LebanonMiddle East

Lebanese forces clash with students protesting 160% tuition hike

Lebanese police and Army personnel have clashed with students protesting against a decision by top private universities to adopt a new dollar exchange rate to price tuition.

The scuffles took place near the entrance of the American University of Beirut (AUB) in the city’s Hamra district on Saturday.

The students were angry about a decision by AUB and the Lebanese American University (LAU) to price tuition based on an exchange rate of 3,900 Lebanese pounds to the dollar. This is while the Lebanese currency is still officially pegged at around 1,500 pounds to the greenback.

The decision would raise tuition fees by almost 160 percent at a time when Lebanon is grappling with its worst economic crisis in decades as well as a political turmoil.  

During the clashes, Lebanese forces fired tear gas to disperse the protesters, who were trying to approach ABU’s main gate.

The Army also formed a human shield barrier to prevent the students from approaching the gate.

The students, however, responded by throwing water bottles and other objects at the police.

At least one demonstrator was injured as a result of the violence, Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper reported.

The protesters chanted anti-government slogans and called for affordable education, with some of them torching dumpsters and vandalizing banks before being pushed out by security forces.

The Lebanese pound has over the past year lost up to 80 percent of its value on the black market, where on Saturday the dollar was selling for at least 8,200 pounds.

Universities in the crisis-hit country have struggled to adapt to the de facto devaluation as prices nationwide have soared.

Mohammed Maen, an AUB electrical engineering student, said, “We are protesting the onward corrupt society which also embodies the university itself. We weren’t shocked [at the news] but the system in general in Lebanon is deteriorating — the sectarian regime is the problem. This dollarization is a consequence of many things that are happening.”

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