Beirut: Tens of thousands of Lebanese protesters successfully formed a human chain running north-south across the entire country on Sunday to symbolise newfound national unity. Demonstrators joined hands from Tripoli to Tyre, a 170 kilometre chain running through the main protest hub in Beirut, as part of an unprecedented cross-sectarian mobilisation. Tension has mounted in recent days between security forces and protesters, who have blocked roads and brought the country to a standstill to press their demands for a complete overhaul of the political system.
Lebanon’s political elite has defended a belated package of economic reforms and appeared willing to reshuffle the government, but protesters who have stayed on the streets since October 17 want more. On foot, by bicycle and on motorbikes, demonstrators and volunteers fanned out along the main north-south highway. “I can confirm that the human chain was a success,” Julie Tegho Bou Nassif, one of the organisers, said. “Everything is ready, we even have volunteers on motorbikes who are helping us identify gaps in the chain,” she said. “The idea behind this human chain is to show an image of a Lebanon which, from north to south, rejects any sectarian affiliation,” the 31-year-old history professor said.
“There is no political demand today, we only want to send a message by simply holding hands under the Lebanese flag.” On the Beirut seafront, men, women and children held hands, some carrying Lebanese flags and many singing the national anthem, an AFP photographer said. In the southern city of Tyre, protesters standing in a line held the edges of a long Lebanese flag, local television showed. — AFP