Friday, April 13, 2007

Lebanese from all camps voice hope that nation won't return to civil war

Lebanese from all camps voice hope that nation won't return to civil war
'I don't wish for anyone to experience those times again'

By Helena Forsell
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: These days at least one thing still brings the Lebanese together: remembering April 13 and the start of the Civil War 32 years ago - and the wish that it never happen again. The Daily Star interviewed people in a number of Beirut neighborhoods on Thursday, and found that opinions on a new government, a complete change of political system, an international tribunal to try those accused of killing former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri vary considerably. But all of them express a desire to avoid a return to civil war. Dany Saeedo has been living in Achrafieh for a long time. He was 14 when the Civil War started in 1975 and still remembers stopping his car on the way to work to pick up casualties from the street and bring them to hospital. "I don't wish for anyone to experience those times again. I wish that all the children growing up now never need to suffer the way we did during those 15 years," he said.Dany said he will spend April 13 remembering all those who lost their lives. "I will bring many flowers to many graves tomorrow," he said with sadness in his eyes.

Marie Melki is a 20-year-old Lebanese-French student at a Beirut university who resides in Jounieh. "We need to remember and acknowledge all the bad things that happened in order to move on and change the structure completely. Maybe a revolution, maybe even a civil war, but it would be a pity," she said. In Tariq al-Jdideh, a predominately Sunni neighborhood in Beirut, student Bilal Ikaui was making extra cash working in a patisserie. He said he thinks that the Lebanese have spent enough time discussing the past.

"I'm tired of all the politics and all the talk. We need to move on in order to have a future," he said. Two friends, Mansour Mordaa and Rabieh Zeaati, a Sunni and a Christian, expressed similar views. "We don't need any more politics, and no more conflicts!" they each shouted. When asked how they planned to spend April 13, Mordaa sighed and shrugged his shoulders. "I guess I'm going to turn on the television and see what's happening out in the streets - after all, it's Lebanon." Downtown, Hassan Youness and Ali al-Attrash, who have been at the opposition sit-in for four months and 10 days, were sitting outside their tent watching children dance and play with pink balloons. "We don't want another civil war; war is a shame. I hope that April 13 will make all Lebanese remember that war right now is not the answer," Youness said.

Just 50 meters away from their tent, in what used to be the hectic Nijmeh Square, a few restaurants and shops were open for business. "The customers are gradually coming back. But still there is not enough," said Ali Zaaour, manager of La Cita. Jean Kassab, a businessman from Mansourieh, was one of the customers who returned. "I used to come to Downtown almost every night to eat and meet friends. Today is the first day that I'm back since the opposition sit-in started in December 2006," he said. "I love this area; I hope everything will go back to normal soon."

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