Lebanese citizens have felt reassured about the distinguished aspect of the existence of freedom in politics, way of life and culture in the country until they developed a naive conviction that suits them which is Lebanon breathes freedom. Wars, occupations, political incidents and divisions did not really shake this conviction although freedom, according to the Lebanese model, was sometimes undermined either quickly or slowly in the past three decades.
The eruption of Arab revolutions however revealed a lot about the fakeness and simplicity of freedom in Lebanon. Freedom currently stands incapable of confronting the challenges of the weapons controlling political life, of the instinctively mobilized sects and of the occurrence of regional clashes which Lebanon does not have the energy to survive their repercussion.
Longing for freedom
It became limited to graffiti, Facebook posts and film clips that can get those behind them in trouble of being pursued. The Lebanese civil movement also failed in establishing a solid meaning for citizenship that it can defend. Thus, the Lebanese people’s feelings that they need a revolution of freedom increased. However, they did not find themselves a means to help them towards it.
The longing for this revolution was angrily renewed last week when an electoral law on a sectarian basis turned into a semi-reality in Lebanese life. The Maronite has to vote for a Maronite, and the same goes for the Sunni, Shiite and 18 other sects. The Jews alone can vote for anyone they want according to this strange law.
Those who recently protested calling for the establishment of a civil state, for the right of civil marriage, for the right of Lebanese women to grant citizenship to their children and for a law that protects women from domestic violence realized that they have to look for their dreams within the limitations of their sect.
Lebanon: a revolutionary success story?
The truth that sectarian division is more powerful than their fury dawned on them, and so they rushed to vent some of their anger by rejecting the electoral law - known as the Orthodox Gathering law. Compared to Arab Spring countries, the Lebanese move towards social media was delayed. The political sectarian divisions in the Lebanese media allowed political factions to express themselves so resorting to the worlds of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube was late.
The racist electoral law awakened a feeling of the need of a revolution that proves a civil identity for the country. This feeling unleashed the imagination of youths so they came up with slogans and short video and film clips voicing their anger, condemnation and sarcasm of the idea that the electoral law now sets their belonging to a sect.
Slogans on freedom, revolution and a civil state were revived. But since we are in Lebanon, some of us hesitate to be optimistic. Facebook discussions and videos that contributed to the movements in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria are not necessarily destined to succeed in Lebanon. A revolution besieged by arms, fears of sects and worries of minorities will not easily proceed in its path.
This article first appeared in Ashar al-Awsat on Feb. 25, 2013
Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on Twitter: @dianamoukalled.