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French Version

For some, protesting has become a full-time job

While the ongoing demonstration in Downtown Beirut is at its most boisterous in the evenings, a much smaller but dedicated core of opposition supporters have made the protest their full-time job.

"I've quit school to be here all the time," said Imad Salameh, a young supporter of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM).

Salameh had been in the middle of his final year of high school at Eastwood College when the demonstrations began nearly three weeks ago, and was intending to study engineering at university the following year.

"For me, losing one year of school is better than losing four years of my life in a country that is ruled by an unfit government," he said, adding that he hoped he would be readmitted to the final year once the demonstrations end.

"I'm not going back until we get what we want down here," he said.

Students - both high school and university - represent a significant percentage of the demonstrators in the heart of the capital, particularly those present during the daytime, with many saying they attend the protest in between classes. However, Salameh is by no means the only student at the protest to have made such a sacrifice.

Alex Noureddine, an FPM supporter in his first year of business studies at the Lebanese American University, has also put his education on hold.

"I stopped so I can be here around the clock, but also because the March 14 supporters at LAU cause us problems on campus," he said.

"Once the demonstrations finish, I'm going to spend the rest of the year traveling around Africa before returning to university again," he added. "There's no point in returning now because I haven't been attending these last three weeks ... meaning that I've failed."

Noureddine said many of his friends were in a similar situation, having quit their studies in order to remain at the protest.

That said, there are also many demonstrators who have taken a more "part-time" approach to the protest.

Hizbullah supporters Mahmoud Dakroub and Fadi Saad both own businesses in the Dahiyeh that they have kept open throughout the protest.

Dakroub said he checks in on confectionary store each morning before returning to the sit-in in the afternoon. "My full-time job is here now," he said, "but my business is still open and working. It is through that job that I support my family."

Saad has been putting in similar hours at his bakery.

"I phone them in the morning to see how things are and if there are any problems then I go down. Otherwise, I stay here," he said. "Seventy percent of the people here do as we do; they work a morning shift and come in the afternoon, or the other way around, but we all coordinate with each other."

"There are people who are down here without any jobs to go to," Saad said. "They are here all day and all night. Hizbullah provides food and drink [for the demonstrators] in order to make sure people are looked after."

Talal bou Milhin, 24, was supposed to be on vacation.

"I work in Africa," he said. "I came three months ago to visit my family, and then this all started ... I have money saved from my work in Africa, and I'm here for another month, so I can use my time spending it here all day and night," he added.

Beirut 20-12-2006
Nour Samaha
The Daily Star

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