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By Nessryn Khalaf contributor 

BEIRUT: “If people aren’t satisfied with any of the decent leaders, let them emigrate;” “if it is going to be (a government) of technocrats only, it will not have political cover and won’t be able to win a vote of confidence in parliament;” and an advice: “the country should resume normal operations, especially state institutions, or else Lebanon’s economy will further get disrupted,” President Michel Aoun said in a nationally televised appearance.

The previous is just a glimpse of what negatively resonated with Lebanese demonstrators listening to President Aoun’s interview Tuesday night. Following the interview, Aoun’s presidency office released a statement explaining that his comments were taken out of context.

“What the president actually meant was that if there are no honest individuals in the movement, let them emigrate because they wont get to power,” the office tweeted.

After 27 days of protests, President Aoun tried reassuring demonstrators that a new government will shortly be formed, and that the new government will make sure to implement the required reforms.

Nonetheless, the positivity Aoun asked from the Lebanese was met with the exact opposite. Demonstrators considered the interview “provocative” and described it as a major disappointment. Some also considered it disrespectful to the demands of the people.

“As provocative as our President’s speech might have sounded, his words only triggered me to fight harder for my rights as a Lebanese citizen,” Lina Assaf, a high school teacher protesting, told Annahar.

Ashraf Jammal also added that “I came back to Lebanon from France 5 years ago after earning my MBA because I wanted to help make my country better. Even though the president believes that protesters who are displeased with the government should emigrate, I want to say that I will not leave Lebanese grounds before my nation begins to thrive again.”

Protesters blocked major roads including: Ring Bridge, Zalka, Zouk, Jal el-Dib, Sidon, Tripoli, Corniche al Mazra’a and Chevrolet among others.

“I’m here protesting for the 27th day in a row because the government is ignoring our demands. Our president’s latest words only proved that the Lebanese people are being disrespected and ignored, and I won’t leave these streets before we are treated with basic human decency,” Linda el Ghali said.

Mounir Jaber from Ring Bridge also added, ” I have never felt so disrespected. The earlier interview only shows that our cause is beyond legitimate; it’s become a matter of survival.”

Aside from the streets, social media also flooded with people’s reaction to President Aoun’s interview.

“Our president just told the Lebanese people ‘whoever is not happy should leave Lebanon.’ Before he even finished his interview, the people in the streets responded: No, you leave. The coastal highway is literally being blocked entirely,” Mhamad Charaf tweeted.

MP Paula Yacoubian was also among those who found the content of the interview disrespectful. She invited schools, universities, banks, and public and private institutions for a general strike on Wednesday and tweeted: “If you’re not okay with the Lebanese demanding their basic human rights, you’re the one that should  emigrate.”

An Nahar

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