11/28/2019, 13.38
LEBANON
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Muslim and Christian mothers together to smother spark of civil war

by Pierre Balanian

Mothers in Chiyah and Ain el Remmaneh hold rally, shout “We are brothers and sisters of two religions, but with the same fate”. Confessional and partisan incidents are multiplying. Two Shias were burnt alive two days ago. Clashes are also reported in Beirut, Tyre, Baalbek, and Bikfaya. Like in a movie, Christian mothers wear veils, and Muslim mothers wear a cross.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – A group of Christian and Muslim mothers from the Beirut neighbourhoods of Chiyah (Shia) and Ain el Remmaneh (Christian) took to the streets together yesterday afternoon shouting: "My child must not die for anyone", "We are brothers and sisters of two religions, but with the same fate”, “No to those who want civil war”.

As clashes take on a confessional or partisan flavour, breaking the unity the Lebanese people witnessed in the past 40 days of protests, fear is rising that a new civil war might be in the making.

In view of the situation, Christian and Muslim mothers took to the streets after Shias and members of Samir Geagea's Christian Lebanese Forces clashed in Ain el Remmaneh the previous night for some ten minutes. The area is famous for an incident in April 1975 when Phalangists attacked a bus killing Palestinian passengers, setting off the country’s 15-year civil war.

Clashes have been breaking out because, despite the army's ban, groups of protesters have tried to set up road blocks. Two days ago, protesters blocked the Ring in central Beirut, which some Shia bikers tried to force.

In Jiye, in the south, a car with three Shias tried to force a blockade and in the ensuing incident two passengers were burnt alive. It is unclear whether it was as a result of car crash or Molotov cocktail.

Another incident was reported in Tripoli, with protesters clashing with the army after they tried to lower the flag of Gebran Bassil's party at a local office. Throwing stones and an unexploded hand grenade have given rise to fears that the worst might yet happen.

After protests bringing people together to demand action to meet the needs of the population and pick new political leaders untouched by corruption, it now seems that protesters are split between these who want to block the streets and those who want to stop them.

In recent days, the confrontation between the two sides has degenerated into clashes, looting and vandalism against cars in various neighbourhoods. Clashes have been reported in Tyre, Beirut, Baalbek and Bikfaya (a Phalangist stronghold).

According to some, a "counter-revolution" is underway against "dark hands" using the legitimate demands of the people to promote their political agenda. This is evident in the fact that many road blocks – where people shout "No to all parties" – are ultimately manned by members of political parties.

The demands of the population remain however, and are supported by all religious communities. The rally by Christian and Muslim mothers gives hope. At yesterday's protest, a Muslim mother even wore a cross on her forehead (picture 2).

The image is a reference to a Lebanese film, Where Do We Go Now? Set in a remote village in southern Lebanon during the civil war, the movie tells the story of how Muslim and Christian mothers tried to prevent the violence from reaching them.

In the film, Christian mothers cover their heads Muslim-style, whilst Muslim mothers, with their heads uncovered, wear a crucifix around their necks. Both groups tell their children: "Now kill me too: I too am one of them.”

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