[Imc-beirut] The 3rd of December Movements - Which Lebanon?
sensenig at cyberia.net.lb
Sun Dec 3 06:59:12 PST 2006
A truly divided nation
Time will tell what today's developments in central Beirut will bring, but this morning's two major events are symbolic of the deep divide that now separates the political camps which now make up Lebanon.
Enemies of the Nation
My Sunni Muslim wife and I returned at noon from the 2006 International Beirut Marathon, which had been postponed for one week because of the period of mourning following the assassination of the conservative Maronite Catholic Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel on 21 November. Traditionally located in and around the predominantly Sunni old city of Ras Beirut, this event symbolically begins just across the former "Green Line" in predominantly Eastern Orthodox Achrafieh. To get to the starting point we had to pass by the now massive tent city surrounding the Serail, or Lebanese parliament, in which the democratically elected, so called 14th of March majority is now holed up. Seeing that we were obviously marathon participants, a likeable, young, orange clad guard, supporting former Military Commander Michel Aoun warned us to stay clear of the campers, many of whom would consider us to be "enemies of the nation" because we were not part of their opposition movement.
The climate in the capital was relaxed in the early morning hours; getting past the sleepy campers, making breakfast between their Hizbollah military tents and material appropriated from summer refugee donations by the Saudi and Turkish Red Crescents, proved to be unproblematic. The segments of the camp were clearly divided up along party lines in disciplined military fashion, this operation obviously well planned in advance. Only the tiny Communist camp grounds were made up of civilian tents bearing images of "sainted" Che Guevara and their party's legendary hammer and sickle.
Reminiscent of a medieval besieging army, the opposition's tents lay in formation at the foot of the historical Ottoman complex housing both the Lebanese Parliament and the offices of the Council of Ministers, Lebanon's governing body. Although those opposing the country's first fully democratically elected government couldn't be more at odds on social, cultural, economic and philosophical issues, they are united in their insistence that the American/European backed leaders must go. Made up of a wide spectrum of Islamists, Marxists, secular nationalists and former Christian and Muslim warlords, it would seem clear that this coalition is bound to collapse the moment they achieve their goal, leaving the field open for Hizbollah to take control of their disintegrating ranks.
The mood within the crowds of marathon participants couldn't have been more at odds with that in the tent city. The hundreds who actually run the 42 kilometre event – along with a large contingent of "special" wheelchair contenders - are joined each year by tens of thousands of social activists, families with children, school classes and commercial sponsors. Their much shorter "Fund Run" offers artists, human rights activists, neighbourhood initiatives and student groups the opportunity to air their goals and demands creatively, while helping to swell the ranks of the marathon and help cover its expenses.
Without intending to do so in advance, the International Lebanese Marathon participants represented the other - many would say the true - Lebanese nation. The huge Marathon Village, which had been set up in mid November by the commercial sponsors and NGOs supporting the annual event, had remained in place during the week that the marathon was postponed. As we had signed up the previous day, collecting our runner's number, info materials and bag of sponsored goodies, many working in the "village," which looked more like a fair grounds, were apprehensive about the next day. My wife and I ran in the "Equal Citizenship" bloc of the Fun Run, which demanded that women have the right to give their Lebanese nationality to their children and husbands. Our group was made up of '68 vintage feminists, young women wearing the Muslim "hijab" covering, foreign fathers from Europe, the Middle East and North America and a variety of sympathisers.
It Takes Two to Tango - Call their Bluff!
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