Activists protest against total closure in Lebanon

Lebanese policemen check cars at a checkpoint in the Sanayeh district of the Lebanese capital Beirut a day after the country went into lockdown. (AFP)
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Updated 18 November 2020

Activists protest against total closure in Lebanon

  • The protesters said they were not against the decision to close businesses due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic

BEIRUT: Activists from civil movement groups staged a sit-in outside the Ministry of Interior in Beirut on Wednesday afternoon to protest the deteriorating economic situation in light of the lockdown imposed until the end of November.

The activists carried the Lebanese flag and chanted slogans, including “the revolution will go on.” A large number of Internal Security Forces (ISF) personnel were deployed in the vicinity of the ministry to prevent protesters from entering its premises.

The protesters said they were not against the decision to close businesses due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, but were calling on the state and authorities to help the most impoverished people in light of deteriorating difficult living conditions.

Khalid Abu-Ismail, head of economic development and poverty at the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), said a few days ago that Lebanon’s ranking had dropped and poverty rates had doubled, hitting 55 percent of the total population.

Abu-Ismail said that there was a loss of food security, most pronounced in the poorest areas in northern and southern Lebanon, especially among workers with daily wages.

Just as the protests took place, Nicolas Chammas, president of the Beirut Traders Association, conveyed to Caretaker Interior Minister Brig. Gen. Mohammed Fahmy that “traders are angry due to the decision to completely close businesses, the disparity in the implementation of this decision in different regions, and the impact of the closure on traders in light of the deteriorating economic situation.” He asked the minister to reconsider the decision.

Chammas told Arab News: “Hunger can spur riots that lead to dangerous consequences. We are fully aware of the decisions taken to protect the public’s health, but there is also hunger (to take into consideration). Some of those affected (by the closure) are calling for civil disobedience or the violation of the closure decision.”

Tony Eid, head of Achrafieh’s Merchants Association, told Arab News: “Traders are demanding greater discipline during the period of complete closure, and we are keen to implement the measures to contain the spread of the virus.

“We hope that things will improve next month as it is full of holidays, and we count on this to compensate for our losses,” he added.

On Wednesday the civil movement groups denounced the arrest of Makram Rabah, a political activist and lecturer at the American University of Beirut, at Rafic Hariri International Airport in Beirut as he was leaving for Dubai on Monday.

The groups, affiliated with Liqaa Teshrin (the October Meeting), condemned “the security practices, the suppression of freedoms, and the negativity adopted by the corrupt system to impede the prospects of achieving the desired reforms to save the country.”

On Wednesday Rabah expressed his concerns about “tyrannical practices and the fabrication of files” against him.

He explained in a statement to the Central News Agency (Al-Markazia) that he was arrested without a judicial warrant, and a security file was fabricated against his due to his political stances.

Rabah said: “I am against any person or party that violates Lebanese sovereignty, and the first of these are Israel and Hezbollah because, in my view, they are equal in their violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty.

“My political position is very clear, and even if I raised any suspicions, there are standard procedures that are supposed to be implemented,” he said. “However, in my case, I am a lecturer at the American University of Beirut and a consultant, and my father is a former member of the Supreme Judicial Council, and all my stances are known. Therefore, whoever wants to obtain the contents of my phone can access my social media pages and follow my media appearances, but requesting the confiscation of my passport is not acceptable.”

He added: “If there is a reason for my arrest, the decision must be issued by the Public Prosecutor at the Court of Cassation, not by an officer in the security services.”


Zarif ‘desperate’ to blame Saudi Arabia for anything negative that happens in Iran: Al-Jubeir

Updated 13 min 46 sec ago

Zarif ‘desperate’ to blame Saudi Arabia for anything negative that happens in Iran: Al-Jubeir

  • “It is not the policy of Saudi Arabia to engage in assasinations; unlike Iran” minister tweeted

JEDDAH: Iran’s parliament on Tuesday approved a bill requiring the government to boost uranium enrichment by 20 percent and end UN inspections of its nuclear facilities.

The move is being viewed by analysts as a show of defiance after the recent killing of prominent Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an assassination for which Tehran has accused other countries of masterminding.

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir said on Tuesday that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif was “desperate” to blame the Kingdom for anything negative that happened in Iran.

“Will he blame us for the next earthquake or flood?” he tweeted. “It is not the policy of Saudi Arabia to engage in assassinations; unlike Iran, which has done so since the Khomeini Revolution in 1979.

“Ask us and ask many other countries who have lost many of their citizens due to Iran’s criminal and illegal behavior,” Al-Jubeir added.

The latest bill would require another parliamentary vote to pass, as well as approval by the Guardian Council, a constitutional watchdog. Moreover, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final say on all nuclear policies.

“There is no doubt that this step constitutes a threat, raising it to 20 percent means that it is close to building a nuclear bomb,” political analyst and international relations scholar Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News. “The region is promised with a dark and unstable period.”

He said that the move indicated the Iranian regime’s insistence on destabilizing the region, and its determination to win the race to obtain nuclear weapons.

Enriching uranium to 20 percent is below the threshold needed for nuclear weapons but higher than that required for civilian applications. It would also commission new centrifuges at nuclear facilities at Natanz and the underground Fordo site.

“Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons or its proximity to achieving that goal will be a great danger to the region, and countries will seek to protect themselves, which will mean that everyone will resort to obtaining nuclear weapons. Fakhrizadeh’s death suggests that Iran was waiting for this opportunity to escalate,” Al-Shehri added.

The official IRNA news agency said 251 lawmakers in the 290-seat chamber voted in favor, after which many began chanting slogans against the US and Israel.

The bill would give European signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal three months to ease sanctions on Iran’s key oil and gas sector, and to restore its access to the international banking system.

“Many technical issues related to the nuclear bomb creation were not closely followed up by P5+1 (the UN Security Council’s permanent members of China, France, Russia, the UK, and the US, plus Germany),” said Al-Shehri.

“We also should not forget that Iran was not clear and was preventing and limiting inspections at its nuclear facilities, moreover, the International Atomic Energy Agency did not do its work properly so that the world could breathe easily.

“Iran may have the nuclear bomb by now without the international community taking any action against it.

“The assassination of a scientist will not change the equation, even the strikes on Iranian facilities would not affect the real Iranian infrastructure.

“Iran wasn’t confronted the way that would make the world comfortable, nor the way that a terrorist rogue state should have been treated as it distributed terrorism through its militias, ballistic missiles, and drones in the region,” he added.