Lebanese MP Cynthia Zarazir ends protest at bank after accessing savings

Update Lebanese MP Cynthia Zarazir ends protest at bank after accessing savings
Cynthia Zarazir, a first-time parliamentarian, was elected in May to represent Beirut. (Reuters)
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Updated 06 October 2022

Lebanese MP Cynthia Zarazir ends protest at bank after accessing savings

Lebanese MP Cynthia Zarazir ends protest at bank after accessing savings
  • Fouad Debs, one of the MP’s lawyers, says she got access to the $8,500 she needed
  • Cases of bank hold-ups and protests have snowballed across Lebanon recently

BEIRUT: Beirut MP Cynthia Zarazir joined on Wednesday the angry depositors who have been resorting daily to force to recover their money that has been withheld by Lebanese banks since 2019.

She managed to get $8,500 from her deposit hours after entering the bank and negotiating with the bank’s management.

Zarazir, one of the MPs who has participated in the protests that Lebanon witnessed since 2019, entered the Byblos Bank branch in Antelias, 12 km from Beirut, on Wednesday morning without a prior appointment.

She waited for a customer to come out of the bank and entered by force, but she was not, like the rest of the intruders, carrying a weapon or incendiary materials to threaten to ignite it.

Zarazir's storming of the bank came less than 24 hours after a Lebanese diplomat, George Siam, stormed the Intercontinental Bank in Hazmieh, 6 km from Beirut.

Bank storming operations are no longer confined to retired soldiers, merchants, or people with limited income whose deposits are suspended in banks and they need to pay school or university fees for their children, pay off accumulated debts, or pay for the treatment of cancer patients.

MP Zarazir was accompanied to the bank by a group of lawyers and was later joined by MP Halima Kaakour.

Zarzir said she acted as an "ordinary citizen," declaring that she "relinquished her immunity as a deputy" when she entered the bank. 
She said the amount she asked for was to pay her insurance company for surgery.

Lawyer Sharif Suleiman, one of the attorneys of MPs demanding change, including Zarazir, told Arab News that the bank management asked Zarazir to sign an agreement not to disclose what happened inside the bank in terms of giving her part of her deposit in dollars.

Suleiman said that "When Zarazir left the bank, she tore up the pledge and said it was illegal, and challenged the bank's management to go to court and sue her."

Suleiman added: “What Zarazir did shows that she is just like the rest of the Lebanese people. She did not act like an MP to prevent any future political blackmailing.”
 

 

The storming of Lebanese banks by depositors comes as a result of the political class not setting a strategic plan and a timeline to release people’s deposits, three years after they were seized.

In Beirut’s southern suburbs, depositor Hussein Chokr, a retired security officer, protested in a Credit Libanais branch, demanding his saving to pay his children’s university tuitions.

Such acts took a more violent turn, as a person fired a weapon at a Bank of Beirut branch in the northern city of Byblos after the branch’s security guard prevented him from entering because he did not have a prior appointment.

This led the depositor, a Lebanese citizen, to pull out a machine gun from his car and fire at the bank, causing material damage. Police have launched an investigation.

Hassan Moghnieh, the head of the depositors’ association, told Arab News: “I expect the depositors’ protests to increase and the situation to further deteriorate. I am not proud of it.

“Closing the banks will not solve the crisis. What is needed is the formation of a crisis cell that would set priorities, as up until now, nobody has tried to solve the crisis. The protests taking place will continue and might take advanced forms.”

Some activists on social media said that what Zarazir did will encourage others to adopt illegal methods to get their rights. Others questioned the way the security forces dealt with the protesters after they arrested them and let Zarazir go because she enjoys parliamentary immunity.

Meanwhile, a group of people protested in front of the central bank in Beirut and set tires on fire. The protest was ringed by strict security and an altercation took place between the protesters and the police.

Moghnieh said these movements are different from the depositors’ protests, "as they are politically motivated and the participants are affiliated with the president’s party, which is demanding the dismissal of the governor of the central bank, accusing him of corruption."

