Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Beirut—13 May

Update 23.08

OK, I'm going to introduce a new old word for Beirut—the Green Line. That is the pile of rubble, lines of soldiers and armed elements that separates the east of the city from the west.

I first came across it in 1975 as a young boy. Then every year of my life until 1990. Since then I always made a point of crossing it every day, either by foot or taxi service. Now it's back.


A friend sent an email from west Beirut, and although she doesn't want it published, I decided to print a small section because it describes "that feeling":

'And then there are instincts. Mine were never that sharp to begin with, but they’re coming back. The growing unease that seeps up from somewhere between my stomach and my spine, that says, “leave now and go home,” or “get off the balcony.”

'A heightened sense of touch, as though my skin could see or hear, that makes me think twice, or sort of “do you really want to do that?” and “do you really believe that?”

'And a narrowing of focus, as though my third eye finally appeared, to make snap decisions: “Don’t go down that street. Turn here. Ask this solider and not that one.” Familiar sensations, but mostly in the absence – the pattern here is one of hindsight: “If I felt that, and thus knew that this would happen, why didn’t I act differently?”'


Took a tour of the Beirut. Getting across from east to west was simple. But returning was more complex. The main bridge linking the two areas is closed by the army, leaving cars to make a torturous detour through militia lines. Although there were no weapons on display, they were checking all cars passing through their area.

Hamra, the main shopping street, was half open. Many of the shops had started trading, and there were clusters of people walking about. But there are stories of growing tensions between civilians and militiamen over stopping and questioning.

SSNP flags have disappeared from Hamra's main drag.

Future TV is back on air, broadcasting from east Beirut. The presenters were screaming at the audience— guess they would after their supporters deserted them. But this gives them a chance to rally.

Saad Hariri then addressed the masses, pouring insult and accusations at the opposition. This struggle has taken a decisive turn towards rhetoric. Meanwhile the US has announced that the USS Cole is steaming towards our shores.

Suddenly the air is full of tension again.


Was woken by cars beeping their horns, construction workers, radios and the children blaring out in a school nearby. Pollution levels are up, the airport road is open and all armed men, excluding the army, have been withdrawn.

No comments: