‘This is your fault’: UN blasts politicians over Lebanon chaos

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Riot police arrest anti-government protesters who were protesting outside a police headquarters on Wednesday night. (AP)
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Angry protesters returned to the streets of Lebanon on Tuesday to complain about unemployment and financial meltdown. (AFP)
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Above, a Fransa Bank ATM that was painted and damaged by anti-government protesters in Beirut, Lebanon on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 16 January 2020

‘This is your fault’: UN blasts politicians over Lebanon chaos

  • 90 injured, 59 arrested as rampaging mobs target banks on night of mayhem in Beirut

BEIRUT: The UN accused Lebanese politicians on Wednesday of standing by while the country descends into chaos, after an overnight rampage by mobs targeting bank buildings in an upmarket area of Beirut.

Security forces fired tear gas outside the central bank to disperse protesters who pelted them with stones and fireworks. One man hurled a car battery at the glass facade of a bank as another hit it with a metal pole. Other smashed security cameras and ATM machines, and wrenched traffic lights and parking meters from the ground.

In five hours of clashes in Hamra, nearly 50 internal security officers and up to 40 protesters were injured, and 59 people were arrested. The violence was the worst since protests against government corruption and financial hardship began in October, and came amid a continuing stalemate and sectarian political squabbling over a new government.

“Another day of confusion around the formation of a government, amid the increasingly angry protests and free-falling economy,” said Jan Kubis, UN special coordinator for Lebanon. 

“Politicians, don’t blame the people, blame yourselves for this dangerous chaos.”

As the protest movement nears the start of its fourth month, banks have become a prime target of demonstrators who accuse them with driving Lebanon toward its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

Banks have arbitrarily capped the amount of dollars customers can withdraw or transfer abroad. Most have limited withdrawals to about $1,000 a month, and others have imposed even tighter curbs.

“I have been coming here for the past three days and could take only $300 ... we are begging, working 55 years to come and beg at the end,” one woman on Hamra Street said ion Wednesday.

Hamra shopkeeper Mohammad Al-Rayyes said: “I was expecting what happened yesterday. Unfortunately the chaos is because of the politicians.

A security guard at Franasbank, who was off duty on Tuesday night, spoke to Arab News as he watched a new surveillance camera being installed outside the bank. “Even if I were here, what could I have done?” he said.

“The security forces could not face them, they had to use tear gas. This is the first time something like this has happened on Hamra Street. Even in the days of the war, banks operated normally and no one attacked them.”

Passers-by were dumbfounded by the scenes. “What happened aims to make the revolution look bad,” said one, Mohammed. “Those who smashed and assaulted public and private property are not peaceful protesters. This is not how we respond to banking restrictions.”

Another woman described the scene as a “battlefield.” She said: “Destroying private property does not benefit the revolution.”

Saad Hariri, who resigned as prime minister when the protests began but remains as a caretaker, said: “The attack on Hamra Street is unacceptable, and a blot on any party or person justifying or masking it.”


Egypt arrests alleged serial sexual predator

Updated 42 min 34 sec ago

Egypt arrests alleged serial sexual predator

  • Allegations have been widely circulating on social media detailing horrific sexual abuse and related blackmail suffered by women at the hands of the same man
  • Trending hashtags carrying the alleged abuser’s name widely circulated on Twitter and Facebook, urging government action

CAIRO: Egyptian authorities on Saturday arrested a man who allegedly sexually abused dozens of girls and women, in a case that has sparked outrage online, a security source said.
Allegations have been widely circulating on social media since Wednesday detailing horrific sexual abuse and related blackmail suffered by women at the hands of the same man.
One allegation claimed that he attempted to abuse a 14-year-old girl.
“The person accused of harassing the girls has been arrested and will be facing the prosecution following the allegations carried on social media,” the security source said.
“Those affected should submit formal reports of the harm they endured,” the source added.
The source did not identify the suspect.
According to the social media reports, the first of which was published on an Instagram account, the abuse had been going on since at least 2018.
Trending hashtags carrying the alleged abuser’s name widely circulated on Twitter and Facebook, urging government action.
Egypt’s National Council for Women (NCW) lodged an official complaint with the public prosecutor to investigate the allegations on Saturday.
“The NCW has followed the social media account on Instagram, which was launched by girls and women complaining that a man raped some of them and sexually assaulted and harassed others,” it said on Facebook.
It also said that several victims, who reached out to the council, recounted that the man “blackmailed and threatened to defame them using photos and clips documenting his heinous crimes.”
The council urged the women to submit official complaints to the prosecutor.
Some online reports suggested the perpetrator was a university student.
The American University in Cairo acknowledged the suspect had studied there but said he left the university in 2018.
He “is not a current student at the American University in Cairo,” a statement said.
Sexual harassment is highly prevalent in Egypt.
United Nations surveys have found that most Egyptian women have been subject to harassment, ranging from catcalling to pinching and groping.
Egyptian authorities have criminalized sexual harassment since 2014, but many women complain that the problem remains rampant.