Lebanese banks accuse the political class of “having withdrawn from the central bank the amount of $62.670 billion, which was wasted on maintaining the subsidies, fixing the exchange rate, the high-interest rates, electricity sector and the state’s import needs among others.”

Depositors accuse the banks of transferring their capital and that of the politicians’ abroad, considering that they both share the same responsibility and blame when it comes to the theft of people’s deposits.

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Iran’s Khamenei praises Basij forces for confronting ‘riots’ — TV

Iran’s Khamenei praises Basij forces for confronting ‘riots’ — TV
Updated 26 November 2022

Iran’s Khamenei praises Basij forces for confronting ‘riots’ — TV

Iran’s Khamenei praises Basij forces for confronting ‘riots’ — TV

DUBAI: Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday that Basij militia forces sacrificed their lives in “riots” sparked by the death in custody of a young Iranian Kurdish woman in September.
The Basij force, affiliated with the country’s Revolutionary Guards, has been at the forefront of the state crackdown on protests that have spread across the country. “They have sacrificed their lives to protect people from rioters,” Khamenei said in a televised speech.


Kuwait detects cholera in citizen arriving from neighboring country

Kuwait detects cholera in citizen arriving from neighboring country
Updated 26 November 2022

Kuwait detects cholera in citizen arriving from neighboring country

Kuwait detects cholera in citizen arriving from neighboring country

LONDON: Kuwait detected cholera in a citizen arriving from a neighboring country where there is an outbreak, the health ministry said in a statement on Friday.
According to the World Health Organization, Lebanon is in the latest phase of a outbreak that began in Afghanistan in June before spreading to Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and Syria.
“The Ministry of Health announced Friday a national who had returned recently from a neighboring country which suffers from cholera outbreak and showed symptoms of cholera infection,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that the “infected citizen had been isolated and received the treatment at a ministry hospital until his recovery.”
It also said that the ministry dealt with those who came into contact with the infected citizen according to the relevant protocols.
The ministry ruled out the possibility of a cholera outbreak in the country, but advised nationals and residents to be cautious and avoid unsafe water and food sources when visiting countries which have reported cholera outbreaks.
It encouraged those who show suspected symptoms, such as fever and diarrhea, within seven days of their arrival from one of the countries where the disease is prevalent to go to the nearest health center to receive the necessary advice and treatment.


Rockets target US Syria base in latest strike: Centcom

Rockets target US Syria base in latest strike: Centcom
Updated 50 min 51 sec ago

Rockets target US Syria base in latest strike: Centcom

Rockets target US Syria base in latest strike: Centcom
  • Rockets aimed at ‘coalition forces at the US patrol base in Al-Shaddadi, Syria’

BEIRUT: Two rockets targeted a US patrol base in northeastern Syria late Friday, the third such attack in nine days, US Central Command said.

Centcom did not indicate who fired the rockets but said, in a statement, that they aimed at “coalition forces at the US patrol base in Al-Shaddadi, Syria.”

The strike at about 10:30 p.m. (1930 GMT) caused no injuries or damage to the base or coalition property, said Centcom, which covers the Middle East region.

The US troops support Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which are the Kurds’ de facto army in the area and led the battle that dislodged the Daesh group from the last scraps of their Syrian territory in 2019.

Hundreds of American troops are still in Syria as part of the fight against Daesh remnants.

“Syrian Democratic Forces visited the rocket origin site and found a third unfired rocket,” Centcom added in its latest statement.

On November 17 rockets targeted the coalition’s Green Village base which is in Syria’s largest oil field, Al-Omar, near the Iraqi border, Centcom said at the time. There were no injuries.

A war monitor, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights which has a wide network of sources in Syria, said that strike came from “a base of pro-Iranian militias.”

Such groups have significant influence in the Syria-Iraq border region.

In another attack, a Turkish drone strike on Tuesday killed two SDF fighters and posed “a risk to US troops,” Centcom said earlier.

That strike hit a base north of Hassakeh city, also in Syria’s northeast but farther north.

On November 20 Turkiye announced it had carried out a series of air and drone strikes in Iraq and Syria, a week after a bomb attack in Istanbul that killed six people and wounded 81.

