I watched yesterday, as I have done so many times before, while busloads of supporters arrived for a political rally in downtown Beirut.
As most of you know, this was the remembrance day of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s assassination in 2005, now turned into an annual political rally for the anti-Hezbollah Lebanese factions.
The busses began streaming in almost on cue, within a space of 20 minutes:
Many of them were the big tourist “Pullman” type, with the same logo “Connex” transport emblazoned on the side.
Each bus was neatly parked in reverse on a lot just outside BIEL, the Hariri-family associated exhibition space where rallies supporting his Future Movement (now led by his son Saad -also a former prime minister) are regularly held.
The parking lot had gone from partially empty (picture below) to nearly full in around 30 minutes.
This came as a surprise because I had expected the rally to be held in its usual location in Martyr’s Square. Apparently this is no longer the case and that’s good for traffic. So I’m grateful for that.
I’m also grateful for what Hariri had to say about supporting equal rights for Lebanese women, who have barbarically been banned from passing citizenship on to their children. Hariri also emphasized what he said was the “civil” nature of his party, apparently building upon his revelation early this month that he supports civil marriage, which is also tragically banned in this country.
But all this must be measured against the fact that Hariri, like his opponents, is part and parcel of a political system that favors nepotism, intimidation, sect-based fear mongering, support for armed factions when necessary as well as crowd purchasing/orchestration. I have documented the latter extensively during previous years’ rallies.