Lebanese protesters vow to step up demonstrations as decision on new prime minister looms

A Lebanese anti-government protester holds a national flag in front of members of the internal security forces as she takes part in a rally in Baabda near Beirut. (AFP)
Updated 06 December 2019

Lebanese protesters vow to step up demonstrations as decision on new prime minister looms

  • Many protesters in the Lebanese civil movement are unhappy with Hariri’s choice for PM

BEIRUT: Lebanese protesters on Thursday vowed to step up their peaceful demonstrations despite political moves to form a new government.

President Michel Aoun has set next Monday for binding parliamentary consultations to officially name a prime minister to head a new administration for the country.

Caretaker premier, Saad Hariri, who quit in October amid protests over political corruption and economic hardships, has said he will not take part in the new government but is backing businessman Samir Khatib to replace him.

However, many protesters in the Lebanese civil movement, which on Thursday marked 50 days of demonstrations, are unhappy with Hariri’s choice for PM and have pledged to escalate their action throughout Lebanon.

One activist, Dr. Ziad Abdel Samad, told Arab News: “Protesters are absolutely against the naming of Samir Khatib as the future PM. They consider that he dealt with the country’s corruption system and its icons.

“He was tested by Hezbollah and Amal’s representatives in power and by the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gebran Bassil, before agreeing on his name.

“Protests are headed toward a greater escalation until a clean person comes along. The crisis is caused by corruption, so how can the same parties regain power through different faces? People are angry and disgusted and want independent personalities,” he said.

Another activist, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “The different groups of the civil movement refuse to see the appointment of Khatib as head of the government because he is part of the structure benefiting from this system. We are asking authorities to replace a certain mindset, not swap faces. We want an independent government.”

He said protesters were undecided on their plan of action for Monday’s crunch meeting, with some groups proposing to stop deputies from reaching the presidential palace and blocking all of Lebanon’s roads, while others preferred to await the outcome. “It is true that people do not trust any person chosen by the current authority, but we must wait until this person proves the contrary.”

On the economic crisis gripping the country, the activist added: “Those in power bear the responsibility for what may happen. They insist stubbornly on their mindset and are yet to be convinced of the need to change their way of thinking. They have not presented a different model.

“What has taken place so far (the civilian protests) is an organized revolution. The people who haven’t taken to the streets to protest haven’t lost anything yet, but when people go hungry and see that their state has been disregarded, they will definitely take to the streets.”


Iran warns of lengthy ‘new way of life’ as virus deaths rise

An Iranian army soldier walks through a temporary hospital in Tehran, Iran, Thursday, March 26, 2020. (AP)
Updated 30 March 2020

Iran warns of lengthy ‘new way of life’ as virus deaths rise

  • Without an official lockdown in place, the government has repeatedly urged Iranians to stay home “as much as possible”

TEHRAN: President Hassan Rouhani has warned that “the new way of life” in Iran was likely to be prolonged, as its declared death toll from the novel coronavirus rose to 2,640.
Iran is one of the countries worst-hit by the virus, which first originated in China.
Iran announced its first infection cases on Feb. 19, but a senior health official has acknowledged that the virus was likely to have already reached Iran in January.
At his daily news briefing, health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said 123 more people in Iran had died from the virus in the past 24 hours.
He reported 2,901 new cases of COVID-19 infection, bringing the overall number of officially confirmed cases to 38,309.
According to the official, 12,391 of those hospitalized have recovered and 3,467 are in “critical” condition.
“We must prepare to live with this virus until a treatment or vaccine is discovered, which has not yet happened to date,” President Hassan Rouhani said in a Cabinet meeting.
“The new way of life we have adopted” is to everyone’s benefit, he said, adding that “these changes will likely have to stay in place for some time.”
After weeks of refraining from imposing lockdown or quarantine measures, Tehran decided Wednesday to ban all intercity travel until at least April 8.
Without an official lockdown in place, the government has repeatedly urged Iranians to stay home “as much as possible.” Schools and universities in some provinces were closed in late February and the measure was later extended to the whole country.
After Rouhani’s warning, the reopening of schools following this year’s new year holidays of March 19 to April 3 appears unlikely.

FASTFACT

Iran announced its first infection cases on Feb. 19, but a senior health official has acknowledged that the virus was likely to have already reached Iran in January

On a positive note, Rouhani said he had been told by top health experts and doctors that “in some provinces we have passed the peak (of the epidemic) and are on a downward trajectory.”
Several Iranian government officials and notable figures have been infected by the new coronavirus, some of whom have died.
The most recent case of infection was Mohammed-Reza Khatami, brother of former president Mohammad Khatami and an ex-deputy speaker of parliament.
He is currently hospitalized.
Iraj Harirchi, a deputy health minister who tested positive for the virus in late February, has returned to public life and appeared on state television to emphasize safety precautions.