Turkiye says it is targeting rear bases of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), designated as a terrorist group by the European Union and the United States, and the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which dominate the SDF.

Both Kurdish groups denied responsibility for the Istanbul attack.


Turkish threats leave Syria Kurds in fear for symbolic city

Turkish threats leave Syria Kurds in fear  for symbolic city
Updated 26 November 2022

Turkish threats leave Syria Kurds in fear for symbolic city

Turkish threats leave Syria Kurds in fear  for symbolic city
  • Turkiye blamed the Istanbul bombing on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party — designated a terrorist group by the EU and the US — and said it was ordered from Kobane

In the Syrian Kurdish city of Kobane, gripped by fear of a Turkish offensive, Saleh Abdo Khalil passes an open-air “museum” of buildings reduced to rubble.
“Daesh destroyed these buildings,” the local baker said.
That danger has passed, but now, he says: “Turkiye wants to destroy the rest of the city.”
Since Sunday, Turkiye has carried out airstrikes against the semi-autonomous Kurdish zones in north and northeastern Syria, and across the border in Iraq.
Those raids, which started in Kobane, have killed 58 Kurdish fighters and Syrian soldiers as well as a Kurdish journalist, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Ankara has threatened a ground offensive and made clear that Kobane, also known as Ayn Al-Arab, would be a primary objective.
US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces, now the Kurds’ de facto army in the area, led the battle that dislodged Daesh fighters from the last scraps of their Syrian territory in 2019.
Years before, in 2015, Kurdish forces drove Daesh from Kobane, on the border with Turkiye, and the city became a symbol of their victory against Daesh.
To keep the memories of the combat alive, Kurdish authorities erected a cordon around a group of destroyed buildings, burnt-out vehicles and missile remnants, dubbing the area the Kobane “museum.”
While the football World Cup in Qatar has captured some residents’ attention, tension can be read on their faces.
Most fled the combat with Daesh before slowly returning and rebuilding.
“We fought Daesh for the whole world, and today the world closes its eyes and acts like an ostrich while Turkiye bombs,” said the baker Khalil, 42.
One week after a bombing in Istanbul on November 13 that killed six people and wounded 81, Ankara said it launched air strikes from “70 planes and drones” against Kurdish bases in Iraq and Syria, starting with Kobane.
Turkiye blamed the Istanbul bombing on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party — designated a terrorist group by the EU and the US — and said it was ordered from Kobane.
The PKK has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, and Turkiye alleges that Syrian Kurdish fighters are the group’s allies.
Kurdish groups denied any involvement in the Ankara blast.
Turkiye then hit other areas including the SDF bastion of Hasakeh province, in the northeast, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed Tuesday that Turkiye would “soon” begin a ground operation.
“The situation in Kobane is bad. People don’t sleep at night” out of fear that the city could be “bombed at any moment,” said Nabo Jumaa Ramadan, who opened a minimart in Kobane after he returned from Lebanon in 2019.
“Kobane is a symbol for the Kurds and she defeated Daesh,” Ramadan said with pride. Erdogan wants to “break the will of Kurds in the city,” according to Ramadan.
“If Kobane falls, all Rojava will fall,” he predicted, using the name Kurds in Syria give to the area they administer.
The Kurds faced an earlier Turkish incursion in 2019 when Ankara’s forces and its Syrian proxies grabbed a swathe of land along the frontier.
Under a deal between Moscow and Ankara, Kurdish forces which controlled nearly a third of Syria had to pull back to a line 30 km from the border.
The withdrawal included Kobane.
On Thursday, despite fears of a new ground incursion, there was no visible Kurdish military mobilization in the streets of Kobane, AFP correspondents said.
A civilian vehicle traversed the city-center, calling residents through a loudspeaker to join a demonstration against Turkiye’s strikes.
Even when bombs are not falling, Turkiye’s proximity is hard to avoid, and its flags can be seen along the border from several districts of Kobane.
Flags of Syria and Russia — a major ally of Damascus — are also visible, on a nearby hill with a post for government troops.
“We’re afraid of bombs. We are poor, without possessions or land,” said Amina Youssef, 65, in front of her home.
“We only have this house. What does Turkiye want? We don’t know what to do.”
The trauma spans generations.
“We came back years ago and began to rebuild our homes,” Sherwan Hami, 39, said, sheltering from rain inside a shop.
“The city and the markets prospered and people went back to work,” he said.
“But there’s a new war. We’re living under the bombs again.”

