Hezbollah supporters in Tyre fail to frighten protesters into silence
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Affected Countries: lebanon;
Protesters returned to the streets of Hezbollah stronghold Tyre on Tuesday in defiance of destructive attacks by the group’s supporters the previous night.
The last big coastal city before the Israeli border, Tyre was the sight of violent clashes on Monday after a mob of young men chanting Hezbollah and local ally Amal slogans burned down a tent that had been set up by protesters on one of the city’s main squares.
Undeterred, dozens turned out late on Tuesday afternoon from the neighbouring cities of Saida and Nabatieh to show their support to Tyre. A new tent was erected to replace the one that was destroyed.
Protesters said that the mob were working to cause ruptures within the movement.
“Those who attacked us are not with the people, they are with the power. They chanted sectarian chants like “Shiite, Shiite”, but half the protesters here are Shiite. They are trying to divide us,” student midwife Rita Chouceir, 28, told The National.
As she spoke, a bus full of schoolchildren drove past, chanting “revolution!” and cars blared their horns. These small gestures of moral support keep the protesters going, she said, when many of those who had originally joined them had stopped showing up because of the threats.
Ms Chouceir said that she believes, however, that the protests will eventually succeed in achieving their goals, including a government of independent specialists who would fight the corruption that plagues Lebanon.
“The protests are not over, otherwise they would have no reasons to attack us. It’s a sign that they are under pressure,” she said.
Speaking to a crowd of demonstrators from a stage that had been broken the previous night during the attacks, beautician Amal Wazny, 46, said that she had been surprised by the assault.
“I thought the men were coming to be with us, I didn’t think they were coming to attack us and break our tent. Our demands are the same as theirs — we want to fight corruption and want stolen money to be returned [by politicians],” she said.
Hezbollah and Amal recently intensified pressure against protesters across Lebanon as the economic crisis has worsened and the country has been without a government since October 29, when Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned.
In a separate attack in Beirut on Sunday night, supporters attacked people who were blocking a Beirut highway. The violence was fuelled by Hezbollah’s outrage at the death of two people in a car accident after they hit a barrier set up to divert traffic near a protest south of the capital on Sunday morning. The party described it as a “horrific crime” committed by “bandits”, but protesters argue that security footage clearly shows that the car had been speeding.
Both Hezbollah and Amal deny sending men out to attack protesters, but they have not condemned the violence. Demonstrators say that the highly organised attacks could not have occurred without at least implicit supporter from both parties.
Hezbollah is widely respected for fighting Israel in the 1980s and 1990s and a strong social network cemented its footing in Lebanese society.
Source: The National