Discrimination Against Syrians Amidst Lebanon's Bread Crisis

Discrimination Against Syrians Amidst Lebanon's Bread Crisis
Photo by Nour Fakhoury


Vivien Fakhoury

Middle East and Human Rights Researcher

Global Human Rights Defence

Lebanon is battling a deep economic crisis of hyperinflation and a depreciating currency, while about half of the population is facing food insecurity. Recently, there are added social tensions between Lebanese and Syrians due to the ‘bread crisis.’ Russia and Ukraine are Lebanon’s main wheat suppliers. The supply of wheat has significantly decreased and the price of wheat flour has increased by 209% since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. On top of that, Lebanon’s main backup wheat silos were destroyed in the August 4th 2020, Beirut Port blast. This is leading to bread shortages and long queues in front of bakeries. [1]

Lebanese authorities have a history of strategically scapegoating Syrian refugees for the country’s problems. Bakeries are instructed to prioritize Lebanese customers, often asking for identification and forcing Syrians to wait in separate lines, because Syrians are accused of selling bread and wheat flour on the black market. [2] This seems like an endless cycle - Syrians are discriminated against when buying bread because they are accused of selling it on the black market, making it more difficult to buy bread on the ‘official market,’ leading to more black market sales, leading to more discrimination and so on. Additionally, in several regions, there have been reports of Lebanese beating and shooting at Syrians, including Syrian teenagers, fighting over bread. [3] 

It is unlikely that the Russia-Ukraine situation and Syrians are the only causes of this crisis. But who will hold Lebanese authorities accountable for their own incompetence to solve the contry’s myriad of problems?


[1] Save the Children International. (2022, August 8). Lebanon: Bread shortages fuelling tensions with Syrian refugees. https://www.savethechildren.net/news/lebanon-bread-shortages-fuelling-tensions-syrian-refugees# 

[2] Al-Dhaibi, J. (2022, July 1). رغيف السوق السوداء.. من يتحمل مسؤولية حرمان اللبنانيين من شراء ربطة الخبز بسعر مدعوم؟. Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.net/ebusiness/2022/7/1/رغيف-السوق-السوادء-من-يتحمل-مسؤولية ; Homsi, N. (2022, July 29). 'Lebanese on the left, Syrians on the right': rising tensions and breadline segregation. The National. https://www.thenationalnews.com/mena/lebanon/2022/07/29/lebanese-on-the-left-syrians-on-the-right-rising-tensions-and-breadline-segregation/

[3] Chehayeb, K. (2022, July 29). UN body says violence against Syrians in Lebanon on the rise. The Associated Press. https://apnews.com/article/middle-east-syria-lebanon-united-nations-d01d76b850a06a8cc1d8f35390875818 

Further Reading:

Abdallah, S., Abdallah, M., & translated by: Khoury, J. E. (2022, July 28). Endless queues and quarrels at bakeries as bread shortage takes hold. L'Orient Today. https://today.lorientlejour.com/article/1307051/endless-queues-and-quarrels-at-bakeries-as-bread-shortage-takes-hold.html