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    March 14’s Political Coma

    Three months have passed since the Syrian uprising began, and the Syrian protesters are still in the streets, calling for the fall of the Assad regime. More towns and villages are joining the uprising, despite the torture and killing of people who stand up to the regime. One thing is clear, despite many uncertainties as to how the situation will develop: The Syrian uprising will not stop, and the Baath regime is facing growing international isolation that will add to its increasing weakness.

    This will certainly change the regime’s sway in Lebanon. Syria’s allies in Lebanon are losing ground, and their incapacity to form a government in Beirut is evidence of their frailty.

    In light of this, the March 14 political forces are missing an opportunity to highlight the principles of their revolution in 2005, which called for the same freedoms and reforms the Syrian people are calling for now. In addition, the uprising in Syria is more vital to Lebanon, considering the continuing unhealthy ties with Damascus, which left the Cedar Revolution incomplete and allowed Hezbollah to take control over Lebanese state institutions.

    March 14 politicians’ official justification for their inaction on the events in Syria is that Lebanon has always suffered from the Syrian regime’s political interference here, and that Lebanon should not do the same. Their official line – “This is an internal Syrian affair, and we should leave the Syrian people to determine their own destiny” – does not make sense anymore.

    Over the past three months, it has become clear that “this” is not an internal Syrian affair and that we have at least a moral obligation to support the Syrian people.

    The Syrian regime has never respected Lebanon’s sovereignty and has always treated our state institutions as its own. In fact, during its current crisis, the Assad regime is still using Lebanon to protect itself and to pass certain messages to the international community.

    It is no secret that we still do not have a government because of the Syrian crisis, and it is also no secret that the Palestinian refugees who demonstrated at Syria’s and Lebanon’s borders with Israel on Nakba Day last month did so because the Syrian regime and Hezbollah allowed them to.

    Also, the explosion targeting a UNIFIL vehicle in southern Lebanon earlier this month was widely interpreted as a Syrian message to the international community after sanctions were imposed on Assad and his entourage.

    Those who are demonstrating in Lebanon in support of the Syrian uprising are facing violence at the hands of the regime’s “shabiha” (thugs) here, represented by the Syrian Socialist National Party, who did not miss the opportunity to intimidate, threaten and beat activists who gathered to express solidarity with their Syrian brethren at recent demonstrations in Beirut.

    While Syrian activists are being kidnapped in Syria, some refugees face persecution by the Lebanese authorities for entering Lebanon illegally, all because the Syrian regime still holds sway over the Lebanese authorities.

    But the pro-Syrian March 8 forces are struggling to maintain Syria’s influence over Lebanon, and they should start thinking of Lebanon after Assad and try to save themselves if they do not want to die politically.

    This is the opportune time for March 14 to step up.

    March 14 politicians have made the problem of Syrian interference in Lebanon their main concern since 2005, and they cannot retreat now. They need to express certain sovereignty-related concerns to Syria now, such as border demarcation, the smuggling of arms to Hezbollah, arming Palestinian factions in the country, cooperation with the Special Tribunal, the state of the Shebaa Farms and the Lebanese detainees in Syrian prisons.

    If we don’t highlight our demands now, no one will, and the opportunity might be lost.

    Fear is not an excuse. The Syrians and the other Arab people who are rising up against their repressive regimes destroyed this barrier, and if we don’t follow, Lebanon will become the most lagging country in the region. We called for freedom first, but it seems we are still afraid to go all the way.

    Lebanon has the right to defend and support the people of other Arab nations, and if we don’t wake up and smell the coffee now, the Arab Spring will leave us behind.

    This is the last chance for March 14 to assert their principles, join the Arab Spring, and call for Lebanon’s own freedom. It is time to wake up.

    Hanin GHADDAR
    NOW Lebanon

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