Lebanese student protesters say it is their duty to carry on

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Students take part in an anti-government demonstration in the Lebanese southern port city of Sidon (Saida) on October 23, 2019. (AFP)
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Students take part in an anti-government demonstration in the Lebanese southern port city of Sidon (Saida) on October 23, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 03 November 2019

Lebanese student protesters say it is their duty to carry on

  • “The activists who spend the night in tents are being assaulted by people who insult us and steal from us without the intervention of the security forces,” a student said
  • “It hurts to see the youth’s culture expand while we cannot invest our knowledge anywhere, not even in our homes,” another student said

BEIRUT: Lebanese students Lail Al-Durzi, 29, Firas Harb, 23, and Ghiwa Nasr, 22, insist they will not quit the protests that have paralyzed Beirut despite spending more than 11 days on the streets of the capital.
Al-Durzi, from Beirut, graduated from the Lebanese University and worked in media before leaving his job because he had not been paid for three months.
“I joined the revolution because the government was unable to extinguish a fire. How can we entrust it with our lives and future?” he told Arab News.
Al-Durzi said that he is still unable to pay rent for the house he shares with his mother.
“My father died and my brothers work for the Internal Security Forces and have been serving for 10 days. They do not know I am protesting and my mother opposed my participation at first, but then she changed her mind and supported me because politicians were noticing us,” he said.
He is active on social media along with his unemployed friends. “We shed light on unenforced rights in Lebanon, theft cases, taxes, social cases, and violence against women.”
Al-Durzi fears the revolution will fail. “The activists who spend the night in tents are being assaulted by people who insult us and steal from us without the intervention of the security forces,” he said.
“People we do not even know come to us with simple sandwiches to eat. But we have not given our full trust to anyone. We need time to establish a reference to the revolution.”
Harb, who has a master’s degree in architecture from the Lebanese University, has been jobless for a year. “It hurts to see the youth’s culture expand while we cannot invest our knowledge anywhere, not even in our homes,” he said.
His father owns a shop that sells vegetables, while his mother is unemployed, and his brother and sister are still in school.
“My mother opposed my participation in the protest, but last night she texted in support,” he said. “Many reasons forced us to take to the streets. We might not be a generation of war, but we are fighting an emotional war.
“The 10 days I have spent so far in Martyrs Square brought waves of optimism and others of pessimism that made us think of leaving. Nonetheless, we meet people that encouraged us to stay through their belief in righteousness of their cause.
“We are being hurt by people who do not like our protests. People here have different backgrounds and we do not know the objectives of everyone in the square,” Harb told Arab News.
Nasr, who specialized in biology and English literature at the Lebanese University, is staying in a bigger tent for protection.
“Our parents are children of war and were affected by it. I took to the street because we had a gasoline and bread shortage, which forced my elderly grandmother to bake for us. The Whatsapp tax came after and sparked the revolution,” she said.
“Politicians do not understand that we want to sack the entire political class. We do not prefer one leader over another.
“This revolution is not organized like the others. People are different and we have to accept that for it to succeed.
“The youth will not give up. It is our duty to carry on. If this revolution fails, politicians need to know that the people will never remain silent anymore and they will be watching them,” she added.


Coronavirus: 16 killed in Iran, 95 infected

Workers disinfect Qom’s Masumeh shrine, which is visited by a large number of people, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. (AFP)
Updated 26 February 2020

Coronavirus: 16 killed in Iran, 95 infected

  • Six Saudi women recovering in Bahrain as Kingdom warns against travel to Italy and Japan

DUBAI: Two more people infected with the new coronavirus have died, taking the toll in Iran to 16, a Health Ministry official told state TV on Tuesday.

