BEIRUT: Dozens of Syrian students studying in Lebanon staged a protest in front of their country’s embassy in Beirut Monday, denouncing what they described as discrimination against them at Lebanese universities.
Protesters held banners calling on the Syrian president to put an end to unjust measures taken against them, while shouting slogans in support of Bashar Assad and his regime.
“We are physically and verbally insulted on a daily basis just because we are Syrians,” said one protester.
Demonstrators gathered outside the Syrian Embassy in Beirut’s Hamra district, demanding their “most basic rights” as human beings and an end to discrimination against them by faculty members and fellow students at Lebanese universities.
The protesters, who all spoke on condition of anonymity, unanimously agreed that they were subject to inhumane treatment.
“Everybody here sarcastically tells us not to study because no matter how hard we try we will flunk,” said one.
Syrian students are often attracted to study in Lebanon, where the bar for entry to some majors is lower. While in Syria a set average is required for certain courses, such as medicine and engineering, a passing grade in the baccalaureate official exams will suffice for any major at the state-owned Lebanese University, where the majority of Syrian students are registered.
According to the protesters, the majority of whom were males, Syrian students have not been provided with student IDs, without which they are unable to sit exams. “All that we were given is a receipt even though they’re in the middle of the academic year and our IDs should have been issued a while ago,” one of the protesters said.
The protesters called on Assad to help improve their situation in the Lebanese universities or allow for their enrollment in Syrian universities.
Ties between Lebanon and neighboring Syria significantly suffered in the aftermath of the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which is widely blamed on Damascus. Syria has repeatedly denied the charges.
Syria withdrew its troops from Lebanon in April 2005 after a 29-year-presence, following mass protests.
In October 2008, Lebanon and Syria announced the establishment of formal diplomatic ties in a joint statement signed by both countries’ foreign ministers. Prior to that date the two did not share embassies.
By Marie Dhumires