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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 March, 2005, 16:52 GMT
Lebanon: Pro-Syrians speak
Hezbollah supporters at a rally in Beirut
Pro-Syria supporters feel they have been misrepresented
While hundreds of thousands of Lebanese have marched on Beirut's streets calling for Syria to withdraw it troops and end its influence in the country, hundreds of thousands have also marched in support of Syria.

The BBC News website and BBCArabic.com spoke to three Lebanese who are either opposed to the pullout of Syrian troops or feel that the issue has been misrepresented.

Ahmed, 27, Beirut, Lebanon

I was at the pro-Syria protests.

There were enormous numbers there, the people are fed up with what the opposition is saying, that it is claiming to represented the majority when it doesn't.

I was embarrassed to go to the city centre and I was afraid of being accused of killing Hariri

We heard curses and bad words from the opposition supporters against us, they said all Shia are with Syria and everyone else is against them. But that is not true, there are many Maronites [Christian sect] and other Christians with us.

The atmosphere was reaching a point where everyone was about to explode. I was embarrassed to go to the city centre and I was afraid of being accused of killing Hariri.

Our protest helped re-establish balance and show there are other people in the country who feel the same way.

The opposition doesn't have the right to determine the future of the country, its views are very extremist and it used what we call the "earthquake" of Hariri's assassination to apply an agenda.

As for the Americans, it's not that they want civil war here, but we Arabs haven't forgotten what the US did in Lebanon.

Even if America had good intentions its possible involvement would create a disaster.

Anti-Syria supporter waves Lebanese flag as Syrian intelligence agents leave their offices in Beirut

As for the [anti-Syrian] demonstration on Monday 14 March - we have many witnesses who saw the techniques they used to increase the numbers of people.

The protesters would stand far apart so they could cover a huge area or have people go in and out of the barriers repeatedly to show a continuous flow of people.

They wanted to show they deserve to be in full control.

The opposition groups agree on two or three things but there are splits, plus there are small extremist groups within each area of the opposition trying to take advantage of the big group to push their agenda.

This is dangerous for Lebanon, but overall, I think and I hope everything will be OK.

There are many leaders in the opposition who are very wise and good people, for example Hariri's sister, and many Christian leaders are very respectful. These voices will not accept a civil war.

They will be the voice of reason against those extremists and racists in the opposition.

Abed Abdallah, 27 from Lebanon, living in UK

The protesters are not succeeding in getting the troops out, they are creating feelings of hatred between Syria and Lebanon.

The Syrians never told us how to vote, they never told us 'you have to elect this guy'

How can you get the troops out if people are going to the demonstrations and spitting and swearing at [Syrian President] Assad?

As for the US, it wants a civil war all over again, so it can interfere and do whatever it wants. Why doesn't the US bring democracy to Saudi Arabia, or to Egypt?

I do not hate Syria. But why is the US so enthusiastic for Syria to leave when they originally wanted them there?

Whenever we Lebanese went to the UN to ask for help in our dealings with Israel, for example, the US would always veto it. Why? Because politicians in the US fear if they go against Israel they will not get elected.

And the opposition is creating another era of sectarianism. We had war for 25 years and occupation for 30 years. Now the White House apparently does not believe this is enough.

We don't hate the US, believe me. We hate their government's policies. I am a Muslim Arab but I am in no way fundamentalist. I respect all religions, all races.

But I have to be fair to my brother and my neighbour.

We have agreements with the Syrians, if we ask them to leave we should do so in a political manner.

The Syrian government has no interest in killing Hariri, even Hezbollah hasn't. The Lebanese see Hezbollah as genuine resistance, not as a terror group.

Ironically, the Syrians never told us how to vote, they never told us "you have to elect this guy".

Tariq Shams, 31, Nabateya, Lebanon

The relationship between Lebanon and Syria is based on vital mutual interests and a united national destiny.

It's in the interests of Lebanon to maintain the presence of the Syrian army - it is the first line of defence for both Lebanon and Syria in the Bekaa Valley

This was demonstrated strongly in south Lebanon during the war of liberation from Israeli occupation, when Syria backed the Lebanese resistance.

Before that there was a series of Syrian initiatives from the 1970s till today which aimed for a democratic settlement for the Lebanese crisis.

All this meant the creation of an integral relationship in different fields, such as the economy, defence and international relations.

I think all of this was beneficial for Lebanon. Peace in Syria means peace for Lebanon and vice versa.

It's in the interests of Lebanon to maintain the presence of the Syrian army - it is the first line of defence for both Lebanon and Syria in the Bekaa Valley.

Send us your comments on this story using the form below.

Your comments:

It is very interesting reading about the dreams, hopes and aspirations of these young, intelligent individuals. I was in their position a few years ago. Now, I live in Canada. I'm the proud owner of a law office and I'm doing well as an immigration lawyer. I understand the urge by many to immigrate to US, Canada or Europe. It is frustrating to be living in a society that does not cherish its young citizens. It is frustrating to be living in a society where university admission or quality jobs are determined by connections.
Taiwo Olalere, Ottawa, Canada

I can understand where these young men and women are coming from when they say they want to leave Syria for the promised land in the West. I believed what I was told 15 years ago, and I was 20 at the time. I now regret it, and what is worse is that I cannot go back for I am married to an American lady and have children who mean the world to me. But I cannot forget Syria and the formative years I spent there. My message for those Syrians who think the West is everything is - think a million times before you make a commitment to leave your country.
Sam Abdul Majeed, Illinois, US

