On the celebration of the seventh anniversary of Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution, Assistant Secretary Jeffrey D. Feltman for Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs today identified the two elements that are constant on the uprisings sweeping Middle East and Nort Africa.
On his remarks at an event marking the seventh anniversary of Cedar Revolution, Mr. Feltman discussed the ongoing upheavals in the Arab World.
“These have been different in different countries. Revolution in some; reform in others. Suppression as well as achievement.” -Mr. Feltman
What has become known as the Arab Spring or the Arab Awakening has looked very different from Tunisia to Egypt, to Libya, to Syria, and the Gulf, Mr. feltman said.
“Yet two elements are constant: One is a yearning: yearning for dignity, for opportunity, and for respect between governors and the governed. The second element common to the popular movements across the region has been a triumph over fear.” -Mr. Feltman
He stresses that too often, the authority of the state attempted to strangle dissenting voices; to imprison and intimidate, to torture and even kill political opponents.
As dignity was confiscated from the public and concentrated in the hands of the few, it was fear that kept the people at bay. But in 2011, Arabs across the region vanquished their fear, Mr. Feltman noted.
However, he recognizes that it was the Lebanese people who had first shown the way.
Mr. Feltman has served as United States Ambassador to Lebanon from summer 2004 to early 2008.
He recalls with vivid clarity the day former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated.
“It was a day of great tragedy and shock, yet very quickly the Lebanese people told the world they had had enough. They would be intimidated no longer. Fear could not stop them.” -Mr. Feltman
He notes that the Lebanese people in 2005 took their place among great and historic movements of the past by showing the world their resolve in the face of tyranny.
Much like the South Africans who stood proudly against Apartheid in 1993, and the Central Europeans whose courage helped reshape the European continent in 1989 as Lebanese demonstrated that the power of people seeking dignity could not be denied, Mr. Feltman stressed.
“With voices raised the Lebanese people demanded an end to political assassinations, an end to outside military occupation and an end to the full-scale theft perpetrated by the Asad regime and its local partners in crime against the people of Lebanon.” -Mr. Feltman
Lebanese pushed fear aside to realize the simple principle that citizens must have a say in how they are governed. The right to chart a brighter future, for themselves, their communities, and their children, Mr. Feltman cited.
“Who could have imagined that six years later Arabs across the region would attempt to realize for themselves those same universal values that brought the Lebanese people to the streets in March of 2005?” -Mr. Feltman
Today, it is the Syrian people who reject the Asad regime’s campaigns of arrest and torture, Mr. Feltman cited.
He stresses that it is the Syrians who engage in a struggle the Lebanese know all too well, to rid themselves of Asad-Makhlouf kleptocracy.
“For all of us who care deeply about Lebanon, we have a moral as well as political obligation to stand firmly on the side of those Syrians trying to wrest their country out of the hands of a murderous mafia.” -Mr. Feltman
No one outside of Syria understands the brutality of Bashar al-Asad better than the Lebanese, Mr. Feltman pointed out.
No one outside of Syria has more of a stake in the outcome than the Lebanese, he added.
:As all of us gathered here know, the Cedar Revolution’s dream of a Lebanon free of Asad’s manipulation and a Lebanon free of Iranian interference remains incomplete.”-Mr. Feltman
He says the inevitable fall of Bashar provides new opportunity for Lebanon.
He underlines that the history of the Lebanese people is one of struggle and triumph over adversity.
“On this day, as we pause to celebrate the Cedar Revolution, one that foretold and inspired the revolutions of the present, we remember those whose lives were lost or who were grievously wounded in the struggle and celebrate the union of Lebanon’s diverse people.” -Mr. Feltman
On February 14, 2005, killers assassinated former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others with a car bomb in downtown Beirut. This attack represented an attempt to silence not only Hariri, but all those voices in Lebanon calling out for independence and sovereignty.
However, this tragic day had the opposite effect. The Cedar Revolution that followed amplified the voices of those seeking justice and democracy, culminating in Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon. Undeterred by continuing political violence, these forces have bravely continued their fight for a free and independent Lebanese state.