Palestinians gearing up for protest to demand rights in Lebanon

June 21st, 2010 | Posted in Beirut, Lebanon, Palestine
    Daily Star by Mohammed Zaatari June 2010


Photo Stefan Christoff Palestinian youth walk on the streets of Burj el-Shemali camp.

Palestinian refugees, Lebanese activists and civil society organizations are gearing up for a demonstration on June 27 to demand civil rights for Palestinians in Lebanon.

Activists on Tuesday urged massive participation in the day’s protests in which participants will gather in Sidon, Tripoli, the Bekaa, Mount Lebanon and march toward the Parliament building in Beirut.

The activists were speaking before a Parliament session on Tuesday to discuss the civil rights of Palestinian refugees with the aim of pressuring representatives to amend laws discriminating against Palestinians.

More than 70 civil rights organizations and 5,000 protesters will participate in the march, which will culminate by handing lawmakers a petition suggesting the amendment of discriminatory laws.

The main disputed laws include the 2001 law, which prohibits Palestinian refugees from possessing real estate and land. The law limits the right of possession to “people with identification documents issued by a recognized country” and to cases that “don’t contradict the Constitution’s provisions on naturalization.”

For Palestinians living in Lebanon, the law is unjust and unpractical. “My husband’s house and the houses of my son and my daughter are registered under my neighbor’s name,” said Zeinab al-Ali, adding that she feared losing her residence when her neighbor dies.

Ali’s husband like many other Palestinians works is the Arab Gulf. According to real estate agent Mohammad Kheir the remittances coming from Palestinians working in the Arab Gulf, in Europe or in Scandinavian countries could help revive the Lebanese economy and decrease, if only partially, the budget’s deficit.

“The 2001 law has affected the real estate market. We used to witness 10 deals made by Palestinians each day but now Palestinian activity on the market has dropped by 90 percent,” he explained, noting that many villages in south Lebanon were built by Palestinians.

Another demand for demonstrators is amending labor laws that deny Palestinian refugees the right to exercise more than 50 professions including medicine, law, nursing, engineering and teaching.

Issam Halabi, an activist for social rights for Palestinians, said many young Palestinians were dropping out of school because they had no hope for the future.

Halabi added that about 5,000 refugees could not even declare their status as refugees because they were not allowed to obtain identification documents from the Lebanese government or the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

Nonetheless, some progress was made concerning this issue in 2005 when then-Labor Minister Trad Hamdeh issued a memorandum allowing Palestinians to exercise certain professions that didn’t require joining a union.

But activists participating in the march are demanding that Palestinians be allowed to practice more professions and that labor laws be amended. “Based on our belief in the right of return, we stress the need to give Palestinians back their right of possession and their labor rights,” said Fouad Othman, head of the Palestinian committees for the right of return.

The June 27 march will start at 9 am and will end at 6 pm in front of Parliament. Residents of the northern refugee camps of Nahr al-Bared and Baddawi are to gather in Dwar Abu Ali at 11 am while residents of Tyre will meet in front of the martyrs statue at 8:30 am. Sidon residents are scheduled to meet at 10 am at the city’s Martyrs Square.

In the Bekaa, the rally will start at the Chtoura Square at 9:30 am and in Mount Lebanon it will be launched from the Damour Square and from the entrance of the Aley shopping district. In Beirut protesters will gather at Cite Sportive at 1 pm.

Leave a comment

Upcoming events