BEIRUT—As Lebanon’s protests enter their second week, at least one university considered resuming operations—but that possibility has been widely rejected by students and professors.
As it stands, universities and schools are still shut down, just like banks and most businesses. Most main roads are blocked, with demonstrators switching tactics to keep roads blocked, changing from burning tires and human blockades to parking their cars in the midst of intersections and walking away.
Young people dominate the demonstrations that began on October 17. Squares across the country are flooded with people, many of whom are students or recent university graduates, asking for better living conditions, improved public services, an end to corruption and an end to the nepotism and patronage systems that determine who gets jobs, instead of awarding jobs on merit. (See a related article, “In Lebanon: Sect Vs. Sect Turns into People Vs. Politicians.”)
“We will not leave the streets and return to the university until the demands of the Lebanese people are fulfilled,” said Abeer Zayan, a 22-year-old science student at the Lebanese University who was demonstrating in Beirut. She said the conditions of higher education in general and in the Lebanese University in particular, the country’s only public university, indicate a desperate need for such an uprising.
“We, as students, are deprived of our most basic rights, basic needs, infrastructure and equipment,” Zayan said. “We lack the equipment to carry out our research as the state keeps neglecting us.”
Private university students express a similar attitude. Nasreen Chidiac, a 23-year-old scholarship student in the American University of Beirut’s Faculty of Agriculture, said her participation in the protests was essential. “My motivation as a student to take to the streets is to protest against the high living costs,” she said. “Most of us graduate from universities and cannot secure a job in Lebanon. We have to emigrate and leave our parents and loved ones in order to work and live in dignity.”
“All students are losing their future in Lebanon. We are not the war generation anymore,” Chidiac said. “We have not experienced cruelty or hate, so we have the ability to accept the other, and there is great hope for change.”
Support From Professors and Presidents
The heads of universities have posted tweets and statements praising the students’ participation and announcing the suspension or postponement of exams. “I am in awe of your passionate commitment to our country,” wrote Joseph Jabbra, the president of the Lebanese American University, in a letter that was also published on Twitter.