Protesters hold mock funeral for Lebanese man who committed suicide over pay cut

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Lebanese protesters in Beirut were seen holding a mock funeral for Danny Abi Haidar, a man in his 40s shot himself to death Wednesday with a bird rifle when he became despondent over salary cuts in recent weeks, according to his family.

The father of 41-year-old Abi Haidar said his son, who worked in a lighting company, spent the day Tuesday warding off creditors, trying to explain that he only received half his salary because of the economic crisis. Many private companies have resorted to reducing staff or slashing their pay to deal with rising inflation and liquidity crunch.

“Yesterday, Debbas informed Danny who was their employee that it had decided to cut his salary in half. He could not bear more pressure, especially as he owed three million pounds. In addition to that, he had installments to pay for his housing and the expenses of three children,” Abi Haidar told daily newspaper An-Nahar.

Adding to the burden, the son had also been supporting his father, his mother, and younger brother. The father had lost his job eight months ago and moved in with his older son.

On Tuesday, the local supermarket began demanding hundreds of dollars that Abi Haidar, a father of three, owed them.

Creditors “called him and he said I only got paid half my salary,” the father, Mohammed Abi Haidar, told The Associated Press. “He said I only have 200,000 liras (barely $100) to spend on my family.”

The father, distraught, said he holds senior officials and the protests responsible for his son’s death.

“I hold those senior officials responsible; the revolution and everyone, I hold them responsible,” Abi Haidar said.

For its part, Debbas & Sons Holding, the lighting company which employed Abi Haider, said he had worked at the company for more than 24 years and was “one of the most efficient and sincere employees known to the Group.”

“He continued to receive all his wages and allowances despite the difficult economic conditions experienced by our country Lebanon. He also went to work this morning but had asked to be excused for the rest of the day because of a family circumstance,” the statement from Debbas read.

Protesters, already mobilized against the name floated as a potential successor for resigned Prime Minister Saad Hariri, gathered in central Beirut on Wednesday to mourn Abi Haidar’s death.

“How many more suicides do you want?” read one placard raised by a protester. Marwa Saad, a protester who was among hundreds at a rally that blocked a major Beirut intersection, said government officials are wasting time and fail to sense the depth of the public misery.

“They are blind and deaf while we burn and kill ourselves. They still don’t feel a thing,” she said, raising a Lebanese flag. The protesters light candles along the road they blocked. Security forces deployed but didn’t forcefully open the road.

The protesters say Samir Khatib, named as a possible prime minister and a prominent contractor, is close to the political elite they have been protesting since October 17.

(With the Associated Press)

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