Beirut: More than 170,000 Lebanese protesters attempted to form a human chain running across the entire country Sunday to symbolise newfound national unity.
Demonstrators began joining hands from Tripoli to Tyre, a 170-kilometre chain running through the main protest hub in Beirut, as part of an unprecedented cross-sectarian mobilisation.
The idea surfaced amongst a group of unknown friends last week and as they brainstromed ideas over WhatsApp and Facebook.
They shared the idea on social media and people volunteered to gather at various points in the country to attempt the feat which spanned from the northern city of Tripoli, down the coast to Batroun, Jbeil, Jal el Deeb, Beirut, Khalde, Damour, Jiyye, Saida, Ghazeyye, Sarafand until the southern city of Tyre.
People started gathering at 11am dressed in the colours of the Lebanese flag and the Lebanese flag.
“This human chain is being organized for the love of our country, Lebanon. It’s to confirm that this is our only identity,” architect Mona Hallak told Gulf News.
This human chain is being organized for the love of our country, Lebanon. It’s to confirm that this is our only identity
“We all agreed that there will be no political slogans, no revolution slogans, no revolution songs just love and solidarity,” Mohammad, an organiser, told Gulf News.
Anwar Tarabay,a Lebanese American University student, said he and his friend came down to provide the participants with water, from their own money.
“This initiative is to show solidarity and love and that we Lebanese should stand holding hands and uniting as one,” Raneen Khoury, another organiser, said.
Tension has mounted in recent days between security forces and protesters, who are blocking roads and bringing the country to a standstill to press their demands for a complete overhaul of the political system.
Lebanon’s reviled political elite has been defending a belated package of economic reforms and appeared willing to reshuffle the government, but protesters who have stayed in the streets since October 17 want more.
On foot, by bicycle and on motorbikes, demonstrators and volunteers fanned out along the main north-south highway.
The leaderless protest movement, driven mostly by a young generation of men and women born after the 1975-1990 civil war, has even been described by some as the birth of a Lebanese citizen identity.
-Bassam is a freelance journalist based in Beirut
-With inputs from AFP