Lebanon pupils skip school for third day to demand change

1 / 4
Student protesters wave their national flags and shout slogans, as they protest against the government in front of the education ministry in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, Nov. 8, 2019. (AP)
2 / 4
A student protester holds a smoke flare during a protest against the government in front of the education ministry in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, Nov. 8, 2019. (AP)
3 / 4
Lebanese students wave the national flag and chant slogans as they gather outside the Ministry of Education and Higher Education during ongoing anti-government protests, in the capital Beirut on November 8, 2019. (AFP)
4 / 4
Lebanese students wave the national flag during an anti-government demonstration in the southern Lebanese village of Hasbaya on November 8, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 08 November 2019

Lebanon pupils skip school for third day to demand change

  • With youth unemployment running at over 30 percent, school students have joined en masse since Wednesday demanding a better country so they don’t have to emigrate
  • Across Lebanon, students protested outside state institutions and banks including in Saida, Tripoli, and Baalbek

BEIRUT: Thousands of high school students across Lebanon skipped classes Friday for a third day in a row to carry on the flame of the country’s anti-graft movement.
Lebanon has since October 17 been gripped by massive cross-sectarian protests demanding a complete revamping of a political system they say is corrupt and inept.
With youth unemployment running at over 30 percent, school students have joined en masse since Wednesday demanding a better country so they don’t have to emigrate.
In Beirut, a teenage student who gave her name as Qamar was among thousands of pupils chanting slogans outside the ministry of education on Friday.
“So what if we lose a school year compared to our entire future?” she said. “I don’t want to study in Lebanon and then have to travel abroad” to find a job.
Around her, students waved red-green-and-white Lebanese flags, as others set off yellow, green, blue and purple flares into the sky.

A poster in rhyming Arabic said: “No studying or teaching, until the president falls.”
Across Lebanon, students protested outside state institutions and banks including in the southern city of Saida, Tripoli in the north and the east’s Baalbek.
What started as a spontaneous and leaderless movement has become more organized in recent days, with protesters targeting institutions viewed as particularly inefficient or corrupt.
Early Friday, dozens of activists and retired army officers for the first time briefly closed down the entrance to Beirut’s port.
Among them, music producer Zeid Hamdan, 43, had come to denounce what he viewed as a customs collection system riddled with corruption.
“As a musician whenever I bring an instrument into the country, I pay 40 percent of it” to customs, he said, sporting a light beard and wearing sunglasses.
“It stays stuck in the port for weeks. You need connections, to bribe everybody to get it out,” he said.

Meanwhile, Lebanon's national news agency says the country's banks will be closed for two extra days over the weekend amid deepening turmoil and public anxiety over liquidity and sustained anti-government protests.
The National News Agency says the banks will be closed both on Saturday and Monday, along with the regular Sunday closure for the weekend.
The report says this will allow for the observation of the holiday celebrating Prophet Mohammad's birthday, which is set for Monday in Lebanon.
Earlier, banks were closed for two weeks amid nationwide protests calling for the government to resign. After reopening last week, individual banks imposed irregular capital controls to protect deposits and prevent a run on the banks.
Lebanon is one of the world's most heavily indebted countries.
Lebanon’s cabinet stepped down last week but no official consultations have started on forming a new government, and outgoing premier Saad Hariri remains in a caretaker capacity.
The World Bank has urged Lebanon to form a new government quickly, warning of the threat of a further economic downturn in a country where almost a third of the population lives in poverty.


Lebanese block roads as protests enter fourth month

Updated 17 January 2020

Lebanese block roads as protests enter fourth month

  • The protest movement rocking Lebanon since October 17
  • The protest movement is in part fueled by the worst economic crisis

BEIRUT: Protesters blocked several main roads across Lebanon on Friday as unprecedented demonstrations against a political elite accused of corruption and incompetence entered their fourth month.
The protest movement rocking Lebanon since October 17 has resurged this week, over delays in forming a new cabinet to address the country’s growing economic crisis.
No progress seemed to have been made on a final lineup, which protesters demand be made up solely of independent experts and empty of traditional political parties.
In central Beirut, dozens of protesters Friday stood between parked cars blocking a key thoroughfare linking the city’s east and west.
“We blocked the road with cars because it’s something they can’t move,” Marwan Karam said.
The protester condemned what he regarded as efforts to form yet another government representing the usual carve-up of power between the traditional parties.
“We don’t want a government of masked political figures,” the 30-year-old told AFP. “Any such government will fall. We won’t give it any chance in the street.”
Forming a new cabinet is often a drawn-out process in Lebanon, where a complex system seeks to maintain balance between the various political parties and a multitude of religious confessions.
Nearby, Carlos Yammine, 32, said he did not want yet another “cake-sharing government.”
“What we have asked for from the start of the movement is a reduced, transitional, emergency government of independents,” he said, leaning against his car.


Elsewhere, demonstrators closed roads including in Lebanon’s second city of Tripoli, though some were later reopened, the National News Agency said.
The protest movement is in part fueled by the worst economic crisis that Lebanon has witnessed since its 1975-1990 civil war.
The protests this week saw angry demonstrators attack banks following the imposition of sharp curbs on cash withdrawals to stem a liquidity crisis.
On Thursday night, protesters vandalized three more banks in the capital’s Hamra district, smashing their glass fronts and graffitiing ATMs, an AFP photographer said.
Earlier, Lebanon’s security services released most of the 100-plus protesters detained over the previous 48 hours, lawyers said.
Human Rights Watch on Friday condemned the arrests and the response of security forces to protests outside a police station on Wednesday night demanding detainees be released.
“The unacceptable level of violence against overwhelmingly peaceful protesters on January 15 calls for a swift independent and transparent investigation,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at the rights watchdog.
Over the past few months, the Lebanese pound — long pegged to the US dollar at 1,507 — has fallen in value on the unofficial market to around 2,500.
The World Bank has warned that the poverty rate in Lebanon could rise from a third to a half if the political crisis is not remedied fast.