SIDON, Lebanon: Muslim preacher Sheikh Ahmad Assir said Sunday that he would continue his sit-in, now in its 10th day, despite local anger and pressure to reopen the road. “Everything is going well and our demonstration will continue,” Assir told The Daily Star Sunday as he posed for pictures with passersby along Sidon’s corniche.
Around noon, Assir left his sit-in and headed to the seaside area, which many fear could be blocked by his supporters in an escalation of their protest against Hezbollah’s arms.
Meanwhile, police deployed heavily around Sidon over the weekend to keep the city’s main roads open after Assir’s supporters blocked several side roads leading to the sit-in.
The demonstration, which was launched late last month, is currently blocking Sidon’s eastern highway in both directions, but traffic can still pass on the coastal highway.
Business owners from along Sidon’s eastern highway said Sunday that the city was facing an economic crisis as a result of the sit-in and called on the government to take urgent measures to end the protest.
“Unfortunately, our beloved Sidon is going through a dangerous crisis which is threatening its economy and a large number of its people’s livelihoods,” a committee of businesses on Sidon’s eastern highway said in a statement.
“For this reason, the owners of businesses in Sidon’s eastern highway raise their voices against the government officials to tell them we are suffering and face bankruptcy, because the demonstration has been blocking roads for 10 days now,” the statement added.
The committee also blamed Sidon’s Merchants Association for remaining silent while the ongoing road closure hurts business in Sidon.
“The fate of our families are in danger ... we call on the association to stand by our side in the interest of Sidon.”