Hundreds skip school in Lebanon to press for change

Policemen push back students after they tried to block a road during anti-government protests in Beirut on Wednesday, November 6, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 06 November 2019

Hundreds skip school in Lebanon to press for change

  • Dozens gathered in front of the education ministry, brandishing Lebanese flags and chanting slogans
  • Banks were open and classes resumed at most schools after a two-week gap

BEIRUT: Hundreds of schoolchildren led anti-government demonstrations across Lebanon on Wednesday, refusing to return to class before the demands of a nearly three-week-old protest movement are met.
In the capital Beirut, dozens gathered in front of the education ministry, brandishing Lebanese flags and chanting slogans demanding the removal of a political class seen as incompetent and corrupt.
“What will I do with a school leaver’s certificate if I don’t have a country,” one pupil told Lebanese television.
In the largest pupil-led protest, crowds streamed into a central square in the southern city of Sidon, demanding better public education and more job opportunities for school leavers, the state-run National News Agency (NNA) reported.
In a school in the resort town of Jounieh, just north of the capital, pupils mobilized against school governors accusing them of banning participation in the protests.
Other pupil-led protests took place in the southern cities of Tyre and Nabatieh, the eastern city of Zahleh and the northern city of Byblos, according to NNA and other Lebanese media reports.
But demonstrators, who have kept up their protests since October 17, were not blocking key roads on Wednesday morning.
Banks were open and classes resumed at most schools after a two-week gap.
But demonstrators gathered around key state institutions for a second day in a row, in what appears to be a new tactic replacing road closures.
The most significant in the capital was around the Palace of Justice, where hundreds demanded an independent judiciary and an end to political interference, an AFP correspondent reported.
“We don’t want judges who receive orders,” read one placard held aloft by the crowd.
A smaller group of protesters gathered near the central bank, accusing it of aggravating the country’s economic crisis.
Pressure from the street prompted Prime Minister Saad Hariri to resign last week. He remains in his post in a caretaker capacity while rival politicians haggle over the make-up of a new government.
The protesters have expressed mounting frustration with the slow pace of the coalition talks.


So-called honor killing of teen girl brings outcry in Iran

Updated 29 min 41 sec ago

So-called honor killing of teen girl brings outcry in Iran

  • Iranian president Rouhani has urged his cabinet to speed up the introduction of harsher laws against such killings

TEHRAN: The so-called honor killing of a 14-year-old Iranian girl by her father, who reportedly used a farming sickle to behead her as she slept, has prompted a nationwide outcry.
Reza Ashrafi, now in custody, was apparently enraged when he killed his daughter Romina on Thursday after she ran away with 34-year-old Bahamn Khavari in Talesh, some 320 kilometers (198 miles) northwest of the capital, Tehran.
In traditional societies in the Middle East, including Iran, blame would typically fall on a runaway girl for purportedly having sullied her family’s honor, rather than on an adult male luring away a child.
Romina was found five days after leaving home and taken to a police station, from where her father brought her back home. The girl reportedly told the police she feared a violent reaction from her father.
On Wednesday, a number of national newspapers featured the story prominently and the social media hashtag #RominaAshrafi reportedly has been used thousands times on social media, with most users condemning the killing.
Proposed legislation against honor killings has apparently shuttled for years among various decision-making bodies in Iran.
On Wednesday, Romina Ashrafi’s case led Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to urge his Cabinet to speed up harsher laws against such killings and he pushed for speedy adoption of relevant legislation.
There is little data on honor killings in Iran, where local media occasionally report on such cases. Under the law, girls can marry after the age of 13, though the average age of marriage for Iranian women is 23. It is not known how many women and young girls are killed by family members or close relatives because of their actions, perceived as violating conservative Islamic norms on love and marriage.
Iran’s judiciary said Romina’s case will be tried in a special court. Under the current law, her father faces a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
Iran’s vice president in charge of family affairs, Masoumeh Ebtekar, expressed hope that a bill with harsher punishments will soon be in the final stages of approval.
Shahnaz Sajjadi, special assistant to citizens’ rights in the presidential directorate on women and family affairs, on Wednesday told the khabaronline.ir news website “We should revise the idea that home is a safe place for children and women. Crimes that happen against women in the society are less than those that happen in the homes.”