Lebanon News

Day 38: Southern women march in Tyre, while North Lebanon keeps up the pressure

FILE: People carry a giant Lebanese flag as they protest in Downtown Beirut, Oct. 20, 2019. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Several hundred women marched through the streets of the southern city of Tyre Saturday, calling on others to add their voices to the 38th consecutive day of nationwide protests.

“To those standing on the balconies, come down and find your people here,” the protesters chanted. They went on to call for the right to be granted the ability to pass Lebanese nationality to their children, which is not permitted under national law.

Meanwhile, several hundred protesters marched through the streets of Beirut, beginning in the Verdun area and heading towards Hamra.

“All these MPs come on TV and say, 'There’s nothing wrong with us, we’re clean.' ... I call on the judiciary to launch an intifada against politicians to bring back the looted money,” a man told a local news reporter.

Meanwhile, in Downtown Beirut, a group of artists and everyday Lebanese worked to turn broken tent-poles at the protest encampment into a statue of a phoenix, the mythical bird that rises from the ashes.

Many of the poles were broken when supporters of Hezbollah and the Amal movement rampaged through Downtown protest sites last month.

On Friday, the square was once again the scene of destruction when an iconic, large cut-out of a closed fist with the word “revolution” printed on it was set alight unknown individuals.

The cutout was replaced by nightfall.

“We’re saying come break [it], that’s no problem, we’ll make something bigger and better,” one of the women involved told local news channel Al Jadeed.

Hundreds of protesters earlier in the day between Akkar and Tripoli in north Lebanon protested in front of public schools, exchange shops and government institutions.

In the town of Halba in Akkar, hundreds of students refused to go to class Saturday morning. They held a protest outside the Halba Public School, during which they called for a change in the curriculum and voiced fears over not finding jobs.

The students then joined other protesters parading through the town’s streets, chanting, “The people demand the downfall of the regime.”

The demonstrators headed to the Halba serail, where they demanded that an independent government be formed, in order to oversee early parliamentary elections and hold accountable public figures they accuse of squandering and looting public funds.

These have been the key demands of protesters who have filled Lebanon’s streets for more than five weeks, bringing down the government of now caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri in the process.

Talks over the designation of a new prime minister have so far come to nothing, one month since Hariri announced his resignation as premier.

In that time, the country’s economic and financial situation has continued to deteriorate, with many experts warning that Lebanon has now entered a cataclysmic phase. MP Neemat Frem also said Saturday that Lebanon was on the “edge of collapse.”

The Lebanese pound has continued to devalue versus the dollar on unofficial markets, the rate nearing LL2,000, despite the currency officially being pegged at LL1,507.5.

A group of cattle breeders and milk producers Saturday threatened to block roads and dump their produce in the streets on Monday, unless the price of milk was raised, according to the current unofficial exchange rate.

Several hundred protesters in Tripoli marched through the city’s streets Saturday, targeting currency exchange shops, chanting “down with the dollar.”

The demonstrators also headed to supermarkets to check whether prices had been raised, with local media broadcasting tense conversations between protesters and shop owners.

Unemployment in northern Tripoli is reportedly the highest in Lebanon, at around 50 percent, while roughly one third of Lebanese were deemed to be living in poverty in 2018, according to World Bank figures.

Earlier Saturday, the Lebanese Army released a man, identified as Mohammad B., who had been detained on Friday in Sidon for holding a poster critical of the country’s top leaders in the city’s Elia Square.

"The dinosaurs are extinct, the Phoenicians have left, the French ran away. Why are you still here?" the sign read, alongside pictures of President Michel Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri and Hariri.

An image shared on social media showed the man, his face painted to resemble the comic book character The Joker, being led away as he raised his hand in a victory sign. He had been attending an Independence day event.

Tens of thousands of Lebanese gathered on Friday to mark the country’s 76th years of independence. Many saw the occasion as a perfect opportunity to assert Lebanon’s “real independence” from its post-Civil War rulers.

While politicians held a small military parade in the hills overlooking Beirut, thousands filled the capital’s streets for a self-organized parade in support of the uprising.

Several events were also held around the world by Lebanese diaspora communities. They included gatherings in Paris, Rome and New Brunswick, Canada, where the Lebanese anthem was sung and a flag raised.

 

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