I first visited Lebanon in December 2006, when Hezbollah and other opposition forces were occupying the center of Beirut, staging large rallies in an effort to force the pro-independence March 14 majority bloc to give Hezbollah more power. I’d never visited the Middle East before, but when the opportunity to fly to Beirut tophotograph Hezbollah’s December 10 rally was offered, I took it, partly because I’d been blogging about politics and the Middle East for years. Here was an opportunity to learn more about different political groups in the area. Also, I was intensely curious about a city that was portrayed as being similar to Paris and/or a terror-ridden Islamist war zone.
In December 2006, Beirut-as-warzone was the most prominent image in the media. Reading reports like this one in the BBC which says, “Led by Hezbollah and its pro-Syrian allies, the rally is possibly the largest demonstration Beirut has seen,” one would get the impression that all of Lebanon supported Hezbollah. Being there, I knew that the December 10 rally was not the largest demonstration Beirut had ever seen. The Cedar Revolution (March 14) rally for Lebanese independence from Syria was much larger.
On my first visit, I saw that Beirut was more Paris than war zone…
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