More Than Just a Demonstration

Some have weapons, others have their voice…

To those in Beirut, you may have already heard about the incident between the activists of NGO Nasawiya and the bodyguard thugs of former MP Nadim Gemayel (the illegal self-extension of Parliament, the term of which expired on June 20, 2013, has rendered all 128 MPs illegitimate). To the rest, a comprehensive version of the events, endorsed by Nasawiya, can he found here.

If this wasn’t enough, the police arbitrarily detained five Nasawiya members (now released) earlier today, which prompted a group of activists and sympathizers to organize a protest in front of the Gemmayzeh police station in which they were held. Young and brave men and women attempted to stop the car carrying one of the bodyguard thugs of the night before. The car attempted several times to run the protesters over, before the aforementioned thug was forced to get out of the car and taken into custody. No major casualties resulted, yet one of the brave activists will be spending her Saturday evening at the E.R. A video of what happened can be found here. I wish her well, from the bottom of my heart.

We could all use these developments to reiterate the absurdity of the current state in which this country finds itself in, so close to becoming a failed state (if it hasn’t done so already). But let’s be slightly more specific.

Last night’s incident reminds us yet again of the free hand and impunity politicians have become accustomed to in this country. Almost all of them, with few, if any, exceptions. Under the pretext of being politicians (aka as public servants, but obviously this term is not used in Lebanon, seen as pejorative) and assassination targets, working under extreme circumstances, everything is game. Today, this has been challenged, with the hope that justice will truly take its due course against Gemayel’s thugs. Meanwhile, if you want Gemayel, as the rest of the other MPs, to account, you turn your back against them and simply do not vote them back into office. In this case, you would be voting for accountability, for the rule of law and in Gemayel’s particular case, against political inheritance.

More importantly however, today’s incidents in front of the Gemmayzeh police station are yet another reminder of how deeply marred in corruption and politics the judiciary and law enforcement have become. With the judiciary, it was the arbitrary detention of the activists, as the judge is thought to have come under political pressure to do so. Yet the police’s crime is even bigger, having stood idle at the sight of an attempted murder of a number of activists at the hands of a thug behind a steering wheel. Not to mention police’s violent verbal threats against protesters. Today, their duty as professional law enforcement officers beyond political considerations has once again been challenged. Few will be disciplined for their actions, but the way to challenge them is to keep on standing in their faces and telling them just one thing: shame.

It is telling that when a Lebanese army convoy happened to be passing in front of the protest, partly to drop off some soldiers to support the police by which time it was already too late, activists voluntarily made way for their trucks and clapped in respect. To the Lebanese Army, not to the police.

And while some brandish their weapons, others will never stop raising their voice. The heroes of this story are those that shouted and stood tall in the face of this failed state. With their voice and pens, their determination, their physical presence and their will, there is hope.

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