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Sunday, March 13, 2011


Tomorrow is the anniversary of the March 14 Cedar Revolution, Lebanon's peaceful demonstrations after the 2005 assassination of Prime Minister Hariri. The demonstrations resulted in Syria pulling most of its troops from Lebanon and also the formation of an independent, "unity" cabinet controlling Lebanon's government. The mostly Sunni controlled political parties that led the Cedar Revolution formed what is now known as the March 14 bloc. Earlier this Winter (maybe you saw news stories about Lebanon's government collapsing?) that cabinet dissolved after the opposition parties (the March 8 bloc), largely Shia-led, orchestrated a constitutional crisis by pulling out of the cabinet.

To mark the anniversary, an enormous rally is happening downtown today, close to the public memorial where Hariri is buried. Last night, when Nicole and I got back from Batroun, we walked through downtown on the way home and saw thousands of folding chairs; several huge, newly assembled stages; streets shut down; and tents (local media is reporting that the tents are specifically for first-aid purposes). Last night, after we returned to Hamra, the music began. Cars adorned with Lebanese falgs and pictures of Hariri drove around our neighborhood blaring Arabic music. That continued much of the night into this morning. Now everybody is presumably downtown, so things have quieted considerably, which is helping my ability to get some reading and writing done today. Buses had lined up on our street, too, taking demonstrators downtown. The buses, too, covered with flags and pictures of the P.M.

March 14 supporters have converged on Beirut from all over Lebanon. From what I've gathered, the 2005 demonstrations were against the Syrian army and Syrian influence in Lebanon's government, whereas today's demonstrations are against "the arms," the heavy weaponry--literally and figuratively--of Hezbollah, by far the most powerful of the March 8 bloc. Hezbollah is still working to block, or at least discredit, the international tribunal investigating Hariri's murder. All of this seems so minor compared to revolutions taking place across the region, but stay tuned. 2011 represents a moment of transition in Lebanon's government and many are praying that the two blocs can maintain the relative peace that Lebanon has enjoyed the past few years.

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