Roundup on the Lebanese Popular Uprising

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By The Free Iranian Staff

 

The stunning developments in Lebanon over the past three weeks, as a grassroots revolutionary movement emerged from almost nothing, as popular displeasure against an Internet tax transformed itself into a secular, national uprising calling for an end to corrupt, sectarian government, and the interfering role of the Khomeinist regime and its Hezbollah proxies, have shook the region. Tehran’s position in Lebanon hasn’t ever been as threatened as it is now, not since the 2005 Cedar Revolution, and it comes at a time when, due to the sanctions, the regime is no longer able to afford to fund Hezbollah as it had been doing. If the Lebanese people succeed in their aims, Tehran will have lost over four decades worth of its political infrastructure. 

October 27th

170, 000 people came out to form a human chain today, that stretched across the entire length of Lebanon, from the northern to the southern border, through almost all the big cities. This action was undertaken in order to display national unity, once that cuts across sectarian and religious divides, demonstrating that the political leaders can no longer exploit divide and conquer strategies.

October 28th

Protestors today moved out onto the roads, blocking all major transport ways, sometimes by simply sitting down on them en masse, in other instance by building barricades out of garbage and burning tires. The movement leaders have decided that more direct action is needed to persuade the government to leave office, more than just demonstrations and marches. The example of nearby Iraq, where protestors have used similar ploys, seems to be enlightening the Lebanese people.

 


 October 29th

Hezbollah militiamen ransacked the main protest camp in Beirut early this morning, beating up protestors, dispersing crowds fleeing in terror, while burning tents and belongings. Lebanese soldiers tried to stop the Hezbollah fighters but, the organized militia units were too numerous and armed for the unprepared security forces. Journalists covering the protests were also assaulted and beaten by the Hezbollah men.


All this was for naught, however, because the protests achieved their main demand today, Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri announced his resignation. The road blockages apparently worked, as the prospect of all travel and commerce being cut off proved too much for the cabinet to handle. Protestors immediately began reassembling in streets to shouts expressions of joy.

October 30th

Banks, schools, and offices reopened today, as the army removed roadblocks installed by protestors, and former demonstrators helped to clean the streets. Inside the Hezbollah-dominated parliament, however, calls are mounting for President Aoun to renominate al-Hariri for prime minister.


November 1st

Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, gave a speech today, the first since al-Hariri’s resignation. He kept mostly to platitudes, calling for the formation of a new government quickly, but without naming any preferred candidate. Analysts have been saying that Hezbollah has caught off guard by the recent events, and is not sure how to respond.

Life otherwise began returning to some semblance of normalcy, as the prime minister’s resignation has removed the impetus for demonstrations, at the moment.

November 3rd

Supporters of Michel Aoun held a rally in Beirut during the afternoon, which frightened many democratically-minded Lebanese, who felt that he and his Hezbollah allies might be planning a countermove.

Thus, in the evening, a hastily assembled counter-demonstration was held, which was much larger than the crowd Aoun could bring out. Protests were also held in Sidon, Tripoli, and even in Tyre, a mostly Shi’a city controlled by Hezbollah. Feminists were very prominent at tonight’s Beirut gathering, holding signs that read “end male chauvinism!” and “hear women’s demands.”

 

 


November 4th

Large protests resumed today for the first time since al-Hariri’s resignation last week. Many people are afraid that Michel Aoun’s, the Hezbollah-tied President, refusal to name a new prime minister or announce elections means that another scheme is being concocted to preserve the status quo. Crowds assembled on streets and highways, and blocked the major roadways of the country, sometimes using garbage cans and other found objects to form barricades.

November 6th

Protestors in Beirut have begun utilizing a new tactic today – mass sit-ins at government buildings. The Ministries of Justice, Energy, Finance, Tourism, Foreign Affairs, Labor, Communications, as well as the offices of the state-owned electric power company, and the offices of the two largest Lebanese Internet service providers, were all occupied by crowds. University student groups voted to hold a general strike, and to join in with the other demonstrators. The protestors say they will not leave until new elections are scheduled. Besides Beirut, sit-ins are being held in almost every other Lebanese city.

November 7th

The sit-ins are continuing. Observers in Beirut say that the change in tactic has gained much public approval, as the protestors are now able to get their message across in a highly visible way, but without disrupting daily life.


Meanwhile, Nabih Berri, the Lebanese parliament speaker from the pro-Tehran Amal party, in continuing to insist on Saad al-Hariri being reappointed as Prime Minister.  Additionally, another former Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora, refused to appear in court today on charges of embezzling $11 billion during his term in office, from 2006-2008.

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