Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Grandly Blind Serail

The calm before the storm…

The scene at Martyr’s square and Riad al Solh square is both festive and serious. These two squares in the capital’s center have seen some of the fiercest fighting during the 1975-1990 civil war and the largest gatherings in the history of Lebanon most probably. The squares have been transformed into a huge tent city. There are hundreds of tents and the entire square is covered with them and even beyond the square. Most are from the Hizbullah, FPM and Amal groups. The Marada, SSNP, Arslan’ers, and independents all have small camp sites.

There are many from all walks of life strolling calmly around in the streets between the tents. In the background is the thud of the tabal (drum) and before that the news from a pro-opposition channel was blaring from a speaker somewhere. Young and old, families and friends, camp out, smoke arghileh, roast chest nuts, joke, dance (dabkeh), discuss politics, set up debates, walk around, put up Christmas decorations, and just hang out… their reason for being there is none another than to pressure the government to resign and pave the way for a ‘national unity’ government. A student volunteer from the FPM movement tells me that more is in store and soon to come… Demonstrations, civil disobedience campaigns, blocking of roads, airports, ports… all is game.

The security situation there is rather comforting. Soldiers are not seen in the camp itself but outside its perimeter. There was an Internal Security Force jeep, crammed with as many anxious ISF personnel as possible that daringly forayed into the camp… it didn’t seem to be welcomed but they were left alone. The camp has its own security personnel and crowd control system made up of men from the FPM, perhaps other parties, but mostly Hizbullah. They are seen at entrances, junctions and pretty much everywhere and you recognize them by their marked jackets ‘indibat’. Of course, the plain-clothed security are everywhere. Trouble makers are escorted to the edge of the camp, to a tent, questioned and released being told, not to come back.

While I was looking at a group of Amal supporters sitting and clapping and singing around a guy making poetry and songs about the situation in rather a comical way (the Amal folk seem to be the most festive here), suddenly all these guys start rushing towards one side of the tent (we were under a huge tent)… I thought somebody had come but it was a mashkal (problem) started, apparently, by SSNPers… (they are not regarded highly it seems, neither by the FPM nor the Hizb). The response by the camp security agents was very impressive… within seconds, the security guys are all over… and in a matter of minutes everything was back to normal and one of the young men involved taken to the security tent. (I am told by a responsible that the Hizb security guys do not hit anybody, but if a troublemaker is caught they are blacklisted and can not enter again… and no they don’t detain anyone).

The Grand Serail, home of the Lebanese government, is surrounded by multiple layers of barbed wire. There are soldiers there of course… governments must be protected from their people, afterall. However it is a camp of Hizbullah fighters, ironically, that block the entrance to the Serail. They are stern-faced and the mood is more serious there… many fought during the recent war and nearby stands a site of tents representing every village from the south; many of them lost loved ones and property and the heart wounds of the war seem written on their faces. Meanwhile, the Serail stands silently, oblivious to all…


  1. There are many alarming things in this account, the least of which (actually it is not disturbing at all) is the silence of the Grand Serail.
    The first problem starts with that FPM guy threatening future action by shutting down roads and airports. The protesting parties have to understand the difference between what is legal and what is not. Also had March 14 wanted to exert pressure on the opposition, the roads to Baabda, El Rabieh and Ein il Tineh are all open.
    The second alarming thing in this account is how Hizballah has its own security that is oblivious to the fact that the Lebanese government should be the sole legitimate resposible for security. After all, are they a resistance movement or are they an internal security force? What legitimacy do they hold ? If we need to talk about anyone being oblivious to anything, I'd suggest we start with Hizballah being oblivious to the fact that the security forces are the ones resoposible for security and not their private "agents". Quite logical, ain't it ?
    Thirdly, although this government is protected from some protesters, let's not forget that there are many many many others who support it. It is thus not protected from "its" people, it is protected from the followers of leaders who act upon a specific external agenda whose aim is to destablize the coutry, stop the international court all the while robbing all the legitimacy from an elected government. It is the silence of the opposition, not the grand serail, that is warranted. An opposition that holds two out of three major seats of power and has its own secutiry forces and arms is no opposition at all, it is a de facto ruling party that is oblivious to any constitution.

  2. Arabic Coffee Pot6:37 PM

    "Meanwhile, the Serail stands silently, oblivious to all…"

    ...oblivious to what Abu Jaafar?

  3. Al Qafila Tasir wal Kilab Tanba7.

    The Syrian agents can stay on the streets as long as their Syrian and Iranian masters want, but the international court and the independence path will never be reversed.

