Tuesday, September 22, 2020

In Lebanon, "we have reclaimed our national holiday"

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Thousands of Lebanese celebrated Friday Independence Day in Beirut against a backdrop of popular protest.

Time to Reading 3 min.

Protesters brandishing the "Fist of the Revolution", a symbol of anti-government protest, on Martyrs' Square in Beirut on November 22nd. Hussein Malla / AP

Never since the beginning of the uprising against the political class had Fouad joined the demonstrations in central Beirut. But, Friday, November 22, the septuagenarian could not resist: he went down with his wife to join the crowd in the street. "It's very moving that the date of independence is finally a popular holiday, that we celebrate together in the street", said this man, a lit candle in his hand, "As a symbol of freedom".

In Riad Al-Solh square, like the neighboring Martyrs, many Lebanese wave the cedar-struck flag. Balloons are dropped in the sky, some fireworks are launched, also, on these places of power: the seat of government (Lebanon has more than one business since the end of October) and that of the Parliament, barricaded behind barbed wire.

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The national anthem echoes many times during the day, between the flagship songs of the revolt. Usually Independence Day is a military parade broadcast on television and at school ceremonies on the eve of this day off. "The revolution reunited peoplesays Samer Al-Sayegh, a student at the Lebanese University. On has reclaimed our national holiday ", which marks the independence obtained in 1943, in a Lebanon hitherto under French mandate.

Disparate crowd

The scenes of jubilation gathering thousands of demonstrators in the heart of the capital are at the antipodes of the atmosphere of polar cold which reigned on the official festivities, in Yarzé (suburbs of Beirut), with the ministry of the defense. With closed faces, President Michel Aoun, the resigning prime minister, Saad Hariri, and the head of parliament, Nabih Berri, followed the parade of the army, relocated: it is usually held on the seafront, below the Place des Martyrs.

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"The frame was reversed: the power has made its small private ceremony in Yarzelaughs Gabriel Ferneini, a young consultant, megaphone and derbakeh (a percussion instrument) under his arm. And the people have reinvested the public square, these spaces that we missed so much to be together and where the Lebanese rediscover since October 17. " A disparate crowd of families, young people, disenchanted with politics or activists who demand change: the middle and upper classes are now the backbone of the protest movement in Beirut.

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