BEIRUT: Student representatives from universities across Lebanon gathered earlier this week at the Gibran Khalil Gibran Garden, in Downtown Beirut to discuss a way to unite their efforts.
At the meeting Wednesday, approximately 40 representatives discussed the common aims of students in the nationwide uprising, and ways to unite in their efforts.
Since its beginning students have been a driving force of the protest movement, participating in demonstrations, blocking roads and refusing to attend classes. However, until now, their actions have been largely uncoordinated. “This meeting was not easy to [arrange], but the need for us to combine efforts made it happen,” said a student from the Lebanese University in Hadath at the start of the proceedings.
The representatives then discussed the issue of students being obliged by educational institutions to attend classes, rather than joining the protests. “We all know that we can’t skip this semester, but you are paying and studying for nothing in the future, if we don’t make this revolution work,” said Mira, a student at American University of Beirut.
The students then agreed that they should exert pressure on all of Lebanon’s universities to close until their demands are met. “We should all protest together in front of each university, [then] we can hit the squares,” said Wissam Haidar, a student at American University of Science and Technology in Beirut.
Referring to the date the nationwide protests began, the group voted to call itself October 17 Students. Its members also agreed to use shared social media accounts and to organize collective protests, featuring common slogans and demands.
The group’s demands include the formation of a transitional nonsectarian government, an early election, for students at private universities to no longer have to pay fees in dollars, and a reduction of the voting age to 18 years old. “We are witnessing a slight decrease in participation in the protests, so the revolution is in need of our [involvement], as students and professors,” Raneem Rajeh, a student at the Lebanese University, told The Daily Star. “As long as we are participating, the fire of the revolution will not burn out.”
Earlier in the morning, students took to the streets in Sidon, Jounieh and Beirut, pushing forward with a strategy that focuses on surrounding and blocking entry to institutions.