  4. Anonymous6:48 PM

    abu jaafar,
    i find that you are painting this serene and almost kind picture of what is going on martyr square. give me a break. I think it is realistic to say that this is a bunch of bull. I think ib said it as it is.

  5. I am wondering if the liberation of the Shabeaa farms passes through the grand serail? or through the downtown of our capital? or through the livelihood of the poor people who work in beirut? or through taking over of private and public lands by means of force? or through establishing private militias that replaces the Lebanese police?

    What does the destroyers of Lebanon want more? they have their own state within the state, their own armies, their own foreign affairs policy. They have the presidency and the speaker of the house. They veto everything... WHAT IS LEFT OF INDEPENDEND LEBANON IF THE TRUE LEBANESE PM SANIORA GOES HOME?

    It will be back to square one, before the cedar revolution...

    Think (don't tell us what your fake idols are ranting) before you preach the destruction of our nation Lebanon. Think and take note, there are a majority of free Lebanese that is no longer at any cost willing to compromise on sovereignty and willing to die before you sleep under the Syrian intelligence boots again...

  6. Anonymous7:07 PM

    Lets not forget that Hezb controlled areas owe millions of dollars in unpaid electricity bills. Thats Stealing for those talking about corruption files.

  7. Julia (Canada)7:09 PM

    Assad think himself he own Lebanon and Lebanese people, you are wrong.Don't think you and your devil twin"Iran president" can buy all Leb people like you are buying hiz and Aoun and all those are protesting on the street it look more like bunch of kids craving for attention than so called themself adults, you are mistaking not all Lebanese people will sell themself to the devils. god bless Saniora's government

  8. Dear Ib,

    You did raise some good points. I was very taken aback by the organizational capabilities of the Hizb; to answer Debate's question, these guys aren't just a resistance... they're not a militia (they're much more organized and disciplined than that), they're extremely ideological, they seem to have a strong intelligence gathering network, a social charity network and are somewhat of culture within a culture... Of course, this is what I hear... as for their funding, Iran is probably on the list of supporters but don't underestimate the huge amount of financial support they recieve from supporters; I heard once they even run buisnesses, etc.

    This is isn't a force to be taken lightly... Perhaps, here we can talk about how to go about engaging them on the issue of their weapons and other agendas they may have? But these debates have been done a million times.

    This government is angry at Nabih Berri. Why did they vote for him then? The FPM was the only to bloc to vote against him.

    If this government doesn't know what to do about Hizbullah's weapons why did the forces in power make promises to Hizbullah in their electoral alliances and ministerial statement formed in conjuntion with them only to dishonor them?

    As for the president, if they wish to topple the president, do so... but who do they wish to replace him with? every Maronite above the age of 37? Or do they, Mustaqabl, wish a weak presidency that will allow them to do whatever?

    If the government is so popular, why dont they call general elections, form a new parliament and then elect a new president?

    Concerning the 'Taif' accord, all in power have expressed a desire to implement it including the formation of a national unity government; why don't they form one? (My question to Hizb, is why they didn't insist on it before the July war?)

    Concerning the disarmament of militias, why didn't the government begin deal with the arms as agreed upon in the 'national diaologue'? You also have the issue of Hizbulla keeping their weapons, those in power know (Mustaqbal and Walid Bek) agreed on that.

    As for the accusations against the government of corruption and treachery, refer to pro-opposition statements and their press outlets, please. But this is all stupidities and I have said nothing new or constructive here.

  9. Anonymous9:15 AM

    about the 'el quafila tasir wal kilab tanba7' why dont we realise that the ppl who r judging the so called syrians,were the major syrians themselves till they saw their selfish interests someplace else,they r the real dogs,drooling at the sight of other foreign politicians in addition to serving as their puppets....btw how can we change the president if we dont have a parliament representing the true representatives of the lebanese citizens...?how is it that the 14 feb(LOL) cant get it off their minds at the time where then cant seem to agree on a candidate...or maybe they r 2 shy to discuss the matter...what does it matter anyway....he''s leaving soon its pointless...

  10. El-Metn5:57 PM

    Oblivious to over half the country who are taking a stance against them, ya Arabic coffee pot....Great politicians we have who barricade themselves in their quarters and wait it out in the Grand Serail. Get out and compromise!!

    People in Lebanon are taking stances like George Bush those days as in Good vs. Evil.
    We know that ignorance is the downfall of all. We call the West ignorant when it comes to dealing with Middle Eastern politics. And yet we are ignorant to what our fellow Lebanese are demanding. This can't be happening. The least that should happen is that, for the love of the country, negotiations should begin as soon as possible.

    Both sides make good points and that's what should be discussed. There is no wrong and right in this matter. But there is wrong way and right way to go about things.


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