Lebanese mourners pay tribute to protest victim

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Lebanese well-wishers pay their respects. (AFP)
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Lebanese well-wishers pay their respects. (AFP)
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Lebanese well-wishers pay their respects. (AFP)
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The daughter of of Alaa Abu Fakher, who was killed by a Lebanese soldier in Tuesday night protests south of Beirut, mourns during her father's funeral, in Choueifat neighborhood, Lebanon, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019. (AP)
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The coffin of slain Lebanese protester Alaa Abou Fakhr, draped in a national flag, is carried by mourners through the streets of his hometown of Chouaifet, southeast of Beirut, during his funeral procession on November 14, 2019. (AFP)
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A fire fighter extinguishes burning pipes and tyres set ablaze by anti-government protesters blocking the highway at the southern entrance of the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, on November 14, 2019.(AFP)
Updated 15 November 2019

Lebanese mourners pay tribute to protest victim

  • The roads linking Beirut with the country’s south and north were opened shortly before noon Thursday
  • Thousands of people attended the funeral of a 38-year-old father who was shot dead by a soldier at a protest Tuesday night

BEIRUT: Thousands of Lebanese mourners on Thursday paid tribute to the first casualty of Lebanon’s protests, dubbed a “martyr of the revolution” by protesters.

To cries of “Revolution, revolution,” protesters from across the country watched as the body of Alaa’ Abu Fakhr, draped in the Lebanese flag, was carried to his final resting place in his hometown Choueifat, south of Beirut.

Mourners also carried the sobbing son of the victim, Omar, who raised his hand in a victory sign.

Abu Fakhr, 39, a father of three, died on Tuesday after an army officer opened fire on demonstrators blocking roads in the coastal town of Khalde, south of Beirut.

News of his death was met with shock and anger among protesters who have taken to the streets for the past 29 days demanding the removal of politicians accused of inefficiency and corruption.

Demonstrators on Tuesday night blocked roads and set tires ablaze, then rallied for nationwide protests on Wednesday where pictures of Abu Fakhr were held aloft.

The following night a Free Patriotic Movement supporter was arrested after firing on protesters in Jal El-Dib. There were no injuries.

Later, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi called on protesters to “show restraint and maintain peaceful protests.”

The army on Thursday reopened roads blocked by protesters on Tuesday night following a TV interview with President Michel Aoun.

State Prosecutor Judge Ghassan Oueidat said that Khaldoun Jaber, an activist leader who went missing during protests near the presidential palace in Baabda on Wednesday, will be released.

Banks will remain closed on Friday for the fourth day after employees said they feared for their safety and felt intimidated by customers demanding to withdraw large amounts of cash in dollars following strict limits imposed by banks.

On the second day of his visit to Lebanon, French envoy Christophe Varno said that “everyone is concerned about the hardships Lebanon is facing.”

Varno called for the rapid formation of “a government that is efficient, effective and capable of taking decisions that respond to the aspirations of the Lebanese people and restoring their faith.”

Meanwhile, a source close to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri told Arab News that “Hariri is convinced that nothing can save the country except a government of experts, and he is stressing that he is at the service of his country and its economy.”  

Hariri resigned on Oct. 29, but Aoun is yet to set a date for consultations on the appointment of a new prime minister.

Sources close to the former prime minister said: “The other side would normally inform Hariri of their approval or disapproval of his demand, but we have not received anything yet.”


Outspoken Iranian rapper Amir Tataloo arrested in Turkey

Updated 45 min 5 sec ago

Outspoken Iranian rapper Amir Tataloo arrested in Turkey

  • Tataloo was preparing to travel to the UK when he was detained, reportedly at the request of Iran
  • Fans and colleagues fear for much-loved musician’s safety if sent back to Iran

LONDON: Amir Tataloo, one of the most popular Iranians on social media and outspoken critic of the regime in Tehran, was arrested on Tuesday as he prepared to leave for the UK.

The rapper, whose real name is Amirhossein Maghsoodloo, was detained in Turkey where he had been living to pursue his career in music. Reports said the arrest was at Iran’s request.

Tataloo, who has performed for the BBC, is a long-standing opponent of Iran’s ruling mullahs and has denounced the establishment for not licencing his music, which Iran deems “Western, non-Iranian and immoral.”

He has been arrested in Iran multiple times for his lyrics, which spoke out against the government’s human rights abuses and restrictions on press freedom.

Iran International TV channel reported that Turkish authorities are currently working to facilitate Tataloo’s extradition to Iran, prompting fears for his safety from colleagues and fans.

A fan-made petition advocating for his release had already garnered more than 15,000 signatures.

The administrator of Tataloo’s social media accounts, known as Ronak, warned that “if Amir is handed over to Iranian police, it is unclear what is going to happen.”

She said: “Think you wake up today and think that from tomorrow you will go to a European country after years of pain… but instead they touch you and want to bring you back to the same country where your life has always been in danger.”

Tara Sepehri Far, Iran Researcher at Human Rights Watch, told Arab News that Tataloo has been harassed by authorities repeatedly, and that his “story of past persecution for artistic activities is very concerning right now.” 

Tataloo could “face a real threat of persecution or torture” if returned to Iran.

Even more worrying though, she said, is the way Iranian media is treating the arrest.

Far told Arab News that Iran is using this as an opportunity to “show that they’re capable of bringing people back to Iran.

“They’re using it as a propaganda tool and as leverage to show that Iran can project power beyond its borders.”

Tataloo has more than 3.2 million followers on Instagram and 1.25 million on Facebook.

The arrest comes at a time of heightened civil unrest within Iran, which has been wracked by months of anti-government protests.