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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 March, 2005, 13:00 GMT
Eyewitness: Lebanon protests
Photo sent in by reader Nadim of protesters in downtown Beirut, Lebanon
People from all over Lebanon attended the protests
Thousands of Lebanese protesters have thronged the streets of Beirut in the past few days, demanding the withdrawal of Syrian troops from the country after the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and the resignation of the government.

The BBC News website spoke to three demonstrators about what they witnessed during the protests and why they attended.

Here are their stories.

WALID ACHKAR, 30, BANKER

I went down to the protests in Martyrs' Square with my friends and family.

Some people told me they had walked about 30km just to attend the demonstration - it took them 12 hours to get there

Each day, there were different teams of protesters. If some were tired and went home to rest, others came back and relieved those who stayed.

You saw people from all over Lebanon. I met a group from a small village near the Syrian border who had come down to participate.

On Monday I was right inside the demonstrations in Martyrs' Square in downtown Beirut.

The army had put barricades around the square, and stopped cars and people from entering the area, but when people came they just stepped over the barriers, leaving their cars.

Some people told me they had walked about 30km just to attend the demonstration - it had taken them about 12 hours to get there.

At one point, some children took flowers in their hands and gave them to the Lebanese army. The army was not against the people at all - many of us have cousins in the army, so the soldiers were kind to us.

That evening, we were watching these two giant television screens which showed what was happening in parliament, when suddenly the prime minister requested to speak and announced he was resigning.

From that moment, I cannot express how it was in the square. Flags waved, there were huge celebrations from all the people, many of whom were chanting "Freedom!" and "Sovereignty!"

It has been a great feeling to see the protests, Lebanese people from all ages, all sects. You can see children only a few months old and 80-year-old grandmothers, along with boys and girls from all walks of life.

People are not afraid of what is happening, for the first time everyone is united against Syria.

JOUMANA SEIKALY, 29, ADVERTISING EXECUTIVE

I am not one to go down to protests usually, but the death of Hariri was a painful reminder of the fragility of this country.

Ask anyone who heard the blast and saw the smoke or the destruction it caused, and all would say it was deja-vu, the war all over again.

The opposition doesn't have the right to determine the future of the country
Ahmed, pro-Syrian supporter

The thing is, it was a catalyst. Hariri had a following, but a huge number of protesters - including myself - were not necessarily great fans of his.

People are tired. They don't want this anymore.

Usually protesters are young students who are willing to take a beating, who are less organised, who are all fiery partisan speeches.

But I have never seen so many middle-aged people at protests as I have seen in the past two weeks. They even brought their children along.

The feeling was exhilarating. The crowd started protesting with different banners of various Lebanese parties, but at the request of opposition leaders, these banners were dropped and everyone was united by the Lebanese flag.

I think this was the single most important detail. I would not have been comfortable around other flags, because after a civil war not a single faction, not a single party or politician, is innocent.

The army was deployed late Saturday night and everybody feared their presence and the counter-demonstrations.

But the army let seven out of every 10 people in. We were, after all, chanting to them: "We want no other army in Lebanon but the Lebanese army!"

A girl even threw herself on a soldier and hugged him.

Sometimes a person higher in command would come and yell at his subordinates: "I told you not to let anyone in."

They would ask him how he expected them to stop a whole mob.

NADIM, 16, STUDENT

I attended the demonstrations with a group of friends, all of us true patriots waving the Lebanese flag!

Picture from reader Tony Wright showing protesters flying flags on the statue in Martyrs' Square, Beirut, Lebanon
Martyrs' Square in central Beirut became a focal point for the protests
Some friends in the north of Beirut couldn't get to the protest, as they were surprised by army trucks blocking the motorway.

Most left their cars in the middle of the road and came on foot, arriving just in time on Monday to hear Karami present his resignation.

The most striking thing was the diversity of the people taking part in the demonstration. For the first time, right-wing Christians stood united with Muslims under the Lebanese flag, defending a common cause.

Writing and singing anti-Syrian songs is now an art.

The feeling in Beirut right now is one of victory. Red and white scarves decorate cars, and vertical Lebanese flags hang down from buildings. It's like reliving the independence.

But people are worried about the upcoming government. President Emil Lahoud is unlikely to pick an opposition figure or a neutral leader as the next prime minister.

People are scared all these protests will be in vain.

Still, we have never felt so light and so free and so close to the ultimate goal: The restitution of Lebanese sovereignty.



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