Lebanon’s chances for diminishing hatreds seem remote

April 14th, 2008 - 9:48 am ICT by admin  

By Weedah Hamzah
Beirut, April 14 (DPA) Eighteen years after the Lebanese civil war ended in 1990, Lebanon’s chances of burying hatred seem dim, with the country hit by its worst political crisis since then. The volatility of the political situation engulfing Lebanon has ignited hidden hatred and divided the country between the ruling majority - mainly Sunni Muslims, some Christians and Druzes - and the opposition led by the Shia Muslim Shia movement Hezbollah and hardline Christians.

“This time if there is a war in the country, Muslims will fight each other and Christians will fight each other. This, in my opinion, is more dangerous,” says political analyst Shafik Al Masri.

The spark that ignited the civil war in Lebanon occurred in Beirut April 13, 1975, when gunmen killed four Christian Phalangist party members.

Believing the assassins to have been Palestinians, the Phalangists retaliated later that day, attacking a bus carrying Palestinian passengers across a Christian neighbourhood, killing 26 of them.

Next day fighting erupted in earnest, with Phalangists pitted against Palestinian militiamen, who were backed at the time by the Muslims and the Druzes.

The confessional layout of Beirut’s various quarters facilitated confessional random killing, leaving the country in a state of civil war that left more than 150,000 killed.

As Lebanon prepares to mark the occasion on Sunday, amid heavy tension among its rival factions, most of the population feel traumatised, as they see no glimmer of hope for a clear future.

“All I can see is darkness for Lebanon,” says Christian Patrick Awad, a student in one of Lebanon’s universities. “There is no prospect of a future in this country any more.”

He adds: “Before, the enemies were known. Now, brothers are turning against each other and this is really scary.”

The western-backed ruling majority and the opposition led by Hezbollah, which is supported by Syria and Iran, have been unable to reach a consensus on a president to replace pro-Syrian Emile Lahoud, whose term ended in November 2006, plunging the country into total political paralysis.

The result of this crisis has left the Lebanese in total distress. Some have decided to live the crisis day by day, while others are thinking of leaving the country for good.

“Many young people are leaving the country, taking a job outside the country, just to be safe and to build a future, because they have lost faith in their political leaders and their country,” says former Lebanese ambassador to Washington and political analyst Riad Tabbara.

“It seems our political leaders have erased from their memories what wars can bring and are refusing to open their war books to draw lessons from it,” Tabbara sys.

Samir Munzir, a Muslim, says: “The problem is in our leaders. None of the nation’s major politicians is regarded as a truly national figure. Rather, each represents mainly the interests of his own clan - Christian Maronites, Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims or Druzes.”

Under Lebanon’s constitution, the president should be a Christian Maronite, the premier a Sunni Muslim and the House Speaker a Shia Muslim.

But no matter what the coming days bring, the Lebanese fear that if a war breaks out this time, it will be worse then the first.

“As long as our country is based on a system that divides the political seats among the religious sects, the country will be always subjected to new wars,” says Nada Habbal, a Muslim student.

“The guns may have fallen silent until now, but emotions have yet to reconcile. Hatreds have yet to be removed until we can foresee real peace in Lebanon.”

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