Iran has the highest number of deaths from coronavirus outside China, where the virus emerged late last year.
“Among those who had been suspected of the virus, 35 have been confirmed and two died of the coronavirus infection,” said Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour. He said 95 people had been infected across Iran.
The Health Ministry urged Iranians to stay at home.
Iran said on Monday 900 cases were suspected, dismissing claims by a lawmaker from Qom who said 50 people had died in the city, the epicenter of the new coronavirus outbreak.
Iran, which confirmed its first two deaths last week in Qom, has yet to say how many people it has quarantined, but the semi-official Mehr news agency said 320 people had been hospitalized.
Iraj Harirchi, Iran’s deputy health minister, has tested positive for the coronavirus and is now under quarantine.
Six Arab countries have reported their first cases of coronavirus, with those infected all having links to Iran. Kuwait said the number of infected people there had risen to eight.
Bahrain’s Health Ministry said 15 more people, including six Saudi women, had tested positive for the virus after returning from Iran via Dubai and Sharjah. The new cases were carried by Bahraini and Saudi nationals who arrived at Bahrain International Airport from Iran via Dubai or Sharjah.
The Saudi Ministry of Health said that it was coordinating with Bahraini health officials for the treatment of the Saudi women who had visited Iran. They will remain in Bahrain until they are fully recovered. The Kingdom has advised citizens and residents to avoid traveling to Italy and Japan.
Iranian authorities have ordered the nationwide cancellation of concerts and soccer matches and the closure of schools and universities in many provinces.
The head of Qom’s Medical Science University, Mohammad Reza Ghadir, expressed concern over “the spread of those people infected by the virus across the city,” adding the Health Ministry had banned releasing figures linked to the coronavirus.
Many Iranians took to social media to accuse authorities of concealing the facts.
Rouhani called for calm, saying the outbreak was no worse than other epidemics that Iran has weathered.
The sight of Iranians wearing masks and gloves is now common in much of the country.
Sales of masks, disinfectant gels and disposable gloves have soared in Tehran and other cities, with officials vowing to prevent hoarding and shortages by boosting production.
Iran has shut schools, universities and cultural centers until the end of the week in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus.
The UAE has banned all flights to and from Iran. The UAE, home to long-haul carriers Emirates and Etihad, remains a key international transit route for Iran’s 80 million people.
Emirates, the government-owned carrier based in Dubai, flies daily to Tehran. Its low-cost sister airline, FlyDubai, flies to multiple Iranian cities, as does the Sharjah-based low-cost carrier Air Arabia.
The announcement came after Bahrain said it would suspend all flights from Dubai and Sharjah.
Kuwait raised the number of its infected cases to eight, after earlier raising the number to five. It said the three latest cases involved Kuwaiti citizens just back from Iran, without giving more details. The five previously reported cases were passengers returning on a flight from the Iranian city of Mashhad, where Iran’s government has not yet announced a single case of the virus.
Kuwait had halted transport links with Iran over the weekend and said it was evacuating its citizens from Iran.
An Iraqi family of four who returned from a visit to Iran tested positive for the coronavirus, the first Iraqis known to have caught the disease.
The four cases in Kirkuk province brought Iraq’s total to five after it reported its first case on Monday, an Iranian theology student in Najaf. Iraq is deeply concerned about its exposure to the Iranian outbreak, as it has deep cultural and religious ties with its neighbor and typically receives millions of Iranians each year.
The Iraqi government, which has already banned all travel from China and Iran, added Italy, Thailand, South Korea, Singapore and Japan to its travel ban list on Tuesday. Returning Iraqi citizens are exempt, as are diplomats.
Populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr suspended a call for his followers to hold a “million-man” protest, saying he had decide to forbid the events “for your health and life, for they are more important to me than anything else.”
“I had called for million-man protests and sit-ins against sectarian power-sharing and today I forbid you from them for your health and life, for they are more important to me than anything else,” he said in a statement. It was not immediately clear how the government’s call on citizens to avoid public gatherings would affect the strength of anti-government protests, and the response of security forces.
A Turkish Airlines plane flying from Iran was diverted to Ankara on Tuesday at the Turkish Health Ministry’s request and an aviation news website said one passenger was suspected of being infected by coronavirus.
Turkey’s Demiroren news agency broadcast video showing ambulances lined up beside the plane, with several personnel wearing white protective suits on the tarmac.
The plane was flying from Tehran and had been scheduled to land in Istanbul. Turkey shut its borders to Iran on Sunday and cut flights due to the spread of the virus in that country.
Oman’s Khasab port has suspended the import and export of goods to and from Iran from Feb. 26.