Hundreds of the university students marched in Beirut on Tuesday calling for the right to build a brighter future without a ruling class that has, according to the protesters, led the country into economic collapse.
Tuesday was the turn of Lebanese students, who have participated in other protests with fellow citizens in recent days, to steer an uprising that began on 17 October and shows no sign of abating.
The rally, led by a vehicle carrying loudspeakers, started at the Lebanese University campus and moved on to the heavily-protected government headquarters, where some of the protesters set up tents.
“We are here to urge our professors to join us, to take to the streets to call for more funds since there is no money for laboratories, researches and we are capable of doing it,” said Ocean al-Shaar, a 22-year-old engineering student at Lebanese University, the only public institution in the country.
Having to pay university fees in US dollars is a main concern among students, who are calling for it to be changed into the local currency.
Most consumer products are imported and paid for in US dollars.
Banks have, however, imposed restrictions on people withdrawing dollars over a lack of liquidity.
The Lebanese parliament was scheduled to hold a session Tuesday to vote on measures aimed at breaking the institutional deadlock and fighting corruption.
“Parliament’s session scheduled for today has been postponed. They do not want to admit the existing problem,” the student said.
Al-Shaar, like many of her friends, has thought about leaving the country and going elsewhere.
“Definitely I want to stay, but I cannot afford an apartment and I cannot have a job,” she said.
Eli Yazbeck, a 24-year-old graphic design student at the private Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, had planned to leave, but ended up staying.
“I was working on getting a visa out of the country, but I put everything on hold. I had work waiting for me abroad. I will stay and build this country in a civilized way, without corruption, discrimination, sexism or homophobia,” Yazbeck, also at the protest, said.
“We have been (protesting) for five days as students, we are here to fight till our last breath. The people are starving, they need to have access to the things they need, we have a lot to do,” Yazbeck added.
From day one of the protests, which were sparked by the government’s plans to impose a tax on phone calls via free messaging apps like Whatsapp, the students have been taking part in the demonstrations just like any other citizen, according to Yazbeck.
Although the government abandoned those plans, the protests gained momentum.
“There is a lot to build, we have to show that the new generation can rebuild this country,” Yazbeck said.
Lebanon has lived through two wars that have left scars that can still be seen on its buildings. EFE-EPA