Lebanese students join Beirut protests

Lebanese students rally in front of the Ministry of Education during ongoing anti-government protests, in the capital Beirut on Thursday. (AFP)
Updated 08 November 2019

Lebanese students join Beirut protests

  • Students from public and private universities and schools took to the streets across Lebanon chanting “revolution.”

BEIRUT: The students of the Lebanese University known as “the university of the poor” joined public protests in their 22nd day. 

It is a state university and most of its students are from the poor and middle classes. According to its administration, its students make up 35 percent of the total number of the country’s university students.

Students chanted as they headed to Riad Al-Solh Square to demand basic services at their university. They spoke of the ambiguity of their professional future in the light of the domination of favoritism over the employment process. Their colleagues in other faculties complained about them on social media as the administration and teachers prevented students from leaving lecture halls to join the movement.

Students from public and private universities and schools took to the streets across Lebanon chanting “revolution.” They included students from Saint Joseph University, Haigazian University, Antonine University and the Lebanese American University.

Some groups focused on public institutions and prevented employees from entering, while others gathered in front of Zouk Thermal Power Plant to protest pollutant emissions.

Chants were accompanied by banging on pots and metal ware. This practice started on Wednesday night when people went to their balconies in Beirut, Sidon and Tripoli and banged on pots as a sign of their support for the protests.

The people of Beirut last used this method in 1916 during the famine that hit Lebanon under Ottoman rule.

The protests have not yet caused any responses from the authorities except for the resignation of the government. The president has not yet set a date for the binding parliamentary consultations to appoint a new prime minister, pending behind-the-scenes consultations with his political allies and outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

There is a possibility of forming a technocratic political government with a mixture of political ministers and experts, while protesters insist on a fully technocratic government that works to hold early parliamentary elections.

In the context of reviewing corruption cases, the financial prosecutor, Judge Ali Ibrahim, listened to the testimony of former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora at the Palace of Justice. The hearing lasted about three hours and “focused on the case of the $11 billion that was spent when Siniora was Prime Minister between 2006 and 2008,” according to the National News Agency.

Ibrahim also filed a lawsuit against the Director-General of Customs Badri Al-Daher for “wasting public funds.”

The Attorney General Judge Ghassan Oweidat referred a complaint presented by a number of lawyers against all ministers in successive governments since 1990 to attorney Ghassan Al-Khoury for “embezzling and wasting public funds for personal and material benefits, exploiting power and authority and seriously harming the Lebanese people,” in order to initiate investigations and take all necessary measures.


Top Iraqi Shiite religious leader calls for new election law

Updated 5 min 14 sec ago

Top Iraqi Shiite religious leader calls for new election law

  • Al-Sistani emphasized support for the demonstrators in his weekly religious sermon
  • His comments came as protesters called for large protests to take place on Friday

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s most influential Shiite religious leader called Friday for a new election law that would restore public confidence in the system and give voters the opportunity to bring “new faces” to power.
Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani emphasized support for the demonstrators in his weekly religious sermon, saying none of their demands have been met so far and that electoral reform should be a priority.
His comments came as protesters called for large protests to take place on Friday after one protester was killed and over 40 were wounded in renewed clashes overnight in central Baghdad.
At least 320 people have been killed and thousands have been wounded since the unrest began on Oct. 1, when protesters took to the streets in the tens of thousands outraged by what they said was widespread corruption, lack of job opportunities and poor basic services despite the country’s oil wealth.
The latest clashes broke out late Thursday in Baghdad’s Khilani Square, according to Iraqi medical and security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. The violence erupted hours after demonstrators celebrated Iraq’s 2-1 World Cup qualifier win over Iran.
Demonstrations have mostly been taking place in Baghdad’s Tahrir and Khilani squares and the predominantly Shiite southern provinces, following tough measures by Iraqi security forces to calm down on protests.
The powerful cleric, who’s opinion holds major sway over Iraqis, said a fair electoral law should give voters the ability to replace current political leaders with “new faces.”
“Passing a law that does not give such an opportunity to voters would be unacceptable and useless,” he said in his weekly sermon Friday.
“If those in power think they can evade dealing with real reform by procrastination, they are mistaken,” Al-Sistani said. “What comes after the protests is not the same as before, so be careful,” he warned.
He said corruption among the ruling elite has reached “unbearable limits” while large segments of the population are finding it increasingly impossible to have their basic needs met while top leaders “share the country’s wealth among themselves and disregard each other’s corruption.”
“People did not go out to demonstrations calling for reform in this unprecedented way, and do not continue to do so despite the heavy price and grave sacrifices it requires, except because they found no other way to revolt against the corruption which is getting worse day after day, and the rampant deterioration on all fronts,” he said.
On Monday, Al-Sistani said he backed a roadmap by the UN mission in Iraq aimed at meeting the demands of the protesters, but expressed concern that political parties were not serious about carrying out the proposed reforms.