Hariri’s Funeral Fuels Outcry Against Syria

Rarely do Middle East events hearten me. Yesterday was one of those singular exceptions. Truly amazing things happened during the funeral of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese Prime Minister. Hariri was assassinated Monday with the terrorist’s weapon of choice: a car bomb.

Although no firm evidence has (or is likely) to come to light, it appears Syria may be responsible for his death. Syria has held a strangle hold over Lebanon and its government since 1976 — deploying 15,000 troops in the Beirut area and fostering support for a pro-Damascus government.

The crowd attending the funeral swelled to an estimated 200,000. Although contrary to Islamic tradition, it included throngs of weeping women alongside their male counterparts. In an interesting twist, the mourners turned Hariri’s funeral into an impromptu rally “against” Syria and “for” an independent Lebanon. Many held banners reading “Syria Out” and chanting for Syria to “remove your dogs from Beirut.”

Although a Sunni, Hariri’s cross-culture appeal drew Shiite, Druse and Christian mourners, as well as fellow Sunnis. His ability to reach across these cultural divides extended beyond his life. The diverse crowd seemed intent on working together for a common goal: an independent Lebanon, free from Syria’s influence – Hariri’s goal.

So, the assassination may have backfired on Syria. Additionally, they are feeling international pressure. The UN called for an investigation into Hariri’s death; and, the US withdrew its ambassador from Syria in protest.

Lebanon’s plight is one world issue upon which France and the US agree. Lebanon was a French protectorate from 1922 to 1943, when it claimed its independence. France continues to maintain paternal ties with the country. It could be the common ground bringing these two disgruntled allies back together.

We can hope that the winds of democracy and independence blow across the Middle East. On a day that bore bad news of an Iranian/Syrian alliance, the demonstration at Hariri’s funeral hinted at a promise for a new tomorrow. It would be an inspiration to the region for one small country to break the bonds of its oppressor and once more emerge as a nation with a self-determined government.

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