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Lebanese Security Forces Turn Nejmeh Square into a Fortress

Lebanese Security Forces Turn Nejmeh Square into a Fortress

Friday, 24 January, 2020 - 13:00
Lebanese men pass in front of a coffee shop that was smashed by anti-government protesters, during a protest against the new government, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
Beirut - Sanaa el-Jack

Downtown Beirut has been transformed into a construction site, with workers putting iron shields on the facades of upscale shops after being damaged by stone-throwing protesters.

Confrontations between security forces and the protesters in the vicinity of the parliament compelled owners to protect their stores with armor panels, especially that customers are totally abstaining from visiting the shops, as one owner said.

Tony, who owns a store that sells mobile phones and other electronic devices, says that his shop's windows were shattered two days ago. However, this did not prevent him from continuing to work normally, staying in his shop until the evening.

“I close up and flee when the violence starts and the situation intensifies. People have the right to demand their rights, and this right must be preserved. However, what is happening is down purely to their hatred; they did not steal anything, content with just destroying.”

An employee at a clothing store nearby says that “downtown Beirut has become a frontline. The demonstrators did not leave a facade, tree, or anything else undamaged. We do not know how long we can continue, or when they will dismiss us from our jobs. We open our doors only to close them.”

He adds “The government will not change anything. The country is done. The corner that leads to Banks Street has been replaced ... with a huge new black gate that opens or closes depending on the orders of the security forces stationed inside it.”

“Only those who are given permission can enter the street, whether on foot or in cars. The street has become a huge barracks, occupied by dozens of trucks and hundreds of internal security forces and riot squads.

The security forces have also isolated themselves behind barricades, thereby transforming Nejmeh Square into an impenetrable fortress.

A journalist told Asharq Al-Awsat that his “shift has been starting at four in the afternoon and continuing till as late as 3 am since the protest movement started. The scene has changed a lot from what it was like in the beginning. In the past, riots were associated with young people coming from the Khandaq al-Ghamiq. Today, the majority of them come from Akkar, as their accent indicates.”

He adds: “It is not easy for me to watch my city being destroyed; I feel an urge to throw my camera aside and defend my city. The city that Rafik Hariri built after the civil war and was martyred in is under the most violent attacks these days. What will they gain from uprooting trees and throwing at the security forces?”

However, one of the protesters at Martyrs' Square refuses to describe the angry demonstrators as intrusive. He tells Asharq Al-Awsat that the authorities are responsible for everything that is happening.

“What they stole over all these years amounts to much more than the little glass and stone that was uprooted. We will not stop until this regime falls,” he says.

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