“Lebanese students teach you democracy” was written on the banner that was held by Lebanese students in the protest against the illegal extension for the Lebanese parliament’s term.
Unlike many others, this demonstration that took place on Thursday and Friday 20 and 21 June was not politicized. The protest was organized and led by an unprecedented diversity; the students and civil organizations. A student movements’ coalition from several universities such as LAU, AUB, USJ and LU joined and co-organized the protest.
Those students were taught at school that the people are the source of authority in a democratic country. Thus, they believe that the parliament is theirs and that they had the right to enter it, peacefully. What they didn’t expect was warzone-like military preparation with their sticks ready to strike, along with barbed wires to prevent the harmless citizens to get to their illegally occupied parliament.
Men and women were indiscriminately hit by the police every time they tried to cross the “borders” between them and the parliament. The protesters sat on the floor declaring peace. They carried no weapons except for their voice but yet they were considered dangerous. Of course, they were a threat to the illegal parliament!
In the midst of all the violence, law breaking and chaos taking place in Lebanon, those citizens decided to stay in Riyad Al Soloh, facing their parliament. They decided to face the messy situation of their country and announce their resistance against it by spending a night in small tents playing Backgammon and cards, singing patriotic songs, and jamming. Artists joined them, such as the musician Ziad Sahab and Tania Saleh. Those young people restored the Lebanese political and cultural movement of the students that was lost a long time ago. They have hope for change and they couldn’t tolerate the contagious collective despair around them.
After the protest, I took a cab back home. The taxi driver threw a comment about the protesters; “these people are losers,” said the wise man. I got into an argument with the driver that ended up in a fight and I stepped out of the car because for me and my fellows, we have had enough with silence and submission.
Yes, the protesters were called losers, silly, and idiot. They were accused of disrupting businesses in downtown Beirut (as if its all good and running). Some people passing in their air conditioned cars would not risk opening the window to hear what the protesters were trying to tell them. Some would complain from the traffic. Some would look down on the protesters. Others show their support but never show up in the demonstration.
This atmosphere of despair on the side of some and apathy on the side of others is something we are used to in Lebanon by now. The upper socio-economic class doesn’t need change and the lower classes don’t expect it. So we are left with
only the passionate youth who believes in their country, no matter to which class they belonged. This youth is rising from the piles of books and pens, science and philosophy, music and arts, schools and universities. In the universities, the winds of change are blowing, but still in the form of breeze.
People protesting were screaming and shouting slogans of social justice and righteous causes, they were drunk on hope and high on the still-immature seed of change. They scheduled the next Friday to protest again. Two days after, clashes that looked like a mini-war took place in Sidon and sucked, along with the lives of 16 martyrs of the Lebanese army, any hope in the bottom of the bottle.
Our country is now drunk on violence and blood. The sounds of the bombs are louder than the humble screams of the protesters, and the riffle is tougher than their throats. But in fact, the protest against the occupation of our parliament has never been as crucial and convenient. The death of the soldiers is not a coincidence and the gravity of the security situation is not as well. The political atmosphere is what provoked these incidents and no one is more responsible for it than the parliament members who represent the militias fighting in the streets. The action of killing was not committed by their physical hand, but by their imperative and by their attempts to cover the illegal acts of sectarian outlaw groups.
The parliament killed our army, and this is one more tragedy to add up to the things for which the parliament should hold accountable for. This is one more reason, more important than any other, to come down to the streets and demand to take back our parliament.
Published in Mish Jareedi June/July 2013 Printed Edition – click here to view original publication