The sit-in being held by Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir in the city of Saida is indicative of the extent of the abuse being perpetrated against the state in Lebanon and the citizens’ interests, sometimes for a reason and many times for no reason at all.
Blocking roads with burning tires has become a joke told by the people of Lebanon, where an argument between a man and his wife could well lead to blocking the road to the airport, and isolating the entire country from the outside world.
But the sit-in of Sheikh al-Assir certainly does not fall in this humorous simplification. Assir has dubbed his movement, “the Dignity Uprising,” thus expressing – in a crude and unpleasant manner – a deep sense of disenchantment that the Sunni community has started to feel.
This is represented by the ability of another - large and effective - sect in the country to impose its power and opinion and to decide on what’s wrong and what’s right, and who’s loyal to the nation and who’s a traitor.
The weapons in the possession of this sect are its only means to imposing its ways. Those weapons have been imposed as a third side in a triangle including “the army, the people, and the resistance.”
But all this aims at justifying the constant need for the presence of these weapons and the dominance of the party who owns them, especially since that party lost its external defense mission in light of the developments on the Southern Lebanese border and in the region in general.
Assir’s sit-in represents a challenge to the state but also to the prominent political figures in the capital of the Lebanese South. It is a challenge directed at these figures’ keenness on solving the political crises experienced by the country; on discussing the difficult issues through dialogue; and by relying on the state’s prestige since the state has the right to deploy its authority all over its lands.
This is the reason why the people of Saida, including Sunni clerics and politicians, called on Sheikh Al-Assir to end his sit-in: first because it will not allow him to achieve his goal; and second because his sit-in is adversely affecting the interests of a wider class of the city’s people before actually harming the others.
Credit goes to the people of Saida for condemning this phenomenon sweeping over their city lately, threatening its peace and the free movement of the citizens. They also rejected the Salafist identity that is being bestowed upon the city, which is known for its openness and its diverse neighborhoods.
But this does not mean that the other sects must not raise their voices to reject the control of their leaders and to defend the project of the one state that is supposed to protect everyone.
In addition, the people of Saida’s condemnation of the events taking place in their city does not spare the state from the need to shoulder its responsibility, as the state is claiming on a daily basis that the dialogue currently sponsored by the president and that has been launched some years ago can guarantee a solution to the ongoing conflict in the country, regarding the weapons that are in the hands of other parties beyond the state and the army.
This state’s reluctance to deal with the issue of the illegal weapons and its shying away from describing matters as they, are the real reasons for the weakness of the state and the abuse of the interests of the citizens. The only solution to that is for the state to break away from this artificial and imposed prison.
Otherwise, every city in Lebanon will see an “Assir” who will impose his control over people under the excuse of the chaos prevailing over the city or in the neighboring street.
The writer is a prominent columnist. The article was published in the London-based al-Hayat on July 3, 2012