Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Can't keep democracy down

[My response to the PBS WideAngle program "Future of Lebanon"]

This is an amazing, politically and culturally charged story about democracy's reemergence in pre-April 2005 Syrian dominated Lebanon. Former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, Lebanon's best-known politician, was murdered February 2005, on Valentine's Day, in a massive car bombing.

The Cedar Revolution was born!

The "Cedar revolution" (in reference to the tree that is Lebanon's national emblem), "people power" or "mini Ukraine": The popular protests that brought down Lebanon's cabinet on Monday have been described with grand words, around the world as well as in Lebanon. It has also been referred to as "the Gucci revolution, not because anyone was dismissive of the demonstrations, but because so many of those waving the Lebanese flag on the streets were very unlikely protestors. There were girls in tight skirts and high heels, carrying expensive leather bags, as well as men in business suits or trendy tennis shoes.

Following former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri's involvement in a massive explosion assassination—and decades of Syrian hegemony over Lebanon—hundreds of thousands took to the streets of Beirut, suspecting Syrian involvement in Hariri's murder and demanding the withdrawal of Syrian troops.

Producer/director Paul Mitchell takes us back to the tumltuous days of the Cedar Rebellion through the eyes and hears of Asma Andraos and Daniella Rizkallah who were just setting up what would be called Civil Society.

Lebonese people took to the streets soon after Hariri's death in such great numbers that it surprized everyone: the Syrian dominated government, Hariri supporters and every day working citizens of this politally struggling nation. Asma Andraos and Daniella Rizkallah quickly organized to feed, water and give assistance to the tens of thousands camped out in Beirut at the site of Hariri's assassination, calling for an end to the Syrian occupation.

Democracy continues to push up through the harshly tilled earth of the worlds political systems; a little water and a little sunshine begins the germination of dormant seeds of the peoples government.

Background: Lebanon has a population of 3.8 million people, 95 percent of them Arab, 4 percent Armenian and 1 percent from other backgrounds.

—Muslim 59.7% (Shi'a, Sunni, Druze, Isma'ilite, Alawite or Nusayri), Christian 39% (Maronite Catholic, Melkite Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Roman Catholic, Protestant), other 1.3%

—Lebanon is the birthplace of world-renowned writer and poet Kahlil Gibran, whose celebrated work The Prophet has been translated into more than 20 languages since its publication in 1923.

See PBS WideAngle: Future of Lebanon

Reporting from the underground...

Stan Morris