Wednesday, December 06, 2006

How Hizbullah keeps protesters in line

How Hizbullah keeps protesters in line
By Agence France Presse (AFP)

BEIRUT: No one knows for sure how many there are, but everyone knows they are everywhere. Hizbullah's "discipline men" man every aspect of the massive opposition rally in the capital and their mysterious presence has so far prevented anythng more than a shoving match from disturbing the peace. They walk among demonstrators, perch on street curbs and guard black metal barricades with their keen eyes fixed on the crowds. "There is no risk of any violence here," says Hussein Fadlallah, Hizbullah's supervisor of the rapidly growing tent city which has taken root outside the government offices and by Monday was comprised of at least 200 shelters. "Each time they create a new camp, they create a new security branch for that camp," Fadlallah says, adding that fighting or any form of aggression is strictly "forbidden." On the outskirts of the demonstration, Jihad, 25, is on light security duty. He sits down on a short concrete column protruding from the sidewalk, and wears a laminated badge emblazoned with a Lebanese flag. "If people are fighting we are told to stand between them," he says. "We have instructions not to be violent with anyone." When a reporter asks if the security detail is armed, Jihad jumps to his feet and lifts his bulky sweatshirt to reveal his twig-like waist. "See? No guns!" he laughs.

But further inside the rally, the security men are more organized. They wear bulky black jackets, they smile less, and they don't give the impression they'll show their bellies on cue. Some wear plain silver baseball caps, while others sport gray or black ones. Ask them who is in charge and they direct you to a specific man further down the line, then another, until the correct spokesman eventually emerges. "We are going to stay until the government changes," explains Majud Hamzi, 30, who is with a crowd of men on the front lines of the protest, nearest to the government offices, a location they chose "so the government can hear us." Nearby, a line of Hizbullah security men have kept up a solid formation of their symbolic line between protesters and the leadership since the protest kicked off on Friday. Across the rows of barbed wire just a few meters away, crews of Lebanese Army soldiers sit on top of armored vehicles watching calmly, some shielding their eyes from the late afternoon sun. "It doesn't matter how much anger or frustration we have. When [Hizbullah leader Sayyed] Hassan Nasrallah talks to us, his voice calms us down," Hamzi says. On the eve of the protest, Nasrallah called for a mass turnout by "all Lebanese ... in a peaceful and civilized demonstration" which he said aimed to "rid us of an incapable government that has failed in its mission." The killing of a 20-year-old Shiite opposition protester late Sunday after a street fight with government supporters is greeted with measured calm by two men standing guard outside condolence services for the family in southern Beirut. Jamal, 35, and Ali, 42, patrol the grounds like undercover policemen, their hands in their pockets, looking over the mourners with casual but watchful eyes. But they describe themselves only as "social activists." "Members of Hizbullah and Amal are respecting instructions," says Jamal. "They are going to act in a civil and peaceful manner." "We are trying to do our best," adds Ali. "But if there are several attacks, several provocations, it will boil over." - AFP

No comments:

Naharnet Lebanon News

Marketing in Lebanon