Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Letter from Lebanon--#44 A Shaky Future

Hello All,
Rosie, the author of "Letter from Lebanon" sent me yet another of her letters destined to update and keep the western world informed about what is "really" happening in Lebanon.
here it is.

December 19, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a peaceful New Year.

Less than eight hours after I e-mailed the November Letter from Lebanon, Pierre Gemayel a young minister in the prime minister’s cabinet was brazenly shot dead in the middle of the day, two days before Lebanon’s Independence Day, November 22. He was only 34 years old. I will try to outline what has happened since then. In short, the situation has worsened.

Mass demonstrations against the government that had been planned for later that week were postponed because of the assassination. An international marathon that had been planned for that upcoming weekend was also postponed. Businesses, schools and universities in the greater Beirut area were closed the day of the funeral since traffic and demonstrations would prohibit traffic circulation. The Gemayel funeral turned into a mass demonstration against the perpetrators, mostly aimed at Syria, pro-Syrian and pro-Iranian groups, and against the general situation in Lebanon.

On Friday, December 1, 2006, Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbullah, a Shiite group, The Amal party, also Shiite and former General Michel Aoun, a Christian leading the Free Patriotic Movement led the mass demonstrations against the government that had been postponed. They stated that they would continue to stage a sit-in until changes were made in the government: namely, that Prime Minister Fouad Siniora steps down and that they are given more seats in the government and with veto power. To this day the demonstrations continue—three weeks and counting. With each day’s passing Nasrallah’s and Aoun’s rhetoric inches up a notch, threatening the government of more action, yet still adheres, fortunately, to not resorting to arms.

On Sunday, December 3, 2006, the marathon postponed from a week earlier finally took place. It took much courage for the organizers to push for the marathon, on the heels of the first of a set of mass demonstrations against the government. The marathon was a success and went off without a glitch.

On Sunday, December 10, family, government officials, journalists from around the world and many other others joined to commemorate Gibran Tueni, on the first anniversary of his assassination. He was brutally killed on December 12, 2005, one day after he arrived after having been in Paris seeking refuge. He had thought it was safe to return. Gibran Tueni was editor-in-chief of An-Nahar, Lebanon’s premier Arabic newspapers. Samir Kassir, another journalist for the An-Nahar was murdered six months prior and May Chidiac, a television reporter and news talk show host was maimed at an attempt on her life late in September, 2005. All journalists were honored in their attempt to “tell the truth.”

Recently, President Emile Lahoud, a Syrian proxy, refused to sign the bill allowing for an international tribunal to oversee the assassination of Rafic Hariri, declaring that the government is not constitutional because six Shiite ministers resigned. Prime Minister Siniora refused the resignations of the Shiite ministers, and countered by saying that even with their resignations, there is still a quorum in the government. This issue of the international tribunal is one of the major sources of disagreement between the main two opposing groups.

The demonstrations are taking place in Martyr’s Square, the same place the country united on March 14, 2005, to protest the assassination of Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and against the presence and influence of the Syrians in Lebanese affairs. Within less than two months of that March protest, the Syrians made a formal departure from Lebanese soil, but their influence still pervades Lebanese affairs. Hizbullah wants to promote a non-corrupt government. Yet, many of the demonstrators are being paid a per diem. Is this not paying for the vote? Is this not corruption? Of course, the sit-in will continue. Many of the participants are unemployed; they might as well get paid for sitting and demonstrating.

All the roads leading into the square have been closed. Beige canvas tents now cover the square. Street vendors sell coffee, water, and roasted fresh corn. After work, people stream to the site to show their support. The businesses in Solidere, the area next to Martyr’s Square that was rebuilt after the civil war, are closed. Some which are a little further from the direct demonstration area are open, but who goes there? Businesses everywhere are doing very poorly because the summer war forced many people out of work, not just those in the areas hit. The debt is rising. The toll from the war is in the billions of dollars. The economy is collapsing.

Soldiers and tanks are teaming around the square. In the outlying areas, soldiers dot the main roads and thoroughfares, with tanks here and there. With the Christmas season upon us, Christmas trees are spotted even among some of the tents. Beautiful Christmas street light decorations offer some levity to offset the grave situation.

The Christian Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir continues to warn that the mounting dissension could lead to another war. Arab countries in the region voice their concern about the dire situation in Lebanon. Representatives from the Arab League presented a plan for reconciliation and are active in negotiations with both sides.

Depression and stress describe many people’s state. No one knows where the country is going. All they want is peace. They want a future for their children. The parents know that if Lebanon cannot rebuild itself economically and secure a cooperative and peaceful state, their children will continue to seek their livelihood elsewhere. For a small country where family is extremely close-knit and of utmost importance, this is heartbreaking. And we know, of course, for any country, the youth represent the future. So what will this mean for the future of Lebanon?

Rosie AKL
An American in Lebanon



Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home