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The Lebanese activists covering their eyes in solidarity with protesters

Hundreds of people share their photos with one eye covered, a reference to serious eye wounds suffered by protesters at the hands of security forces
People are sharing photos with one eye covered in solidarity with Lebanese protesters (Twitter)

Lebanese activists have launched an online campaign in solidarity with protesters following heavy clashes with police that have seen hundreds injured - including a number of demonstrators who sustained serious eye injuries.

Anti-government protests have entered their fourth month in the country, as people continue to take to the streets demanding an overhaul of the ruling system to address the worsening economic situation and endemic corruption.

On Sunday evening, hundreds of protesters gathered in central Beirut near the parliament building, only to be met by security forces who used water cannons, rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas to disperse the crowd, wounding scores.

At least 377 people were injured over the weekend - both protesters and members of the security forces - according to a toll compiled by AFP, based on figures provided by the Red Cross and Civil Defence.

The repression of protesters has moved many to post photos online with one eye covered, in solidarity with demonstrators who have sustained eye injuries due to rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas canisters. The photos are often shared under the Arabic hashtag "Our revolution, your eyes". 

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Human rights groups have raised concern about a spike in violent police repression and arrests of demonstrators. Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned what it called "the brutal use of force unleashed by Lebanon's riot police against largely peaceful demonstrators".

"Riot police showed a blatant disregard for their human rights obligations, instead launching tear gas canisters at protesters' heads, firing rubber bullets in their eyes and attacking people at hospitals and a mosque," said Michael Page, the deputy director of HRW's Middle East and North Africa division.

Images of protesters with bloodied eyes have been shared widely on social media, prompting uproar about the crackdown on protesters from security forces.

The social media campaign was sparked after a video of two young men who sustained eye injuries during the protests was shared online. In the video the men dedicate a message to protesters: “We will be coming back, God willing, the revolution continues, and everyone means everyone” - using one of the slogans of the uprising calling for all Lebanese political leaders to step down.

Amnesty International has denounced what it called the "arbitrary arrests" of anti-government protesters.

"What we have witnessed in the past couple of days is an alarming attack on freedom of assembly and expression," said the watchdog's Middle East research director, Lynn Maalouf.

"Acts by a minority of protesters who vandalised banks or threw stones is never a justification for such excessive use of force and sweeping arrests by law enforcement."

Security forces said they had opened a probe after a video shared online showed police beating up people believed to be protesters as they were brought to a Beirut police station.

The protests against Lebanon’s political class have also turned to anger against banks, which have implemented stringent cash withdrawal restrictions, further exacerbating the country's economic crisis.

Since September, banks have limited the number of dollars customers can withdraw or transfer abroad, in a country where the US currency and the Lebanese pound are used interchangeably. The Lebanese pound has since lost almost half its value - despite officially being pegged to the dollar - and dollar shortages have driven up prices.

Although no formal policy is in place, most lenders have limited withdrawals to about $1,000 a month, while others have imposed tighter curbs.

Lebanon has been without a government since Saad Hariri resigned as prime minister on 29 October under pressure from the anti-government protests.

Politicians are yet to agree on a new cabinet despite the designation last month of Hassan Diab, a professor and former education minister, to replace Hariri.

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