It’s been almost a year since Elias—whose name has been changed to protect his identity—officially became a deserter from the Lebanese armed forces. As a specialized technician with over a decade in the army, he had been making the equivalent of $1,300 month. But then Lebanon’s economic crisis hit in 2019. By the time he stopped reporting for duty as an aircraft mechanic in the summer of 2022, his salary had gone down to roughly $60.
Elias tried to leave his military life behind through official channels. In 2021, he sent in his resignation letter, which because he had already completed his 10-year contract with the army should have allowed him to leave. But after he received no official response from military authorities, he stopped showing up for service.
He now works in digital media and no longer carries his ID card, lest he be stopped at a checkpoint and have his military status discovered. “I’m starting from zero,” he told me over a beer in Badaro, a neighborhood in east Beirut.