Monday, February 28, 2005

It was a dream come true


Lebanese security forces has a very neat trick to stop protesters and their marches. They create a ragtag group and give them a pompous name, then incite them to mount an anti-manifestation at the same place and same time of the opposition’s own march. The result is always the same – until this time- The government bans both demonstration out of fear of renewed “blood shed and sectarian tension.”

On Sunday night after the Interior Security Minister banned both demonstrations, tension skyrocketed. The army and police forces were deployed in force. Confrontation seemed imminent.

No one imagined what happened next. From the moment of the ban’s announcement, young Lebanese from all wake of life started arriving to the surrounding of Martyr’s square, where the peaceful sit-in was planned next morning –Monday- to accompany the Parliament discussion session.

I was stunned. Most of the TV networks ran live coverage from Martyrs square. Night had fallen; the army forces surrounded the square. The throng amassed outside the army cordons. A fight seemed unavoidable my heart thudded.

Miracle! Young Lebanese just stepped in front of the Lebanese soldiers, they smiled to each other and the protestors went thru! Miracle! The numbers multiplied. No roadblocks or fears stopped these patriots.

By midnight thousands were in the square. Weaving Lebanese flags, and only Lebanese flags! Chanting all as one “Syria out, Syria out” The dream was coming true.

Next morning I woke up early – I live in Saida 40 KM south of Beirut- I wanted nothing but to join my co-citizens who were freeing my country. The roads were closed. Army roadblocks everywhere. Yet I drove. I choose “less traveled roads” The lines of cars stretched miles, the wait was agonizing. But here also the army, our army, looked away. Helped us, and let us pass. Slowly at first, but pass I did.

An hour and half later –the trip takes usually half an hour- I was in Beirut. My blood sang with the chants. I parked my car on the highway close to Martyr’s square and I ran to join the Lebanese people in the Independence March. The sight was riveting. A sea of red and white, with flicker of green filled the square.

The army was still surrounding the square. But here too they looked away. No, here too they helped us! Showing us where to go and how to break the cordon. The army, our army, the soldiers were fantastic. It was happening unity encompassed all Lebanese. Christians, Muslims, civilians, military all were drawn together to grab their freedom, their independence.

The square throbbed with the rhythm of the MPs’ speeches, broadcasted live from the parliament. With each speech, pressure mounted.

Then the session was adjourned at two in the afternoon, till six and half o’clock. Eighty MPs asked for a turn to speak. The session could take several days. Yet everybody at the square was eager to stay, no matter how long it will take.

Six thirty. The session was declared open. An MP was supposed to make his speech. The prime minister rose, out of turn and started to speak. “ Because I was moved by Hariri’s sister speech – Bahia Hariri is Rafic Hariri sister’s and an MP- which asked for the resignation of my cabinet…, therefore …” The square fell silent, “ … I offer my resignation.”

And the square exploded with joy!

All that night the street of Beirut was jubilant. Convoy of cars branding Lebanese flags filled the streets. People danced in the streets. It was magnificent! For the first time in Lebanon. For the first time in whole Arab world, a government resigns under the street’s pressure. Freedom. What a sweet taste it has, when it’s hard won. Freedom…

Late that night when the haze of victory lifted, the long path ahead daunted me. This victory was only a small step on a long and treacherous road. But I believe that those proud, brave Lebanese patriots who stood firm, with an unbelievable sense of responsibility and restraint – For over three weeks of protests not an injury, not a beating, or a spill over were reported- will and surly shall prevail.
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