A week ago, I was checking out on Baby Ali under the Charles Helou bridge with a friend when we spotted a young man coming out of the station. His clothes were dirty and torn and he look weak and tired. When we asked him what is he doing in the station, he told us he’s been sleeping on the stairs for a week because he fled his parents’ house in Akkar. As it turns out, the young man wasn’t emotionally stable and needed assistance so my friend contacted an NGO who took him in. I don’t know how much he would have lasted living like that but we luckily found him before it was too late. That wasn’t the case for Tawfic Khawan though, an 87 year old Lebanese who used to live under the Basta bridge.
Based on the story that’s being shared online, Tawfic was homeless, disabled after an accident, with no medical security and barely any food to survive on. He always had a small flag that says “and Lebanon remains…” and was trying to join the #YouStink protests in Beirut and light himself up in Martyrs Square but no one would take him here, so he bought a bottle of petrol, poured it over his weak body and lit himself up. This is a truly heartbreaking story and I wish we would have known before about Tawfic and helped him out somehow. I believe it is important to shed the light on these people in need in order to raise awareness and figure out a way to assist them.
A small sit-in was organized yesterday under the Basta el Tahta bridge to commemorate his death.
May he rest in peace.
He asked a young man to take him to the martyr’s square but the young man refused, saying it was too dangerous with the protests and the violence occurring there.
Tawfic was homeless, disabled after an accident, with no medical security and barely any food to survive on.
The law 220/2000 states that the disabled are entitled to free healthcare among many other benefits, yet as many other laws in Lebanon, they remain only words on paper
Tawfic lived under the Basta bridge, his only decoration the Lebanese flag with the words “and Lebanon remains…”
He gave the rest of his money to the kids to buy sweets, and then with what remained bought a bottle of petrol. He drank some and poured some over himself and then lit a match.
He had wanted to light himself in the martyr’s square, to show the politicians of this country what it really means to rape their nation. But he couldn’t reach there. He committed suicide alone, on the street.
Tawfic’s death does not just represent the failure of the state. We also failed him.