Saturday, December 02, 2006

Huge protest brings Beirut to a standstill

· Muslims and Christians demand new government
· Corruption and lack of inclusion prompt rally

Clancey Chassay in Beirut
Saturday December 2, 2006

Hundreds of thousands of Muslims and Christians waving Lebanese flags poured into central Beirut yesterday as opposition leaders gave impassioned speeches calling for the resignation of the cabinet and the formation of a new, more inclusive government.
A tent city was set up for the thousands who vowed to stay outside the government offices where the prime minister, Fouad Siniora, and most of his ministers were holed up behind barbed wire and barriers until the cabinet stepped down.

"I call on the prime minister and his ministers to quit," said opposition leader Michel Aoun, to roars of applause. Mr Aoun, who fought a 15-year campaign to rid Lebanon of Syrian influence and commands the largest Christian following, led the opposition speeches. The Hizbullah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, seen by many as a driving force of the opposition, did not make an appearance.

"Our government are in their offices hiding from us - the Lebanese people. We will stay on the streets until they leave," said 22-year-old Ali.

Since the early morning demonstrators had been streaming into the city centre, where organisers were handing out water and refreshments. Amid the carnival atmosphere, many expressed frustration at their lack of representation. "We are not asking only for a government of the opposition, but we want to be part of the decision-making process. We will not accept anything less than partnership," said 37-year-old architect Rana.

Saha Samat, 30, whose family had come from the north of Lebanon, said she was fed up with the exclusion of much of the country's Christian community. "We want a government that represents all Lebanese. I'm not with any political party; we have come as Lebanese. It's not just the economic situation; we want a unified government. It's not fair that all these people are not represented," she said, pointing at tens of thousands of Lebanese flags fluttering in the sun.

People lined the bridges and walkways entering the city as those arriving from the south reported a traffic jam running all the way back to the southern town of Tyre.

Many protesters believe the government is corrupt and has failed to address the country's nearly £20bn debt.

"These are the same people that ruled under the Syrians - the same crooks. We want a new government that is responsible and actually works for the good of the country," said 36-year-old electrical engineer Raymond Khouri.

"This government had a year and a half and they didn't do anything for Lebanon. There is no work, there is no security, and there is no honesty from the Siniora governmenta" said Hussein Fawaz, a 40-year-old stonemason from the south.

The government also came under fire over its relationship with Washington and its conduct during the summer's 34-day-war between Israel and Hizbullah.

"Our people were being killed everyday by Israel and they [the government] were taking orders from its ally, America. No one from this government has even visited the south yet," says Khaled Khadash, a 47-year-old marketing manager.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2006


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7:51 AM  
Blogger duckforcover said...

I still follow up here every week, although I don't post too much. I guess my main question about the current events might seem like criticism, but seeing as I'm an American who tends to judge on the basis of our media, I wanted to come here to talk to a "face behind the conflict" (if that makes any sense.)

Too many situations and decision making are made by those in charge, and when conveyed to the masses, cetain points are highlighted causing a large mis-interpretation of the actual fact.

So with these protests, which I gather are aimed at bringing down a government that most feel caters too much to the west and not enough for the well-being of Lebenon, what are the alternatives? I keep reading (true or false, I'll let you speak for yourselves before I base many of my conclusions) that Hizbollah is a main force for the protests. I hear Siniora say that the legitimate, democratically elected government will not back down to this. I see his point. The government was democratically elected, and therefore 'should' be representing the people of lebanon. However, living in America, I see everyday the corrupt (pardon the language) horse-shi*t excuse for an elected power leaving those who relied on him to, in effect, eat dirt because they dont want to hear what we have to say now.

Is this what some Lebanese feel?

If this suceeds, will hizbollah take power? And does anyone honestly believe the propaganda machine will come to a stop and transform them into a legitimate form of freely elected government?

In the US, the constitution allows for the people to rise up to rid those in power who aren't representing us, or worse, abusing the powers we've entrusted into them. So I guess my big question is are people in Lebanon truly wanting to rid of the current governemnt, or the democratic portion of it? Or are you so fed up (as I am with my president) that your willing to try ANYTHING that isn't what it is now? Are you ready for a Hizbollah take-over? Is that possible?

I'm really interested in the ongoing situation in Lebanon, because unlike most in the world, they feel content with where they're at, and feel other peoples plight isn't that important. I want to know what you think. Not only of the legitimacy of the current protests, but if it were to suceed, what then?

I'm trying to open the dialouge back up.

12:52 AM  
Blogger Peach said...

Well the president is currently with hezbollah. Its funny if you think about it. The people that want to take over lebanon are influenced by iran and other anti-democratic countires. What does that tell you? They do not have lebanons best interest. Siniora and his team basically want a democratic government. They are true lebanese that want whats best for lebanon. I thin if hezbollah take over then lebanon will no longer be lebanon. As you can see now on the news all of siniora's supporters are holding up lebanese flags while the hezbollah supporters are taking down the lebanese flags and replacing them with hezbollah flags and general Awouns orange flags.

9:39 PM  
Blogger Doc said...

HZ and Aoun are creating problems for Leb: they claim to be trying to help make the govt more represented of the people..this claim may be legitimate, but by doing this (protesting, accusations), they are bringing syria in the back door (again) and creating economic and social instability for the country.

This is not how smart leaders solve problems.

12:55 AM  
Blogger aroengbinang said...

Greetings, just want to pray and provide moral support for the Lebanese people.

10:40 AM  
Blogger Happy Arab said...

Beirut 2006 = Teheran 1979 + Berlin 1933

Religion Nasrallah + Fascist Aoun are manipulating the people and leading them to disaster.

Hitler did the same in the 1930s, and he was very popular. Khomeini likewise in the 1980s.

Why can't Nasrallah and Aoun wait, just like the Democrats in the US did, for the next elections to gain power?

Can Lebanon afford more turmoil right now?

10:10 AM  
Blogger Doc said...

eh, happy arab--agreed.
but dont blame the leaders too much...they are just a product of the people.

the lebanese citizens need to wake up, use their god given intelligence (after all, they are lebanese), and decide what is best for their is certaintly not demonstrating with no real agenda, or following their leaders like sheep ...

it would be disaster if sinoira fell...not because i necessarily like him or think he's honest..but because nasrallah's camp, including Mr. Misho, serve as proxies to something Lebanon should not have....voila.

10:42 PM  
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4:39 PM  

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