Dueling Demonstrations in Lebanon
In the duel of the demonstrations in Lebanon, the political opposition (a coalition of Christians, Druze and some Sunni Arabs), brought out hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in downtown Beirut on Monday, the one-month anniversary of the assassination of former Lebanese PM Rafiq al-Hariri.
Ash-Sharq al-Awsat says there had been a demonstration of 200,000 to 300,000 called by Hizbullah at the southern city of Nabatiyeh Sunday, this one made up largely of pro-Syrian Shiites. Reuters reported on this rally, but it was not widely covered in the US. At the Nabatiyeh demonstration, protesters held up placards saying “US Out!”, mocking the Lebanese opposition slogan of “Syria Out!”
Lebanon isn’t that big a country– the total population is a little less than 4 million. So by now most everybody must have been involved in a demonstration.
The country appears deeply divided over how much presence Syria should have in Lebanon, and on where to place the blame for the death of former PM Hariri. a recent scientific poll by Zogby International, half of Maronites and Druze blame Syria for Hariri’s death. Only 14% of Shiites do, while 70% of Shiites blame the US and Israel. Shiites are probably over 40 percent of the Lebanese population, while Maronites are probably only about 20 percent (Lebanon may now be as much as 70 percent Muslim if Druze are counted in that group).
The spectacle of over half a million protesters coming out in Beirut while 200,000 to 300,000 came out on the other side in Nabatiya in the South the day before is worrisome, given Lebanon’s recent history of sectarian violence.