Lebanon News

Under a multitude of flags, mourners unite against Mikati

Protesters held Mikati and Nasrallah responsible for Hasan’s death.

BEIRUT: From the looks of it, the thousands who turned out at Martyrs Square Sunday weren’t a united front: They hoisted the flags of a bevy of parties and causes. But judging by their cheers and jeers, there were some commonalities too, notably a distaste for Prime Minister Najib Mikati and a reverence for former Prime Minister Saad Hariri.A big screen tracked the progress of assassinated Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan’s coffin as it made its way through the city to the Mohammad al-Amin Mosque. When the Future TV announcer mentioned Mikati’s name or when the prime minister was shown onscreen, it was accompanied by a chorus of boos.

Mikati’s face figured prominently on posters, including once that juxtaposed him with Syrian President Bashar Assad. Assad was dubbed a “Syrian killer,” and Mikati a “Syrial [sic] liar.” Other banners called on the prime minister to resign, a demand echoed by March 14 leaders.

Wearing a red and white March 14 scarf, Joe Azzi said that if Mikati had “the least bit of national responsibility, he would admit that the policies of his government have failed and [the Cabinet] has become a protector of the Iranian regime in Lebanon.”

Acknowledging mistakes made by March 14 leaders in the past seven years, Azzi maintained that its supporters should remind their politicians of the movement’s principles.

The assassinated former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and his son Saad seemed a point of union for the crowd, as applause and cheers erupted at the mention of either’s name.

Rafik’s face appeared on posters next to that of Hasan, whose coffin was carried over a red carpet into the mosque and met by rows of at-attention officers from the ISF Information Branch he had run.

March 14 MPs stood beside the khaki-clad officers, and rally-goers stretched for a glimpse the coffin and the politicians as they arrived with their security escorts.

When controversial Sidon Sheikh Ahmad Assir appeared, and immediately entered the mosque, there were cheers from some waving Islamic flags of “Assir, Assir.”

These religious flags were raised alongside those of the Lebanese Forces, Kataeb, Future Movement, National Liberal Party, Free Syrian Army and a few scattered pennants of Walid Jumblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party.

There were many Lebanese flags too, but not enough for one woman, who confronted a group of young men holding black religious flags.

The middle-aged woman, who did not want to be named, was concerned by the religious presence: “I am a Muslim and I practice my religion at home, but we are here today for the nation, and the nation is more important than everything,” she said.

The tone of the square turned solemn as rally-goers watched the funeral proceedings on the screen, many lifting their palms upward in prayer. But the unified shouting and disparate flag waving picked up again when Future parliamentary bloc head Fouad Siniora took center stage.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 22, 2012, on page 3.




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