhere near enough. Tired of dealing with these unfair and frankly illegal measures, the man took matters into his own hand. He’s said to have taken eight hostages including six employees, the manager, and one custome. They offered him $5,000, $10,000, and $30,000, all of which he refused. However, he finally accepted $35,000 to give to his brother for their father’s care in exchange for turning himself in.
- Many have spoken out in solitary. One such supporter is 35-year-old artist Sandy Chamoun, who joined others outside the bank to show her support. “Every one of us has been robbed from different directions, from banks and from the government,” she said, as per the Washington Post. “I thought we should be outside, supporting him, so he doesn’t give up, so he doesn’t feel alone or besieged.” She added: “This is called self-defense,” Chamoun added. “It’s been three years that they’ve been depriving us from our money, and he’s telling them ‘my father is sick.’ What more can they want?”
It’s unclear what, if any, charges will be filed against Al-Sheikh Hussein.