Tidbits of Arabic News translated into English

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Young women discuss the Arab police during protests

The BBC Arabic hosted a discussion with some earnest young women from Iraq, Egypt, and Lebanon, talking about police treatment during protests. These are not necessarily the Arab Spring protests asking for an overthrow of the government, but rather protests asking for things as simple as a proper trash pick up service.

The lady on the left is Iraqi, the one in the center is Lebanese but studying in France, and the lady on the right is Egyptian.

The Egyptian lady started by saying: the police doesn't understand their role. They don't understand that they serve people. They just want to take advantage of the weapons they carry.

The moderator asked: well, you know, Egypt has outlawed protests. So what are the police supposed to do when they see protesters?

I'm sure the Egyptian lady gave a very competent answer, but I didn't understand it.

Then it was the Iraqi lady's turn. She said: Iraq has weekly demonstrations about politics (did you know that?) But there's not as much police violence during them as there used to be. Today, there's some collaboration, let's not say very strong, between the police and civil society. That doesn't mean everything is perfect. But yes, the violence against protesters has decreased. It was much worse in 2011 (I think that's the year she mentioned.)

When it was the turn of the girl from Lebanon, she showed us the spots on her elbow where she'd been hit by police in her home country. And actually, it was women police. She had been part of a protest that has something to do with the fact that the trash in Beirut has apparently not been picked up for months, and it's just sitting in the streets. I can't really figure out why, but the politicians need to agree on something, but they won't.

And they were also protesting that the government is trying to negotiate without getting the input of regular people. So how did they end up getting beaten up? I didn't understand that part! The Lebanese girl said something about how one of their members was a hemophiliac, and either they were trying to get him out of the protest so he wouldn't get hurt, or they were trying to explain his condition to the police, and somehow that led to the violence.

Besides the violence, the Lebanese girl explained that actually a few dozen human rights activists have been recently imprisoned, and that's also a strategy for frightening people out of protesting. And she said something, although I didn't really follow, about how the police had followed her home and they were asking questions.

The BBC Arabic moderator asked her: aren't you scared that you'll be arrested, too?

And the Lebanese girl gave some heroic answer about how she wasn't scared, and none of her friends were scared, and that the police couldn't stop them.

The Iraqi lady echoed that. She said that in the Iraqi province of Babel, protesters have been beaten by security forces, but the protesters keep coming out, it encourages them.

Again, the conversation was about harassment and whether protesting was a wise decision, and the Iraqi lady got fed up and said: You know, really, the protesters are protesting for simple things, just for human rights, stability. It's very similar to what the Lebanese and the Egyptians are asking for. We're not asking for anything complicated, we're tired of what's been happening.

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