These young Syrians seem very optimistic about the Western World and have plans for their life, I just have two questions, why were young Syrians who aren't university educated questioned? And how optimistic about our culture will they be if we let the US go their to bring the same freedoms they have brought to Iraq?
Dave, Saskatoon, Canada

These comments by the young Syrians are a sad reflection of the malaise that seems to infect the Arab world. That the best and brightest would rather seek their lives elsewhere does not bode well for a developing country in transition. Of course, it is easy for those of us who are fortunate to live in free societies to criticize these people. But were we to be in their shoes, living in a dictatorship with no hope for a better future, we might also see emigration as the only path to a better life. At least it is refreshing to see that these Syrians are keenly aware of the stifling impact that their own culture and government has on their society, rather than blaming the US or Israel for their lack of opportunities, as the Arab media generally does.
Ron Pine, Miami, FL, USA

Those people must assess first what their country gave them and the first noticed benefit is: education. Why they didn't work hard to get the proper grade to get the branch they want? Then, if they see something wrong or missing, they should work to correct it, or to fill it, not to run away and leave it for others to do the job on their behave.
Observer, Syria

I am of Syrian origins and I had the fortune to study in one of the best US institutions after living in Syria and Saudi Arabia all my life. I am currently working in the US, but I feel that it is my duty to go back to Syria and start my own IT company. Syrians just want an opportunity to utilize their talents while being able to live a good life. If I can provide that opportunity to them, then I would have made a contribution to my society. I sincerely believe that if every Syrian made such small contributions, then Syria would be a better place for later generations.
Basel, Foster City, CA

I think most Americans would wish the Lebanese people success in resolving their problems themselves, peacefully and free of interference from any outside powers whether Syrian, American or otherwise.
Scott Westwood, Port Orchard, WA, USA

Lebanon has earned the right for complete self determination. Syria in the past has been a welcomed stabilising factor, but there is a new dawn, a new era in the Middle East, one which it is hoped will bring peace and co-operation between its many nations.
David Georgiou, Princeton, NJ USA

What is truly amazing is how quickly it turned into a religious divide. Sunni/Druze/Christians on one side and the Shia who actually freed Lebanese soil from occupation on the other. Where were the Sunni/Druze/Christians when the real fight was on? I did not see anyone demonstrating for a free Lebanon when Israel was occupying parts of south Lebanon. Hopefully we will get a truly democratic Lebanon with representation in parliament mirroring the population. Do you think the Sunni/Druze/Christians will want democracy then? I bet you not.
Ibrahim Akar, Jwaya, Lebanon

It is not a question of being a pro-Syrian or anti-Syrian. There are some faces in the so-called Lebanese opposition who make you very nervous. Faces that were involved in the bloody civil war and new faces which classify a large section of "pro-Syrian" Lebanese as sheep. Such statements are considered racist in the civilised world. You cannot be a true believer in democracy with such a sectarian background. As a Lebanese who is also a British subject, I strongly believe that with the current schools of political thinking the Lebanese are unfit to have a viable democratic state. Some Lebanese think they are more equal than others.
Sabra, Beirut, Lebanon

Reading the comments of these Lebanese people is confirmation that reason and clear thinking does exist in the Middle East, and that left alone people can take care of themselves. Their comments were clear, factual and insightful as to how they see things, without being accusatory.
M. Clark, UK/US

I agree with all of the three writers. The USA must leave Lebanon alone. Talk of double standards, Saudi Arabia (America's best friend in the Middle East) has got no respect for human rights and democracy, so why should the Americans lecture the Syrians and Lebanese on democracy?
Colin Muchirahondo, Gweru, Zimbabwe

Pro-Syrian sentiments clearly shows how much damage the Syrian presence in Lebanon has inflicted on some Lebanese. They have indeed forgotten their national identity and are comfortable to be puppets to a foreign regime. It is ironic that all Hezbollah areas are actually free of Syrian soldiers and influence, yet they wish for them to stay, as long as it is not on Shia lands. They wave the Lebanese flag but hold pictures of foreign presidents during parades, which is a most disgraceful stand by some Lebanese at a time their fellow Lebanese are peacefully attempting to simply achieve freedom and independence. We can have normal relations with Syria with lots of brotherly love, but starting at the international borders.
Nader Wehbe, Michigan, USA

The Shia in Lebanon are indeed a majority, but they feel that they still need Syrian protection. Syria is glad to provide such role because it gives them "legitimate" influence there. Syria has always considered Lebanon part of Syria and Beirut has traditionally been the port city for Damascus.
Mateusz Minski, Boston, MA

None of the three people interviewed stated why Lebanon still needs to have foreign troops within in its borders but rely on past loyalties to justify current positions. The world changes - thank goodness.
Marcus, Hong Kong

It is a shame the opposition to keep arguing over things that are in the interest of their country. It is time for these people to look back at their country's history and think of where they would lead their country to. This is a matter for every Lebanese and not only a small group of people who think they are going on the right path, because they are leading a lot of innocent Lebanese with them in the wrong path.

It is unfortunate this had to come down to the Syrians leaving Lebanon under threat from the UN. The opposition, or a big part of it, has been begging Syria to straighten the relationship with Lebanon. They did not back off and kept insulting the Lebanese. The Assad regime left no other way for the Lebanese to seek freedom. It is unfortunate but this is how regimes and their puppets pay the price for their greed and mistakes.
Dan, Beirut

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