The Lebanese opposition’s protest camp in downtown Beirut demanding the resignation of the country’s US-backed government is entering its second month. The protesters are drawn from opposition parties across the religious divide. Activists spoke to Guy Smallman about their campaign.
Abdo Nehme Deirelkamar – Free Patriotic Movement
The Free Patriotic movement has people from all levels of society. We are mostly Christian, but our party is multi faith with people from all Lebanese religious groups. After Hizbollah we are the biggest organization involved in this struggle.
The late Rafik Hariri who took power in the 1990s had a capitalist programme – a savage capitalism that is like Europe’s far right. He owned much of Lebanon – particularly this area – and the Solidaire company. Some 150,000 people had their land bought by Hariri for cheap prices. Afterwards when the building started here he sold each square metre of land for five thousand dollars. This means that we Lebanese do not own our own capital.
He then put the money of the country into the tourism industry. He neglected the country’s rural areas and agricultural industry making all the investment in Beirut. During the civil war he had funded the Lebanese Forces [rightwing Christian paramilitaries] and also the Muslim militias who destroyed Beirut. Now his family owns it.
In Lebanon we need a government for all the people.
Nada Wehe – Hizbollah member
Like all people I want my children to live a good life. We need a government for all children in this country – both Muslim and Christian. My house was in the south and destroyed by the Israelis during the war. Hizbollah have given us a home in Dahieh in South Beirut.
I hope to return to the South when I can afford a new home. Hizbollah have arranged for my children to see a psychologist because they saw our neighbours die during the war.
The Sinoura government has made VAT 18%, which only affects the poor people. This will start on the first of January 2008. Hizbollah take care of the people. They care about health and education. They are building a hospital and a school near to where I live.
We will stay here [at the protest camp] for 30 years if necessary. Till we have a government for everyone not just for dividing Sunni, Shiite, Catholic or Orthodox. We need to eat we need to educate our children. We cannot live on $200 a month. You cannot educate your children on this even if they go to a government school. How can we live like this when our house will cost $200 or $250 dollars a month before electricity and fuel? Soon the day is coming when all the world will know what is happening here in Lebanon.
Adel Bitaralsad – Christian Maronite and Hizbollah supporter
I support Hizbollah because they are a party of national resistance. It is a party of the people who protect the freedom of Lebanon. I have been here for thirty days and I will stay until we have a new government. I want to see a national government than will combine all the political and religious factions even those who are in power now. IU want to see a government will look after the poor people in particular.
Ahmad al Rayess – Druze
I am against the government policy of disarming Hizbollah and the resistance. They are the honour of Lebanon. The economic mismanagement of this government has increased the debts of the country as a whole and the poor people in particular. I want a national government that is not formed along religious lines. I want ministers who are in power because of their talent to govern not because of their religion or how much money they have.
Peoples' Movement Party Member
This government is unconstitutional. It should not be operating like this. The constitution was one of the fundamental parts of our representation. This government is far too supportive of the American agenda for Lebanon and the Middle East as a whole. They also support the Israelis fight against the Lebanese resistance in many ways.
We need a national unity government that will include all Lebanese and not neglect anyone. It should be formed along non-religious lines. We need to change the electoral system so the government represents all Lebanese people and especially the poorest in society.
We will stay in these camps until the Sinoura government falls. We will use political pressure and popular support and more strikes if necessary. It is impossible for Sinoura to stay. On 10 March there will be a mass demonstration of women to demand that the government does not force us back to civil war.