Lebanon News

Hoping for a future, youth drive protests against political elite

Protesters carry banners during a demonstration against the dire economic conditions in Beirut, Oct. 18, 2019. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: “We want them all gone” has been a common refrain as protesters take to streets across Lebanon in protest against a multitude of failures by the political class.

Young people have been a dynamic part of these protests, with schools and universities closing Friday on orders of the education minister.

The countrywide demonstrations broke out Thursday after the government announced new taxes, including a levy of $0.20 per day to use internet-based phone calls, including over the popular WhatsApp platform. The WhatsApp tax was swiftly disavowed, but it was not enough to quell protests.

“We are the future, and we want our future to be in this country,” said 20-year-old AUB student Mehdi Jaber, who participated in the protests. “We’ve been hearing the same names [of politicians] since the day were born,” he added. He said he wants considerable change to take place.

“I am constantly in conflict with my dad, who works abroad and always asks me to join him. But I tell him that I want to stay here in Lebanon, hoping it becomes a better place,” said a 20-year-old USJ student who had joined the protests.

“I call on the youth who are still supporting the same politicians to change, because if we change, then the future can be a better place,” said Nader Akoum, a 21-year-old LAU student at the protests.

According to Karim al-Kabbani, the Future Movement representative at the American University of Beirut, March 14 students will withdraw from student elections at the university in protest of dire situation in Lebanon.

“Today, many students with different political stances and affiliations are all going to the protest. ... We can’t continue living with the current system, it’s just not working,” said Kabbani.

“We want them all gone. All of Parliament ... the Cabinet and everyone else in power,” he said.

He did not specifically call for the leader of the Future Movement, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, to resign by name.

Kabbani explained that he and a couple of other students had created a WhatsApp group with 750 members to mobilize AUB students at the protests Friday in Downtown Beirut.

AUB student elections were set to take place Friday, but they were postponed as the university was closed in compliance with the minister’s decision.

 

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