Activities in Lebanon associated with the Arab Spring have focused on how to get rid of the sectarian system and its ruling elite. In February 2011 more than 3,000 people joined a march for the overthrow of the sectarian regime (hamlat isqât al-nidhâm al-tâ’ifî wa rumûzihi). The demonstration grew (according to the organisers) to 10,000 and then 25,000 people on 6 and 20 March, respectively. Its organisers included leftist and secularist political groups, NGOs, gender and sexual preference collectives, and many independent activists.
These demonstrations differed significantly from confessional mobilisations – such as 14 or 8 March demonstrations – as participants organised their own logistics and transportation and funded themselves through individual contributions, rather than being organised and facilitated by their political patrons. But contradictions soon started to surface, and two camps developed: 1) those that believed that accumulated reforms would lead to radical change; and 2) those arguing that a more revolutionary movement was needed to effect reform or bring down the whole system.
Secular political parties such as the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and Kifâh al-Talâbâ’ (close to the Iraqi Baath Party) joined the movement, sharpening the rift between the two camps. The Syrian revolt added a new problem: whether or not to support it? Political parties from both March coalitions have also tried to hijack the movement by publicly – and controversially – backing it at strategic moments.
The movement in 2011 has also sparked the birth of several campaigns and groups removed from the polarisation of 8/14 March and the classical Left. It has acquired new layers of activists around the country, such as the Haqqî ‘alayyi (‘My right’) campaign in Beirut, the Tripoli Without Arms campaign (which has focused on local mobilisations in north Lebanon against sectarian violence), the Civil Forum in the Beqaa which managed to bring together secular and leftist activists from the different villages and towns, and the ’Amal mubâshar (Direct Action), a coalition of independent activists in Beirut, Beqaa and the Chouf.