Across the Bay

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Ripple Effect?

The Lebanese popular protests are having an effect (albeit modest for now) on their neighbors to the east, inspiring a renewed calls for greater political participation in Syria: "What happened [in Lebanon] was a huge victory not only for the Lebanese people, but for the people of this region," said Wael Sawah, a Syrian political analyst and activist. "This is the first time a Cabinet resigns under popular pressure."

"The people here will want a bigger role and will start demanding their rights more," said Michel Kilo, a prominent Syrian activist.

The Syrian opposition however is not seeking to topple the government, as Sawah said: "We have to find a way to convince or make the government understand that there has to be shared decisions between the government and civil society."

A modest but significant first step. As Mallat wrote, the Lebanese have been writing ME history in recent weeks, becoming a "showcase for nonviolent change."

For more reactions in the broader region, see this piece by Donna Abu-Nasr in the Seattle PI. Abu-Nasr mentions that people in the region saw on satellite TV "peaceful, enormous crowds carrying flags and flowers bringing down a government." Now, let's see which has more effect: the Lebanese experience or the bankrupt Arabist discourse.