Protests sweep Lebanon for a second day

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Lebanese demonstrators burn tires and wave their national flag during a protest against dire economic conditions on Friday, October 18, 2019. (AFP)
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Lebanese demonstrators burn tires and wave their national flag during a protest against dire economic conditions on Friday, October 18, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 18 October 2019

Protests sweep Lebanon for a second day

  • The unusually wide geographic reach of the protests has been seen as a sign of deepening anger with politicians
  • Lebanon’s economic growth has been hit by regional conflict and instability

BEIRUT: Protesters across Lebanon blocked roads with burning tires on Friday and marched in Beirut for a second day of demonstrations targeting the government over a deep economic crisis.
In Lebanon’s biggest protest in years, thousands of people gathered outside the government headquarters in central Beirut on Thursday evening, forcing the cabinet to backtrack on plans to raise a new tax on WhatsApp voice calls. Tear gas was fired as some demonstrators and police clashed in the early hours.
Fires lit in the street in central Beirut were smoldering on Friday morning. Pavements were scattered with the glass of several smashed shop-fronts and billboards had been torn down.
Protesters blocked roads in the north, the south and the Bekaa Valley, among other areas, the National News Agency (NNA) reported. Schools were closed on the instructions of the government.
Two foreign workers choked to death from a fire that spread to a building near the protests in Beirut, the NNA said.
This was the second wave of nationwide protests this month.
In a country fractured along sectarian lines, the unusually wide geographic reach of these protests has been seen as a sign of deepening anger with politicians who have jointly led Lebanon into crisis.


READ MORE: Lebanese PM gives government 72 hours to back his reforms as protests rage


The government, which includes nearly all of Lebanon’s main parties, is struggling to implement long-delayed reforms that are seen as more vital than ever to begin resolving the crisis.
The Lebanese newspaper an-Nahar described it as “a tax intifada,” or uprising, across Lebanon. Another daily, Al-Akhbar, declared it “the WhatsApp revolution” that had shaken Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s unity government.
Seeking ways to boost revenues, a government minister on Thursday announced plans to raise a new fee of 20 cents per day for calls via voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), used by applications including Facebook-owned WhatsApp.
But as the protests spread, Telecoms Minister Mohamed Choucair phoned into Lebanese broadcasters on Thursday evening to say the proposed levy on WhatsApp calls had been revoked.
Shattered by war between 1975 and 1990, Lebanon has one of the world’s highest debt burdens as a share of its economy. Economic growth has been hit by regional conflict and instability. Unemployment among those aged under 35 runs at 37 percent.
The kind of steps needed to fix the national finances have long proven elusive. Sectarian politicians, many of them civil war veterans, have long used state resources for their own political benefit and are reluctant to cede prerogatives.
The crisis has been compounded by a slowdown in capital flows to Lebanon, which has long depended on remittances from its diaspora to meet financing needs, including the state’s deficit.
The financial crunch has added to the impetus for reform but the government’s steps have yet to convince foreign donors who have offered billions in financial assistance conditional on changes.
The strains have emerged recently in the real economy where importers have been unable to secure dollars at the pegged exchange rate.
The cabinet is due to meet on Friday at the presidential palace in Baabda in what a minister has said would be the final session to discuss the 2020 state budget.


Return of ‘Captain Majid’ announced at Anime Expo in Riyadh

Updated 20 min 58 sec ago

Return of ‘Captain Majid’ announced at Anime Expo in Riyadh

  • Part of Riyadh Season, Anime Expo brings together creative minds for a first-of-its-kind agreement

RIYADH: The Anime Expo in Riyadh —  part of Riyadh Season — already had regional fans excited, being the largest such event to be held so far in the Middle East. But even better news emerged at Thursday’s press conference to launch the event.

Saudi Arabia and Japan have signed an agreement to bring “Captain Tsubasa,” created by Yoichi Takahashi, back to the small screen. The cartoon, known as “Captain Majid” in the Arab world, is an old-school favorite in the Middle East. The anime is expected to air on Dec. 1 on MBC, the CEO of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority, Faisal Bafarat, announced.

Riyadh Season is holding the largest Anime Expo in the Middle East, bringing together collaborations between GEA and Captain Tsubasa creator, Yoichi Takahashi, musical collaborations between both Arab and Japanese giants, and more.

Japan’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Tsukasa Uemura, told Arab News: “It’s amazing to see good energy among the young people, ladies and gentlemen of Saudi Arabia.” Uemura was struck by how deep the relationship between Japan and Saudi Arabia was, thanks to anime from the 60s and 70s.

“This relation is now coming to fruition, and I hope that the young Saudi generation won’t only observe but also create, from now, starting a new industry in Saudi Arabia — I see a lot of potential here.”

Arab News met three musical acts who will perform together for the first time on Saturday at the event’s closing ceremony: Lebanese singer Sammy Clark, who performed Arabic versions of anime favorites including “Grendizer” and “Treasure Island” (Takarajima), and Japanese voice actors and singers Isao Sasaki and Ichiro Mizuki.

Clark was excited to meet the two men he dubbed his “twin brothers,” — the original voices behind the animations he has worked on. “I’m honored to be here with them,” he said. “I only traveled to Japan once, in 1987. It’s a beautiful country and their people are some of the kindest in the world.”

Clark explained that he and Sasaki were supposed to sing together at Comic Con in Dubai five years ago, “but it didn’t work out.”

“Today, I’m ecstatic to say that I won’t sing with Sasaki alone but also with Ichiro Mizuki, who sings the original opening song for ‘Mazinger.’ We’ll be performing five songs for fans, and one of the surprises we’ve prepared is that I’ll sing something in Japanese and they’ll sing in Arabic,” Clark said.

He added that he never imagined the theme songs would be so successful and resonate with people for so long. “Generations of fathers have played these songs to their kids, and they all enjoy it so much. We’ve managed to touch thousands through an anime song,” he said.

Mizuki told Arab News that his first time in Saudi Arabia has been amazing so far. “Being in the industry for 50 years, I’ve traveled all over the world, but I consider my first performance in Saudi Arabia to be a big deal, especially as an officially orchestrated event. I feel honored to be here,” he said.

Sasaki echoed his words: “Being a first generation anime singer, I’m not getting any younger, but I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to perform here in Saudi Arabia,” he said.