Violence against women in Lebanon ‘structural and systematic’

Lebanese women held a candle-lit vigil in Beirut on Saturday. (Reuters)
Updated 25 December 2017

Violence against women in Lebanon ‘structural and systematic’

BEIRUT: Dozens of people gathered outside Beirut’s national museum to light candles for a British woman and three Arab women murdered in the past week in Lebanon.
The killing of the British Embassy worker Rebecca Dykes last week has sparked extensive media coverage in Lebanon, prompting activists to press for more attention to be given to widespread violence against women.
Lebanese women’s rights activists held the vigil to mourn the victims, demand better laws, and to protest against the violence — including the three reported murders in northern Lebanon alone over the past week.
“Society refuses to listen to us or see us until our blood is spilled,” Leen Hashem, an organizer, told the crowd from the steps of the museum. “This violence is structural and systematic.”
“Justice is not only arresting the criminal. Justice is for all; this not to happen to us in the first place,” she said. Participants laid white roses over pictures of the four women, and lined the steps with candles.
Wafaa Al-Kabbout stood on the sidelines, holding a framed photo of her 21-year-old daughter Zahraa, whose ex-husband shot her dead last year. “Now my daughter is gone, she’s not coming back,” she said. “But all these young women are our daughters. And there is still fear for the young women after them.”
The UN says a third of women worldwide have suffered sexual or physical violence.
A 2017 national study by the Beirut-based women’s rights group ABAAD said that one in four women have been raped in Lebanon. Less than a quarter of women who faced sexual assault reported it, the survey said.
“Little by little, we are breaking the silence ... for women to come forward and talk about the violence they are facing,” said Saja Michael, program manager at ABAAD.
In the past five years, women have become more likely to report violence and seek help, she said, though sexual assault remains a bit more taboo. Part of the reason is that NGOs have set up new shelters and community centers, with psychological, legal, medical, and other services, Michael added.
“It’s becoming more of a public discourse,” she said. “It’s no longer what’s happening behind closed doors.”


I won’t quit: Lebanese PM defiant as his critics blast financial chaos

Updated 58 min 47 sec ago

I won’t quit: Lebanese PM defiant as his critics blast financial chaos

  • University president and UN human rights chief join condemnation of ‘incompetent’ government

BEIRUT: Beleaguered Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab on Saturday defied a barrage of criticism to declare that his government alone ruled Lebanon and it was determined to implement reforms to resolve the financial crisis.

Diab dismissed as “fake news” reports that he was on the verge of resignation, and said: “Lebanon will not be under anyone’s control as long as I am in power.”

The prime minister spoke after UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet warned that Lebanon was enduring “the worst economic crisis in its history” and was “fast spiraling out of control.” 

She urged Diab’s government to initiate urgent reforms and respond to “the people’s essential needs, such as food, electricity, health, and education.”

Diab also faced harsh criticism from the American University of Beirut (AUB), where he was vice president and a professor before becoming prime minister.

BACKGROUND

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet urged the Lebanese government to initiate urgent reforms and respond to ‘the people’s essential needs, such as food, health and education.’

AUB president Fadlo Khuri said Diab’s government was the worst in Lebanon’s history in its understanding of higher education.

“I have not seen any shred of competence in this government since its formation six months ago,” said.

“The government owes the AUB $150 million in medical bills,” Khuri said, and he urged Diab to “at least discuss with us a payment timeline.”

Lebanon’s financial plight is illustrated by its currency, the lira, which has lost 80 percent of its value. 

The black market  dollar exchange rate on Saturday was 7,500, compared with the official rate of 1,507.

Bailout talks with the International Monetary Fund were suspended in a dispute over government debt, but Diab insisted on Saturday: “We have turned the page … and started discussing the basic reforms required and the program that the IMF and Lebanon will agree upon, which will restore confidence and open the door to many projects.”