Saturday, June 24, 2006
Our good friend, Lebanon
Syria was an especially interesting place to be in February, March, and April of 2005 in the aftermath of Rafiq Hariri's assassination in Lebanon on Valentine's Day. That event, and the subsequent calls for Syria's complete withdrawal from Lebanon sparked a level of political activity in the country that I had not yet witnessed. Previous public displays of politics consisted of displaying President Assad's picture on one's automobile. If you were an especially fervent admirer, maybe you had a picture of his family on there, too, riding bikes in the Swiss Alps or among the tulips in Holland.
There were also very occasional (and small) anti-American demonstrations held outside a building on the north end of Jesr ar-Rais leading into Abou Romaneh, but those usually consisted of someone taping an American or Israeli flag to the road and then cheering as cars unwittingly drove over it.
But after Hariri's death, there was an upsurge in the public display of Syrian patriotism, or at least allegiance. First, there was this display of Syrian solidarity with Lebanon, held on the campus of Damascus University on 2 March 2005. Students gathered outside of Kuliat al-Adab, played music over a loudspeaker, and waved Lebanese flags around. That's as far as it went.
Something bigger was coming up, though, and it would spread farther into the city than the campus of DU.