On the 22nd of November this year, the day on which independence came to Lebanon, the army marched through the streets of Beirut heralding in a new era of peace and prosperity to a country that has suffered more sectarian violence than most people care to remember. However, after so many years of instability (the most recent being 3 years or so without an actual elected leader) a new president has come into the fold continuing a power sharing agreement that has made Lebanon the example of what unity should be. You see, in the land of my forebears; the president must be a Christian, the Prime Minister must be Sunni and the speaker of parliament must be a Shiite.
Michel Aoun was elected and given the sacred duty of protecting his country. One of his first orders of business was to ensure that a wall continues to be erected around one of many Palestinian camps in the northern seaside town of Tripoli. This was a measure not to keep them in; but to keep extremist groups such as Fatah Al Islam and ISIS out.
Aoun is an enigma of a man, once a heroic General of the Lebanese army who led his men against the invading Syrians; who then lived in exile and travelled the world expressing his staunch anti Syrian and anti Assad rhetoric. I had the pleasure of meeting him many years ago and his message has indeed change in part. He now stands with Syria, not out of fear of reprisal from a regime notorious for its distinct way of dealing with dissidents home and abroad, but out of necessity. For you see, gentle reader, that there has been a continuing conflict in the northern town of Ersal, on the border between Lebanon and Syria. It has been a hot spot for ISIS and Al Nusra connected operatives who have been housing their filth in the small town. The army have been trying to recapture it from the hands of ISIS, and have had sporadic help from Iran backed Hezbollah movement – now though, we have a nation that has a leader and an army inspired by their leader.
The fact that the army is now standing strong is a huge shot in the arm for the locals. This is indeed wonderful. Why? It is all down to the fact that since commencement of the civil war in Syria and Iraq, ISIS has come to the fore and they delivered a message to the citizens of Lebanon. They had told them that the churches of the Christians will burn, and those who stand against their version of blasphemous rhetoric will be executed along with them. How did the Lebanese respond? With typical sarcasm and humour, pretty much along the lines of “If we killed each other for 30 years over nothing, what makes you think we won’t kick your sorry backsides?”
The religious divides have seemingly disappeared over there, with people putting the country, and the flag before senseless hatred of others because of their beliefs. And with a new leader, they have become emboldened, unified, and hopeful.
How long will this last? Only time will tell. Yes, people are more relaxed now that there is someone in charge – but there still the huge issue of electricity, sanitation and employment that must be fixed. Whilst the army continues to tear ISIS apart, Aoun has to work hard to ensure that no further harm will come to his people.