Medics protest economic crisis in Lebanon

Protesters chant slogans as as they demonstrate outside Lebanon's central bank during ongoing anti-government protests in Beirut, Lebanon Nov. 11, 2019. (REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares/File Photo)
Updated 16 November 2019

Medics protest economic crisis in Lebanon

  • Hospitals warn of ‘a health nightmare that the country has never seen before’

BEIRUT: Protesting over Lebanon’s economic crisis, doctors and nurses on Friday raised placards that read “we are on the verge of collapse and our situation is critical” in front of hospital entrances.

Medical staff were protesting to warn of “a health nightmare that the country has never seen before, even in the most heinous days of the civil war,” said the president of the Syndicate of Private Hospitals, Suleiman Haroun.

“Importers can’t import medical supplies due to the lack of liquidity, as hospitals are facing a financial crisis and banks continue to impose restrictions on dollar transfers abroad, even for importation.” 

Lebanese authorities are “facing a real crisis as a result of their failure to find solutions or to form a government to save the country,” Haroun said.

Ziad Abdel Samad, a civil society activist, told Arab News: “We’re still not sure how serious the leaks are about nominating … Mohammed Safadi as prime minister.”

His name circulated in the media on Thursday after caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri received a response from representatives of the alliance of the president, Hezbollah and the Amal Movement approving of Safadi.

Safadi is a supporter of Hariri, who resigned on Oct. 29 amid mass protests in Lebanon. In the 2018 parliamentary elections, votes for Safadi were in favor of Hariri’s electoral list. Safadi’s wife, Minister Violette Khairallah, is among the ministers who supported Hariri in the government.

The country is facing a real crisis. People in power must come up with a solution, but not one political party is capable of doing so, including Hezbollah.

Ziad Abdel Samad, civil society activist

Following the news about Safadi potentially becoming the next prime minister, protesters in his hometown Tripoli gathered in front of his house and social center to chant against him.

Abdel Samad said: “The country is facing a real crisis. People in power must come up with a solution, but not one political party is capable of doing so, including Hezbollah.”

During the past 24 hours, the army arrested protesters in various regions for trying to block roads. 

Ghassan Hajjar, managing editor at An-Nahar newspaper, tweeted: “It seems like the authority has become an expert in turning people against it.”

Released protesters said they were severely beaten. Lawyers gathered in front of the Palace of Justice to object to the arrests and the prevention of those arrested from contacting a lawyer before the interrogations.

State Prosecutor Judge Ghassan Oueidat met with a delegation of lawyers and told them that those still under arrest will be released.

Iran dissidents urge vote boycott as leaders eye high turnout

Updated 3 min 23 sec ago

Iran dissidents urge vote boycott as leaders eye high turnout

PARIS: Opponents of Iran’s theocratic leadership are urging an outright boycott of its parliamentary elections, arguing that it is anything but democratic and that casting a ballot serves only to bolster the country’s Islamic rulers.
The country’s supreme leader has urged Iranians to “disappoint the enemy” by participating en masse in the vote on Friday, which coincides with one of the most testing periods for the country since the ousting of the pro-US shah in 1979.
“Participating in elections and voting... is a religious duty” that will strengthen the Islamic republic against the “propaganda” of its enemies, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tuesday.
Analysts say Iran’s leaders want to see a high turnout to bolster their legitimacy as they battle an economic crisis spurred by crippling American sanctions imposed after Washington abandoned the 2015 deal curtailing Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
The crisis prompted some of the most potent protests since the Revolution and the ferocious crackdown that followed.
The elections have been overshadowed by mass disqualifications of over 7,000 mainly moderate and reformist candidates by the Guardian Council oversight body.
The council threw out more candidates than it allowed in, including most incumbent MPs.
In a message from her jail cell, posted on her husband’s Facebook page, Iranian rights activist Narges Mohammadi said a boycott of the elections was the only peaceful means of protest left now that demonstrations are no longer being authorized.
“We need to rise up in the most civilized way and launch a strong boycott campaign to respond to the repressive policies of the government,” wrote Mohammadi, who is serving a 10-year sentence for “forming and managing an illegal group.”

Opponents outside Iran argue that the government’s pressure on citizens to vote means that anyone who casts their ballot is effectively legitimising the system.
Masih Alinejad, a former journalist who has left the country and leads a campaign against the enforced Islamic headscarf for women, has issued a viral video on social media warning that voting overlooks the memory of those killed in the protests.
While officials tell everyone to vote for the sake of the country, “the day after the election, it’s back to normal — the establishment claims the votes gave the Islamic regime legitimacy, and all promises of greater freedoms are forgotten,” she told AFP from New York.
“The candidates are pre-selected, no opposition views are tolerated and even the turnout is stage-managed,” she said, adding that instead of voting, people should demand a UN investigation into the November protests.
Amnesty International has confirmed the deaths of 300 people in the crackdown that followed those protests, and some estimates are far higher.
Iran rejects the reports but has yet to give its own figures.
Tehran’s admission that it accidentally shot down a Ukrainian airliner in January, killing all 176 on board, sparked more protests, at the very moment when the authorities were seeking to consolidate national sentiment following the US killing of top commander Qasem Soleimani.
Underlining the importance of mass participation, Khamenei said in a speech on February 5 that “the enemies who threaten the country and the nation are more afraid of popular support than our armaments.”

Turnout has varied widely in Iranian parliamentary elections over the past decades, but has generally been recorded at more than 50 percent and sometimes topping 60 percent — a figure the authorities will want to see repeated on Friday.
While the leadership should be able to count on a reasonable turnout from supporters of conservatives and in more rural areas, it is not certain how many will vote in bigger cities such as Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz and even the holy city of Mashhad, said Ellie Geranmayeh, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
“The question mark is over the bigger urban cities,” she told AFP.
In any case, conservatives — or “principalists,” who are themselves split between different factions — will likely dominate the next parliament after the disqualification of reformists, which risks putting off many voters.
“The scale of disqualifications and what many see as a lack of competitive choice for the Iranian electorate may result in much lower voter participation in the urban areas relative to the last election,” Geranmayeh said.
On the other hand, “supporters of the principalists are expected to turn out and vote. We should not underestimate their numbers. They have also been galvanized by recent events including the killing of Soleimani,” she said.