Youth of Lebanon:
Standing up for their rights.
An interview conducted on 12/8/02 by Nick Longo with C.K* an Australian of Lebanese origin who witnessed first hand the terror and brutality of the Syrian occupation of Lebanon.
Nick Longo: What is it
that students demonstrate about?
C.K: The students demonstrate against the arbitary arrests of fellow students and leaders, who are expressing their point of view in accordance with the constitution. Also protests are aimed at the lack of freedom, sovereignty and independence in Lebanon and the fact that human rights are non-existent.
N.L: How does the issue
of civil rights abuse affect students and society?
C.K: The issue is of utmost importance to the students, who stage sit ins frequently to express their disapproval of the current situation in occupied Lebanon. The youth have taken it upon themselves to make it clear that civil rights abuses in Lebanon will not be tolerated. They have been successful in bringing the issue to the forefront and society in general is in full solidarity with the students. One must remember that a climate of fear and intimidation exists in Lebanon at the present time due largely to the presence of 40,000 Syrian soldiers and thousands more Gestapo style secret service agents. The Syrians are placed strategically around universities and schools to keep the students at bay. This however has not intimidated the students and has in fact given them more courage to fight on for their rights. Recently the government has resorted to sending heavily armed riot police into universities in an aim to arrest student leaders and also to try to scare the students into submission. On both accounts they have failed.
N.L: Have you ever been
involved in any demonstrations, if so,
what were you demonstrating for?
C.K: Yes, In August of 2001, I was in Lebanon on holiday. The Syrian installed government started rounding up political leaders and students who are against the Syrian occupation of Lebanon. Immediately thousands of youth took to the streets demanding the release of the prisoners, sit ins were staged and general strikes were called for, the Lebanese population mobilized against the tyrannical behaviour of the Lebanese government and their Syrian masters.
N.L: What is the attitude
of society to this issue?
C.K: It can be safely said that the overwhelming majority of Lebanese people back the students in their quest for freedom. We received huge support from the rest of society. It must be noted that the Lebanese are united on the issue of freedom, sovereignty and independence and therefore see the youth as their voice and encourage the youth to continue their struggle. I would also like to add that contrary to what the Syrians and their Lebanese slaves would want you to believe the majority of both Muslims and Christians are against Syrian occupation and they are vehemently united on this issue.
N.L: What is the attitude
of political parties to this issue?
C.K: Since Lebanon is under occupation it is difficult to gauge the opinions of the various political parties since most are subjected to pressure. There is however many political parties who defy the intimidation and speak out. The students belong to many of these, such as The Free Patriotic Movement, The Lebanese Forces, Lebanese National Liberal Party, The Lebanese Communist Party etc. The list is long and covers all parts of the political spectrum and all religions.
N.L: Have they ever
responded to the students requests in any way?
C.K: Yes, in fact the students who belong to political parties who I mentioned have the full support of the political parties and play a major role in the political parties and groups they belong to.
N.L: Why has the issue
been silenced and rarely makes the news?
C.K: It has been silenced for the simple fact that freedoms dont exist in Lebanon. The media is forced to practice self-censorship to avoid being victim of the brutality of the government. The media is not free and is subjected to scrutiny right down to the letter. There have been many cases of journalists being kidnapped and bashed. It would not suit the Syrians if the real news was made known. Here I would like to mention Riad Taha and Salim el Louzi who were brutally killed because they refused to toe the line in regards to Syria.
N.L: Is there any
assistance from lobby groups or humanitarian organizations such as Human Rights Watch or
C.K: Yes, We have had a lot of support from those groups you mentioned and their is a lot more who have also supported us, such as SOLIDA and Cedar Watch, whose main focus is Lebanon.
N.L: What sort of
activities have the students employed to get their message heard (e.g. street marches,
C.K: We took part in everything, which was deemed peaceful, and we did everything according to the Lebanese constitution. Some activities included, protests, handing out of leaflets, sit ins, conferences and meetings etc.
N.L: Have you ever
witnessed any mis-conduct or violence during the demonstrations, if so, explain
C.K: Naturally when dealing with a dictatorship as we are, you do expect violence. Yes I did witness first hand the violence, which took place, and I must say that I can still hear the screams of the young women who were running from the clenched fists of the secret service agents. This is my first hand account of what happened on the Morning of August 9, 2001. A Protest was called for in front of the Justice Palace in Beirut to demand the release of the illegally detained prisoners. As we arrived we found that an unusual number of Lebanese army and security officers littered the area around the palace. After around 300 protesters had arrived the area was suddenly cordoned off, so that no one can get in and no one can get out. I heard one man ask if he can enter but was denied and asked why, the reply was that it was for his own safety. The protest started as planned with supporters from political parties and human rights groups taking part. The protest was peaceful, we were chanting for freedom, sovereignty and independence. About half an hour into the protest, plain clothed Syrian and Lebanese secret service agents began infiltrating the crowd. They picked demonstrators at random and started cowardly assaulting them in packs like wolves, even young women were attacked. When the attacks started I pleaded with a Lebanese Army officer I knew to do something, he looked at me and gestured to me that his hands were tied, not even he could help us. We started to disperse but they kept on harassing us and swearing at the females. We saw a Lebanese policeman try to help a girl who had fallen, but was told by a Syrian agent in a clear Syrian accent to mind his own business or he would be next. I finally got to the car, 5 minutes later we were stopped at a checkpoint and our car searched, I had 2 rolls of film confiscated from me and we were kept waiting in the sun for 1 and a half hours until that finally let us leave.
N.L: Who are the perpetrators of these acts of violence?
C.K: Syrian and Lebanese secret service agents. Proof of what they did is available at www.jucticesearch.com.
N.L : Why do they use
such extreme methods such as violence towards students when all you are doing is freely
expressing your views?
C.K: The only way they can stay in Lebanon is if they control the people through fear and intimidation. Murders, kidnappings, bombs and the like have become common practice again in Lebanon.
N.L: Are there any other
issues that are related or linked to this issue?
C.K: The only issue is the Syrian occupation of Lebanon. All of Lebanons problems stem from the Syrian occupation.
N.L: What do you believe
is needed to resolve the issue of students rights abuse?
C.K: Firm action from the world governments, who are currently turning a blind eye on Lebanon. The world especially the USA should stop appeasing Syria and hold it accountable for its actions and its crimes against humanity. The full implementation of all UN resolutions regarding Lebanon, especially UN Res. 520. Which calls for the withdrawal of all foreign forces.
*Name repressed for safety reasons.