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.

Libya’s Tripoli government seizes last LNA stronghold near capital

Updated 05 June 2020

Libya’s Tripoli government seizes last LNA stronghold near capital

  • Military sources in Haftar’s Libyan National Army said their forces had withdrawn from the town of Tarhouna
  • The advance extends the control of the Government of National Accord

TRIPOLI: Forces loyal to Libya’s internationally recognized government captured the last major stronghold of eastern commander Khalifa Haftar near Tripoli on Friday, capping the sudden collapse of his 14-month offensive on the capital.
Military sources in Haftar’s Libyan National Army, LNA, said their forces had withdrawn from the town of Tarhouna. They headed toward Sirte, far along the coast, and the air base of Al-Jufra in central Libya. The LNA made no immediate official comment.
The advance extends the control of the Government of National Accord, GNA, and allied forces across most of northwest Libya, reversing many of Haftar’s gains from last year when he raced toward Tripoli.
The United Nations has started holding talks with both sides for a cease-fire deal in recent days, though previous truces have not stuck. The GNA gains could entrench the de facto partition of Libya into zones controlled by rival eastern and western governments whose foreign backers compete for regional sway.
Turkish military support for the GNA, with drone strikes, air defenses and a supply of allied Syrian fighters, was key to its recent successes. Ankara regards Libya as crucial to defending its interests in the eastern Mediterranean.
However, the LNA still retains its foreign support. Washington said last week Moscow had sent warplanes to LNA-held Jufra, though Russia and the LNA denied this.
The United Nations says weapons and fighters have flooded into the country in defiance of an arms embargo, risking a deadlier escalation. Meanwhile, a blockade of oil ports by eastern-based forces has almost entirely cut off energy revenue and both administrations face a looming financial crisis.

Located in the hills southeast of Tripoli, Tarhouna had functioned as a forward base for Haftar’s assault on the capital. Its swift fall suggests Haftar’s foreign supporters were less willing to sustain his bid to take over the entire country once Turkey intervened decisively to stop him.
The GNA operations room said in a statement that its forces had captured Tarhouna after entering from four sides. Abdelsalam Ahmed, a resident, said GNA forces had entered the town.
Videos and photographs posted online appeared to show GNA forces inside Tarhouna cheering and hugging each other and firing into the air.
“The Libyan government forces are rapidly moving in an organized manner and with armed drones. There could be a solution at the table, but Haftar’s forces are losing ground in every sense,” said a Turkish official.