Women and students are at the heart of Lebanon’s protests

A school student shouts slogans during ongoing protests against the Lebanese government in front of the Education Ministry, in Beirut, on Wednesday. (AP)
Updated 07 November 2019

Women and students are at the heart of Lebanon’s protests

  • It is clear that ‘the most dynamic group in Lebanon is the Twitter and Facebook generation’

BEIRUT: To keep up the momentum of the Lebanese protests for the 21st day, students in secondary schools took to the streets expressing fears about their future in the country.

The students, aged between 16 and 18, entered school on Wednesday morning before deciding, despite threats of expulsion if they joined the protests, to leave by force chanting “revolution” and “the people want the downfall of the regime,” while waving Lebanese flags.

Images on television and social media amazed many politicians. MP Paula Yacoubian paid tribute to the students on Twitter, while MP Sami Gemayel said “after a long absence, Lebanese students returned to the national struggle to build a new Lebanon. The path of change will not stop any more.”

“It became clear that the most dynamic group in Lebanon is the Twitter and Facebook generation, a cross-sectarian group, a transformational, free and strong group capable of achieving miracles. The confusion it has created among the traditional parties is clear evidence of that. It has laid the foundations of a new political phenomenon. I salute you, carry on,” said former MP Fares Souaid.

Students protested in front of the Palace of Justice in Beirut for “an independent judiciary” and at the Ministry of Education for “modern curricula,” as well as at public institutions in Beirut and across the country.

“What is the point of studying and receiving a degree if we will not find a job in Lebanon and have to leave?” asked a student named Nayla, “Those in power have to step down and make way for those who can actually deal with corruption and provide us with a better life.”

“I asked a security personnel trying to stop us from blocking the street if he was running a luxurious life. He told me that his salary does not allow him to get married,” said another student.

Students broke the barrier of fear after some schools threatened to expel those who participated in the protests. One such threat was made by a school director in Sidon, but she retracted it after her voice recording went viral on social media.

Women, too, have broken the chains of fear. They have constituted the heart of the protests in various regions since the start of the movement on Oct. 17. They were on the frontlines confronting the security forces and the supporters of Hezbollah and Amal Movement.


VIEW OUR PHOTO GALLERY: Lebanon's protest movement lives on
 


Actress Nada Bou Farhat said: “I turned the picture of the girl kicking her aggressor into a sticker on my phone.”

Protests in downtown Beirut have turned into discussion forums every evening where activists exchange ideas. Dozens of women activists from organizations concerned with women’s rights took part in the discussion titled “Women – Revolution.” They expressed their opinions on women’s achievements during the revolution and how to protect their rights.

“First of all, we are against insults that used female organs. Women have proved during this revolution that they are as smart as men,” said Bou Farhat, noting that “the revolution overcame the fear of abandoning political parties and joining the movement, the fear of our parents and the politicians that linked opposition to the return of civil war, which was proved wrong by the revolution.”

“I have never protested before. I broke many barriers to take part in this movement. They used to say that protests are limited to men, but women played a leadership role in this revolution. Women helped write signs, encouraged people to take to the streets and even protected men. This revolution means a lot to me as it demands social and economic justice,” said the activist Reine Hammoud.

Dr. Halima Al-Kakour told Arab news that “some want to insult women by calling the revolution a cabaret. This is a blatant distortion of the revolution. Women courageously stood up and protected the protests by forming a human barrier in the face of aggressors.

“Women activists are taking part in planning and organizing the squares. They have a pivotal role in the society’s dynamic organizations, but are marginalized by a corrupt sectarian patriarchal system.

“Politicians want to undermine women’s dignity, but they will not scare us or make us feel weak.”

“Building a nation and promoting democracy without women is impossible. We will not accept less than half of the seats for women in future governments and parliaments,” she said.


Iran warns of lengthy ‘new way of life’ as virus deaths rise

An Iranian army soldier walks through a temporary hospital in Tehran, Iran, Thursday, March 26, 2020. (AP)
Updated 30 March 2020

Iran warns of lengthy ‘new way of life’ as virus deaths rise

  • Without an official lockdown in place, the government has repeatedly urged Iranians to stay home “as much as possible”

TEHRAN: President Hassan Rouhani has warned that “the new way of life” in Iran was likely to be prolonged, as its declared death toll from the novel coronavirus rose to 2,640.
Iran is one of the countries worst-hit by the virus, which first originated in China.
Iran announced its first infection cases on Feb. 19, but a senior health official has acknowledged that the virus was likely to have already reached Iran in January.
At his daily news briefing, health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said 123 more people in Iran had died from the virus in the past 24 hours.
He reported 2,901 new cases of COVID-19 infection, bringing the overall number of officially confirmed cases to 38,309.
According to the official, 12,391 of those hospitalized have recovered and 3,467 are in “critical” condition.
“We must prepare to live with this virus until a treatment or vaccine is discovered, which has not yet happened to date,” President Hassan Rouhani said in a Cabinet meeting.
“The new way of life we have adopted” is to everyone’s benefit, he said, adding that “these changes will likely have to stay in place for some time.”
After weeks of refraining from imposing lockdown or quarantine measures, Tehran decided Wednesday to ban all intercity travel until at least April 8.
Without an official lockdown in place, the government has repeatedly urged Iranians to stay home “as much as possible.” Schools and universities in some provinces were closed in late February and the measure was later extended to the whole country.
After Rouhani’s warning, the reopening of schools following this year’s new year holidays of March 19 to April 3 appears unlikely.

FASTFACT

Iran announced its first infection cases on Feb. 19, but a senior health official has acknowledged that the virus was likely to have already reached Iran in January

On a positive note, Rouhani said he had been told by top health experts and doctors that “in some provinces we have passed the peak (of the epidemic) and are on a downward trajectory.”
Several Iranian government officials and notable figures have been infected by the new coronavirus, some of whom have died.
The most recent case of infection was Mohammed-Reza Khatami, brother of former president Mohammad Khatami and an ex-deputy speaker of parliament.
He is currently hospitalized.
Iraj Harirchi, a deputy health minister who tested positive for the virus in late February, has returned to public life and appeared on state television to emphasize safety precautions.