Iran on the rack: Demonstrations in Beirut over crackdown in Iraq

Iraqis kept up anti-government protests in Baghdad and the south on Saturday, dissatisfied with the premier’s vow to quit and insisting on the overhaul of the system. (AFP)
Updated 01 December 2019

Iran on the rack: Demonstrations in Beirut over crackdown in Iraq

  • Protesters in two countries unite to denounce Tehran’s violent repression of dissent

BEIRUT: Iran faced anger on two fronts on Saturday as demonstrators in Lebanon took to the streets of Beirut to support protesters in Iraq.

Tehran has orchestrated a violent crackdown on Iraqi protests in which more than 420 people have been killed, and its Hezbollah proxy in Lebanon has been accused of complicity in attacks on protesters demonstrating there against corruption and financial hardship.

Demonstrators staged a candlelit vigil outside Iraq’s embassy in Beirut on Saturday to denounce the violence in Baghdad and southern Iraq. They held up photos of Iraqi protesters who have been killed, and one woman wrapped an Iraqi flag around her shoulders.

“The uprising in Iraq and the uprising in Lebanon are one,” said vigil organizer Layal Siblani. “A protester killed there is a protester killed here.” 

Another demonstrator in Beirut said: “We have to stand in solidarity with our Iraqi counterparts who are being arrested and killed on a daily basis.”

Elsewhere in Beirut, the mothers of activists targeted by opponents of the protests marched under banners declaring “nothing divides us” as they voiced their anger over violent attacks on protesters.

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A group of mothers in Tabaris, a largely affluent Christian neighborhood, marched to Khandak El Ghamik, a poorer area with a large number of Amal Movement and Hezbollah supporters.

One woman urged residents of the area not to attack protesters. “Politicians disagree in the day and agree in the evening, and we should not be dragged into incitement,” she said.

Protesters also organized a demonstration outside a barracks of the Internal Security Forces in Beirut, in protest at the arrest of activists.

Meanwhile in Iraq protesters burned tires and surrounded a police station in the southern city of Nassiriya on Saturday. Demonstrations also continued in Baghdad, but there were fewer reports of casualties than on the previous two days.

Security forces have used live ammunition, tear gas and stun grenades against protesters for nearly two months, and dozens have been killed in the past few days in Nassiriya and Najaf.

Iraq’s Cabinet on Saturday approved the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, which is expected to be confirmed by Parliament on Sunday.


Lebanese restaurant attracts star support following Beirut blasts

Updated 30 min 44 sec ago

Lebanese restaurant attracts star support following Beirut blasts

  • Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe donated $5,000 to the fund, set up by a group of Beirut-based foreign correspondents
  • Operating on a plat-du-jour formula, each day of the week would serve a homemade Lebanese specialty

LONDON: Lebanese restaurant Le Chef found an unlikely high-profile supporter after a GoFundMe page was set up to save the diner from ruin following the Beirut blasts on August 4.

Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe donated $5,000 to the fund, set up by a group of Beirut-based foreign correspondents.

When Richard Hall, one of the organizers and the former-Beirut correspondent of UK daily The Independent, highlighted the generous donation, Crowe tweeted: “On behalf of Anthony Bourdain. I thought that he would have probably done so if he was still around. I wish you and LeChef the best and hope things can be put back together soon.” Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain took his life two years ago.

Tucked away in the middle of the Gemmayze district, Le Chef – commonly seen as one of Beirut’s must-try hole-in-the-wall diners for tourists – was badly damaged in the recent blast.

The tiny diner with its neon-red logo and checkered tables was second home to many of the street’s residents and the country’s foreign correspondents. It featured in Bourdain’s report from Beirut during his travel show Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations in 2006.

“And yet I'd already fallen in love with Beirut. We all had — everyone on my crew. As soon as we'd landed, headed into town, there was a reaction I can only describe as pheromonic: The place just smelled good. Like a place we were going to love,” Bourdain’s field notes during his time on CNN's Parts Unknown said.

Operating on a plat-du-jour formula, each day of the week would serve a homemade Lebanese specialty – with Thursday’s mloukhiyye and rice a favorite among many journalists, according to Arab News’ correspondent Leila Hatoum.

“When I worked as a reporter based in Gemmayze between 2002 and 2006, Le Chef was the restaurant that provided home-cooked style meals at such affordable prices and in generous quantities…each dish literally could feed two persons,” Hatoum said.

“It was the meeting point for every reporter in the area, be it foreign or local. I would say Le Chef was the ‘it’ place for affordable but great home-cooked food.”

Other dishes include rice and lamb (kharouf mehshi) on Mondays, spiced Lebanese couscous with chicken (moughrabiyye) on Tuesdays, kibbeh bil sayniyye on Wednesdays, rice and fish (sayyidiye) on Fridays and roast lamb with potatoes on Saturdays.

“Le Chef was different, everything they served was as though my mom cooked it,” Netherlands-based designer Rawad Baaklini told Arab News.

“And it was so cheap! Their dishes were big compared to the price they charged. They used to deliver, so for me ordering from them was like eating at home,” Baaklini said, recalling his time working at a studio based in the area.

“My favorite dish was the kibbeh bel sayniyye … It was magical, I don’t know how they made it, but it was every time great.”