 


Dozens of casualties as Iranian security forces fire on protesters

Demonstrators stage a protest at the soccer match between Wales and Iran. (AP)
Demonstrators stage a protest at the soccer match between Wales and Iran. (AP)
Updated 26 November 2022

Dozens of casualties as Iranian security forces fire on protesters

Demonstrators stage a protest at the soccer match between Wales and Iran. (AP)
  • Human rights group: Revolutionary Guard Corps use military equipment, including heavy machine
  • The people’s protest has shown that the policies of the last 43 years have reached a dead end

TEHRAN: Iranian security forces opened fire on protests after Friday prayers in the restive southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan, leaving dozens of people dead or wounded, activists said.

Iran has intensified a crackdown on protests sparked by the Sept. 16 death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman of Kurdish origin.
Campaigners had called for nationwide demonstrations this week in solidarity with Kurdistan, which along with Sistan-Baluchistan has borne the brunt of Iran’s deadly protest crackdown.
“Kurdistan, Kurdistan, we will support you,” protesters were heard chanting on Friday in a video from the Sistan-Baluchistan capital Zahedan, one of the few Sunni-majority cities in Iran.
“Kurds and Baluchs are brothers, thirsting for the leader’s blood,” they sang in other unverified footage posted on social media, in reference to Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei.
Activists said later that the security forces had opened fire on protesters in the city.
“Dozens have been killed or injured,” the London-based Baloch Activists Campaign said on its Telegram channel. AFP was unable to confirm the toll.
BAC shared a video showing a group of men carrying a man who appears to be wounded out of what it said was Zahedan’s Makki mosque.
Demonstrators also took to the streets of the Sistan-Baluchistan cities of Iranshahr, Khash and Saravan, said BAC and the 1500tasvir monitor.
Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights said the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had used military equipment, including heavy machine guns, to suppress the people.
The Revolutionary Guards have built up their presence in restive Kurdish regions.
The Kurdish-populated provinces of western and northwestern Iran have been hubs of protest since the death of Amini after her arrest in Tehran for an alleged breach of the country’s strict dress code for women. On Tuesday, IHR said the Iranian security forces had killed at least 416 people, including 51 children and 27 women, since the protests broke out.
Its toll included at least 126 people killed in Sistan-Baluchistan and 48 people slain in Kurdistan province.
More than 90 were killed during a mass shooting in Zahedan on Sept. 30. Friday’s protests came a day after the UN Human Rights Council voted to create a high-level investigation into Iran’s bloody crackdown.
Iran condemned the move, saying it is “useless and represents a violation of the country’s national sovereignty.”
A prominent Baluch cleric, Molavi Abdolhamid, used his Friday prayers to call for an end to the repression of protests through arrests and killings.
“The people’s protest has shown that the policies of the last 43 years have reached a dead end,” his website quoted him as saying.
More Revolutionary Guards armored units and special forces were heading to the west and northwest border regions, home to the Kurdish minority, several state news agencies reported, after earlier reinforcements were announced on Sunday.
The Tasnim news agency showed a photograph of smiling Revolutionary Guards commanders standing on a military vehicle and saluting a long line of troops.
Iran has accused Western countries of orchestrating the unrest and accused protesters in ethnic minority regions of working on behalf of separatist groups.
Molavi Abdolhamid also used his sermon to denounce the reported abuse of detainees.
“Things are said about the mistreatment of women in the media that are heavy and I can’t bring myself to say,” he said, apparently referring to reports of alleged rapes of detained women.
The UN Human Rights Council, which on Thursday voted to start investigating Iran’s crackdown, has demanded the authorities halt the violence.