Three days a week, Sameer changes out of his uniform and works with his mechanic uncle. In Lebanon, the military prohibits military from taking up second jobs, but in times of crisis, soldiers and police have no choice but to make ends meet.
Since the 2019 crisis, which plunged more than 80% of the country’s residents into poverty and slashed salaries, thousands of soldiers and police officers have lost their jobs.
“The army knows we are working, but they close their eyes because they know they will all leave,” Sameer, who used an alias, told AFP.
The 28-year-old father of a family has been working three days a week for a year in his uncle’s garage in Tripoli, northern Lebanon, one of the country’s poorest cities.
Earn twice as much as in the army. But this salary, added to her salary, is barely enough to buy nappies and infant formula for her son.
“I don’t have a penny left at the end of the month,” he says.
Officially, military with other jobs are subject to sanctions, which can go up to imprisonment.
But things changed with the crisis.
The Lebanese pound depreciated 98% against the dollar and soldiers’ pay was cut to around $800 to $100 a month, barely enough to fill a tank one and a half times with gasoline.
Due to its essential role in this unstable country, the army receives assistance from many other countries.
Qatar donated $60 million, helping the Lebanese army to receive $100 million in aid over six months starting in mid-2022.
In April, some police officers also began receiving $100 monthly aid from the United States for six months.
-Living in fear of arrest-
But this aid is “not enough,” in front of the half-open hood of a car, Sameer’s hands blackened with grease.
“Almost all my friends in the military have second jobs,” admitted the young man who enlisted at age 19, believing his future was secure.
After spending ten years in the army, 29-year-old Ahmed could no longer tolerate the restrictions of multitasking.
And in 2022, he decided to leave the army in order to devote himself entirely to his second job as a waiter in a restaurant.
Since then he has been living in fear of being arrested. “But at least I earn seven times as much as before and I eat whatever I want,” he says.
The army, which has not responded to AFP requests on the matter, is struggling to meet the essential needs of its 80,000 military personnel and maintain its equipment.
He also provides tourist flights with his helicopters to earn money.
In the Internal Security Forces (FSI), which has about 25,000 policemen, the situation is even more difficult, says Eli, a 37-year-old policeman whose salary is less than $50.
To feed her three children, she works as a laborer with her farmer father. “Our situation is pathetic,” he says. “In fact, if you sprain yourself during a shift, you pay for the hospitalization,” he stresses.
The GUF’s health budget has plummeted, a source confirmed to AFP.
The GUF, which receives fewer donations than the military, “closes its eyes to secondary jobs, because there is no other solution,” he says.
“The crisis had an impact on the ability of the security services to function normally, but also on the morale of the troops,” estimates Control Risk researcher Dina Arkazi.