People with special needs protest in Lebanon

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People with special needs have taken to the streets throughout Lebanon, demanding their “right to education, rehabilitation, treatment, integration and interdependence.” (Supplied)
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People with special needs have taken to the streets throughout Lebanon, demanding their “right to education, rehabilitation, treatment, integration and interdependence.” (Supplied)
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Protesters chant slogans during an anti-government demonstration in the southern Lebanese city of Sidon. (AFP)
Updated 04 December 2019

People with special needs protest in Lebanon

  • The suffering of social welfare institutions is a result of the country’s ongoing economic crisis

BEIRUT: People with special needs have taken to the streets throughout Lebanon, carrying banners demanding their “right to education, rehabilitation, treatment, integration and interdependence.”

Waving Lebanese flags, they shouted “we don’t want to be at home, we want to learn,” “you and I are like each other,” and “no one is better than anyone.”

Some associations catering for Lebanese children with special needs have closed down due to lack of government funding.

People in wheelchairs, and some with canes, went to the headquarters of Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi.

“We’re not the weakest segment of society, as some people like to call us,” said protester Michela Gabriel. “We have the right to know why the state hasn’t yet provided the necessary support to the associations.”

In the town of Hermel, people with special needs gathered around the center that provides them with care. “We don’t accept being marginalized,” said one of them.

Students with special needs also protested in the city of Tripoli. “If the dues aren’t paid, our students will remain in their homes without educational attention, and we don’t accept that,” said social worker Anita Bator.

HIGHLIGHT

Demonstrations come after some groups catering for special children closed down due to lack of government funding.

Norma Al-Zain, director of the El-Kharrub Complex for Welfare and Development, expressed concern that “social welfare institutions will have to make painful choices because their continuation depends on the donations of good people and the payment of dues by the state.”

Richard Kouyoumdjian, social affairs minister in the caretaker government, told protesters that he “won’t abandon these institutions, and won’t accept the threat of closure, nor touching a hair on the head of a child with special needs.”

He said the suffering of people with special needs and the associations that care for them “is part of what Lebanon is experiencing from an economic crisis that affects all institutions.” He promised to speed up aid disbursements.

Meanwhile, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri met on Monday with Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) leader Walid Jumblatt.

The latter also visited Saad Hariri, who resigned as prime minister on Oct. 29. 

The meetings were part of efforts to overcome hurdles to the formation of a new government.

There were conflicting reports of a meeting on Monday between President Michel Aoun and Samir Khatib, who has emerged as the favorite candidate to form a government, and a meeting between Khatib and the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gebran Bassil.

Jumblatt said the PSP will not participate in the government, but will nominate competent Druze candidates as ministers.


Lebanese restaurant attracts star support following Beirut blasts

Updated 6 min 23 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.”