First Published: 2005-03-01

Syrian opposition gets boost from Lebanon

Opposition looks for democratic spillover from Lebanon following Karameh’s resignation.


Middle East Online

By Adnane Zaka - DAMASCUS

History is on the move and nobody can halt its progress: Amiralay

Syrian opposition figures Tuesday hailed the fall of the Damascus-backed government in Beirut under the weight of mass street protests as a possible catalyst for democratic change in their own country.

But they also warned Lebanon's opposition which mounted the campaign of peaceful demonstrations in Beirut since the February 14 murder of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri not to burn bridges with neighbouring Syria.

Even after Prime Minister Omar Karameh resigned on Monday the opposition, which blamed the government and Damascus for the killing, vowed to keep up the protests until Syria pulls its 14,000 troops out of its tiny neighbour.

"A Syrian withdrawal is inevitable. History is on the move and nobody can halt its progress," said Syrian filmmaker Omar Amiralay. He said Lebanon was now playing the role of "engine for change" in the region.

"I welcome this promising democratic change which will have a contagious effect on the Syrian hinterland and be of benefit for the Syrian and Lebanese peoples," said Amiralay.

He said that "by suppressing the Damascus spring, the Syrian regime thought it had put an end to all disputes", referring to calls for democratic reforms in the country after Bashar al-Assad took over as president in 2000.

"Now a new spring has been born in Beirut, promising changes which will have repercussions on the domestic situation in Syria," said the filmmaker.

Lawyer and human rights activist Anwar Bunni called on "Syria's political leadership to take into consideration the aspirations of the Lebanese people and revise its policies in Lebanon by renouncing the old ways.

"I hope the practical and the mistaken policies (of Syria in Lebanon) have not provoked a break between the Lebanese and Syrian peoples, and that the wounds will heal quickly," Bunni said.

He recalled that more than 200 Syrian personalities had called on Assad in an open letter last week to withdraw the army from Lebanon.

Writer and political scientist Michel Kilo said the "massive participation of the Lebanese people in political and public affairs" could signal "a turning point in the practice of Arab politics and an end to authoritarianism".

Karameh's resignation was a key step toward the achievement of opposition demands for a Syrian withdrawal, said Yassin Hajj-Saleh, a writer and journalist who has spent 16 years behind bars.

"The situation in Lebanon is complicated," he said, warning that "the injured parties and regional players still have the capacity to do harm".

The Lebanese opposition had so far acted with "prudence, moderation and maturity" and called for them to widen their campaign as much as possible on the Lebanese political scene, Saleh said.

He called for the camp which opposed Karameh's government to work to achieve their aims while "maintaining a good relationship with Syria because nobody can escape the imperatives of geography".


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