Bassam al-Sheikh Hussein: Lebanese Hero holds Bank Hostage

Bassam al-Sheikh Hussein: Lebanese Hero holds Bank Hostage
Photo by Thomas Breher via Pixabay


Vivien Fakhoury

Middle East and Human Rights Researcher

Global Human Rights Defence

On August 11th, 2022, Bassam al-Sheikh Hussein was hailed as a Lebanese hero. After an argument with the Federal Bank of Beirut’s manager, Hussein held employees and clients hostage with a shotgun and canister of gasoline, threatening to shoot them and set himself on fire. Although this seems like just another bank robbery, Hussein merely wanted to withdraw his own savings – around USD 209,000 – because his father is in the hospital with Alzheimer’s and injuries from a fall and requires USD 50,000 for treatment. He said, “there was so much anger in me, that I was ready to spill blood.” [1] According to Banque du Liban Circular No. 158, withdrawals are limited to USD 400 per month, [2] given the financial and economic crisis and drastic drop of the Lebanese Lira (LBP) to the Dollar (USD). [3] 

Videos of the situation quickly circulated on social media, and a crowd of protesters pro-Hussein gathered outside the bank. After six hours of negotiations, Hussein received USD 35,000 from his own savings. He was promised to be taken home immediately and to receive USD 400 daily. Neither promise was held up, he was detained for five days and went on hunger strike before being released without charges, and he never saw any of the USD 400. “Maybe next time I would use grenades, … maybe the same bank, another bank, but I will do it again.” [4]


[1] Kynaston, M. (2022, August 19). 'I'll Do it Again,' Says Man Who Held Up Bank to Withdraw His Own Money. VICE.

[2] Banque du Liban is Lebanon’s central bank; Banque du Liban. (2021, June 8). Basic Circular 158 Addressed to Banks: Basic Decision 13335: Exceptional Measures for the Gradual Repayment of Foreign Currency Deposits. ; Banque du Liban. (n.d.). Latest Updates under Laws and Circulars. Banque du Liban.

[3] The961. (2022, September 5). Today's Lebanese Lira/US Dollar Exchange Rate: September 5th, 2022. The961.

[4] Kynaston, M. (2022, August 19).

Further Reading:

Beirut (AFP). (2021, June 1). Lebanon crisis among world's worst since 1850s: World Bank. France 24.

Blair, E. (2020, September 17). Explainer: Lebanon's financial meltdown and how it happened. Reuters.

Enders, D. (2021, August 4). The Forever Collapse: One Year On From the Beirut Blast. VICE.

L'Orient Today. (2022, August 18). Bassam al-Sheikh Hussein holds press conference with depositors group, aims to seek remainder of funds. L'Orient Today.