Young Lebanese protesters share their spirited messages

Protesters chant slogans during ongoing protests against the Lebanese political class, as riot police stand guard in front of Finance Ministry building in Beirut, Lebanon, on Friday. (AP)
Updated 30 November 2019

Young Lebanese protesters share their spirited messages

  • Despite efforts to demonize them, activists stick to message of peace

BEIRUT: Activists in the civil movement in Lebanon have stuck to the peacefulness of their protests, despite attempts to demonize them by the political forces.

The best example of this peacefulness was the reaction of Farah Merhi, 30, after her car was torched aggressors in Riad Al-Solh and Martyrs’ Square. “I did not feel angry or frustrated, I just smiled,” she told Arab News.

Farah’s smile was transmitted by social media as she stood by her torched car, a Datsun, which she bought by installment ten years ago when she worked as an accountant. Farah used to drive her car every day to go to work, as she lives in the mountains, and it was her only method of transport.

Farah said that she was keen on parking her car last Saturday in a secure area. Supporters of the “Amal Movement” and Hezbollah attacked in the evening and torched tents, shops and cars in the streets neighboring the squares. When she came back to her car the following morning, she found it burnt.

Farah’s cousin started a social media account calling for $10,000 of donations to buy a car for her. In less than 24 hours, 50 percent of the amount was raised. Farah said that the “donations came from people I know and those I do not know in and out of Lebanon. It was really touching. The amount now exceeds $10,000 and I am astonished by the love shown to me.”

She said that she is participating in the protests to call for a “decent life for the people, away from politics, I am not against anyone but I am demanding human rights.”

While activists were lifting debris from the squares the day after the aggression, they adorned their tents and Farah’s torched car with flowers.

Many other stories from the revolutionary squares have been gathered in a newspaper titled “October 17,” which refers to the day when the revolution broke out in Lebanon. The newspaper was issued on Friday with 16 pages. Its front page was covered with a photo of activists, captioned: “I am the people who knows nothing is impossible.”

Inside, readers discovered articles and activist stories — including one titled “the people who is getting back its country” — and another on “the sanctity of the leader when it gets shaken.”

Bachir Abou Zayd, 27, one of the founders of the newspaper, told Arab News: “I am a cinema director and was part of the movement from the beginning. The idea of issuing the newspaper was agreed on with five friends and Ibrahim Halawi, a university professor in London who we are in contact with.”

He added: “we aim to record what is going on in the squares and the achievements of the revolution, so that the newspaper reflects the experiences of the various activist groups so that we could formulate one voice that expresses all opinions.”

Abou Zayd, from Kfar Roummane, noted that “the newspaper was produced in collaboration with media and social activists, and that the only condition to write in it was for the article not to have a political background or direction, everyone is free to have his own beliefs but we want something that expresses everyone’s opinions.” It was estimated to cost between $1,000 and $1,500 for 3,000 copies.


Pope backs Iraqi call for its sovereignty to be respected

Updated 25 January 2020

Pope backs Iraqi call for its sovereignty to be respected

  • President Barham Salih held private talks for about 30 minutes with the pope and then met the Vatican’s two top diplomats
  • The recent tensions in Iraq could make it impossible for Francis to visit the country, which he has said he would like to do this year

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis met Iraq’s president on Saturday and the two agreed that the country’s sovereignty must be respected, following attacks on Iraqi territory this month by the United States and Iran.
President Barham Salih held private talks for about 30 minutes with the pope and then met the Vatican’s two top diplomats, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, its foreign minister.
The talks “focused on the challenges the country currently faces and on the importance of promoting stability and the reconstruction process, encouraging the path of dialogue and the search for suitable solutions in favor of citizens and with respect for national sovereignty,” a Vatican statement said.
On Jan. 8, Iranian forces fired missiles at two military bases in Iraq housing US troops in retaliation for Washington’s killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike a Baghdad airport on Jan. 3.
The Iraqi parliament has passed a resolution ordering the 5,000 US troops stationed in Iraq to leave the country.
Soon after the Iranian attack, Francis urged the United States and Iran to avoid escalation and pursue “dialogue and self-restraint” to avert a wider conflict in the Middle East.
The pope discussed the Middle East with US Vice President Mike Pence on Friday.
The recent tensions in Iraq could make it impossible for Francis to visit the country, which he has said he would like to do this year.
The Vatican said the pope and Salih also discussed “the importance of preserving the historical presence of Christians in the country.”
The Christian presence in Iraq and some other countries in the Middle East has been depleted by wars and conflicts.
Iraq’s several hundred thousand Christians suffered particular hardships when Daesh controlled large parts of the country, but have recovered.